Real Talk: Choosing Friends

I am lucky in my friends. They span near and far. Some are close to my heart, and some are dear to my heart.

I was asked recently about things I think about when choosing friends.

Most often people just say “Well, you need to get out there and meet people,” but we all know it’s more complicated than that. Sure, if I meet hundreds of people, I’m bound to find a few that I click with. But especially since I turned 30, I just have zero time or desire to wander through the masses looking for superficial friends.

I pick exceptional people that inspire me, people I admire a lot, and people that I genuinely am true fans of.

Wondering How to Find Your Tribe?

For me, I can sum it up by saying that friendships are nurtured when we give and accept the freedom to be authentic.

Friendships are nurtured when we give and accept the freedom to be authentic.

Maggieothevalley.com

There you have it! Post over! You really don’t need any more than this to understand my philosophy.

But, if you do want more information, keep reading I’ll unpack this idea in the post below:

Authenticity: Both Sides of the Coin

Here’s a thing I keep in mind, and the good news is, it starts with someone much smarter than me.

This lesson comes from Dr. Maya Angelou. She said this famous quote:

When people show you who they are, believe them.

Dr. Maya Angelou

Notice she’s saying show, not tell. When people show you who you are, believe them. The first time.

So, I have news for you, and you might not like it. People are always showing you who they are. Let’s talk about this so you can see if you might just be overlooking some things in your circle.
Unless you change it intentionally, the framework of your relationship with someone now is the framework you will have for the entirety of your friendship with that person.

What to Expect From Their Side

This does not at all take into account what you may or may not bring to a friendship. This is just something to consider when you are evaluating the messages that your friends or prospective friends are bringing to you.

  • Friends with a gossiper? They are going to be involved with gossip for as long as you know them. When you stop gossiping with that friend, do you think they’ll still feel as close to you? No way! Gossip is part of the framework of your friendship. And here’s the thing: a gossiper is a gossiper. How much do you want to bet that person gossips about you? If you’re going to remain friends with this person, you’ll have to stunt your maturity and remain a gossiper forever, which does not sound like a very fun idea to me.
  • If you are friends with someone who doesn’t initiate communication, you need to know that in your friendship, you will not be able to rely on that person calling you first. Ever. Being occasionally delighted and/or surprised by a call? Great! But that’s not the default framework of your relationship with that person. Knowing that could help you accept and love them better, or at least prevent you from feeling embittered or embarrassed if you’re always the one reaching out. The framework is the framework; if you’re going to remain friends, you’re signing up to be the one to call first, period. My artist and musician friends are so very much like this! I find it a charming part of their free-spirited character. Creative types really suffer with these types of expectations, so I place none. This is how you accept this person for who he/she is, and give them the respect and freedom to be who they are. Your choice of behavior should honor who YOU are, so react to this accordingly.
  • If you’re friends with someone who refers to you as her “best” friend when she’s lonely, and then simply a “good” friend when her other friends are back from wherever, you need to know that’s a framework of your relationship. Is this person still your friend? Heck yes! But it could be that this person is still figuring out what friendship means to them. That is ok! You can accept and love this about her, maybe even help her explore what friendship means to her! Be a buddy. I have friends like this, and it’s not because of any other reason than they don’t keep “best” friends, they keep honorary sisters, and that’s a truly high honor. It’s also something I relate to. Conversely, I have other friends like this, and the underlying issue is that they often feel burdened by what other people think, and it makes me feel that they must worry about what I think a lot too. If this is who you’re dealing with, why not give them the great gift of freedom from having to worry about what you think? Why not just accept and love them as they are? When you offer this, they’ll sense it, believe me. It’ll be like giving a thirsty person a cool drink of water; sweet relief from the pressures of what other people think.
  • If you have spent quality friendship time with someone but they still don’t find reason to share the things that are going on in their lives with you, chances are they never will. It’s not a part of their framework. Hey, they have every right to decide that with you! Just like you’d have every right to decide that for someone else. If you remain friends with this person, just know they like having their own world that you’re not a part of, and they’ll tell you they’re “fine” when you ask how they are. If you want to know more, you’re signing up to be the one to ask! And if you don’t that’s your call too. I have ended friendships with a person like this simply because I felt after ten years of trying to reach out in friendship, he should be able to tell me basic things about his life, but that’s my standard–one that I am responsible for. I have also ended friendships with people like this who have not only not offered anything about their basic day-to-day, but when asked, they have lied. That’s not the sort of garden you want to water, if you know what I mean. You just don’t need a friend like that.

These are just a few examples of literally millions of possibilities out there. Evaluate the people who are influencing you in your life. What can you learn about them based on what they show, regardless of what they say?

