Jenny: Re-Habbing for Re-Fabbing

Last year, in an attempt to re-hab my life, I bought a cottage in New Jersey.   It had sat empty for a couple of years, and there had been an undiscovered leak in the basement that had allowed mold to grow all over the basement, the electricity would short out if you plugged in two things at once anywhere in the house, and the pipes were all galvanized and disintegrating  . . .

But I loved it.   Loved it when I saw the picture on the internet, loved it when I visited it for the first time, loved it when I went back a second time with Krissie.  “Talk me out of this,” I told her before we went in, and then when we were leaving, I said, “So I shouldn’t buy it, right?”

She talked for a long time about what a disaster it would be to rehab, about how the grounds were going to be a nightmare to tame, about how it needed a new paint job, a new electrical system, all new plumbing, a new septic system . . . she went on at length.

“So I shouldn’t buy it, right?” I said.

“No, I love it,” she said.  “Buy it.”

There’s a reason we’re best friends.

Then while I was still waffling, somebody else put in an offer and it was accepted.  Well, that’s that, I thought, and kept looking, but my heart was in that little, beat-up, abandoned cottage.

Then the deal fell through and I cashed in my Ohio State Teacher’s Retirement and bought it at thirty per cent less than the asking price.   Needless to say my financial advisers were universally annoyed, but I wanted that cottage and it was a great price.   Even so, I really expected to walk into the place after we’d closed on the sale and think, What have I done? But I walked in and thought, I’m home.  That cottage is mine, it was meant to be mine, and I can’t wait to move in.  For once, I really did listen to myself.

Except what I thought was going to be gutting the basement with a good scrubbing to get rid of all the mold in the rest of the house turned into a full-house gut.  Which is good because it’s going to make it so much easier to put in the new plumbing and electricity.  And the roof that the home inspector assured me was good for another year or so turned out to be not good for another week or so, but that was good news, too, because the guy who painted the house (Pete McCann) is an artist and now it glows pound-cake yellow on its little half acre with a beautiful new blue roof, but inside . . . uh, no walls.

This is the living room and beyond that the 9’x9′ bedroom that’s going to be a bathroom:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second picture is the dining room that’s going to be a kitchen.  The old kitchen was 8’x7′.  Not really big enough.  The new kitchen will be 9’x9′.  Perfect.

Even gutted I still love it.  In fact, I think I love it more.  There’s something about stripping something down to its essentials and then rebuilding that is really empowering.  Except, as you will have noticed, its still full of Stuff.  Some of it is Stuff I moved in early, but a lot of it Stuff from the previous owner (I bought the house and contents).  Even stripped down, it’s still full of Stuff.

The more acute of you will sense a metaphor coming.

There’s something about taking an existing thing and breaking it down to find its most basic structure and then building it up again . . . you’d think it would be more exciting to just start something new, but there’s something about reclaiming something you thought was hopeless, or had grown tired of, or had just given up.  Something about not slapping band-aids on problems but really taking whatever it is down to the studs so you can see the bare bones that just makes everything suddenly clear.  It’s true of the cottage, it’s true of the years-old, failed book I’m working on again (You Again), it’s true of the new book I’ve been struggling with for three years (Lavender’s Blue), and certainly true of my body and my outlook.  A coat of paint is not going to do it on any of those things, any more than it was going to stop the mold in the cottage.

But it’s not enough to strip it down to its structure.  You also have to get rid of Stuff.  Which means that even though I’ve restructured both books, I have to get rid of the Stuff that’s still obscuring the structure, the banter that goes nowhere, the conversations that have no conflict, the odd tchotchke that’s sticking out like a sore plot point.  And it also means that no matter how successful I am at restructuring my eating, my exercise, my life, I’m still going to have to get rid of the Stuff that’s clogging my head:

You’re 62.  You’re too old to change.

You’ve been overweight since 1991.  You’ve been fat too long to change.

You’re a horrible housekeeper and always have been.  You’re disgusting.  You’re too disorganized and sloppy to change.

You’re weak.  You always make these plans and then you wander off because you have no will power.  You’re too weak to change.

You’re stupid.  You make dumb decisions.  You’re too dumb to change.

This is mind mold, the Stuff I have to get out of my life.  I know most of those messages are wrong.  I’m still younger than springtime, I’m strong as hell, and I’m smart.  I am a horrible housekeeper, though.  Never mind, the point is that I have to get that poisonous Stuff out of my head.  My life may have a leaky roof and a faulty electrical system, but all that is fixable.  It’s the Stuff that has to go.

