Delete Sheet Rows

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

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Does this really matter?

Does this matter?

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There are different types of weight that we carry around with us, both on the frame of our body and in our mind, heart, and soul.  Yes, there are those few extra pounds of body weight that remind us every time we step onto the scale and then there is the weight of our responsibilities, worries, and burdens that slow us down and drag behind us as we attempt to carry them through the day.  One way to lighten up our respective loads is to ask ourselves:

 Does this really matter?

This question can apply to many different things, events, and encounters throughout the day and is of greater benefit for your quality of life than simply checking to see what number shows up on the bathroom scale.  If there were a scale that quantified how heavy my heart is while carrying the various burdens and responsibilities that I lug around with me throughout the day, I would fear even stepping onto it.  Perhaps the sheer possibility to acknowledge such spirit weight would prevent me from getting out of bed in the morning. 

In an effort to lighten my spirit along with my body weight, I have begun asking, “Does this matter?  I mean, really matter?”  Here’s a good example of a recent situation where I am actively trying to turn a Yes response to this question into a No.

Yesterday, my neighbor came over to inform me that she had “accidentally” trimmed all of the beautiful green vines that laced and encircled my mailbox on my property.  I loved this entwining greenery and have admired its lushness every time I walked out to retrieve my mail.  This neighbor since moving in next door has adopted a scorched-earth policy and has been mercilessly hacking away at any living plant in her yard.  As disheartening as this has been to observe, I have accepted that it’s her yard and she can do with it as she wills.  But my property and my mailbox?  I wanted to scream!

When she came over to tell me that she had mistaken my mailbox for hers and that she had stripped away all the beautiful vines and plants to bare earth, I wanted to come completely unglued.  As I walked out to the mailbox with her so she could show me the carnage she had wrought, I had to quickly ask myself, Does this matter?  I wanted to shout, cry, and say bad words to her about the death and destruction that she has wrought on the neighborhood.  I wanted to tell her that she was a bad human being and that she had no business messing with my property.  That she had some kind of obsessive death wish on anything growing and living and that she should move to the desert.  That I was super hurt and angry.

But being a believer in the power of allowing my rational brain to catch up with my emotional brain in order to avoid an emotional hijacking, I surveyed the damage and told her that I wasn’t in a good place to talk about it at that time.  That I was going into the house to absorb.  And then gently told her to kindly stay the hell away from my property, my mailbox, and all growing plants that are between our two houses . . . and that if she had future intentions of annihilating any plants on our shared property line, to come talk with me first.  

In review, I handled the situation pretty well.  I actually delivered my message with an admirable deadpan that contained all of my frustration, hurt, and anger.  All because I paused to ask myself, “Does this matter?”  In the big scheme of life and its real global problems, the hacking away of some greenery by an obsessive neighbor is neither a global threat nor a personal tragedy.  It bugs the hell out of me, but I have to hope that I will eventually get over it and that Mother Earth will heal and replenish the victimized plants.  Amen.

One way I try to ultimately deal with annoyances of this kind and move on is to ask,

“At the end of my life, will I still be obsessing over this?”

At the end of my life, will I still be obsessing over the crazy neighbor lady with the pruning shears?  Chances are the answer is “No,” so I will let it go.  I have to let it go.  Or at least I will continue to work on letting it go.  And if I want to live an authentic life that is true to my beliefs, I have to let it go.  Otherwise my life will be predicated on another’s thoughtless actions and not on my own beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions.  I choose peace over strife, love over dislike, and forgiveness over a grudge.  Let the healing begin by answering, “Does this matter?”  And I send up a prayer: Please, Mother Earth send up some healing green vining shoots from this offensive massacre.  

How about you?  The next time you find yourself getting super annoyed by the daily coffee grounds scattered all over the kitchen counter by your house mate . . . does it really matter?  Or when that annoying co-worker steals the credit for your creative idea – again! – and makes it his own . . . does it really matter?  Or when you finish off that pint of chocolate ice cream at midnight while standing over the sink . . . does it really matter?  Go easy on others and on yourself.  

What is it that really matters to you?  Align yourself with your beliefs and your awareness of what they are.  Revisit them.  Journal about them.  Live them.  Share them.  Write a manifesto or a mission statement that represents your beliefs.  Know thyself and imagine yourself getting on a quantum-physics scale that weighs your spirit.  Do you want it to read “light as the air found in a bird’s hollow bone” or do you want it to read “denser than a ton of blue whale blubber”?  (No offense to the beautiful blue whales of the planet that grace our oceans with elegance and beauty, but they sure are heavy.  And the amazing thing?  They float!)  It’s your choice, your process, your control, your letting go, your destiny.  What do you want this quantum scale to read? 