Some Good News

  • If you have a healthy friendship framework with someone, it is more likely that you will be able to keep it healthy, no matter what life changes come your way.
  • If you have a healthy friendship framework with someone, it can grow and change without becoming lost. This is because you have been able to love and accept them for who they are, but also, you’ve found someone who is willing and able to do the same for you! Way to go, both of you!
  • Healthy friendship frameworks don’t falter with distance or time. These are the kinds of friends we can love all throughout our lives.

More Good News

It’s not a one-way street! I’ve talked a lot about which friends to choose, which to hold on to, and why.

You want a healthy framework for friendships with people? Make one! You’re half the equation, after all.

BE AN INTENTIONAL FRIEND!

If you want to meet interesting people, you can start by being interested in people.

If you want to be a friend that is cool to be around, learn to accept people as they are. You may not like the framework you have with someone, and you’re not obligated to invest in a friendship that your heart isn’t in. But you do have the power to let people “do them,” as they say. Accept them. Appreciate what there is to appreciate, and keep yourself moving right along. Don’t gossip.

If you want authentic friendships, go for quality, not quantity. It’s far better to have four quarters than it is to have 100 pennies. Don’t get me wrong–you might wind up with 10 or 20 quarters, and boy oh boy, that’d be reason to celebrate!

How about being a friend to yourself first? It’s that age-old rule, you can’t give away what you don’t have. Make sure you love yourself, and if you don’t yet, then start by respecting yourself.

Be a Fan

Giving and accepting the freedom to be authentic means you’ll probably start to genuinely appreciate the friendships you do have, and that’s a win! You might not encounter a bunch of people you’d want to have as friends. The thing about freedom and authenticity in friendship is, when you do find excellent people, you’ll genuinely and sincerely admire them. You’ll be able to wish them well and mean it. You’ll be able to encourage and pump them up, and mean it. You’ll be able to be happy for them, to want to help them, and you won’t ever have to worry about “keeping score.” You’ll just think they’re awesome!

Feel shy about meeting people? I bet you wouldn’t if you had the mindset of truly appreciating people in this way. Think of all the people out there just waiting, whom you are going to find truly awesome and inspirational? And I mean it, you’re going to think they are the bees knees!

What If I Have Friendships That I Want To Improve?

We never throw people away. I’ll repeat: we never, ever, ever throw people away. Got that?

We can decide to eat at different tables, and that’s ok. That doesn’t mean you deem someone as worthless or meaningless.

The only exception to this is if you are dealing with someone who is abusive. If you are friends with someone who is abusive, I’m sorry but that is unacceptable. It will never improve. Got it? Never. Eat at a different table. And they are not allowed to sit at yours. That is the line that can’t be crossed, capiche?

If you have healthy relationships with people but you need a tune-up in your framework, you’ve got options. You can:

  • Tell them about what you want to change in your friendship, and what you will be doing going forward. They can accept this in you, or not. They have a right to either.
  • Put that friendship in a “time out” category. That means you’re going to take some distance, and you will return at a later date to rekindle the friendship under terms that you feel are more appropriate. You are taking on the acceptance that you won’t know what is going on in their lives during this time. And, they have a right to accept your new terms upon your return, or not.

Summing Things Up

People are good. People are best when they are free.

If you want to be a good friend, let people be free with you, just free to be who they are, how they are.

Call them if you want, show them the kind of love that you know how to give people, as best as you can, and do better when you learn how to love better, yes?

If they need freedom to go be who they are, give it to them, and use the time to love, nourish, respect, and be a friend to yourself. Peace is possible, and it’s all good.

Good friends kind of take care of themselves in this way: with this mindset, I find that I sort of naturally gravitate to people who are interested in life, and who only make time for things that are authentic. I find that these types of people are closer to me too. Inauthentic folks, or folks who aren’t ready to be real, simply aren’t interested in me, which is ok because I don’t have time for that anyway. Wish them well, and let them go.

The Right People Will Stay, and the Wrong Ones….Won’t.

I have a different understanding of what you might call “best” friends. In regards to the folks in my circle, if they weren’t the absolute “best” people I knew, people who were authentic and accepting, around whom I could be myself, an extension of my family, part of the village that I found, and people who helped me be closer to God, they wouldn’t be in my circle of friends in the first place. They are my friends, and this fact just shows that there is no higher compliment that I could give them. I truly admire them, I’m their biggest fan, and I feel happy for them totally sincerely. They’re the family I’ve found so far in my life, and they make my world so much bigger. It’s such a blessing. I’d be such a self-centered person if not for them. They make me feel so very grateful. Plus, these are people who feel as deeply as I do about friendship, which means I am given the grace to contribute good things to their lives, too. It’s an all-around blessing. We are kindred spirits, and that is so very valuable to me.

