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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Always darkest before the dawn: Cleaning requires a bigger mess first

As I've been recovering from a concussion recently, I feel the crispness of my thoughts is not there and it has been frustrating.  Anyway, this is a blog post idea I've been thinking about for a long time, but I'm going to attempt to finish it.

We commonly have heard the saying, "It's always darkest before the dawn", but really what does that mean?

As we know, overnight the sky gets progressively darker and darker until the morning sun starts it's gradual ascent over the landscape.  When we face struggles or darkness in life, as the struggles intensify or become increasingly dark, life seems to be more hopeless.  Often times, just like the impending dawn or light is just over the horizon.  Hidden by the darkness, the light ahead or the better times just ahead, are just out of our view.

The key to seeing past the darkness is the ability to see through the clutter or haze of our life.  For example, when you are straightening, cleaning out and rearranging a cluttered room, you go through a couple steps which could discourage you.
  • You look all around the room and it appears that there is barely enough space for everything.
  • You start to clean out the room section by section, drawing clutter out into the open or center of the room.  With everyone out in the open and in the way, the room can seem more hopeless cluttered or messy.
At this point, you could get discouraged and think I've got a bigger mess on my hands OR you could look at the newly emptied closest and look across the room and picture what could go in it.  Now, at the moment you have a cluttered mess in the middle (and things stacked everywhere) and it might seem like the room will never get cleaned.  However, if you stick with it, bit by bit, item by item, piece by piece you will gradually see the closet fill up in an organized way and the clutter from across the room lessen.  When you combine this with a trash bag or can nearby to throw away the things you don't need, the task becomes more and more manageable until you have a straightened/uncluttered room.

Similarly, when trying to working through the issues or problems in your life, they can seem overwhelming and contribute to a general sense of hopelessness.  When stopping to take inventory of your life and everything is out of the closet, out on the table and out in the open (at least where we can see it), it can seem like there is a lot to work through. Questions such as the following can weigh us down or add to the clutter.

  • Are we happy in our current circumstance or with who we are?
  • Are we being honest with who we are and what is important to us?
  • Do we have the courage to make changes where we can and should?
    • Can we let go of the people/things weighing us down?
    • Can we let go of our own demons and fears that weighs us down?
  • Do we have the courage to accept our roles?
    • Head of the family, parent, power of attorney/executor, leader, responsible party...
  • Are we a victim of our past mistakes or failings or we a student of them?
  • Do we see the glass as half full or half empty and are we willing and able to adjust our perspective to how we need to see things.  For example,
    • Gratitude list vs. complaint list.
    • Blessed/honored with responsibility vs. being cursed.
In effect, what I've been talking about is step 4 in twelve step recovery programs--"Make a searching and fearless written moral inventory of yourself."  While I think this is best if we write it out, I think we can also process this in other ways.  Now, while in cleaning out the clutter of our rooms (and our lives),  focuses on getting rid of the unnecessary/unhelpful, it isn't solely that.  Often times, when we are cleaning we run across things that we'd lost or forgotten that we had--sometimes treasured items and sometimes just useful items we didn't know or remember we had.  In a similar way, working on the clutter of our lives and taking an inventory can reveal our strengths too.   We can look back on tough times and realize that we had more fortitude than we realized at the time.  We can look back and realize that we are wiser than we gave ourselves credit for.  We can better see the things we are talented with.

I've had points in my life in which I seemed 'stuck' or in a low spot.  Once in my early 20s and another time during and after the period of my divorce. The takeaway for me in this not to get discouraged when thing are really bad and know that my Higher Power (God) is with me.  He never promised an easy life, but He let's us know that He will give us what he needs.

Consider the case of Job.  In the Old Testament, God had a servant named Job whom he saw as blameless, but for a time, God allowed Satan to take from Job everything he had and to place plagues upon him.  Despite it all, Job persevered and did not curse his Lord.  Job was eventually rewarded for his loyalty with a greater reward than what he had taken from him prior.  When his time was up, he was said to have lived a long and full life.  Now, most people's life circumstances aren't going to be as extreme as Job's were.  However, the lesson holds, realize that often times the darkest periods of our lives are a gateway to better times.

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