Now I just have to figure out how.

 

 

78 thoughts on “Jenny: Re-Habbing for Re-Fabbing

  1. Yes, that’s poison in your head, and good on you for recognizing it. When I look at you, I see a beautiful, strong, powerful woman who can do anything she decides to do. You amaze me on a daily basis, and you are my role model. I aspire to your strength, your intelligence, your wit, your will. There is nothing in this world that can stand in your way when you’ve made up your mind, and I’m so lucky that my girls get to grow up with you providing that modeling for them.

    That said, baby steps. You can do it all, but if there’s anything you just can’t do today, you’ll do it tomorrow. It takes a long time to change, and you’re starting in the right place – inside. Get that horrible poison out of your head, and every time you hear that voice, think, “What would Lani tell me?”

    Because you know I’m always right. 🙂

  2. Stop telling yourself the bad stuff. Just stop. Consciously tell yourself the good stuff – I’m strong, I’m healthy, I’m organized, I’m a good housekeeper, I’m a great writer. You don’t even have to believe it’s true, or true yet. Just telling yourself the story is a way to make it true. I know it’s corny and sort of Stuart Smalley-ish, but it does work. The outside world will certainly innundate you with reasons to believe you aren’t good enough if you let it. There’s no reason to help it out by letting yourself put yourself down.

  3. Atomic Betty says:

    I like to think of it this way: it took a long time for those voices to get embedded in your mind, it’s going to take some time to make new pathways for your thoughts. From what I’ve read, thoughts tend to go along the lines of least resistance, which are the thoughts that most often occur. So, the key is to make sure that when the thoughts occur and are noticed, that they’re replaced with another kinder thought. Eventually, new easiest paths are formed and new thought sequences occur.

    • I do think this is key. Replacing bad thoughts with good through conscious effort. I’ve even thought about putting up signs that say, “You’re Smart.” But then I’d have more Stuff to dust.

      • Jenny,
        I have heard the voices. Mine mostly ran disaster scenarios. Not necessarily natural disasters, just all the bad things that could ever happen and how would you handle that?
        So I ran through options. Always had to have options. Gave me an odd sense of control.
        Anyway, when I was sick of running disaster scenarios in my mind and it was hard to turn off the voices, I hit on something so simple that helped so much.
        I put a song in my head.
        You know how songs get stuck there sometimes, and you can’t get them out? I put them there deliberately, and I just sang instead of running disaster scenarios.
        You can’t keep two competing thoughts in your head, so the songs kept my mind busy and I couldn’t think bad thoughts. 🙂
        Give it a try.

          • Let me know how it goes, ladies. Changed my life. For a long time, I kept trying to change what I was saying or thinking about, and then I realized, it was so much easier to just sing something in my head.

        • Love this idea. My favorite stuck in the head song is Tonight Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae. “La, la, la, whatever, la, la, la, it doesn’t matter.” My friends think I’m having a toddler moment, but it totally works for me.

          • You can sing any song you want. Hopefully a happy song, but really… any you want. And you can change your song as often as you want.
            We just want to occupy your mind, so it can’t think mean, self-sabotaging thoughts.
            And it can’t. You’re busy singing.

      • That’s why I use Post-It Notes. If I were being complete with my cognitive reprogramming exercises, my entire bathroom mirror would be covered with post-its. Because I don’t always remember to pay attention to what I’m hearing, so I don’t remember to apply counter-arguments. (My therapist is teaching me cognitive therapy, thus all the technical talk.)

        Long comment short: Use Post-Its — you don’t have to dust them.

      • laverne zemaitis says:

        I make all my passwords affirmations…so every time I sign in I have to take a moment to think a good thought. Hey, every little moment helps.

  4. I get those sorts of thoughts too — some embedded by a parent who during my childhood told me over and over how I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or pretty enough, others gathered over the years.

    The thing that I’ve found that’s helped me the most is whenever those thought get me down, I’ve made a mental list of everything I’m thankful for and I say my thanks out loud. When I start thinking those thoughts, it reframes my brain and gives me the strength to move on.

    The other thing I think these days (I have a 2 year old) is whether or not the mom who thinks bad things of herself is the mom I want my daughter to see (and hear). And so I stop myself from saying something bad about myself because I don’t want my daughter to have that mom. I want her to have the mentally (and physically) healthy mom, who loves herself and shows her how to be in her own skin with pride and joy.

