Delete Sheet Rows

If your life were an Excel spreadsheet, what would be in its columns and its rows? 

computer glass plant

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

This question occurred to me while volunteering in an administrative position at a local non-profit agency for the aging.  The organization had recently sent out an appeal letter asking for donations to help support aging well in our island community.  As is the case with any sort of bulk mailing, letters were returned for incomplete or incorrect addresses, changes of residence, and, in some cases, deaths during the previous year.

Upon arriving at the center this day, I was handed a hefty stack of envelopes that had been returned for the various reasons mentioned above.  It was my assignment to edit the organization’s mailing list on an Excel spreadsheet so that future mailings would have a lower return rate from the post office.  It wasn’t until I got to the bundle labeled “Delete” that I realized that a sizable number of the previous year’s elder members and donors had passed away.

A variety of notes were scrawled across the face of the returned envelopes to denote a person’s passing: Deceased . . . No longer alive . . . Departed the planet . . . My father transitioned in July . . . Bertie died this year.  This sort of thing.  One envelope was as succinct as it could be: This person is dead.

My task was to find each person on the spreadsheet, delete the contact information from the mailing list, draw a line through the address label on the face of envelope to indicate the edit had been taken care of, and then build a new stack of envelopes to my left to be deemed “Done & Entered.”

As I deleted, crossed out, and placed envelopes on the “Done & Entered” stack, something overpowering came over me, amplifying my awareness of what I was actually doing.  As I highlighted a row with someone’s name and clicked on the Delete Sheet Rows in the top ribbon of commands, I felt like I was dishonoring an important and essential life with the irreverent blitheness of a keystroke.  It was reducing someone’s lifetime contributions to a thoughtless Delete command.


Photo by Shaun Bell on Unsplash

I stopped.  I looked at the stack of envelopes already piled in the “Done & Entered” stack and started over with my handling of each envelope with a different sense of care.  As I read each person’s name and address, I wondered what kind of life he or she had experienced. Were they musicians, artists, welders, teachers, truck drivers, writers, baristas, chocolatiers? Public figures, homemakers, philanthropists, grocery clerks? Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives?  Did they have families and pets who missed them?

As I looked at each envelope in the stack, I sent their families, friends, and loved ones my sympathies and hoped that they were coping with their grief from losing a loved one.  After each of these mini-celebrations of life, I would draw a big heart around each address label with a pink highlighter and put the envelope back on the stack that I was now labeling “Honored.”

Delete Sheet Rows . . . During my walk later that afternoon, the Excel entry work from the morning stayed with me.  I started to wonder: If my life were an Excel spreadsheet, what would be in its columns and its rows?  Later that evening when the house was quiet, I pulled up Excel on my laptop.

How to Journal with an Excel Spreadsheet

Across the top row of the spreadsheet, I randomly labeled boxes with my priority categories: people, dreams, goals, favorite activities, work, projects, etc.  There was nothing organized or prioritized with this labeling.  I just tabbed and listed what was near and dear to me across the top row.  I eventually had to rein myself in as I realized how impossibly far my columns were stretching to the east. Having to tab ad infinitum to the right was not going to make future journaling fun, so I started to organize columns into broad categories.

As I categorized my columns, it became clear that the spreadsheet was turning into a focus wheel – only in the form of a graph.  Eventually, by condensing the number of columns to eight, I was able to really focus on what I want to prioritize this next year.

After skipping the first column to allow for listing my activities and such in the rows below, my focus categories were labeled across the top line in columns 2-9:

  1. relationships
  2. health & exercise & outdoors
  3. dreams & goals
  4. music & art
  5. awareness & mindfulness
  6. writing
  7. play & fun
  8. learning

I then started to list activities, creative efforts, wanting, dreaming, and conceptualizing down the first column on the left that I had left for “actions & experiences.” (Examples: go to spin class, play mandolin, call my big brother, meditate, take Bronte to the beach, finish writing chapter 3, do an acrylic pour, etc.)

I then typed a number “1” into each box across the row below each priority column corresponding with what this “action” row item incorporated.  This was to allow for auto-summing columns later so I could assess my “tangibility” of focus.

For example, an afternoon of painting ceramic pots at a local pottery shop with my two best friends translated into entering a “1” across the row under six columns: relationships, dreams & goals (we talked a lot about this topic as we painted), music & art,  awareness & mindfulness (another great part of the afternoon), play & fun, and learning.  That is a lot of boxes!

