Betty’s Spring-Cleaning Series
Mind Over (So Much!) Matter
Our blogger takes on clutter of the stealthiest kind…
-Melina Gerosa Bellows
If you were to look inside my mind–and frankly, I don’t recommend it–it would resemble the junk drawer in the kitchen. You know, the catch-all for important papers, broken bits and pieces, the scissors and maybe some old candy. Similarly, my thoughts, important and insane, are jumbled up in a big mess so I can’t find anything.
I reach out to my friends for help. Luckily, I have pals who are supremely organized, like my friend Kristin van Ogtrop, who is the editor of Real Simple. Over lunch, I dump my proverbial drawer out on the table for her to sort.
“You are doing waaaaaaaay too much,” she says immediately.
I know I have a habit of taking on too much. But there is so much to do! In the last two weeks, I’ve traveled to Mexico on assignment for National Geographic Traveler, finished my second novel, crashed my manuscript for The Fun Book for Christmas, blogged, got my kids into summer camps, organized the coverage for my nanny’s vacation week, secured three big-ticket items for their pre-school auction, endured a colonoscopy and got a huge promotion at work, which will triple my job. So now I will have even more to do. So I meditate, do yoga, and work out five days a week.
“I feel sort of sick,” I tell her.
“Of course you do,” she responds. “What are your short- and long-term goals?”
“My what?” I ask. I don’t even know the difference between these two.
“Let’s focus on your short-term goals,” she says brusquely. “You only have time for three things. Your job, your kids, and figuring out what you’re going to do with your marriage.”
I am currently separated. Hence the chronic stomachache and colonoscopy. I feel tired all of the time.
“Stop writing. Move that to the long-term goals list,” she suggests.
“Spend the time building a foundation with your kids. Volunteer to be Class Mom. As a working mother, you might have to work twice as hard at it, but it’ll be worth it.”
I consider Kristin’s advice about giving up the writing. It’s a time suck, but one that I enjoy. I know that my life needs a diet, but her suggestion is like eat all vegetables and skip the dessert. I like writing.
Next I consult my friend Rebecca, a woman so organized she’s gotten twins on a schedule within three weeks. Rebecca knows me so well that she says, “What’s wrong?” when all I’ve had a chance to say is “Hello.”
I’ve just brisk-walked four miles to her apartment for dinner. To answer her question of “what’s wrong,” I pull up my T-shirt to show her the moon bounce that used to be my midsection.
Her jaw drops.
“You think my belly’s bad? You should see the inside of my mind,” I say. “It’s like a traffic jam in the kitchen junk drawer.”
“That’s not your body,” she says, stunned.
“Right, but unfortunately it thinks it is,” I say, coming in and sitting down. “None of my clothes fit and I feel completely disorganized. What’s for dinner?”
“You are not fat, that’s bloat,” she says. “I want you to try acupuncture.”
Voluntarily getting stuck with needles does not seem like an obvious way to feel better, but I’m desperate. I also have a sense that by unsnarling the gridlock in my body will help sort the cramped thoughts packed into my head.
I visit acupuncture and mind-body therapist Lisa Eaves at her Heal-From-Within office. Lisa’s workshop is modeled after a program based on The Mind/Body Medicine Institute at Harvard Medical School. She is calm and lovely, and laughs while reading my questionnaire. (Under allergies I had written “husband.”)
I mention my schedule, and the stress of having two kids under five. Instead of telling me the obvious, I’m doing too much, she says, “I want you to start conscious breathing. Pause, breathe, pause. You can do everything, but slow it all down,” she says.
Speaking of not relaxing, it’s time for the needles. I lie down on the table, which has a heating pad. I close my eyes. Before I even realize it, Lisa has pricked me with 21 needles, seven in a circle on my stomach, two in each wrist and five in each leg. I start to feel very relaxed. It’s-as-if-my-lightning-fast-run-on-thoughts… Completely. Slow. Down.
“Surf your breath in and out of your body,” she says gently, “I’ll be back in 20 minutes to check on you.”
I drift in and out of the most delicious sleep. I actually feel disappointed when Lisa removes the needles.
“How does this work?” I ask lazily.
“Acupuncture is based on ancient Chinese healing,” she explains.
“We put the needles at certain pressure points to unblock the qi, or vital energy, that runs through the body.”
Lisa sends me off with a food list. I feel as if I’ve had a massage from the inside out. Enthused, I drive straight to Whole Foods and buy an organic lamb and veggies. I roast it and my friend Annie comes over for “an early dinner.” Two bottles of red wine and a million laughs later, I kick her out at midnight.
Whether it’s the leftover lamb waiting for me in the fridge, or the conscious breathing, I start to notice a little more space in my week. My gut calms down, and I start to feel smoother inside. My thoughts slow down.
I can’t wait for my next pincushion opportunity. At my appointment, Lisa talks about “making space” in the body. “There’s room for everything, the people you love, even the people you don’t like.”
I am a very visual person, so this concept stresses me out.
“Another way to think about this is to use the word allow, ” she explains. “Allow everything to be just as it is. What you believe, think and feel has a profound effect on the body.”
As Lisa inserts the needles, I “allow” my children to test my limits. I “allow” my estranged husband to not be the way I want him to be. I “allow” my body to respond to the stress, which is obviously spilling over from my mind.
Ah, I think. Allowing is so much different from my usual need to do/change/control something. I take a deep breath. I think I’ll stop writing now and relax.