When you catch yourself getting caught up in the petty, annoying, silly frustrations of life, ask yourself “Does this matter?”   If you are able to answer with a “No” and add a laugh to your answer, you just lost an immeasurable weight from your mind, heart, and soul.  Be one with your mindfulness, and do not ally yourself with another’s thoughtlessness.  Forgive and move on.  You are the ultimate recipient of any forgiveness that you are able to give. (I know.  It can feel like a hard thing to task yourself with but it’s worth your focus and effort.  Promise.)

Time for some journaling.

Be still for a moment and relax.  I mean really relax.  Sit down.  Lower your shoulders from your ears.  Empty your hands and put your hands in your lap.  Take five deep breaths. 

What matters to you?

Make a list of people, pets, qualities, things, circumstances, events, dreams . . . that matter to you.  Just go for it.  Don’t filter yourself.

Now go back through your list and circle your top three or top five or top ten, whatever circling activity that makes you happy.  Let these circled items guide your decisions, shape your beliefs, inform your reactions, and create your relationships.  Let them become the things that matter.  Embrace, nurture, and live what matters.  

a brand new year

Riding Shotgun

What is one dream scenario that you have lost sight of?

quote. mission statement dog work

theunseenwordsproject.com

Yesterday I was crossing the street, waiting for a break in traffic.  A small, beat-up truck passed me — the very kind of truck I used to drive — and I saw a man driving with his dog riding shotgun.  Remembering my one most-amazing-and-wondrous dog who rode shotgun with me in my old truck, I felt a pang of sweet memory pass through my very core.

This particular dog went everywhere with me, so it was a common sight to see the two of us toodling around the county with the windows rolled down while singing along to some tune on a cassette tape.  The dog actually had a better singing voice than I did, but she was no critic.  Happy were we who got to go everywhere together.

When I saw this man and his happy pup in that truck, a dart of awareness passed through me.  It was one of those movie-montage moments where I could view time on film.  I could see me and my furry friend driving here and there in the succession of broken-down trucks that I had the misfortune of owning.

Yesterday as I watched the truck go jouncing down the road, I realized that one of my essential criteria for living a happy life had somehow slipped through the cracks of my ever-shifting paradigms.  At one time in my life, I would not even consider a job opportunity unless my dog could accompany me throughout the work day.  I turned down jobs in Alaska, California, Canada . . ..  If I couldn’t bring my faithful sidekick, I knew that the job wasn’t the right one for me.  As chosen priorities lead to reality, I ended up opting to live in a wall tent on 572,000 acres in a wilderness area.  It was a great situation where my boss did not care in the least if my dog tagged along.

The situation had all the potentiality of being lonely, but I never thought of it that way.  I was living in the midst of all of this incredible grandeur and my dog was right there by my side.  She was my true-blue, thick-and-thin companion in the middle of all that vast quiet.  She would run ahead of me on the trail and defy any bear, cougar, coyote, or free-range horse to come anywhere near us.  My time within all of that beauty there was such a rare opportunity, I appreciated every single day that passed.

All of this was bound to change.  And it did. During my years there, this ace #1 dog-of-a-lifetime passed on to Dog Heaven and other canine companions joined me.  Ultimately, a new job opportunity came up and I couldn’t pass it up.  The only problem?  I couldn’t bring my new dog to work with me.  The schedule was pretty good and the two of us were still able to get out and roam the trails on our 3-day weekends . . . but there was a shift.  And it was bigger than me not being able to bring my dog to work.  It was me compromising on what was important to me.

Looking back, I can see that “Bringing My Dog to Work” served as a bullet point on my Higher Self’s mission statement.

The years have passed.  That job led to another dog-restricted job.  Then I returned to school, and we all know how major universities feel about dogs sitting outside classrooms waiting for their human.  Not a good idea.  The mornings were full of classroom time and the afternoons were taken up by various half-ass jobs that supported me through school.

Outdoor-dog time grew to be more limited for me and free-range hikes turned into long evening strolls through the neighborhood.  Life had changed, as had I.  It didn’t occur to me at the time that I was focused on Ahead instead of looking at Right Now.

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theunseenwordsproject.com

All of these compromises.  With me feeling so buried by my decisions concerning education and future employment, the changes were all taking on priority status without me realizing that I was granting permission, one way or another, to something that was counter-intuitive to my internal mission statement.  I don’t rightly know how it all happened.  I don’t know when a yes became a no and a no became a yes.  Life changed when I consciously reversed the two and said it was all for a Better Future.

That’s the problem with giving in and giving up . . . you don’t realize that it has all happened until it feels like it’s too late to do anything about it anymore.  But that’s just it . . . it’s not too late.  Not at all.  All sorts of good decisions are before me.  All I have to do is choose.