And for the folks I’m not meant to have a kinship with, honestly they just aren’t much interested in me, nor I in them. I have reached an age where I’m really no longer concerned with what others think about me, and you shouldn’t be either. If people are going to talk, they’ll talk, no matter what you do with/for/around them, so you’re better off just being you. Things will happen naturally from there. They’ll zig. You’ll zag. No problem. Wish I’d known that when I was 20, believe me.

A Tribe Just for You

You may think that this limits you to only having a few good friends. My answer to that is: well yeah, maybe. If that’s the personality you have, the life you have, the friends you have, then maybe that’s your circumstances, and that’s all good.

Maybe you’ll have a life that leads you to real, authentic, meaningful friendships with lots of people, and that’s entirely possible too!

You might even experience both sides of this coin over the course of your life! Life changes, and we all go through periods of loneliness. That’s a part of life, and it doesn’t mean you are friendless. You are transitioning. You can still make a tribe wherever it is that you’re going.

My point is, don’t limit other people with rules that really don’t mean anything, and don’t limit yourself with ridiculous conventions, either.

If you go for what is authentic and see people for who they are, you’ll wind up liking all kinds of different people. Some of your new friends will be married. Some will not. Some will be mothers or fathers. Some will not. Rich, poor, fat, thin, from your country, from not your country, your same sexuality, not your same sexuality, from your religion, from a different religion, inter-abled. You can make friends and neighbors of them all by having the courage to be uniquely you, protecting AND expecting the freedom to be authentically individuals with everyone you are friends with.

Just love people. Expect what is good within them. Treat people with respect, and you’re more likely to get respect back. Value differences. Assert yourself. Avoid saying anything to your friends unless it is useful, fun, or a value to them. Take no crap.

And most of all, be grateful for the friends you do have, while you search the world for more. Your tribe is out there, yes, but the secret that I want you to remember is that your tribe is already forming around you.

Resources

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As a former bookseller, you guys know I often look to books to help me explore ideas in just about everything. Here are my book recommendations for learning more about friendship!

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A Beautiful World: Viewing Life As A Traveller Passing Through

I learned very early that the world was a colorful, wonderful, curious place.

A World of Beautiful Things

Growing up as the daughter of trade confectioners (among my parents’ MANY skills and careers over the years), it was exciting enough that ice cream was a part of the family business.

Now picture my whole family going to county fairs in city after city over the summer, selling gourmet ice cream and other special treats. Hot summer days, ferris wheels, selling ice cream, riding elephants, and parking our trailer in a different city every two weeks over the summer. It was an exciting and vibrant childhood.

My family had a beautiful trailer for life on the road. Very often, the ferris wheel wherever we were was my nightlight as I drifted off to sleep.

The County Fair of My Childhood

In those days, the fair was SO MUCH DIFFERENT than it is now.

Now it’s seedy, commercialized, and cheap. In those days, it was different. It was a place for families.
It was perfectly respectable, for example, to find your teacher at the fair selling ice cream or fresh local-made pie as a summer job.
All your neighbors had pigs, chickens, or livestock competing for a blue ribbon at the county fair.
Clowns were the good guys (and on occasion, some of the more fun babysitters I ever had).
Travelling acts came through each city with their caravan of trailers and buses and paparazzi, and some of them launched huge musical careers this way. Others stayed in the circuit, with their trick divers, zydeco bands, exotic bird expositions, magic shows, pan flutes, acrobatics, elephant training, and fire-breathing.

If you’ve never heard of zydeco, this song from Buckwheat Zydeco provides a great example of this dance-inducing Louisiana style of music.

All these people were friends of our family. All these people were my neighbors. The carnival was my neighborhood. And I was so very free.

What kid wouldn’t want one of these in her back yard?!

I learned lots of life skills–to this day, I can sense a fight in a crowd before it happens. I can walk through a sea of people and they’ll hardly notice I was there because I won’t bump into anybody. I can sell a bridge to a bridge-builder. I am unafraid to look people in the eye, even when (and especially when) they are trying to be aggressive. I learned what it looks like to be targeted and followed by strange men (very important to know, especially as a little girl). These were things I learned from the general public. Most people trust the public, and look down on the fair folk, but let me tell you: in regards to quality, the truth is actually reversed. I was always in more danger from the general public.

The fair folk were my extended family.

