Creating Space #4: Putting it all Together

This week our farm officially entered harvest mode. We have an almost 2-acre vineyard with 5 or 6 different varieties of grapes that are ripe and juicy and calling for picking. Each of the grape varieties are wintery-hardy and developed by the University of Minnesota. They are pretty amazing plants. We have gorgeous green grapes that will produce light, sweet white wines or get mixed with a lighter purple grape for a rose. A few rows up there are deep, dark purple grapes—they almost look like a blackish blue. The wine from these grapes turn teeth a hilarious shade of purple. Closest to the house we have a row each of King of the North—the most delicious juicing grape I’ve ever hiding grapescanned—and Somerset Seedless, light, sweet, almost bubble gummy table grapes.

I love to walk up and down the rows, some of them almost closed in with vines arched toward the sun then reaching down & across to intertwine with their grapey sisters. When I push back the leaves I find clusters of heavy, juicy fruity globes. My husband has tended the vines all spring and summer, listening to political talk shows while walking tens of thousands of steps, clipping vines, testing sugar levels, adjusting care methods. Now, in mid-September the fruit is ready to be harvested, crushed, soaked, and fermented.

I haven’t been an active participant in the grape harvest in years past. Usually I have my own long list of harvesting and canning to do. But this summer we needed a lighter load and opted to skip a garden. So, this year I am going to do my share of clipping grapes. Our 3 youngest sons love to clip, too. They feel like magicians with each cluster they locate; they clip buckets, and buckets, and buckets full. I helped with the first round of king of the northKing of the North just to learn the ropes. I’m harvesting the rest on my own soon—ALLLLLLL the vitamin D for me as I pick in the gorgeous sunshine.

Harvest time is pretty amazing. It is the tangible proof that we aren’t crazy people who did all that work of caring for these green viney living things for nothing. Tending plants feels a like like magic. I mean, plants start as a spec the size of a freckle and grow into this long or tall or spiny or leafy or fruity or legumey twisting feat of creation. You add water to that freckle-spec if there is no rain, the sun shines, you make sure the plant has all the space it needs, and it produces stuff you eat for months. See!!! Magic!!!

Our own growth is like this, too. It starts small, so small you might not be able to see it. You make sure it has the stuff it needs for growth, you let it be seen in the light, make sure it has the space it needs–MAGIC!!!!–you have new growth in your life that sustains crushed grapesyou for a long, long time. We are in that process now with working through the “Creating Space” series. Let’s keep it going.

Go get your last 3 sheets we wrote out: your “Hierarchy of Needs”, “List of Shoulds”, and “Core Values.” We are putting it all together and making a plan…making space for our souls to grow. But first, let’s set a few ground rules:

1.)    Be kind!! This means you will speak kindly to yourself. No criticizing yourself & no judging yourself, your needs, or your values.

2.)    No comparing yourself to anyone else in your world, on IG, or in the media. You are unique and don’t have to fit into anyone else’s mold or match up to any one else’s life-model.

3.)    Be gentle!! You can take your time, you can move slowly, you can try and fail and try again. You are a real soul who has real feelings and real needs.

Let’s start…with another sheet of paper…yup, I said it…or get that journal that we talked about last time. We are going to create our “8×11 Life”.

Write your core values at the bottom. Make it pretty, if you want. They are your foundation and everything you add to your “8×11 Life” will have those values in its DNA. Interestingly enough, as I worked through this on my own, I found that my values have shifted in the past 6 years. This happens. We grow, life changes, our hearts heal and unlock new treasures of our soul. While “Belonging” and “Adventure” remain, I’ve shifted “Love” into the category of “Belonging” and have added “Beauty” (not on that list I gave you here). I’m leaving that a little loose though. “Thoughtfulness” is holding pretty strong up there, too. But I see those 2 as sisters; beauty is thoughtful. The way God put together the beauty of the redwoods and oceans and hair follicles was so very thoughtful. When I put together a houseplant vignette in the corner of my living room, I am thoughtful to make it beautiful. I take my time, I look at the spot multiple times every day for a week to make sure it is just what I want. I switch the chair next to the plants, I try different side tables and throw pillows. So, “Beauty” and “Thoughtfulness” go hand-in-hand for me. All of that to say, NEW VALUE for Melly!!!

Now, back to our task at hand. Now that we have our values in place, pull out your “Hierarchy of Needs”. Start at the bottom of your pyramid and give your needs some space. For example, I struggle with sleep. I’ve done some emotional excavation around that struggle and discovered that I often feel separate from my family, like I am an employee rather than the loved mom and wife I am. So, I’ve focused on reminding myself that I belong IN my family and not TO my family…then I  let myself have space to rest. It sucks sometimes and feels so difficult.

A friend of mine in Texas once quoted her child’s tutor, “It isn’t hard, it’s just unfamiliar.” That is so true! All unfamiliar activities feel just.so.hard., but they may not be really all that difficult. After the muscles of our mind and body learn how to move in this unfamiliar way we may find that once hard thing has added ease and joy to our lives.  Even though resting and NOT doing work for my family feels unnatural and “hard”, it is just unfamiliar and will make my life better in the long run.

So, fill in those needs. Give them space. Let that space feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable so that it can feel fabulous in a few weeks. Remember that you aren’t making a lifetime commitment. Just scroll back up to 2 paragraphs ago where I stated that my core values had changed. So, give it a try. Just try to give your needs some space and see what happens. If it doesn’t work after a month or two, then you have my full permission to stop and go back to your old ways. Mmmmkay?

What about those “shoulds”? What do we do with those sons of b’s? Well, some of them will have to stay. When I look at mine I see that parts that must stay, but the intensity or the focus on productivity can shift toward a softer, more mindful presence. Like, I want to be more regular with my pottery practice, BUT I don’t *have* to sell it or push hard RIGHT NOW to get it into local galleries and local home décor stores. The push to PROVE success can be removed as it is NOT one of my values. You know what? “Success” may be one of my husband’s values. I often pressure myself to conform to his values because, well, “Belonging”. I want to belong and absorbing into my spouse can mimic that feeling of being seen, being valued, and being loved. But boy, oh, boy has that done me wrong!!! I can practice beauty without trying to work in someone else’s value set.

Keep working through those “shoulds”. How can you shift them to honor your values? If you can’t make it shift, then drop them completely. Add in the most important ones to your 8×11 life.

Make sure you leave empty space on your page. Even if you feel like you must label aaaaalllll the spaces, don’t. Let there be space in your world for those things that come up unexpectedly—emergencies, last-minute lunches with a friend, oops-gotta-run-and-get-ingredients-for-dinner, mental-health days, etc.

The last step is to stay true to what you’ve written down. Don’t let “shoulds” creep into your space. Don’t let your needs slide off. Look at your weekly schedule and routines. How can you build them to honor your 8×11 life? What can you drop? Where can you add in what you really need? How can you make the boring self-care stuff (paying bills, making meals, washing clothes, take meds) fit better and easier?

I’m going to work on filling my 8×11 page this week and will post it on my Instagram page @bigbeautifuladventure. I’d love to see what you come up with, too. Post your “8×11 Life”, either in-progress or a completed page (both are so great) on IG and use the hashtag #8x11life. I’d love to see how this is working for you.

I’m so proud of the work we’ve been doing. This is hard unfamiliar stuff and takes a lot of bravery and strength to explore. Keep being brave. Keep connecting to yourself and your world. You’ve got this!

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