My office bookshelf was broken, and I had to take everything off so it could be fixed. This was a perfect time to look at what I had and do some culling, cleaning and rearranging. In today’s podcast I’m going to tell you about the results of this one tiny move in my life. Perhaps you too will be inspired shake things up and move things around in your life On Purpose.
First, I’m a book junkie. I love them. But the truth is, I often don’t read them all the way through to the end. That doesn’t mean they’re wasted on me—quite the opposite. Sometimes it’s just the title or the back jacket or a few phrases that jump off the page which is all I need from a book. Then there are other books stuffed to the gills with stickie notes and scribbles in the margins. Each book on my shelf has served a purpose for me.
Having said that, like anything, sometimes it’s a good idea to pull things down and ask, “Do I need this now?” I can do that quite easily with other things in my life but there are two things I find difficult to part with 1) wooden furniture (what’s that all about? Lol) and 2) books.
To tackle the issue with books, I’ve began to ask, “Who else needs this right now?” If it’s not being read by me, who need to read this? And besides if I need it again, it’s always out there for me to repurchase. This little mantra of mine has helped get rid of a few books here and there (mostly fiction because I rarely re-read those) but the books near and dear to my heart . . . well . . . I think I’ve mated to each of them for life!
So back to my bookshelves. I’ve had these shelves for quite a while and they’ve been through a lot of moves. As a result, the corners were pulling apart. I first noticed a little gap but over time the gap was growing larger and larger. Pretty soon, they were going to come apart and I was going to wake up in the middle of the night to a loud CRASH and I was going to find everything in a heap in the floor. So instead of fixing them right away when I saw the gap, I did what I typically do, I put it on my to-do list for later! LOL. I neatly categorized it as something that needed my attention. Having felt I gave it some attention by putting it on my list of things to give attention, I moved on to the next thing on the list. Can you feel me? I did this for about a year.
Then one day I looked up and had a felt-sense that if I don’t do something soon, things were going to break. I finally got a little wake-up call in the form of a nudge (and a desire to avoid the other things on my to-do list) and the day came when it was finally time to deal with the shelves.
To deal with the shelves, I had to completely unload them. What a monumental task and what I mess! It had to be done. There was no way around it. But there was a wonderful result—I got to do something I’d not done in a long time. . . I got to touch and engage with each and every book. I got to see each one and remember when and why I purchased it. Had it been a gift? If so, I got to remember with fondness the person who thought of me. Had I bought it during a particularly hard time? If so, I got to celebrate that I’d made it through. Was it well worn or barely cracked open? Was it bought out of obligation because “everyone else was reading it” or had I been the first in line to grab my copy? So many things came up for me as I touched and looked at each and every book.
Then I looked at the people represented on my shelves. Pieces of other’s souls and genius was in my office with me every single day. Each day I hung out with Amy Poehler who was teaching me how to say “Yes Please” and Tina Fey who was coaxing me to put on my ‘Bossy Pants”. Michelle Obama who was midwifing my own “Becoming” and Pema Chodron who was helping me “When Things Fall Apart”. Then There was Elizabeth Gilbert with “Big Magic” helping me to release my fear of being creative and Brené Brown teaching me about whole-hearted living and the “Gifts of Imperfection”. Jennifer Louden reminding me that I get to ask, “Why Bother?” and Karen Salmonsohn teaching me “How to be Happy, Dammit!”. Ann LaMott was coaxing the writer in me to put it all down “Bird by Bird”. The list goes on and on. My shelves were full of labors of love and laughter—of wisdom and hard knocks. My shelves were a GOLD MINE, baby! Each word came from another human who was living and writing their lives ON Purpose. It was an amazing moment to be in the presence of such power and wisdom and courage. And like Dorothy and her magical red slippers, it was with me all along.
After I pulled them down and fixed the shelves it came time to put everything back. How did I want that to happen? What did I want that to look like? Before I had just crammed them on the shelves according to size or when I bought them or in any way they fit. There was some order but no real rhyme or reason.
Since everything was off the shelves, I had to think about how to do it different. What system would I use? I wanted to do something that was pleasing to the eye and different this time. I wanted to keep this love-fest thing going on. I wanted to keep “seeing” these lovelies!!
I had seen others who were color-blocking and was intrigued. Color-blocking is sorting your books according to color. Yellow leads to orange which leads to red, and so forth. I googled to see if color-blocking was a sign of intelligence or would at least make me smarter or if there was some psychology behind it . . . but nope. It’s just a cool way to sort your books. But that didn’t stop me. Color-blocking was the way I was gonna go. You can see a picture if you’re interest.
