What is it going to take?


Depending on the next few words, the implications are endless. This question not only forces one to look at a situation from all sides, but more importantly it demands a definition, or at least some parameters. Let’s be honest. There is more than one way to properly pluck a chicken, they all procure a naked bird, but the trick is to make it edible. Work with me people, it’s the first week of 2019, and I’m sort of exhausted.

How we live life is one thing but the trick is to remember where the hell we put the rose colored glasses. Right? Maybe it’s time to wear them year round? “Joy is the present tense, with the whole emphasis on the present,” writes Kierkegaard. I don’t know? It seems selfish to assign joy to one spectrum of time? Maybe it’s more like a string of lights, ones that illuminate, entangle, but are difficult to store? 

Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. Mother Teresa

Sometimes I find myself whining about the most ridiculous things when I should be floating in joy. Joy being the simplest form of gratitude according to Karl Barth. For example, after a fabulous family dinner I find myself complaining about the dishes or I wake up at the lake and I’m snarky because no one has made coffee. Who is this woman? She’s the one with the glasses on top of her head instead of on her nose.

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are. Marianne Williamson

I have to admit, if I am tired, hangry, annoyed, or stressed my brain submerges faster than a submarine, taking me to unexplored depths, primitive on many levels. It ain’t pretty folks. Even though I am dedicated to seeing the cup half full, it takes enormous discipline to hone this skill, and let’s be real, I’m sort of unregulated at best.  So here are the questions I’m toying with in 2019. #GoalsAF 

What is it going to take…

  • to get dinner on the table
  • to develop one’s potential
  • to reduce clutter
  • to ease stress
  • to find a new path
  • to expand one’s skills
  • to strengthen one’s faith
  • to clean the house
  • to finish this project
  • to stay connected to friends
  • to act authentically
  • to recognize new opportunities
  • to prevail over technology
  • to spend our time wisely
  • to publish a book
  • to turn passion into an occupation
  • to make us happy
  • to succeed
  • to be inclusive
  • to thrive physically
  • to live our best life
  • to put away Christmas #$%@*
Okay, let’s open up the last one. Over the holidays I was involved in a number of conversations involving Christmas, as in putting it up, and taking it down. It happens to be my personal advent, I use every known prophylactic, but nevertheless every 11 months, I go into labor. Oh yes, the topic might be swaddled in good humor, but the underlying tension is what keeps the conversation taunt. It goes something like this:

“Baby, it’s cold outside, a perfect weekend to put up Christmas, and honestly I love watching your muscles flex as you bring the boxes down from the rafters.” 

“You just tell me which ones you need sweetheart?”

“Don’t be silly, I need all of them.”

“Really, there’s like thirty boxes marked Christmas, and my back is giving me trouble.”

“Yes, you’ve mentioned it (under breath…a 100 times).”

“There is no way you are going to use all these decorations? How about we start with 5 boxes, who knows, it might be enough, and honestly I can be very distracting.”

“This is what I know, sweetheart, I need to see all of them, so I can decide what I want? I’ll keep my eyes adverted.

“Jesus, all the boxes from thanksgiving and Halloween will have to come down first, this is turning into a total snafu.”

“It’s a minor inconvenience. Take a deep breath. I’ll bring you a beer.”

Breathing heavy, “Didn’t you recently sign up for a minimalist magazine? I’ll take an IPA.”


“Darling, that has to do with shoes and linens, not Christmas. We’re out of IPA, how about a Coors Light?”

“I think it’s time you weed through all this stuff (he really said shit but I’m trying to be PC), whatever you don’t use, I’ll take to the Goodwill. You’re welcome!”

“There will be no good-will if you give a single thing away. I think it’s time you organize the attic, so it’s not so difficult to store my treasures. Sorry, I drank the last beer.”
“There’s no such thing as effortless beauty–you should know that. There’s no effort which is not beautiful–lifting a heavy stone or loving you. Loving you is like lifting a heavy stone. It would be easier not to do it and I’m not quite sure why I am doing it. It takes all my strength and all my determination…” Jeanette Winterson

I imagine a version of this conversation is being played out in living rooms across America. It’s sort of crazy isn’t it? I mean when did Christmas become so complicated? And more importantly what’s the solution?
“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” Roy L. Smith
I blame not only our consumer culture, but Pinterest, Amazon, Department 56, and the Hallmark Christmas Channel equally. They have sucked the joy out of Christmas like a tick on fresh skin. Consider the light displays that have gotten totally out of control. Thank God we don’t live on Manning Street. My Dad used to hang a string of lights across the front of the house, we considered it lucky if he included the garage. Mom put up a tree in the living room, a wax choir candle set on the piano, and a nativity scene in the entry way. Done.