Results and Discoveries

Research shows that engaging in reflection will boost and grow your memory and enrich the quality of the experience.  I discovered that the recording and the categorizing of my experiences on the spreadsheet served as this enhancing reflection.  And to carry it forward, by having these columns of focus spread out on an Excel spreadsheet, I could really embrace and grow my awareness of what was undeniably my life’s priorities and remind myself to stay focused and balanced.

By looking at – and really studying – the spreadsheet, I began to feel a renewed motivation to make my life feel engaged and rewarding and balanced . . . and not just let it slip into what has been a tendency to become “default mode.”  For example, I pushed myself to organize a fun activity to do with friends that involved seven of the columns.  While the goal is not about simply checking off all the boxes, it is about paying attention to what makes life feel balanced by incorporating preferences into memorable moments.

What really came out of my “Study in Excel” is I realized how long it had been since I had taken the time “to plan” inspiring moments into my life and “to follow through” by becoming more proactive and conscious about how globally some of these feel-good times blessed my life.

It showed that I had been slipping into the role of a passive talker – and sometimes complainer – and not an active do-er.  I had somewhere along life’s timeline given myself permission to succumb to the numbing acceptance of “whatever” and was ignoring any prompts of self-dissatisfaction to take more control of my choices in life – inspiring me to steer my time into my Priority Columns of 8 and beyond.

This process of Excelling my life has surpassed my initial curiosity that first night of musing and journaling.  This exercise has grown to guide, to inspire, and to humble me.  My name and address on an envelope may someday become a Delete Sheet Rows keystroke in an organization’s mailing list . . . but to the people who are important to me?  I want them to see their names and our shared experiences listed over and over on my life’s spreadsheet and to understand and to feel the beautiful meaning that their essence, time, and love have infused into my life.

Truth, we are far, far more than the sum of any rows and columns on a spreadsheet.  It is the little things in living that make for a life fulfilled.  By living a life infused with more intention and connecting the dots between relationships and actions, we can better appreciate the time that we have during our time on planet Earth and with the people we love.




albert-einstein-quotes. count

We count the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, the years.  We count dollars, cents, and credit card balances.  We count the number of miles we run or bike, the steps we climb, or the laps we swim.  We count calories, carbs, fat grams and the number of pounds we gain or lose.  We count.  And we count some more.

There are things in life we can’t count.  We can’t quantify laughter or tears or the quality of our relationships.  We reckon birthdays but we cannot count life.  We tally up anniversaries but we cannot count the love we give and we receive.  We can enumerate the number of college degrees we earn but we cannot count what we have learned along the way.  We can measure the spectrum of wavelengths but we cannot count the number of colors that streak across the sky when we see a sunset or the aurora borealis.

Albert-Einstein-Simple-Picture-QuoteWhat counts?  So simple to say or to to describe or to explain . . . but it’s sometimes so tricky to keep my perspective.  Real counting is an intuitive nudge.  We know when something is countable when we feel that let-the-bell-toll moment.  When life comes together into one brilliant episode of Hugeness.

These moments fill us full with something that we can neither count nor define.  Like a bell tolling, the ringing has a roundness that reverberates through us and out into the vastness of the Universe.  I consider myself lucky to have experienced such moments.  They remind me to stop counting stuff and to start counting  — to start making a difference — as a human being

Life.  Memories.  Experiences.  Hugs.  Encouragement.  True love.  Music.  Integrity.  Contributing.  Growing.  So many things that I cannot count.  So many.


What experiences do you consider spiritual?

My journaling today led me to thinking and writing about Experiences That I Consider to be Spiritual:

  • laughter
  • happiness
  • charity
  • generosity
  • physical health
  • mental health
  • spiritual health
  • generosity of spirit
  • acts of kindness
  • mindfulness
  • cultivation of mindfulness
  • appreciation
  • love
  • being in love
  • true sharing of the good things in life

I seek peace in my heart’s chambers.  I seek the cultivation of that miraculous moment — the pause — that allows me to seek my Higher Self and to focus on my heart’s horizons.  To believe that “every little thing’s gonna be all right.”

As I wrote, a visualization floated into my mind:

floating leaf 1At first, a little curled-edge leaf boat.  The leaf looked like a small alder leaf with serrated edges.

Then . . . a piece of pale blue beach glass in the shape of a heart: faceted on the edges and surf-scratched to a state of opaqueness . . . I placed the little heart on the curled-edge leaf boat and let it float on a dark puddle that grew and flowed into a current of water with higher beach glass

I don’t know where the little leaf will light . . . but where it does, it will be received with kindness and appreciation for my willingness to trust and to allow healing on its journey of hope.