Life is a lively event.  So many baby steps lead to where we are today.  Today, I want to honor my preferences.  Back up a little bit and review my Mission Statement.  Do a little editing maybe and re-commit to what is still important.  Invite my dream to ride shotgun with me again, roll down the windows, and belt out a tune.

How about you?

  • What’s riding shotgun on your Mission Statement? On your personal manifesto?
  • What’s one dream scenario that you have lost sight of?
  • Is it still alive inside you?
  • Are you ready to take some baby steps to renew it in your life?

We sometimes feel so bogged down by the progression of changes that have taken place in life that it can feel like it is impossible to reinstate one of our long-ago dreams.

Today might be the day that you sit down and ask what is important to you.

  • Commit it all to paper.
  • Keep the items approachable by using simple language. Dreams, written in your own language, will mean more to you than if they are crafted using lofty words and expressions.
  • Put your manifesto where you can see it easily and daily. Maybe it is your bathroom mirror or it is the wall by your desk or on a kitchen cupboard.  The important thing is that you make it visible.
  • Read your manifesto aloud. It might feel weird the first few times you do this, but it is as important that you hear the words as it is seeing the words.
  • When making decisions, think about what is important to you. Let your Higher Self guide you.
  • Dreams are meant to be followed.  Follow them.  They know the way.

 

 

 

 

Author bio: Kennedy Farr’s passion for writing caught light at the age of four when she first learned how to spell her name at a yellow kitchen table on a sheet of lined tablet paper.  Kennedy is a daily writer and blogger, a lifelong learner, and a true believer that something wonderful is happening right now in this very moment.  Kennedy lives high on the mountainside of an emerald-green island in the Pacific Northwest.

Website: https://theunseenwordsproject.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theunseenwords

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Unseen-Words-Project-1095815913825818/ 

 

Today? Let’s do the twist . . . then write . . . then . . .

Come on, Baby!  Let’s do the twist!

Today is January 2nd, and I am thinking about the List of Intentions for 2015 that I scribbled in my journal.  Being a process-oriented innovative type and not the get-‘er-done-and-check-‘er-off-the-list implementer type, there is nothing on my list with any defined or measurable outcomes.  In the past, I have tried to quantify resolutions into SMART-goal format — unsuccessfully so — as I gravitate toward quality experiences that are momentary and poof they are gone.

As I result, I do not make any New Year Resolutions.  I don’t say that I am going to kick butt at the gym and run for 10K 6 days a week, or that I am going to write 2000 words daily in one of my ongoing short stories.  I do say that I am heading to the gym or that I am going to write when the afternoon quiets down.  Perhaps if I were to quantify or to schedule such things, life would feel more accomplished.  Would I feel more successful?  I don’t know. I read once that it is better to schedule one’s priorities, rather than prioritize one’s schedule.  It is something to experiment with: schedule my priorities.

On my list for 2015, I wrote things down such as: Smile more.  Laugh at absurd moments that enter my life.  Meditate.  Exercise my mind and my body.  Play “Allegro” on violin and/or mandolin and do not slow down to lento in the more difficult passages.  Dance more.

I used to go dancing every weekend.  Friday or Saturday or Sunday night. . . or all three nights.  It was an important part of my physical, mental, and social life.  It still is important to me . . . I just don’t go to the bars anymore to get my dance groove going.

I woke up this morning with Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” running through the latter stages of my dream.   Then I found this awesome video, and it really made me smile.  And laugh out loud.  I felt so good that I felt prompted to tune my violin.  It was cantankerous due to having been moved into a new climate, but it is happily singing now.  I then spent some time meditating to further enjoy the morning.  Meditating always feels good.   When I completed my meditation, I found myself humming “The Twist.”  Then I replayed the video again.  Turned up the volume on my laptop and twisted with the awesome dancers on this video.  This definitely put me in a very happy place.  Back to one of my intentions: laugh at absurd moments.

What does this mean to me?  The power of writing.  The connection of writing to realizing my goals and my dreams.  After scrawling my “resolutions,” I was not consciously aware that I was following my morning’s “to-be-experienced” list.  When I wrote these things, I was thinking of a fuzzy concept to be wafted into my future 2015 — things that I enjoy doing or experiencing.

What I learned from this?  In the morning, make a short list of intentions that I would like to experience today.  Nothing definite or solid . . . just things that would be fun or fanciful or maybe even practical to see or to do or to be.  Then see what happens.  Write down wacky or unlikely things along with the more specific things with measurable outcomes like going to the gym or taking 10 photographs to document today’s awesomeness.

So, I guess this does create a resolution for me this year.  Be open.  Write things down in a dedicated notebook.  Look back at what I have written at the end of the year.  Start checking things off.  [This is beginning to feel like SMART goals!]  Be happy and celebrate the things in life that give me joy and that provide laughter.