Full disclosure, when I was first married, my sister and I decided to give each other a department 56 holiday village piece every year for Christmas. We’ve been married for 35 years, you do the math. There is an entire cupboard in the family room devoted to my beloved Dickens village. It is my favorite display and my arch enemy. Dante has been my resident savior for the past few years, bringing down all the boxes, setting up the heavy platforms needed to hold the entire village, and creating an enchanting scene that charms me day and night.
What to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

Clement Clarke Moore

I use every trick in the book to avoid putting up Christmas, because I know in a matter of weeks I’ll be reversing the process, and thanking God it took the wise men until January 6th to find Jesus (Catholics consider the Epiphany to be the true end of Christmas ~ a moment of sudden revelation ~ divine manifestation). A day can really slip by when you’re deliberately avoiding what you’re supposed to do claims Bill Watterson. I say, c’est la vie, such is life. 

“If you choose to not deal with an issue, then you give up your right of control over the issue and it will select the path of least resistance.” Susan Del Gatto

Ironically I’m reading a book by Marie Kondo on eliminating clutter from our lives. One of the things she stresses is to keep the things “that spark joy when you touch them.” Are you kidding? Let’s consider dental floss, toilet brushes, my bra, the scale. She advises one to sit down, find your zen space, and hold every damn object in the entire house, from dish rags to alarm clocks, quietly sensing the innate value of each object, then savagely deciding it’s destiny. Treasure or garbage?

If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Jesus Christ

So the ultimate question for 2019 is this:  What is it going to take for me to understand what is garbage and what is treasure? I know you realize this is a loaded question, so I’m going to jump (okay it’s more of a leap), this is where I’ll lose Larry, but stay with me while I tie it up with a clumsy bow.

In the early morning, while the adults slumber, my twin granddaughters squawk at each other from across the room, each in her own crib. Then they do something extraordinary. They throw everything out of their cribs? Blankets, binkis, even their beloved stuffed animals. Everything, as if an empty nest is preferred (my peers will totally get this), to a cluttered space? When they tire of this bantering they call out to their mother. 

“The Divine Voice is not always expressed in words. It is made known as a heart-conscious mess.” A.J. Russell

I do exactly the same, using a primitive form of wordless communication, I attempt to bridge the distance between me and God, never achieving total union, never quite understanding. I believe I’m masking this inner longing, or at least defusing it, with things? Things that never quite satisfy that which I truly crave. Which is unity. All this stuff only serves to limit my ability to experience life as if a bird just breaking out of it’s shell, vulnerable, dependent, exposed. This seems to be the human condition. We are all solitary, confined, but oddly entangled, as if a string of lights, which I think we all agree, are difficult to store, but spark joy when illuminated. 

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.” G.K. Chesterton
I’m Living in the Gap, drop in anytime, we’ll talk storage units.


Anecdotes:

  • “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” Andy Rooney
  • “A good conscience is a continual Christmas.” Benjamin Franklin
  • “There is never a traffic am created from people going the extra mile” Jeff Dixon