Some real Roma folks were always around ready to read our fortunes, but as our families saw each other multiple times a year, my parents and they became familiar and always had a kind and neighborly word for each other. We girls sat while the grownups drank coffee and chatted.

But I also learned a ton from the other families like mine–the ones who travelled, who belonged to this circus-ish world, who saw each other in every city at every fair, and others only once a year at a particular show. My parents were friends with the elephant trainers, who let my sisters and I feed the elephants oatmeal raisin cookies every morning, and ride the elephants any and every time we liked. We knew the people who operated the rides. We sold ice cream to Robin Williams, MC Hammer, and other big celebrities. We knew people who got their start at the fairs, like the makers of those Dippin’ Dots.

Some kids have their height measured on a doorframe. We also had caricatures done every year for fun, and to commemorate our growth from summer to summer.

And clowns? Again: they were the good guys. And at the fair, they were everywhere. If I needed to get to safety or report some creep-o scaring me, or get a message to anyone, anywhere, I’d go find a clown. They’d help me. Suddenly, there’d be a whole network of people making sure I got safely to where I needed to be. They’d look out for and protect me. You certainly wouldn’t find that now, but let me tell you–back then, they were a network of good guys who did what they did because they cherished the innocent. They were performers who devoted their lives to joy, and protection of the innocence in all of us. And you know what? Most of them had regular day jobs, some of which where pretty prestigious. I think my parents knew of a physician and several of his doctor friends who did moonlighting as clowns at the fair. What, you think Patch Adams started that? No way! He may have been the most famous doctor to don a red nose, but he certainly wasn’t the first.

Stupid Stephen King ruined everything, but that’s another post.

Clowns and other street performers provided a guardian angel network of information and safety for all of us “fair kids.”

As for the other vendors, we had the same kind of rows of trailers selling stuff that you see at fairs today. But it was different then. The folks who sold Chinese food were actually from China. The folks who sold Native American jewelry belonged to those cultures–and had tons of their lessons, legends, and folklore to share. The folks who sold Mexican food were from Mexico. The folks who sold grandfather clocks were actually from Germany. Then you had families who had trades and skills passed down from generation to generation. Real leatherwork from families with generations of tanners. Photographers from families who had literally every iteration of the camera in their attic since the invention of the camera. Blacksmiths. Engine builders. Inventors–real ones, with their wildest new robotics and ideas that no one else in the world had heard or seen yet.

Demonstrations like these at the fair always followed with actually getting to meet the performers, who told me all about their families and culture. I soaked it up like a sponge.

And dumb jacuzzi salesmen and ridiculous seen-on-tv guys that the rest of us really didn’t pay much attention to. I wish I had known then that it would have been those cheap commercial guys who were going to take over everything.

My point is, walking from one side of the grounds to the other was like entering dozens of different worlds, different countries. Talking to people was amazing–they’d tell me these stories of how they came to America, what they were doing, how they did what they did. Everywhere you look was a human being of a different color, shape, and size. Each one–no matter where they were from–would tell me how glad they were to be in the United States, because they were free to be who they were. This freedom allowed everyone to live peacefully together, even though we were all different–and we were ALL different, with different skills, religions, cultures, folklore, languages….it was SO wonderful. Everywhere you look, someone was doing something different, had a different skill, and it was all interesting.

I imagine heaven looks something like that.

Diversity is Proof that God Loves Us

That’s how I know what I know about diversity. It was woven into the fabric of my understanding of the world, and of God. You see, diversity is God’s way of showing all the multitude of ways that God loves us. That’s why it’s so wonderful that we are all different.

The Changing Tide

Like I said, things changed. The cost of doing business in this way became higher. Soon it was only the commercial guys who could afford to do business, that and the old-fashioned folk who became crooked and lied and cheated their wealth in order to stay in business. You know how in The Hobbit movie when Radagast notices the beautiful forest becoming corrupted by a spreading evil? That’s what it felt like to see my childhood world becoming darker, greedier, needier. My parents always ran a clean business, so in this new market they very soon were losing profits. More and more, the community turned sour and seedy, since only the more money-mongering, villainous characters were able to afford to stay. There were a couple times when it felt like my family was on an island, and things were green and good and safe where we were, but my beautiful childhood was becoming a dangerous place around me. Twice, I saw one man pull a gun on another man and shoot him. I would have been less than ten years old. A couple times, the crowd became so dangerous that my sister and I had to hide under our ice cream counter until my father came to get us–a couple hours of fearful waiting.

At long last, my family had to throw in the towel, sell the business, and return home. We weren’t the only ones. All my wonderful, colorful, beautiful neighbors in all their shapes and sizes, languages, flavors, smells, countries, all had to return home too, one by one, then handful by handful. Back to our drab tiny little towns, where everyone was the same color and the same religion, and didn’t believe my sisters and I when we said we personally knew the elephant in “Operation Dumbo Drop.”