    Jenny, you are smart, beautiful, kind, giving and wonderful. I know this because I’ve read your blogs, seen your kindnesses and read your books. Believe in yourself. We (your readers — and I think the universe) believe in you.

    • And to this point, is the Grandma who listens to the belittling voices of self-loathing the woman you want showing your grandkids how to be happy, beloved, brilliant human beings?

      Fact is, you’re everything Lani said and more. And should the universe tilt off its axis and she not be right, you know I always am. Except for that one time, of which we shall not speak further. SMOOCHES!!

  5. nightsmusic says:

    You know, you have to pick your battles. All those voices can be shut up, but maybe breaking them down and doing one or two at a time is the way to go. I don’t know. I have yet to figure that out. I share a lot of those same things that I want to change though I have to admit, being a better housekeeper is probably the bottom of the list for me. 😉

    I envy you the new house, the new beginning, the opportunity to start over and can’t wait for the updates.

  6. I think its all really beautiful. The “spring cleaning” of everything. The whole revamp and the getting out with the mold of mind and house is really envious. I hope that everything will follow through and that you’ll be able to unclogged all the bad stuff and take in all the Good Stuff along with the New Year. 🙂

  7. Marcia in OK says:

    “There’s something about taking an existing thing and breaking it down to find its most basic structure and then building it up again . . . you’d think it would be more exciting to just start something new, but there’s something about reclaiming something you thought was hopeless, or had grown tired of, or had just given up. Something about not slapping band-aids on problems but really taking whatever it is down to the studs so you can see the bare bones that just makes everything suddenly clear.”

    Thank you Jenny for putting into words the process I’ve started the last year in ernest. Seeing your words, calmed me inside and reminded me that this plan works for me. ODT – One Damn Thing at a time! (Thanks MCB!) I can’t chuck my whole life or my kids. This is the life we’ve got and the resources we have. To fix it – really fix it for good – can’t be rushed, but slow and steady works. ODT at a time.

    I find it applies to housekeeping, and work, and inner-peace and all the rest. Sometimes, on purpose, I start ODT that I know I can finish just because I can put it on my progress list and check it off. Today’s thing was clean out my purse! An envelope with receipts is way more manageable than the 50 mangled receipts covering everything. I even threw some away!

    Re-Fabbing in 2012! Go Jenny!

  8. Jann M. says:

    This post comes at a most auspicious time. I just finished praying to my higher selves to help me release the ideas and beliefs that no longer serve me. I have also been working on clearing out closets and drawers to release things that no longer serve me. (And this is not generally my idea of a good time!) So after reading your post, I am more convinced that releasing unnecessary and unwanted stuff – be it things or weight or ideas – will be my theme for 2012. I have so many things that I hang onto out of habit or fear. Ridding myself of some of these can clear my house and mind and make room for more improved and better-serving items. Thank you so much for sharing and for writing such marvelous books that I take such pleasure in. I would wish you luck but you are on the right track and don’t need it. Carry on. ♥

  9. Jenny,
    We bought a moderately old house (70 years old) eighteen months ago, and it didn’t need gutting. But the kitchen’s too small. We desperately need a garage. There’s only one full bath. A dire lack of closet space. The wiring needs work. Have already done $4,500 worth of plumbing work and it needs more.
    But it’s brick and well-built to start with, in this fun, quirky little town. On nearly an acre. But the best part is the view. A mountain in the front yard. (Mountain as defined by South Carolina standards — some would laugh.) And the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance in the backyard, and I absolutely adore it.
    We looked for two years to find it, and the energy of the space is glorious. So happy and peaceful. As a bonus, we have fabulous sunset views from the family room. Didn’t even know that until we moved in.
    Hasn’t been easy. Still own the hold house, not by choice. But we’d looked for so long for the new one, and this one was perfect. Couldn’t pass it up. Have rented the old house and I really hope the tenants buy it eventually.
    Daughter and I have been painting. Turquoise for my office. Key Lime Pie for the hallway (a lemon-lime color) and a beautiful Granny Smith Apple green for the living room called Gleeful. (How can you not love a color called Gleeful?)
    Despite all the hassles, we’ve been so happy with the new place. I’m sure you will be, too.

  10. How did that evil, trash-talking bitch sneak into the basement? Tell the girls to kick her ass out.

    You’re fabulous in every imaginable way that you need to be.

    Housework is overrated. Lousy housekeeping does not make you a bad person. If it did, I’d be incarcerated for crimes against clean floors. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Exactly my point.

