Won't you be my neighbour?

Everyone has a neighbour story. My mom's next door neighbours now live with her - that's a pretty successful neighbour story. But that wasn't always the case, we had some really crazy neighbours when I was growing up - we were convinced the woman that that lived next door was an exotic dancer based on how she washed her car in her teeny tiny white bikini with the fringe top. It was a topic of conversation in the 'hood.

I've been thinking about neighbours this week. Last Monday we had our new neighbours over for dinner. They moved in almost a year ago and for too long we've been saying, 'We will have you over for dinner." So we finally made time to get together. They just got married this summer and are starting out in life. It was really fun getting to know them and hearing about their work and backgrounds.

On Saturday night I was at a friend's place and the topic of neighbours came up. She has a crazy neighbour. I'm talking mean-spirited, rodent-feeding type of crazy. The kind of person you hope isn't outside when you pull in the driveway. I was surprised how many people shared stories of frustration with neighbours. Neighbours seem to be the cause of a lot of anger and calls to the police. Yikes!

There was a murder this week in the suburbs near Hamilton. When the neighbours in this upper-middle class community were questioned by reporters, no one knew the victim. "We are a quiet neighbourhood where people keep to themselves," one person said with obvious pride. I thought how that sounded a lot like the hallmark of civility. Let's just keep to ourselves.

I live on a city street where you can't avoid your neighbours. It's definitely not the suburbs. Thankfully we have mostly good neighbours and the crazy ones keep to themselves - except when they have been drinking a lot. But our neighbours all care about the street and the city. We watch out for each other. We have a Facebook page where anything suspicious or community impacting is shared. It's a front porch culture although I prefer the privacy of the back deck. (I think I am a suburbanite at heart.) I have been stretched to grow in my relationships with the people I see every day outside my house.

Last night I watched a documentary that I know is going to stay with me for a long time. Won't You Be My Neighbour? is the story of Mr. Rogers. You can watch the trailer here:

I remember my son watching Mr. Rogers. He loved to imitate him when he came in the house and he would toss his little shoes just like his hero. It was no surprise when he recommended this movie to us. About 15 minutes into it I stopped it so I could get my journal. There were so many things I want to capture.

Mr. Rogers had a simple theology - Love Your Neighbour and Love Yourself. As I write about what it looks like to have a healthy spirituality those two ideals stand out to me. Mr Roger's spoke to children about some very troubling ideas - racism, assassination, terrorism, divorce, and death. He didn't shy away from the tough topics but he reminded us that we have a role to play for each other and we aren’t alone.

Loving yourself and loving your neighbour. If we started there what could change in our world? What small thing could you do for a neighbour this week? Could you bring up their recycling bins that are blowing around? Share the bounty of your garden? It's the little things that build relationships over time. Mr. Rogers knew that our neighbourhoods are a microcosm for our larger world. If we can't live in peace with the people around us how will we achieve peace on a larger scale?

The Terrifying Side of Creating Space

In coaching relationships we talk about creating space for what you want. The idea is that you need to get rid of the clutter - literally and metaphorically in your life. You need to clean out your closets. Get rid of the stuff that doesn’t fit you, doesn’t work for you, doesn’t represent who you are now. Say goodbye. 

It’s part of the process that you need to go through when you want to live from your center. When you are ready to create a life that reflects who you are and what you value you need to take a look at your current reality. You have crafted your current life to support the life you are living right now. It makes sense that if you want something different you need to start to make different choices. 

In becoming more aligned with your true self, you will need to make some hard decisions about your life. Are there relationships that are holding you back?  Are you doing things that don’t reflect your changing values? Is your environment working against the progress you want to see in your life? Just like a person going on a diet purges her cupboards of empty calorie foods, you will need to do a purge in your life. 

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We refer to this process as ‘creating space’ for what you want.

But here is the scary part of creating life change. When you end relationships, clear out the physical clutter in your house, and get rid of the things that aren’t working for you or serving the greater purpose of supporting you in the life you desire, the space isn’t filled immediately. 

You need to start slowly filling the closet with clothes that fit and reflect your lifestyle and values. You need to find relationships and community that fill the void if you have moved on from people who were holding you back in some way. Once you have let go of what isn’t working, you need to start again. 

Everything in you will want to hurry this process. You will feel lonely. You may question your decision. You may find the new clothes don’t feel comfortable yet. They don’t quite fit the way you imagined. You may feel like an imposter. You may find yourself standing in line - literally and metaphorically - at that cheap fast fashion store with an armful of clothes to try on even though you know in your heart you want to only buy ethically sourced, environmentally responsible clothes. It takes commitment and determination to set it down and walk away. Again. 

Nature abhors a vacuum and you’ve created one. A big empty space waiting to be filled.

And creating space for what you really want is a good thing. It took courage. Be proud of that empty closet and the space you have created. Slowly it will fill again with the good things that you desire in your heart. Remind yourself that it takes time. That the discomfort you are feeling is not an indication you have made a wrong decision. Hold the space. Put a note in your physical closet to remind yourself. Write in your calendar, “Weekends soon to be filled with life-giving activities.” Trust that you will fill those spaces again and it doesn’t have to be today. 

You’ve created the space, hold your intention for the life you want and be open. Even if you are terrified.

Don't let the peaches get you down

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At 6 a.m. this morning I was leaning over the sink with peach juice running down my chin. Not my best look. I don't eat a ton of fruit but I love fruit in season. And I have a flat of peaches on my counter right now. And apparently little self-control. But I was enjoying that pure innocent peach. A major shift from the way I felt about it earlier this week. 

I've been thinking about consumption and abundance. I've got about 15 books on my shelf to read, podcasts ready to go and a couple of audio books in the queue. There are people to see, places to go, things to do, and experiences to be had. And at times I feel overwhelmed. 

I actually found myself feeling a little bitchy about my list on Sunday. I was planning my week and thinking about everything I wanted to do and how I couldn't possibly squeeze it all in. I started feeling pressure and resentment. And at the same time I was beating myself up for being so whiny. My internal voice started mocking me, "Oh poor Sandy, she has too many people to see, a house to take care of, work to do, and fruit to process. And she said she would blog every day. Poor baby. Life is so hard."

I definitely needed to reframe things and so I started being intentional about practicing gratitude. I made a list of everything I needed AND wanted to do this week. And then I went through the list and reflected on how grateful I am for each one of those things. Visiting my father in LTC gives me a chance to be with him in this difficult season and driving there gives me 30 minutes to listen to a podcast. (As it turns out that podcast was just what I needed that day.)  I have a house to clean!  I love writing and I've got the opportunity to write every day! 

I've been reading Gratitude by Diana Butler Bass. She writes, "Practice takes time. But that is not the only relationship between time and gratitude. When gratitude becomes a habit of being, our capacity to see time --  past, present, and future --actually changes. Not only does gratitude open our hearts; it also give us new perspectives on our own lives. It stretches through our experiences -- past, present, and future -- creating a fabric of appreciaton and awareness that forms the story of our lives."

By the end of reviewing my list, I had a new perspective. Simple? Yes. Obvious? Yes. Automatic? No. Our lives can be overwhelming. And we need to make good choices about what we consume and I want to talk more about that this week. But let's start with gratitude.