Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mid Semester Mess

Piles of mess dominant my living space. 

On my desk, tables, garage, hiding in closets and even on the floor...stuff is piled up. A collage of papers, lesson plans and folders marked, "Pending, Pending Action Now, Important" are stacked in piles calling for my periodic review.

All the mess in our house has nowhere else to go. It can’t be cleaned out and is waiting to be recycled to other homes. Donation gifts for our charity donors, decorations needed for our fundraiser, papers that will ultimately go in a large plastic bag for the end of my academic career beach bonfire. Even the "dress up" school clothes in my closet must wait until May before going to the donation bin.

The overcrowded tables, closets, floors and desk and garage piles are playing tricks with my mind, I feel like mess. I absolutely hate clutter in my living space, it makes me feel bogged down, heavy, out of balance. 

Feng shui, I read teaches that clutter in the home causes depression and fatigue.  According to this ancient Chinese philosophy, any items that don’t belong on the floor will bring low and sad energy and if you want to boost your mood, move stuff off the floor. Yikes, no wonder I have been feeling stressed lately, there is a direct link between my mess and my mood.

In a world of pack rats and purgers, everyone that knows me would say I fall in the second category. My home d├ęcor is minimalist and I do my best to donate clothes, household items and just about anything that I don’t use on a regular basis. Two weeks after our nuptials, I recycled my wedding dress to the Goodwill. No need to hold onto material items if they have no future value. Some of my friends thought donating my dress was extreme, but I don't hold unto stuff just for sentimental value (most stuff anyway). I'll admit that in the attic I have a box of my old journal books and of these days I'll get around to purging that stuff, too.

William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Psychological attachment to stuff can be very strong, but I don't seem to have that gene. After my Dad died 12 years ago, I kept one item that was his, a red plaid flannel shirt that still hangs in my closet. I can honor my father's memory without keeping his things.

When I leave this world, I would like to exit with my personal possessions down to the bare minimum, like my friend Judy M. When she knew that she would not win her battle with cancer, Judy cleaned up her home and office and left town to live out her last days in another state. When her husband returned after Judy's passing he found only two brown papers bags in her closet. The bags were marked Goodwill; Judy had purged everything else.

The sheer volume of stuff in my living space right now is making me feel stuck. Somehow, I must manage to live with this cluttered chaos for a few more weeks. I also must remember what inspired all this mess in the first place. The clutter is a direct result of my charity work and assuming responsibility to host a fundraising event at our house. All the piles of stuff are for entertaining our donors and supporters and to recycle into donation dollars. Soon all the stuff will be distributed else where. 

In the meantime,  as a method of coping, I've decided to create two de clutter zones in the house.  In these rooms I will enjoy my welcomed order,  an oasis where no stuff is piled and the the space  is clear and the chi flows freely. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My drug of choice: Pacific Prozac

Maria and Dan Circa 2008

The ocean is a mood elevator, a feel good drug that helps me escape the stress of my land locked life. 

Today Dan and I arrived at Cardiff Reef around 8 am with VG coffee, boards and newspaper in hand. It was a glorious beach worthy day, bright with sparkling sun and gentle lapping waves. On occasion a 4 ft. swell came through displaying the ocean's amazing power. 

The past few days I have spent far too much time indoors, overwhelmed with the demands of my life (as an educator and director of a charity group.) My mind has been racing with all the things I need to do: papers to grade, classes to teach, fundraisers to organize,  and donation dollars to solicit. With so many deadlines upon me, I decided the best thing to do was to get wet. 

A two hour play session in mother ocean was just what I needed.The combination of sun, saltwater and surf revived my senses, and reawakened my spirit. With every paddle stroke I could feel the stress hormones dissolve from my body. After catching a wave or two, I was pulsating with pleasure and proud of my accomplishment. All the things I needed to at home were now put in perspective. 

Dan and I left the beach today smiling at one another in a state of aquatic contentment. One of our local Cardiff Reef friends (a 65 year old chiropractor that surfs just about daily) dubbed the phrase Pacific Prozac. I’m borrowing it here for my blog. And it’s true that getting in the ocean to paddle, surf, snorkel or swim tweaks the same neurons that are stimulated by Prozac. A long paddle or playing in the surf is far more effective than taking a pill to perk up my mood. There is something strangely hypnotic about being near the ocean, it provides solace and never disappoints. 
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.” – President John F. Kennedy
My love affair with the sea began a long time ago. The first time I experienced Ocean Pacifica, the largest body of water in the hydrosphere, remains firm in my emotional memory. It was when I was 14 years old on a cross country family camping trip. The details of that month-long family adventure are dim in my aging and overcrowded brain, but I remember vividly when our camper finally made it to Huntington Beach, California in July 1968. After spending hours in the back of the hot and crowded camper with my four younger siblings, I was eager to be liberated from that confined space. 
My first glimpse of the ocean on that afternoon took my breath away.  I gazed out from the shore and saw the water stretched as far as I could see, to the horizon. It changed color with the light and the color of the sky, from green to blue to gray. The ripples and waves were in continuous flow, surging and retreating, seagulls were crying in the sky, there was a distinctive smell (my favorite amora to this day) SALTWATER, a scent like no other. 

Without a moment's hesitation I dashed through the hot sand (fully clothed) into the undulating and inviting saltwater, feeling an overwhelming compulsion to get ocean kissed. I don't recall how long I stayed in the ocean playing in the sensual surf that day, but that was when my infatuation began, with what I affectionately call, Mother Ocean.

During that trip in the late sixties, my adolescent fantasy was to someday return to Southern California, find a blond surfer boy and enjoy an aquatic care free life together. It took me a decade to move to Southern California and another decade after that to find the golden surfer.  There were educational achievements like high school and college to attain, and financial obstacles to deal with,  emotional immaturities to overcome and addictions to conquer. 

In many ways, my life today is a manifestation of my adolescent fantasy. My fair haired husband and I live in Cardiff by the Sea, a charming town with two miles of pristine coastline. Our beach community is a place where you can wear flip flops all year long and if weather and surf conditions permit,  you can get a free dose of Pacific Prozac anytime you need it.