No one in town understood the beautiful thing we had, the beautiful thing we lost, and the process of that, of what we went through. It was hard.

We still knew a good family in the business, and I worked for them every summer in high school selling corn dogs to earn money for the school year.

To them, we were abnormal. To them, we had returned home and that finally made sense, we would finally be respectable and fit into the boxes that they had always known for themselves.

I Felt Like We Were A Disney Version of The Addams Family

But we never would really fit in. My dad knew way too much about the wonderful diversity of people, and it made him an amazing teacher to hundreds of students young and old. He had seen and met too many people, had too much of a wide perspective to waste his time being pretentious or snobby like so many of his colleagues, even though he was way way wayyyyy more educated than they. My mom knew way too much about global business from, well, being in the globe and from running a business. She kicked you-know-what and became a global credit expert, one of less than 100 in the whole United States. She was simply too exotic and interesting to fit our town’s assigned role of happy pill-popping waspish cheerleader-uniform-still-drycleaned-in-the-front-of-the-closet Christian housewife. Even some of our distant metropolitan relatives clicked right into the mindset of us being back in the sticks, and for the longest time I wondered if they thought we sat around barefoot on the back porch with banjoes.

I’m proud that my parents had such integrity to run a good and honest business, teaching my sisters and I how to work. They also hired a staff every summer, and I never knew anyone who worked for my folks who didn’t come away much better, as they always took them under their wings and taught them life skills, loaned them money, listened when no one else would, fed them hot meals. Even when we returned back to town for good, my parents turned their attentions to the house and garden. They’ve made it a haven, as gorgeous as anything you’d find in a home magazine. Even so, I bet they wished there was someone close by who could have understood everything they had been through.

And my sisters and I? Well we were always seen as odd. For my sisters, they were frequently seen as exotic, popular, desirable. I wasn’t so lucky. Other kids didn’t understand or trust that I would be open-minded because of the color of my skin, and treated me accordingly. My sisters and I were independent, could run businesses of our own. When I grew up and had my turn for management experience, it was almost as though the other folks thought I was too young to be qualified…little did they know I had been wearing an apron and managing money since before I was in kindergarten. While they were on summer vacation, I was working. I was working in heaven, but hey, it was still hard work.

Our elephant friends, Tai and Dixie, had coloring much like this. We were probably the only kids who returned to school saying things like “Our friend is an elephant and she’s moving to Hollywood,” and have it actually be true. Tai has been in tons of things, and features with Reese Witherspoon in “Water For Elephants.”

A Whole New World

Enter the digital age, and PRAISE GOD, too. For the first time since my childhood, I FINALLY had access to the world again beyond my tiny town. Everything changed for me with my first smartphone. I was able to go to school online and compete with people all around the country instead of the little college in my town, and these people really challenged me and helped me grow.

Even my love life was made possible thanks to the access provided by the digital age. In a chat forum, I could talk with people from other countries. How I had missed getting to talk to people from different countries! I chatted with a lady my age in China who told me about university there. I learned about life in Copenhagen from a man who had just moved to the city. Finally, one day I started up a conversation with a man from Argentina.

Eugene, aka the man of my dreams.

(C) 2019 Margaret Nelson. Do not use without permission.

It was Eugene. I finally met a man who understood what it was like to have a concept of home that travels with you, a man who had a global perspective, who knew how to work hard, who had family values, and knew what it was like to have to leave home and start from scratch. Self-made, could pull himself up by his own bootstraps, could make something from seemingly nothing, who knew the same secrets of this wonderful, colorful world like no one in my town ever could. Plus, he’s also a person who made the best and did his best with everything around him, his entire life. Let me tell you–I knew right away that this was a real man! We started just having friendly conversation, and were very fast very dear friends. But even then, I knew Eugene was someone who would be important to my life.

There are two men in a girl’s life who make all the difference. There’s her father, and there’s The Guy. I knew Eugene was The Guy–the only guy that could possibly have been just right for me in the whole world.

And, I get to be his partner! How amazing is that? I get to add to his life as much as he adds to mine…..*mind blown*….

United as Travelers of Exceptional Variety

Now that I’m grown, and the world is so accessible, I find myself actively seeking out new friends and adventures all the time. I’ve met some truly special people who embody my sense of home–you know, there are just some folks who stay with you through your life, no matter where you wind up going. Experiences are that way, too. I can’t remember the last time I was bored. I can’t remember the last person I met who didn’t have something interesting about him or her. I love people. I love places. I love different cultures. I love being in a country where we get to all be/do/think different things and still come together to stand in favor of the ideas behind one flag, and have a say in developing those ideas, too!

