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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No GPS Required

image. expectations vs realityExpectations.  Yikers.  The mere mention of the word has the needle on my perfection-meter bouncing all over the place.

What is an expectation anyway?  An expectation is the idea that we hold ourselves or others to an experience or achievement that we believe will, without a doubt, happen in the future.  And assumptions are as attached to expectations as ice cream is to the hips.  We make the assumption that because of ABC, well . . . DEF surely must follow  . . . and so it will merrily go until XYZ gives us a cute curtsy at the final curtain call and we can all go home.

There is a certain, oftentimes hidden, agenda of chronological events — an order Continue reading

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

Your default: Do you welcome or fear a Change of State?

flip-your-optimism-onLife has a way of grabbing my attention and reminding me daily of what’s important.  Loved ones.  Health.  Friendship.  Family.  Compassion.  Laughter.  My lovely dog companion.  Creativity.  Nutrition and exercise.  Meditation. Generosity of spirit.  Appreciation in the moment.  When I become distracted by the trivialities that numb this awareness,  I oftentimes find myself feeling confronted . . . or greeted . . . . by a Change of State.  Confronted or greeted?  How I determine Change’s perceived benevolence factor is how I shun or welcome it.

The other day I found myself frozen in a moment of experiencing a Change of State.  Frozen.  It was inevitable that a new paradigm was opening its doors to me.  And I was immobilized with fear.

The stealth speed Continue reading

Our Subsumed Lives

to subsumeto include or place within something larger or more comprehensive;   encompass as a subordinate or component element

When you were a child, what did you want to be when your grew up?  

seashell-754015_960_720If you are doing something quite different from what you imagined you would be doing, what happened? What swerved you onto a different path that led you away from your childhood dreams?  Or maybe you are still very much there, living the dream, without even realizing it?

There are many subsuming elements that our lives encounter, embrace, deny, or challenge.  Elements that distract us from who-we-are and steer us onto paths into what  feels to be a foreign country where we don’t speak the language and we don’t understand the customs.

When I was a child, I wanted to be Continue reading

I think . . . you are a really good dog.

Val. cognito ergo sum. valentino

Dogs, how I love thee.

There is something about the way that my dog looks at me that reassures me that all is well with the world.  That things are going to work out.  That she always has my back. That she will be there after all of the dust has settled.  That my worries aren’t always going to manifest in the crazy ways that my imagination presents.

That life is meant to be lived in the moment.  That there is fun to be had and adventures to be discovered.  That spontaneity rules and patience serves.   That the moment is here to be experienced, not anticipated.   That it feels good to bust a move when I am just so darned excited.

Dogs.  Devotion.  Loyalty.  Trust.  And the best sense of humor on planet Earth.  We love them and they love us without hesitation.  You can’t get a friend more loving and loyal than your dog.  They lift us up when we most need it and then never let us down after that.  It’s like a constant sense of elevation that lifts the spirit and blossoms the soul.

Cogito ergo sum: I think; therefore I am  . . . a dog lover.

 

Where are you headed today?

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If it is true that your thoughts drive your life — something that I do believe — then the big questions is, “Where am I heading?  What is my next destination?”  Most days feel so full of regular “stuff” that I don’t take the time to think about my next destination, my dreams and goals.  I leave my compass in my desk drawer and I spin around in my chair, letting the Natural Laws of Chair Spinning to determine my next direction.

There are exponential unknowns that await each one of us.  None of us know what will happen next in life.  We strive to manage our expectations and to deal with disappointment.  What if we just paused.  Stopped the chair from going ’round and ’round.  Asked ourselves, “What is it that I truly want?”

Try it.  Listen to what answer bubbles to the surface.  Write your answer down.  Commit it to paper.  To your white board.  Your chalk board.  You don’t need any GPS to follow your answer.  Just follow your heart.  Allow yourself some movement.  Get up out of your chair and dance.  Do anything that gets you moving.  Let your happy thoughts drive your life.  What do you have to lose other than getting yourself lost in some new territory?  Let your thoughts drive your life to your dream destination.

Intentional Acts of Kindness

No-Act-of-KindnessI l-o-v-e this!

Kindness.  None of it is ever wasted.  It all contributes to something that is so much greater than the sum of its whole.  So much greater than who we are.  We have every little opportunity to bestow a kindness.  Certain circumstances sometimes rob us of an incentive to do so.  When this happens, if I power past what feels like an obstacle — an I’m-not-feeling-this-in-the-least, it always feels very powerful.  Like I nudged a benevolent particle in the Universe.

Being kind to people we love is easy.  Being kind to those who irritate us or who create chaos in our lives is more challenging.  When I make a conscious choice to act in favor of kindness, I am doing this for the Universe.  For my daughters to have access to a kinder world.  For my sisters, my brother, my friends.  A conscious choice sets the ripples into broader universes.  How cool is all this?

Random acts of kindness are lovely beyond amazing . . . but what about that intentional act of kindness when we aren’t reallykindness golden and fawn feeling it?  This has immense power and reward within the doing.  This is not to advocate for supporting negativity from a damaging relationship. Rather it is for those times when our soul whispers to us to let go of the battle in favor of some inner peace.

I don’t use the word edifying very often, but this is what kindness is.  Merriam Webster defines the verb edify as a way to teach in such a way that someone’s mind or character is improved.  What is one thing you can do today to help someone learn in such an amazing way that their mind or character is improved?  I don’t know about you, but this really humbles me.  What a responsibility it is to go forth into the world every day, knowing that we have the power to improve someone else’s “mind or character.”  


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Kindness.  When I used to  think of this word, I would think of synonyms such as gentleness, humility, quietude, peacefulness . . . but I am rearranging my perception of it.  It is roars like a daisy and is powerful beyond measure with the amazing ability to transform and to improve another’s character.  Wow!  This inspires me to want to do my utmost to make a difference as I go into the day and act in terms of kindness.