    Go, Jenny, Go!

    • Robin S. says:

      I second Mary Stella! (We definitely need a ‘love’ button over here)

      Start a gratitude journal. Take 5 minutes to write down 5 things you are grateful for each day. It helps.

  11. Liz says:

    I don’t know you personally, but I don’t see any of that stuff. I see a creative, fun, strong, indepedent woman who is living a fabulously happy life. I went to BHS and I didn’t have you as a teacher, but I knew who you were, because you were larger than life then – personality that filled a room. You are bigger than that ‘stuff’!

    Enjoy the new cottage. it sounds fabulous!

  12. Amanda Schultz says:

    I fight the same battles every day with the voices telling me how horrible I am. I have yet to figure out how to get rid of them or to change them. When you figure it out, please share! I don’t know how you keep your house, but I know how mine is kept..and it has alot to be desired! You’re a beautiful woman! We all have our own beauty..and our weight has nothing to do with our beauty. I’ve dealt with my weight for years, up and down. I’m up (again) and need to go back down for my health and my kids. As far as your books..I think you’re AWESOME!! I have LOVED every book of yours I read, which hae been ALOT but not all..YET! Just keep your head up!! Put up the notes all over the house that tell you how wonderful you are (a little dust won’t hurt them) and contimue to be the wonderful person you already are! If you make imporvements (for yourelf) then you will be even more wonderful!! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

  13. Martha P. says:

    Oh Jen, screw ’em!

    The spouse and I have bought 4 houses, all of which needed work to become just right for us. No one EVER finds a place that’s immediately right – you just found one that needs work, but it met a number of your critical location factors.

    You’ve got money, so you can fix it up. Find yourself a good general contractor who won’t patronize you, who will tell you the truth about what’s going on and how much it’s going to cost, and who won’t hand you a change order every other week (I also rehab apartment buildings). This isn’t rocket science (despite what some will tell you), and you sure as hell don’t need a Y chromosome to build out your cottage to your satisfaction.

    I grew up getting my ears filled with similar crap, and I made a decision long ago not to pay attention to people who spouted off such nonsense.

    Pop an email off to me if you need help finding a GC – I’ve got buddies (female) in the commercial real estate business in the tri-state area who’d be glad to help!

      • Martha P. says:

        A good contractor, like a good woman, has a price above rubies… 🙂

        BTW, those money folks? They’re probably pissed you’re moving funds because they make their dough off managing yours – the more you have with them, the more they make. And here’s a news flash – they lost bucketsful in the recession and are trying to make up for the lost fee income.

        It’s an excellent time to buy a house – prices are down, and money’s the cheapest we’ll see it.

        Your money folks are WRONG. You’re RIGHT!

        • Martha P. says:

          Another BTW – I buy every book you write, and I bet a lot of the folks who post here do too! Not many authors have that going for them!

        • No, no, my money guy is a darling. That year when everybody lost money (including me in my other accounts)? He actually got me a 1% profit. I said, “You’re a genius.” He said, “No, we could see it coming.” He just advised against cashing out the fund because my other retirement is a long way from being fully funded, and this was a solid retirement fund. But once I said, “I”m gonna do it,” he was on board. I love my money guy and my daughter who works with him and who also said, “Uh, Ma . . .” They’re just trying to keep me from ending up living in Mollie’s basement. Mollie is working especially hard at that.

  14. piper says:

    It’s funny, but I think those negative voices are in everyone’s heads, some of us just manage to overcome them. I’m not saying I’m one, but….

    I’ve been going to the gym, and as I stoodd before the mirror in my gym clothes lifting weights my first thought was there was something wrong with the mirrors. When I told my husband this he disagreed. The truth is I’m not as fat as I think I am.

    Sometimes we all need to take a long hard truthful look in the mirror and we’ll discover we aren’t weak, we’re not old, and we certainly aren’t dumb. We did not become the success we are through stupidity, weakness, and laziness. Experience is a good thing and we can conquer a heck of a lot. On the other hand, no matter how much housekeeping we do, there will always be more laundry.

  15. My Dear Jennie,

    It is easy to say get rid of those thoughts, but an entirely different scenario to actually purge yourself of the easy habit of self-deprecation. Hell – I’m a poofy, 31-year-old getting my bachelor’s degree surrounded 110-pound 18-year-olds with no wrinkles and glossy hair. Getting up and going to class and the gym is hell enough without me adding to it. Yet the appreciation for the caustic mind is evidence enough that a waistline isn’t everything. Be poofy, be caustic, be proud.