The Obelisk in Buenos Aires.

Don’t Worry, There’s a Happy Ending

My town in the valley has gotten a ton better too. Sure, in with the angels come some unsavory types. But all in all, it’s a wonderland. I could walk down the street and hear English, Spanish, Portugese, Tagalog, Mandarin, Assyrian, Hindi, Korean, and more, all in the same afternoon. There are people of all colors, shapes, and sizes in my town. Churches of all shapes and sizes. Cultures of all these different wonderful varieties.

The world is a bright and beautiful place that always, always rewards the curious.

I remember turning 18 and absolutely praying for a way to get out of my valley. I had become so bitter about being treated as odd for so very long. But the world changed. Technology changed. We are all now in a digital age, and the world is so very accessible to anyone who may have an inclination to be curious about how other folks live and think. I grew up during the birth of the internet, and there were lots of bugs to work out with it, let me tell you. Kids today have inherited a world that is so much more accessible. I want younger generations to celebrate! Where I was limited, nowadays kids are so free! I want to show them this great access they have been born with. I’m happy for them-joyful for them, even! I want them to feel good about themselves, and to understand how joyous and wonderful it is that they have these technological gifts!

More than anything, I want to encourage them and others to utilize the gifts they have been given–to be curious, to see the wonder and magic in the world. It’s there!

I’m so excited to be a teacher and work with the students from all of these communities. I hope I can open a door to the same wonderful world of my childhood, where life seems so vibrant, and the world just endlessly full of new faces and friends to meet, places to explore, and interesting things to do! I hope to show them that we’re all journeying, we are all moving around, discovering, being human. I hope to show them that being diverse makes it MORE possible to come together under one set of ideals in a Constitution, not less–MORE possible to have respect for each other, not less–MORE possible to enjoy peace and community in a beautiful country, not less.

It’s a wonderful world. It really is. Not an easy world, not a perfect world. But it is beautiful.

This song should be way more popular than it is…it’s definitely one of the anthems of my life.
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Deanna Marie Teresa: “Kondo-ing My Soul”

Please enjoy this guest post by Deanna from No Body But Yours

(C) 2019, Deanna Barnes. Used with permission.

 Even a clean and unoccupied room gathers dust; return after a week and you will see that it needs dusting again!

Padre Pio on Confession

KonMari has become a phenomenon worldwide, thanks to the kind wisdom of Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant. Normally, her method of organizing is applied to material things in the home, but I can see it being applied to cleaning up our souls as well. Here’s how to apply it spiritually:

Step 1: Tidy Through Examination of Conscience

Set aside some time for solitary prayer. Perhaps have a candle and a journal with you. Open yourself to God’s voice and ask for clarity to see His presence in your life and to see where you have been shutting Him out in sin. The goal is to unburden yourself onto the page. Here is a good list of questions to guide your thinking. Take note of anything that is making you unclean that you need to bring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Step 2: Imagine Yourself Clean

While in prayer, meditate with a vision of yourself standing with Mary at the foot of the cross, where Jesus is looking down at you with love. Let Him show you how dearly He loves you and wishes to wash your soul clean with His blood. Imagine what this would feel like to be freed from everything that keeps you depressed, discouraged, and apart from Him. Imagine what it would be like to be holier, to be the self God created you to be.

Step 3: Decide What Truly “Sparks Joy”

Take an inventory of your life on a sheet of paper. Take stock of your relationships, your routines, your possessions, your habits. Examine them courageously with Jesus, asking Him to show you what is guiding you to Him and what is guiding you away. The things that bring you spiritual health are the things that will truly “spark joy.” Get rid of anything that takes you away from the person you want to be.

Step 4: Confession

Take your list from the examination of conscience and anything you noticed in your “Spark Joy” exercise and go to Confession. I know it can sound scary, but trust me, do NOT delay in receiving this Sacrament. It cleanses you in a way that makes your steps lighter, your choices smarter, your heart more receptive, your mind more still, and your soul freed indeed. It is incredibly worth it. I recommend going weekly!

Step 5: Eucharist

Once you have done a little spring cleaning in your soul with God, receive Holy Communion. Ask Jesus to dwell within you, literally, and keep you clean. Savor it!

Do This Often!

Once isn’t enough! We acquire so much “junk” and “dust” builds up faster than you realize. Doing this regularly will change your life and bring you true joy.

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Anne Glenn: “KonMari Your Soul”

Please enjoy this post from guest blogger Anne Glenn of Pollyannie.