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  1. Hi! When I first read this edition of Living in the Gap, I confess I empathized but had nothing much to add. However, while watching some games today, I gave it another read and came up with some thoughts. First off, why do I usually respond to your blog? Hmm… well, I do find it both an interesting and entertaining blog. But that is not a reason to write as I can enjoy it in anonymity. A chance to organize my thoughts? A chance to exercise a hidden, inner, writing Jones? Maybe? All of the above? Probably, but add this. Say you live in a city, and every Friday you walk past a musician playing something on the street. If you really like what you hear, and you don’t give any positive feedback, someday the musician will likely move on. On top of that, the blog is generally uplifting (except when it is a dump on Larry edition, but hey,) and may make me a better person.So back to this edition…Nice Cartoon! Goals for this year / what is it going to take?Prevail over technology? How might you ask? Just turn it off and walk away. Go somewhere off the grid. (Devil’s Punchbowl, Lost Coast highway?)Spend your time wisely? This is all in the eye of the beholder. My mother used to tell me I needed to do more reading, studying etc., then, when I would do that, she would admonish me by saying I spent too much time reading and needed to get outside more. To spend time wisely, you really need to define “wisely.” The pause that refreshes might be a waste, but it can be key.Publish a book? Tried to sneak that one by us. Awaiting our autographed copy 😉Clean the house, reduce clutter and put away Christmas…. Usually these types of projects get put off until we have visitors coming, at which point I am compelled to act.And then we get to this: “I use every known prophylactic, but nevertheless every 11 months, I go into labor.” Words to live by. And for some reason, after I finish blowing the coffee out of my nostrils, I keep visualizing Coach Larry …hee, hee, hee, hoo.Out of IPA’s? Understandable after a horde of offspring visit for the holidays, but this must be rectified if a serious putting away of Christmas is going to happen. Coors Light is good, but it must be really cold.Anyway, here’s to reaching all your 2019 goals.And since you brought up “Baby, it's cold outside..” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Rhvtzzmq-YWhich of course remains senselessly controversial.

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  2. Hi Cheryl,I enjoyed this post and got a few chuckles from the mental image of Larry carrying boxes of Christmas decorations from the attic. Almost every item on your \”What is it going to take\” list spoke to me except, I'm not writing a book, and I have the last one figured out… At our house, I happily put 2 Hanukkah pillows on the sofa, and a menorah on the shelf and smile that the holiday decorations are complete. Now it is time to sit back and enjoy all the beautiful decorations at other people’s homes both inside and out. I love helping my sister-in-law decorate, and eagerly help her bring boxes up from the basement, while she bribes me with hot chocolate. We hang a zillion ornaments on their tree, and I hear the stories about each one while Christmas music plays in the background. We enjoy the fellowship and joy of decorating together. It doesn't matter that the job is only 3/4 finished and her house is a huge mess when it is time for me to leave. Somehow Cathlin always gets it finished by Christmas (and of course I try to be very scarce after the holidays when it is time to put it all away!)\”Prevailing over technology\” is an especially difficult one, and now that I know you are on a 3-week hiatus from Facebook, I will look forward to the blog you write about social media withdrawal! Good luck!I plan to take your list, print it out and stick it on the wall behind my computer, after circling \”Reducing Clutter\”. I'll let you know how it works out! ;)Wishing you a wonderful 2019,Gail

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  3. Glad you gave this one a second read Mike, because like the musicians on the corner, I wholeheartedly encourage the practice of feedback! I always enjoy your comments. I think it's a great way to process thoughts, experiences, and I am absolutely positive there is a writer inside of you, begging to be exposed. So by all means keep those comments coming.I love your empathy for Larry, but his is my true muse, and therefore susceptible to \”said dumping\” all in good jest. I laughed when you wrote, \”just turn it off and walk away.\” And that is exactly what I did, sadly to the detriment of my blog, and mental health. I'm at the mercy of my readers to share what they like while I'm away. No pressure. Spending time wisely could be the topic of an entire blog? Don't you think? Let me just say it is a topic that seems to be unique to each and every person. My wise would include writing, reading, thinking which to another might look like wasting time. I say to each his own. Here's to many more blogs, controversies, and comments!

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  4. So excited to see your name appear in the comments Gail. Thank your for braving the system, I hear blogspot is not comment friendly. So bravo!The weird thing is I started this post with a list of questions that I wanted to focus on in 2019 but it sort of morphed into a piece on joy, consumerism, and personal advents. These blogs really have a mind of their own. I rarely know where they will end up. Ultimately the post ended with the idea of entanglement, storage, and simplicity. I think you have totally nailed the holiday decoration dilemma and I plan on plagiarizing your ideas for next year. I have some red pillows and snowman candle! Done.I had no idea that \”prevail over technology\” would result in leaving it in the dust but that seems to be the way things go with me.Enjoy the list Gail, I'm sure there are many things I've left out, which leaves room for additions and unimagined possibilities. I'll keep you posted on my self-imposed hiatus from Facebook. So far I'm liking the time it allows for decluttering. I've started to tackle my closet. Blessings on the New Year Gail!

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