    What I can tell you is that you are one of the strong women that I look to as a role model of ‘greatness’ and strength in a woman. You do not need to lose 50 pounds, fine inner peace in Bali, or run England for up-teen years – you need to be a woman who recognizes her flaws, embraces them, tells the world to ‘suck it’, and keeps moving forward with purpose. You are one of those woman for me and I am 99% sure I am not the only one out there.

    As for your cottage in New Jersey, there is nothing quite as wonderful as finding your bliss in a sanctuary that calls to you. I’m looking forward to your updates of how the cottage is going and what this year holds for you.

    Best regards,
    Nina
    P.S. It is part of your job to irritate your financial advisers.

  16. True story. I was attending a retreat put on by my church because I felt I needed a spiritual lift in my life. A divorce two years earlier had resulted in a lot of that “stinking thinking” that was going on in my life (cannot remember who coined that phrase). I was sitting quietly, reflecting on a scripture verse and journaling in a big and comfy rocking chair under a covered porch overlooking a pond. The pond would have been picturesque except that it was drained – ugly, murky and muddy with cut tree trunks scattered throughout. Struggling to find anything to journal about, a caretaker passed in front of me and I asked him what was going on with the pond. He said, “They have to get the stumps out. They have rotted over time and are causing the water to drain out of the pond.” as he walked away I found myself repeating “GET THE STUMPS OUT”. I wrote it down in my journal. It became a pivotal moment for me. I needed to get stumps out of my life to replenish my spiritual life. For me it was all those negative thoughts and feelings of failure I was drowning in. It was and is not an easy thing to do – getting rid of the stumps in your life, but exactly what I needed to move to a better place in my life. So, I recommend you “get the stumps out of your life” to get to a re-fab place in your life!

  17. Your housekeeping skills will improve once you’re in the smaller space. I know mine did. I went from over 4,000 square feet to 2400 to finally 1700 square feet. This place is so easy to clean and keep clean. I adore it. And getting rid of stuff with each move…awesome. I haven’t missed a thing.
    I have a friend who wore an elastic band around his wrist and for every negative thought he had he’d zap himself and then replace the negative thought with a positive one. I called it the “take that, bitch,” technique.

    • Robena: I’ve done that! Soon after starting that process, I realized that just having the band on my wrist reminded me enough that the negative thoughts I was working on started decreasing. I didn’t have to snap the band much at all! (Which is good; I bruise easily. Lol.)

    • I love that! I almost did the same thing but then decided that my body had taken enough abuse from me over the years, so I was going to try something different and pay attention to those voices. It’s been amazing. Not immediately, but over time, just amazing the space and energy that have been freed up.

  18. Jenny,
    Thank you for this post. This is going to sound cheesy, but you are one of my heroes. Your books have gotten me through some incredibly crappy times, and your blog has inspired me more times that I can count. I hold you in the highest of esteem. So it is incredible to hear that you have the same negative thoughts in your head as me, almost word for word. Almost makes me proud to be a bad housekeeper. 🙂 I wish you all the best with the new cottage and the move and the letting go of stuff.

  19. Looks great, sounds great, quite envious actually, if it were not for the fact that walls can hide the other messy rooms I would recommend you go for the open concept. But walls and closed doors can hide weeks of laundry needing to be done, sigh.

  20. You and that house are going to be so fabulous the world will explode. As for those voices — listen to me. I’m your best friend and I’m fabulous. Would I have a best friend who’s anything less?

  21. Penny says:

    What an empowering and inspiring post! Thanks for allowing some of that to seep into the mold I’ve got growing in my own head.

  22. ‘You’re 62. You’re too old to change.’ Nonsense. I’m older than that and still have hope of change. Don’t discourage me!

    ‘You’ve been overweight since 1991. You’ve been fat too long to change.’ Yeah, yeah, I know. By now the fat and the body are such good friends it’s a shame to separate them. But this is the year I’m gonna. Wanna race?

    ‘You’re a horrible housekeeper and always have been.’ etc. etc. I’ve always been a terrible housekeeper, too. Recently I’ve discovered that if I stop worrying about “housekeeping” and concentrate on what makes me comfortable, everything looks better and I’m happier.

    ‘You’re weak. You always make these plans and then you wander off because you have no will power. You’re too weak to change.’ Poop on that. You can do whatever you want. That’s the key: whatever YOU want.

