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Archive for February, 2014

The Year of the Elephant

The 60+ little origami elephant heads which represent the "elephants in my room."

The 60+ little origami elephant heads which represent the “elephants in my room.”

This is the Year of the Elephant.

Not for the Chinese. For them it’s the Year of the Horse.
But for me.

There are elephants in my room.

More than 60 of them in varying sizes and substances and temperaments. You see, an elephant in the room is an obvious truth or problem which is going unaddressed or outright being ignored. But elephants – even invisible ones – take up space. Head space. Life space. And so when there are elephants in your room there is little room to move and little room to breathe.

And there is guilt. Because while some elephants are simply things I’ve wanted to do or projects I’ve wanted to get to some day, most of them are tasks and projects and commitments that were started and never finished. And more of them than I prefer to admit are things I agreed to do or take care of for others which have yet to actually get done. Guilt. And guilt is as hungry as an elephant, eating away at me…

I’ve been avoiding most of these elephants for awhile now. For the past couple of years God has been asking me to let go of some things. To be a good steward of my body and time and head space. To allow margin in my life. And you may remember how over the past few years I have purged and cleaned material possessions and even set aside periods of time where I said “no” to new commitments. The other year I even drew a nice flow chart to help me to say no. But those periods never ended well. God was saying “let go” and my response was “okay. that sounds good. i should do that.” But I never did. I never even bothered to ask, “let go of what?” – mostly because I feared He would ask me to let go of something I didn’t want to.

But all that is changing this year.

It started with stress at Christmas over gifts. And I got this idea that in 2014 for Christmas I’m giving out white elephant gifts. Seriously. Instead of buying gifts, I’m going to give that money to help others. Like buying a water buffalo for a poor family in Asia. 

And I had that in mind the morning of January 2nd as I was thinking over “the new year” and resolutions.  And I was once again  thinking about my student debt and being awed and intimidated by 2 sets of friends who’d hunkered down and paid theirs off early. One set of those friends created a chart of sorts to fill in to encourage them towards their goal. You know how many fundraisers use a thermometer shape to fill up? Except theirs was a rhino. And I’d thought about making mine a teapot because I have no intention of opening a tea room until my student debt is paid. But my debt amount compared to my yearly income is intimidating… except the morning of January 2nd it occurred to me that I could have one just for this year. A smaller interim goal. And it occurred to me that I could use an elephant.

So with these two things on my mind, God pointed out how each year He asks me to “let go” and I avoid it. Which is when I realized it: there are elephants in my room. So I decided then and there that this year is going to be The Year of the Elephant. No more avoiding them. They need named and prayed over and taken care of…

Later that evening – and this completely confirmed my morning thoughts – I went to do my new Page-A-Day (Calendar) Origami for the day and that day’s project was no other than an elephant head!

So the other week I spent a Saturday morning with a pot of tea and a stack of little origami squares and I folded elephant heads and I named the elephants in my room. If something was screaming for attention in my head or demanding to get done or causing guilt or a tightness in my jaw or kept coming to mind over and over (especially at inopportune times) yet I found myself ignoring it, I wrote it down. All 66 of them. And I spent time praying over them. Did I miss any? Which ones made the most noise? Which ones could be relinquished? Which needed taken care of first? 

I ended up putting them into 10 categories of theme or response. I used mini-clothespins to attach them to strings on either side of the mirror in my room.

  • Elephants that are overdue. These are mostly correspondence and completing projects that I had promised to others
  • Elephants that need taken care of as soon as possible. Many of these have actual deadlines, but are ones which don’t involve promises to others.
  • Elephants that are recurring. Not that the elephants themselves recur so much as the task recurs (meal planning, housecleaning, bill paying) and because of my time constraints and stress levels even they have morphed into elephants which I find myself avoiding.
  • Elephants that I will relinquish. This string began with one. It ended up with three. So far…
  • Elephants that I may yet relinquish but I’m still praying over. This string currently holds one elephant.
  • Elephants which are on “indefinite hold.” Most of these are writing/teaching projects that I can file into an idea folder (so I don’t lose the notes I’ve already taken on them) in case they ever come up again. But at least at this point they will be purposefully put to rest.
  • Elephants which are really photo projects. I have unsorted photos (prints and digital) going all the way back to 2001 along with an incomplete scrapbook of my college internship. Even if I relinquish my original “ideals” for what to do with all those, I still have to do something with all the physical and digital photo stuff that is crowding my life.
  • Elephants which are tea or “career” related. This is a crazy category with started projects, proposals, ideas and figuring out what it is I’m supposed to be doing (including that Venn diagram I’d mentioned so many months ago).
  • Elephants which are projects that don’t fit into the previous two categories. Most of these are purging and cleaning projects…
  • Elephants which don’t fit into any other category or are bigger than can be dealt with in a short time. Like that student debt. Or my desire to read more.
Since then a few more elephants have come to mind and been named. Some have been relinquished completely and some have been completed.
But there are still more.
And I’m still praying over them. This was not a one day or even a one month task.

Hence why I’m calling it the Year of the Elephant.

Best part is, I’m not doing it alone. Getting over that initial avoidance -that hesitation- and actually bringing this all to God and being willing to listen (and let go where needed) has been perhaps the best part and is already freeing. So much has been learned already. And perhaps over the next few months I’ll be able to share some of that with you in more detail.

Because as of now, the elephant labeled “Tauta Logizomai” has not made the relinquish string!
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