I finished writing in my journal and I thought, Wow! All of this mysterious and unrelated stuff simply from taking 20 minutes to just stop and to listen.  The power of writing and listening to the thoughts in my mind.

Life takes on such a busy and rapidly-moving pace.  It bustles and hustles and sometimes grinds to a halt from a frighteningly-high speed.  When it slams to a stop, we stress and we worry.  We wonder.  We forget to be positive.  And we lose our way.  We are in the forest and the trees no longer feel friendly.  We aren’t having fun anymore.

These moments are part of life.  I remember a conversation I had with two of my good friends.  We were talking about some particular life challenges.  Difficulties.  Stress.  This sort of thing.  One friend felt it best to set everything aside and choose lightness.  Move above and beyond the challenge.  Let it go.  Do not grant it any attention.  It will slip away.  Turn your focus away.   It will disappear ultimately.

My other friend believed that there was healing and growth in seeking a way through.  He saw the obstacle as an opportunity to grow.  And to become strengthened by powering through.  By feeling the discomfort, it would dissipate.  Ultimately.  It would no longer sting because he had invited it into his life.  He was welcoming it.  There was no fear involved.

Wow.  This was good stuff.  I found myself transfixed by the conversation and by their guided philosophies.  Essentially both felt that there was a measure of enlightenment, growth, and transcendence in each of their approaches.  We all could see how both were good strategies for addressing a challenge.

Then they looked at me.  What do you do?  What do you do when life feels challenging?  What is your approach?  Sitting in the midst of such great thinking and spiritualizing, I didn’t know how to answer.  I wanted to say, Well, first I panic a little bit.  Then I might panic a lot. I might start pacing, and I might drink some water to rehydrate my cells.  I might take the dog out for a walk.  Or call my best friend.  Or feel sick in my stomach.  Or go to the gym.  Or tune my fiddle and read challenging sheet music.  Or eat foods that aren’t in my nutritionally-best interest.  I don’t know.

And I didn’t know how to answer them with words or metaphors or images.  The two of them, being my good friends, know me.  They know how I analyze and bob and innovate my way through a problem.  By all accounts, it ultimately feels as if my methodology could best be entitled Distraction Theory to Ascendancy  . . . distracting myself to a place where I can govern the problem into manageable bits by administering tiny tweaks along the way.  Thinking and feeling and loving and hoping and laughing my way through.

Back to my list of Experiences I Consider to Be Spiritual.  It may be a Grab Bag of pick-and-choose, but I default to my sense of spiritual.

Sound complicated?  A little bit like nailing my shoe to the floor and going around in circles?  It is.  My friends’ descriptions of their paths to transcendence were quite inspiring.  And a lot convicting.  I don’t know if I have a fallback philosophy of any consistency, but I do attempt to pursue a state of positivity through my distractions.  While I am walking the dog or sweating on the elliptical trainer, I repeat to myself: Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.  I jump into the pool of many options and grab hold of what makes the most sense at the time.

always believeAnd the good news about always believing that something wonderful is about to happen?  It does.  Something wonderful always happens.  Eventually.  Maybe not in the very nano-second, but there have been times when it has happened that quickly.  In the midst of my Sea of Distracted State, I am launched into an orbit of transcendence that rids my heart and mind of worry or fear or gloom or overwhelm-ment.

Always believe.  Believe.  Keep hope alive by choosing the positive option.  I want to be that little piece of blue beach glass floating serenely on that curly-edge alder leaf.  Flowing into a current of water of Higher Energy.

My two very lovely friends have both moved to different parts of the world.  And I miss them so much.  I wish that I could tell them about my Lovely Leaf Boat Theory in person over a glass of wine at our favorite place to meet. I would now have a better-defined answer to their question of Your turn. What do you do?  

But they know me.  They know that I will Think Light and stay afloat in the current before I allow my vessel to sink.  I might not be floating above and away from things or powering my way through with amazing discipline and will . . . but I will stay afloat.

I am lucky to have met such friends.  It is funny how friends have no idea how important — how essential –they are in the life of another.  Isn’t this amazing when you think about it?  That they are the hands that are beneath the leaf.  Trimming it in the rough waves and spinning it out of the eddies that tangle me into a swirl of confusion.

Friends.  I forgot to add “Friends” to my list of Experiences That I Consider to Be Spiritual.  And I find it remarkable that everything Spiritual on this list is embodied within my Friends.  For this, I feel abundantly blessed.  To all of my friends, I thank you thank you thank you.  You are amazing beyond wonder. toaster oven