    ‘You’re stupid. You make dumb decisions. You’re too dumb to change.’ No. You’re smart enough to realize how toxic these internal dialogues are. You’re smart enough to write books that gladden the hearts and brighten the lives of so many of us. You’re JENNY. And keep on being Jenny. Please.

  23. Well, this has been a real upper. Thank you all!

    Alastair will put in the Like button when he and Lani get back from the grocery. We’re a work in progress here. Well, aren’t we all?

  24. pamb says:

    Aw, Jenny! 🙁

    Sometimes I wonder what the world could be like if good people didn’t run themselves down with the negative voices in their heads.

    Then I try really hard to convince myself I’m one of those “good” people who doesn’t deserve the voices in my head, either. ;;sigh;;

    Fwiw, two things that’ve helped me:

    1. I’d never talk this way to my kids or grandkids. I have to rephrase it as I would if I were talking to Heather or Gianna.

    2. Learned from FlyLady, it’s a by-product of being a perfectionist. Took me a year to stop thinking she’s crazy saying loser me is a perfectionist, but I finally realized she’s right. If I can’t “fix” it in an hour–or at least with a long day’s push–then obviously I deserve the mess (or failure) because I haven’t stayed on the house, my weight, the fill-in-the-blank.

    [I’m relieved I found FlyLady in 2002 because I couldn’t follow all the stuff she has now, but I still sometimes refer back to the basics on her homepage.]

    So, I’m trying to accept the slow slog (slow to me) and incremental results. I want Biggest Loser weight loss without a complete diet change & 5 hours/day in the gym. I want a dumpster out front & a Clean House purge with Country Living results in a week. Without spending money I don’t have.

    Clearly I need to stay away from TV & magazines!

    But when I let go of how horrible I am & I put in the little bits that couldn’t possibly make a difference, gee, it all gets better. Imagine that!

    Virtual hugs! You are an amazing treasure to us & I hope you’ll soon feel like one to yourself, too. pamb

  25. Tracey says:

    Seriously, you sound like you’ve got ADHD, and I don’t mean that snarkily. Worth seeing a psychiatrist and being evaluated. I know it sounds crazy, but the combo of age and genetics eventually make mincemeat of our (inadequate) organization skills, especially for creatives. ADHD meds can really make a difference, as does FINALLY knowing that all your so-called deficiencies are not character flaws! It’s just the way your brain works – and you can educate or not as you wish. But at least you know. And because you’re one of the best writers of women’s fiction out there, the rest of us will benefit when you finish the books!

  26. I love those windows, and the fireplace, and the floors! Will you keep the fireplace as-is, or change the facade in some way? It’s good to have fire 😉

  27. romney says:

    The less stuff you have, the less housekeeping you have to do. For starters, it is so much easier to push a hoover round when you can see the carpet (as I found out this week after chucking a load of stuff out).

  28. Meegan Legacy says:

    Jenni,
    I had those horrible thoughts for years, still do sometimes, but less often and now I recognize them and can ignore them. I struggled with depression when my kids were younger; I had those poisonous thoughts on a repeating track in my mind. Made me just give up and lay down. I went to counseling and the one thing I took from it is this: Everyone has a “voice” or two that whispers (yells) negative thoughts in your ear. Identify the voice. Whose is it? A parent, spouse, sibling, teacher? Mine turned out to be my dad and a sibling. I’m blessed, I got to have two voices because I’m special. Every time the negative loop started up, I recognized the theme music and began to consciously think, “that’s not me. I don’t believe that.” The therapist also had us question these voices, which I thought was pretty creepy and kind of scary. What if they actually ANSWERED?? lol I used to have thoughts like “of course there’s a train. I’m in a hurry, so there has to be a train! There’s ALWAYS a train when I’m in a hurry.” I would get so mad! The retraining of thoughts made me realize the train doesn’t care where I am (in line waiting to get past or at home on the couch) or whether I’m in a hurry. It would be on that track regardless. The course also suggests not using “every time,” “never,” “always,” or other absolutes. Because the train isn’t there *every* time I’m in a hurry. That’s just when I notice it the most. My husband doesn’t *always* do something that annoys me; it’s when I’m already annoyed that I notice his quirky little habits that annoy me sometimes more than others. See the trend? I quit taking things personally. Stop lights, rude people, trains, loud radios, whatever. They aren’t there just to make my life miserable. They are what they are, no matter what mood I’m in or where I’m at. Another couple empowering phrases that have helped?
    “If something is wrong, you can tell me, but I can’t read your mind.” Because I’d always wonder if something was bothering someone and was convinced they were mad at me. “I can’t read your mind” puts the ball in their court.
    “The world will not end if I don’t do the dishes till morning.” 🙂
    “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Doesn’t mean I have to change how *I* feel, though, does it?
    “Just because other people are rude doesn’t mean I have to be.” Which I actually tell my husband and kids all the time, much to their annoyance. LOL
    So, now that I’ve put you to sleep… you CAN change those negative thoughts. They don’t always go away, but you can awe them into silence. 🙂 Good luck!

