Today’s brilliant cobalt blue sky is filled with big, puffy clouds, dark on the bottom and rim-lit with yellow sunrise light. Tiny feather-like light green leaves are showing up on the bare branches, and blossoms of pink and white are filling my favorite tree. Birds are chirping out “Spring is in the air!” and I’m finally able to get back to my porch without a blanket or sweater. Soon bluebonnets will fill nearby farmers’ fields, seducing me and my easel.
Seasons are a good guide for living, since they reflect the cycle of life. Spring is a time to be grateful after the hardships of winter. Gratitude guides my life.
What if we followed the seasons in our lives and our work? Spring is a time for new life, reinvention. Summer is a time to enjoy that reinvention. Fall is a time when the old starts to fade, yet it fades with glory and the most beauty, and winter is a time of death … out with the old, so the new can begin.
My mom used to make us do spring cleaning. It’s a time to open the windows, freshen the old stale air of home, clean out our accumulation of stuff, and throw out or give away what we no longer use.
A Fresh Start
Maybe spring is a time to clean out more than our homes, and to think about what’s working and what in our lives needs to be removed to make for a fresh start.
I like to do an annual personal inventory, and spring is a great time to do it. It’s a good idea to ask yourself if you’re truly happy. Are you doing what you love, or are you stuck in a rut?
Spring cleaning takes on a new meaning when you make a point to ask yourself these questions…
Am I truly happy? If not, why not? What is getting in the way of my joy? Can I eliminate those things, those people, from my life?
Who am I around who exhausts me, who hurts me, who is not respectful, who does not bring me joy?
What am I not doing that I want to be doing?
Emotional spring cleaning is a great way to change your life. Usually it’s one or two big things that are bringing you down.
“But Eric, I can’t make changes!” you may say. Perhaps you’re stuck in a job you hate, stuck with family who is abusive, with a spouse or partner who brings you down. Maybe you’re caring for an elderly or ill person who needs you.
Yes, life has responsibilities, and we can’t always abandon them. But too often, people stay in place far too long, tell themselves it’s not possible to make a change, wait till their emotional dam bursts, and then do it anyway.
Often, once people escape the ties that bind them — in a healthy way — I hear them say, “I should have done this years ago. I wasted so much time.”
I’ve also found that the problems with people and things that bug me the most are usually more about me than them. If I can cut them some slack, not get so worked up, stop letting little things bother me, or try to be a little more understanding of the situation, I find that I am much happier living with things. Attitude is everything. Sometimes that little change can even make the unbearable seem wonderful again.
My pastor says the easy thing to do is walk away — but also that doing it can destroy lives. The hard thing to do is be forgiving, be accepting, be loving, and understand that you’re part of the problem. That changes everything.
What Can You Change?
There are things you can change. You just have to be willing. Jobs, for instance, can be changed. We often feel bound to jobs because we’ve invested so much time, education, and experience, but if a job isn’t working for you anymore, it’s time to move on. It won’t be easy, it won’t be comfortable, and you might even walk away from some secure income. So what?
Which is better? Work another two decades and be unhappy every day, or have less and do what you love?
The question that cuts to the heart of things…
Your doctor has given you 90 days to live.
What will you do with those 90 days?
Perhaps those are the things you should be doing every day.
Are you ready for some emotional spring cleaning?
Are there changes you need to make? Things you need to shed? Things you need to do?
Today is a good day to ponder those changes. Look outwardly and look inward.
You’ve probably seen this, but it might be helpful to read it again:
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Found in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore AD 1692
Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.