It was so much fun! It engaged my right brain. “Is this red book jacket more pinky red or orangie red? More blue-green or green-blue? My husband I worked together and made messy piles then started to reshelf. We were very deliberate about where things went. After they were all re-shelved, we stepped back and took a good look. We had to return several times to tweak and move and shift them. Truth is, I’m still shifting a book here and a book there. It’s a work in progress.
Now I have this super-fun and beautiful bookshelf. I’ve reengaged with something I’d become almost blind to. Something that was right in front of me. I love looking at it now. And it gets better. I’m reading like never before. I have a working list of the books that I’m dying to dive into. I make time to read more everyday (albeit it at the pool . . . but who cares). I’m more deliberating tapping into the wisdom of others.
This reading and shifting has also sparked my own interest in writing. I joke that I don’t really like to write, rather I want to have written. The doing scares me. I like to be in the DONE. But touching each of those books, reading them, holding them, embracing them has reminded me that each author had to sit down and allow their wisdom to come out and onto the page. There was no short cut. They couldn’t simply will their words to be on the page. They had to write them, one stinking word at a time.
If I am to be a best-selling author (there, I said it and I’m turning all shades of pink), then guess what? I have to frickin’ frackin write!
I have to write a book ON PURPOSE!
Put another way, I have to walk my talk. I have to take deliberate action . . . just like every other author on my shelves. I have to be purposeful if I want my words and soul to be in someone else’s life—to be on someone else’s shelves.
And this just isn’t true for writing, ya’ll. It’s true for everything. Deliberate action is required or you’re just on default and marching in place.
This deliberateness doesn’t have to be ball and chain. I promise you, it doesn’t. It can be way easier than you think.
I image Amy Poehler, when writing “Yes Please!”, had moments that stories just flowed out of her like squirty cheese from a can! That Brené Brown embraced her beautifully flawed self and wrote anyway. That Glennon Doyle wrote what needed to be said and Cheryl Richardson wrote what needed to be read.
They wrote until they could look back and see that they had written.
So, lets wrap my little re-shelving adventure into a nice little package.
Something was broken and it needed my attention. The shelf was slowly separating and would eventually pull apart or everything would come tumbling down. So, I took time out of my day, disassembled everything to fix the problem.
When I say that, what comes to mind? Is there something that’s coming apart in your life that needs attention? Is there somewhere in your life where you can’t seem to hold it all together? Is there something that needs to be disassembled so you can put it back together more soundly?
When everything was off my shelves, I saw what I really had. I didn’t just own books. I had pure genius all around me all day long. Heart and soul and insight and creativity and vision. I had a treasure trove of mind-blowing and heart-exploding and myth-busting goodness! I had challenging questions and eye-opening answers. I had vulnerability and strength. I had an IV filled with the nutrients I needed to help me do just about anything. All I had to do was plug in. And I didn’t have to sit down and do a deep dive either unless I chose too. I could pop over, read a title, flip to a dog-eared page or read a blurb and be fed. I had a buffet at my disposal 24/7.
Do you have something like this? Do you have books, people, a spiritual practice that you’ve neglected or pushed to the back burner? Somewhere or someone or something you can go to right now for sustenance? Have you been there lately? Why or why not? What would it be like if you re-engaged on purpose to the wisdom and beauty in your life?
Then I put things back in a different way. I used to do this with my kids, I’d rearrange their toys, remove a few, add a few and then watch the miracle. They would play differently. They would interact with what they had. They would be re-energized because things felt new and clear and ready to be played with. The same thing has happened with me and my books. I now look at them, love them, move them around. I’m re-engaged, reconnected, renewed! Before, things were stale. They were fixed. They were practically invisible because there was no movement. They were stagnant and in some ways so was I.
When I say this, what comes to mind. What needs to be moved or shifted or thrown out? What can you modify or reorder? What have you been blind to that you need to see right now? Are there answers to some of your big questions right in front of you begging to be seen? Is there something that needs to be cleaned or touched or spruced up? What do you need to move and rearrange? Something in your home? On your calendar? In your mind?
Looking for some way to end this, I came across this quote by Aldous Huxley,
"Consciousness is only possible through change; change is only possible through movement.”
In other words, to be alive and awake we have to move and engage. To tough things to hold things, to read and talk and listen to others. May you do that today.