  29. About eight years ago, my son was diagnosed as profoundly learning disabled. He’s a classic dyslexic: the PhD who diagnosed him said that as learning disabilities go, my son’s was at the extreme end of the scale. I’d always lived in a world dominated by books; the idea that my kid was never going to join me there broke my heart. But then the doctor pointed out all the ways in which my son is amazing–the creativity, the inquisitive mind, the bright cheerfulness–and said that they were the other side of dyslexia. My boy’s a truly weird and quirky and inventive thinker. The doctor said something like with great weaknesses come great strengths; my boy is dyslexic but he’s also brilliant. Even that day, I knew that I wouldn’t trade him for an average kid without the problems and without the gifts.

    Why am I telling you this? Because you say that you’re a horrible housekeeper and I think, yeah, because housekeeping is boring, repetitive, routine, and dull, and you seem creative, quirky, and fun. Why would you want to give that up to be a better housekeeper? And you say you’re weak because you never follow through on your plans, and I say, or you’re easily distracted because your brain is always working on the next great plan, plus you’re creative, entertaining and funny, which means routines get boring fast, so yeah, lack of follow through. But why would you want to give that up? “I’m stupid, I make dumb decisions” could just as easily be “I’m a risk-taker, I like life to be exciting and it doesn’t always work out.”

    Nobody gets to be perfect at everything: so the gods didn’t give you housekeeping, but they gave you a sense of humor. The next time you think, “I’m a terrible housekeeper and I will never change,” add, “Because housekeeping is boring, dull, repetitive work and I’m creative and imaginative and it doesn’t suit me.” And then spend more time writing, so you can afford to hire a housekeeper.

    I believe firmly in the possibility of change, but I also think that sometimes we need to look at the positive side of our supposedly negative qualities and really think about whether we’d make the trade if we could.

  30. the point is that I have to get that poisonous Stuff out of my head. My life may have a leaky roof and a faulty electrical system, but all that is fixable. It’s the Stuff that has to go.

    Now I just have to figure out how.

    You could tell yourself that you’re a Fast Woman, and the bad thoughts are just Icicles you need to smash.

    Or you could remind yourself that you’re a rat, and that the Stuff is only flotsam you need to push aside as you keep swimming towards your island. As you yourself said,

    What’s the worst that can happen? You never get published or the book of your heart tanks, and you never reach your goal, but at the end of your life you look back and say, “I had a dream and I fought for it, I believed in myself and my work, and I never, ever gave up.” That’s a life well lived, folks, a helluva lot better than, “I had a dream but it wasn’t realistic so I quit and watched television.” Do not let reality push you around, do not be sensible and kill your own dreams, and for the love of God do not let people who are only guessing about what’s going to happen next tell you that you’re a fool for believing in yourself

    What was that you were saying in an earlier post about listening to yourself? You’ve said some wise things, Jenny.

  31. It’s the stuff that’s got to go? Yep. I think so too. Starting with my bedroom that’s so full of junk from the rest of the house that I can’t walk around the bed.

    It is a small room with a big bed, but still the junk must go. I might even just put it in the trash because it’s so much effort to get it to the thrift store. Oh, that’s bad. But I refuse to berate myself for it. If throwing stuff away saves my life then that’s what I’ll do.

      • Beth E says:

        The FREE sign works great for me too and I live far from a highway or even moderately busy street. I’m pretty sure everything I’ve ever put out is in my neighbor’s garage across the street. Better his than mine.

      • Nicole says:

        I live in a big city. We put stuff on the sidewalk and it doesn’t even need a sign. It’s gone in under an hour. It comes in handy. Well until moving day when you have various things on the sidewalk all day that you need to get in the moving truck. Then I’m guarding the couch with my life. 🙂

    • Some worthy causes with thrift shop enterprises will pick up your stuff that you don’t want!!! Will double the fun and your feeling better about yourself!!