(C) 2019, Anne Glenn. Used with permission.

Konmari Your Soul

I’m sure you have heard about Marie Kondo by now and her Konmari method. Well, I’m here to talk about applying her methods to tidying your soul. Chances are, if you think your soul is in a pristine state, you probably have just become used to all of the clutter.

Matthew Kelly talks about our souls being like a car that we need to clean out, as this post mentions:

“We lose our sensitivity to sin in exactly the same way because after a while, a big self-destructive behavior doesn’t look that bad amongst all those little ones, does it? That’s how it works. You go to Confession and when you come out you are sensitive about the things that have stopped you from becoming the best version of yourself, just like when you wash your car and you are sensitive about the things that make your car dirty. “

Matthew Kelly

So why should we Konmari our soul? Do we even need to? What would be the benefit of doing this? And how can we do it in an honest way?

Provide a Dwelling Place

We need to examine our souls the same way we would examine our belongings. We must ask ourselves, does this behavior spark joy in my life? If not, I need to let it go. As a Catholic, I have found there is power in going to a priest who is representing Christ and confessing your sins. When you discard all that doesn’t spark joy, you make room for the things that do like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, forgiveness, understanding, gentleness, and self-control – the fruits of the Holy Spirit. When we hold on to our junk, we grieve the Holy Spirit. We have to tidy things up on a regular basis to give the Holy Spirit a home that sparks joy.

A Long Way to Go

More and more I am realizing that the closer I get to God, the further I have to go in my spiritual life. I feel very good about myself when I am not examining my conscience. It’s very humbling when I take the time to reflect on where I have strayed. . I need God. I need His grace. One way I realize how much I need God’s grace and forgiveness is when I haven’t been to confession in a long time and the difference it makes afterward. All of the sudden my reserves of patience have been restored – whereas before I would be ready to snap with the next spill, or scream, or whatever accident life throws at me.

No Stone to Throw

We are all very good at recognizing the sins of others, amen? I think we would all benefit from examining our own shortcomings and making amends. I am reminded of these Bible verses and a quote from Leo Buscaglia:


“You hypocrite! First, remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of yourbrother’s eye. “

Matthew 7:5

“He who is without sin can cast the first stone.”

John 8:7

“Individuals are incensed when it is suggested that they could, under certain situations and circumstances, be a part of any behavior harmful toward their fellow human beings. Yet, innocently, they do so every day. They ignore antipollution laws, refuse to accept responsibility for inferior education, world hunger, the loneliness of their neighbors, the ill-treatment of children and the elderly. They are only too ready to condemn the politicians, the activists, the Communists, or anyone else rather than accept their own thoughtlessness. They are too caught up in the self to evaluate their own prejudicial, hurtful, negative attitudes. If we are perceptive we will find that either by choice or unconsciously each of us engage, almost daily, in some wrongdoing. But this does not mean that we are evil, that we lose our worth as loving human beings. One act is not sufficient reason to devalue a person.”

Leo Buscaglia

Powerful, right? Indeed we are all hypocrites because we are all human. None of us are in a position to cast any stones. This is why we need to continually tidy up our souls. Not to make us feel guilty and worthless, but for us to practice empathy and keep us humble.

Honest Konmari-ing

We can all agree how beautiful a tidy home looks…but what about a tidy soul? And how will you know if something is a sin or not? Does a specific behavior spark joy? Or does it bring about more anger, despair, grief, or destruction? It’s so easy to justify and rationalize our behavior in a way that suits us best. But how can we konmari our soul in an honest way? The good news is the Catholic Church has already done the work in regard to which behaviors do and do not spark joy and it’s called an examination of conscience, and it is not intended as a set of rules to control you, but to help you. The only way to test if abiding by these guidelines sparks joy is by trying to live them. Until you truly try, you cannot give a testimony one way or the other. That is the way spiritual truth is discovered. As G.K. Chesterton said,


“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried. “

G.K. Chesterton

Have you tried living a life of Christian virtue? I mean, really tried. Not just follow the morality that suits you, but tried living according to all of the moral teachings of the Church. Did you find that it brought more order, peace and joy in your life?

One of my favorite bloggers/authors/radio hosts said in regard to her conversion from atheism:

“When I started living my life according to Catholic teaching the proof was, as they say, in the pudding. It worked. It worked better than I could have ever guessed it would. And since I’ve been able to receive what they say is really the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, my soul, my entire life, has changed profoundly. “

Jennifer Fulwiler
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KonMarie Your Soul, Step 1:

Remember that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The one that changed pop culture and contemporary vernacular forever when Willow used the word “Google” as a verb for the very first time ever?