  32. Carol says:

    The best advice I ever got about those voices was the person who asked, “Would you talk to your best friend like that?” And when I said, “of course not,” she said, “You should treat yourself as well as you treat your friends.” So my rule is that if I wouldn’t say it to someone else I loved, I won’t say it to myself, because I love myself.

    Doesn’t work all the time, but it really really keeps the “Carol, you idiot” at bay.

  33. I have too much stuff. Less than a year ago, because I went on a purge to fit my mom in my house, but still a lot of stuff. I’m working on simplifying, but also, my goal is to STOP BUYING MORE STUFF.

    I’m a drug addict that’s been in recovery for 23 years, and I’ve applied the 12 steps to all facets of my life, to generally great success. But I’m up to my eyeballs in debt. The other day I was reading an article about a woman who went to Debtor’s Anonymous, started working the steps, and is on her way to recovery. I just stared at the page. It hadn’t ever occured to me that I was powerless over my spending. SERIOUSLY.

    Some voices in our heads know us so well that we barely notice them. It’s like white noise. So, I’m going to turn off the fan in my brain that whirrs soothing self-destruction. Who knows what good stuff I’ll hear?

  34. Micki says:

    That house is gorgeous . . . even the studs look like cherry wood or something! I’m thinking about leaving some of our half-built house like that, now.

    I’ve got a question: how is this life re-fabbing stuff different from writing? (-: I’m not accomplished in carrying through any of this stuff (yet) — writing a book, losing weight, cleaning house. About the only claim to fame I’ve got is devouring books . . . . If I could bring that book habit to my writing (and exercising and housecleaning), I’d be . . . probably looking for new goals, if I’m being absolutely truthful. (-: Nothing is good enough for me. But, I’d kind of like to hit a higher level of “not good enough yet.”

    • It’s not that different, really, especially from rewriting. But I think you have to be careful about how you attack story because it’s such a living thing. Push it around too much, and it leaves.

      • Micki says:

        I am slowly evolving a theory. Because, if I push my self-control around too much, it leaves too (-:. Hmmm. Whatever it is, do it, do it every day. Find the joy in it, but slog through the rough patches anyway. And do it, but don’t do it too much, and don’t try and Kung Fu your way through it. Hmmm. Still thinking.

  35. Amy O says:

    Okay, I have to ask. Where did you find the sofa? I LOVE it. The lines are exactly what I have been looking for. If this is part of the trash pile, please let me know! If not, and you remember where it came from, please let me know!

    • When I bought the house, I bought the contents, too, and the living room suite was part of it. I love it, but it doesn’t go in the cottage, so I was planning on swapping it with my big sofa here in Ohio and giving it to Lani. However, I think the big sofa is too big for the house, so I may end up moving it downstairs.
      There are two side chairs and the funkiest looking end tables too. IT’s great stuff.

  36. Lorrae says:

    “Mind mold” — I love that image and that meaning. I’ve been ruminating on changes today, also, and now I have a term that fits some of those ruminations. Thank you!

  37. Kim Cz says:

    I can’t tell you how much I understand the muck clogging our thoughts. It’s so destructive and it can make something that should be easy suddenly overwhelming. I am working on the replacement method, if I have a negative thought then I replace it with a positive thought. I like the post it idea, or maybe one of those small dry erase boards, hmmm…

    Keep smiling, Jenny, you’ve got a lot of people to keep you thinking positive thoughts. 🙂

  38. CatScott says:

    I know I’m quite a few days late and probably more than a buck short, but here goes.

    I think it’s important to take an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses in as kind a way as possible. Once you’ve identified where you’re weaknesses lie you can then begin the work. You can chose compensating for them, fixing them or just letting them lie.

    Change doesn’t always mean you must master weakness and remold it into a strength. Sometimes you label it and put it in the Fuck-It Bucket. I’m never going to be graceful and that’s OK. I put it in the Fuck-It Bucket. There are plenty of annoying graceful broads out there. I’m unpredictable when I cross a room, and I kinda like it. Keeps ’em guessing.

    A suggestion for you would be to consider hiring someone in NJ to help keep you organized when you move in. There are people out there who have various talents. You probably wouldn’t need but a monthly or bi-weekly appointments with someone there specifically to keep your life organized.

    I bet over time you’d acquire some great habits and skills and could ween yourself off the service or go to bi-monthly or semi-annual visits. Doesn’t have to be a company or firm, could be just a college kid or a mom looking for some extra cash. People have so many qualities and talents that they don’t think are equitable, but there are others out there struggling who’d love to have the help.

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