Now we say we “Google’d” this and “Google’d” that. We’re googling all over the place.

I think something similar has happened with organization phenom Marie Kondo.

If I were to tell you I’d miss getting together on the weekend because I needed to spend some time KonMarie-ing my bedroom closet, you’d know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

Some folks are saying Americans are getting hooked on the KonMarie Method because there’s something about it that makes us admit:

We got too much stuff.

Our souls need orderliness too.

I am all for an organized closet (and I daydream often about the perfect pantry), but also I think this goes deeper. This need for peace, order, meaning, beauty…it’s deeper than an Insta-worthy pic of your underwear drawer.

At a spiritual level, we long for tranquility.
At a soul level, we long for peace.
But you know what gets in the way?

Even in our souls,
we got too much stuff.

I bet you could tell me exactly which kids gave you a hard time and/or were disliked by you in first grade. I know happy people in simple cluttered homes. I know miserable people in beautiful furnished homes. I bet you don’t remember the best thing your boss ever taught you, but I KNOW you could tell me all about the worst, most evil boss you ever had. Every breakup, every bully, every time you encountered an unruly person in a drive-thru!

I know these things because I carry them too. I struggle with them often, and if I don’t consciously get myself into a different mindset, my brain will replay stories of bad stuff happening on a constant never-ending loop.

Do you think maybe it’s possible that no matter what kind of house we live in, we really aren’t going to feel better until we

Let stuff go?

So how do we do that? Well, that’s an answer that I don’t really like.

Forgiveness.

I don’t like it because it’s tough for me, and I have to practice it, like a muscle. Sometimes I don’t wanna. Really REEEEEEAAAALLY don’t wanna.

Here’s the answer. We have to practice forgiveness.

This post is close to me because honestly, it’s written more as a reminder to me than to anyone else. Very often I need to think about things and events for a long time in order to understand them….but once I’ve gotten clarity, it’s time to take those lessons and throw the rest out the spiritual window.

My sister said something amazing recently:

You won’t have room for love until you get rid of the hate. They simply can’t exist together.

The thing is, I think we as Americans have a much different understanding of what it means when something “sparks joy” (Kondo’s qualifier for whether or not an item or routine stays a part of your life). I think we mistake sparking joy with sparking pleasure.

Joy is the job, not justice. Time to get to work.

But there is joy in forgiveness; there’s joy in letting stuff go. Yes, that means the most horrible, awful thing that has ever happened to you, the one that you didn’t deserve or ask for, the one that wasn’t at all your fault, the one that really just rocked you. That was painful enough. And again, you didn’t deserve it. Are you ever going to find pleasure in that situation? No. No, probably not ever. That situation–the one you didn’t deserve–has no pleasure in it for you. Not even if you got revenge–and you know that’s true.

So, the idea of pleasure has to be completely removed from the situation. I’m talking about joy. There is joy in freedom from the burden of having to ruminate things over and over and over…there is joy in having toxicity plucked from your life. There’s even more joy in kicking toxicity right out the door.

There is joy in being free of the responsibility of being the sole dispenser of justice. You aren’t in charge of justice. If you were, whatever hurt you wouldn’t have happened in the first place, because it wasn’t just, or fair. Whether you should be in charge of justice or not doesn’t actually matter. Because at the end of the day, you’re still not in charge of justice.

It stinks to write. It isn’t what I want to read, and I’m sure it’s tough for you to read too, depending on your situation. Just know that I struggle with this.

I love you, whoever you are.

But I also know that there is freedom waiting on the other side of hurt. There is freedom after letting go. Is it life-changing to let go of stuff? Well, yeah, I think so.

But don’t ever forget: You are so much more than “stuff” and your neuro-chemical reactions to said stuff. (Is neuro-chemical a word?) Anyway, my point is:


You have a soul. It’s yours. And it was fashioned to be uniquely yours. No one else could ever have a soul like you.

If I could hug you, I would. I don’t want either of us to suffer from keeping around baggage in our souls for too long.

I’m so sorry you were hurt. I wish that had never happened. Please think about finding your way back to joy. Not because a situation doesn’t deserve justice, oh no, I’m not saying that.

I’m saying I love you, and I see you, and you’ve suffered enough.

Do not be provoked by evildoers;
do not envy those who do you wrong.
Like grass they wither quickly;
like green plants they wilt away.

But trust in the Lord and do good
that you may dwell in the land and live secure.
Find your delight in the Lord
who will give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will act
And make your righteousness shine like the dawn
your justice like noonday.

Psalm 37: 1-6 NAB, revised edition
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