I was always feeling too busy and too tired to do things. I was newly single, with 3 children and a time consuming job. Since spring my youngest had wanted to go looking at acoustic guitars. It took me until the heat of summer to promise that on my next day off we would go out to Tinicum Guitar Barn, a place I had seen a little wooden sign for on Route 611. "Just to look," I said. We were happy to have a plan.
The day came and it was hot and sunny. Following the wooden arrow I had noticed months before, we left the major road. We drove winding roads for a while, backtracking because we missed a few turns. The arrows pointing the way were placed up in the trees and the leaves had grown over some of them. We were feeling a little adventurous, because it was so rural and in the woods. We were lost in a “fun” way. We were happy.
We suddenly thought we found it. We pulled into a gravel-covered driveway that seemed to appear in the middle of nowhere. The crunch of tires clearly announced our arrival to this bare chested man sitting within the wide-open cave of a garage. The garage was set up like a living room. Garage bay open, he was actually perched in the middle of a traditional family room sofa. He was sitting in profile, facing a TV. As I got out of the car, he took a drag from his cigarette. He flicked ashes into a brass ashtray stand that stood on the floor, the kind my great grandfather had used for his cigars when I was a little girl.
There was not a guitar in site, so I was uncertain.
“I am not sure if this is the Guitar Barn,” I said, having left my son in the car. The bare chested man pointed to some wooden stairs that headed up along the wall behind the thick, boxy TV. I think the TV had outstretched rabbit ear antennas perched on top.
I gestured for my son to join me.
“Go on up. Feel free to play anything. Holler if you need me. Close the door after you, it’s air conditioned up there.”
Up we went. I closed the door after us, securing us in an attic-like space. We could no longer hear the cicada’s rattling in the trees, or the TV sounds. We could no longer smell the cigarette smoke.
Sunlight streamed in through a back window, and in it floated a galaxy of tiny little dust flecks. Our eyes scanned the space. There were used guitars on stands, guitars hanging from the ceiling, old toy plastic guitars, and guitars tucked way back in corners with a few dainty spider webs. Worn out oriental rugs criss- crossed in layers under our feet.
My boy was shy at first, strolling around the room, taking inventory. He was tapped into the pure self-wisdom that 11 year olds have before the world tries to change them. It was some time before he even picked one up to strum it, but we were in no hurry, we had nowhere else to be.This was the single event we had assigned to this day. There was no attic clock and I had no cell phone to distract me. I dragged a stool into the patch of sun and settled myself. From here I just watched and loved my beautiful golden boy.
He would pick up a guitar over here, make friends with it by sharing some chords or a song; and set it back in its spot. He would pick up a guitar over there.
At some cosmic moment he rounded yet again around a certain electric guitar that had caught his eye first thing. A different “category,” he looked to me for permission before he reached for it.
It was a 2003 Gibson Les Paul Supreme, with a root beer finish.
The universe took a breath and held it, I think now. For this was the point we lost our sense of time, when we met this instrument. Was it the size of it? The balance? For once my boy lifted the strap over his head, this guitar rested against his body, an instant companion, a new limb. They introduced themselves politely. They talked to each other. From time to time they included me, asked me questions with rising notes and then answered them, not needing me. Without our knowledge the notes made their way downstairs and called to the bare chested man, lifting him from his perch. He came up and wordlessly looked about, dragged forth an amp, and got the new friends plugged in. “You’re good,” he said. He left them to play louder together.
At some point we realized hours had gone by.
We drove home, bringing only the sweetness of the day back with us.
The guitar had been very expensive. It was nothing we were considering.
That night I described the magic of the day to my two older sons, who are just as special and loved by me. Without my asking, they each said we should invest in the guitar. We should use a chunk of family money to get something that was just for Chris. They both said he worked that hard. They both said he was that good.
Why was this day so special? Was it the day itself, and the delicious expanse of focused time together? To now be able to call up and relive the memory; even feeling the warmth of the sun despite the air conditioner, be back in that dusty room again, is that the gift? Was it unselfish love, having two older brothers emphatically believing in you and declaring it so clearly? Was it seeing the joy you created when the youngest heard of our unanimous family decision, how we made his face glow with delight? ? Was it the gift of seeing, and the gift of being seen? Or was it that, in all those busy days, I had carved out time that was meaningful beyond expectation. I had given us a life moment together.
I loved that day then, and I love it now.
Do not forget to LIVE your LIFE while you are living your life. Don't live life and miss your LIFE.
If your life is crazed, if you are frantic if someone unexpectedly drops by, if you have piles of laundry endlessly in baskets that you shift from place to place… if you are short on the most priceless thing there is, time… then stay with me, I may be able to point you in the direction of a “once and for all” solution.
My friend Carrie messaged me that she thought I should order a certain book because she felt I would like it. I trust Carrie. I am a book lover and an Amazon Prime person, so in less than 2 minutes it was on its way to me. Weeks later I want to share that I found the book a life changer. “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up- The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” has been quite the 206-page surprise. The author is Marie Kondo.
This is like no other system. It is not a system. Do not go out and invest in organizers. In a nutshell: you organize by categories, handling items and asking yourself if they spark joy in you. If they do not, then you pass them on, with thanks that they were with you for a time. You are not deciding what to give away; you are deciding what to keep.
I am not yet “done.” I am still enjoying the process and learning things and yet I am also really appreciating more than I can express the subtle changes I am feeling about my space and myself.
Yesterday, a rainy day, I had time to consider my cabinet of baking dishes and mixing bowls. It is a poorly designed cabinet, one of those awkward ones that extend deep into a corner. After I emptied the front I had to crawl partway in to reach the side "annex." I really had no idea what was living there, just that it was full. The part I can reach and see into is always a place where I am stuffing bowls or leaving a bowl on the counter, waiting for a chance to restack what is in there so everything fits. It has been “crowded’ for 10 years. The colander actually rents space other places because it is forced to move around- sometimes it will not fit in.
I pulled the contents of the entire cabinet into my kitchen. I found my missing crockpot, something I had convinced myself I “left” somewhere. I mean, this life we live, you do not have time to think sometimes, right? “ I am too busy” is some kind of badge we often wear with pride. ENOUGH. Life is too short.
The oblong Pyrex dish that was born warped, that I neglected to return when I took the cardboard wrap off 15 years ago, has lived here quietly for years. It wobbles when you are cutting or serving, and is never the one I reach for. I have two, and always use the other one. I do not remember ever needing two, or ever feeling joy about having two. And so I bless it and carry it tenderly to recycling.
I have never considered objects like this. I have never had this kind of clarity about what I actually like and use. If we are always reaching for the same things, maybe those same things are all we need. It is not minimalism, however. If those 100 egg cups you have collected make you happy every time you see them on your egg cup shelf, you are all set. Just do not make the egg cups you love live a lonely life stuck in a carton in your basement. Do not save the good crystal for "some day." You can enjoy your water in it today, all by your wonderful self.
I found 3 cookie tins that I have housed for years, as “they would be so good to use if I mail cookies somewhere.” They made me laugh. I have mailed cookies and never thought of using these tins.
I find a few bowls and plates that are random and do not spark joy. I place them in my donation box, trusting that someone else will love them and appreciate them. This sounds so simple; taking a conscious look at items you are surrounded with, weighing their purpose. I never did it, ever. Taking time and actually making sure your bedroom drawers… your linen closet… your kitchen cabinet… contain things that bring you joy. “Does this bring me joy?” is so very powerful.
There is much wisdom in the book and it cannot be captured in a few paragraphs. Everything in the book is important. You might think the gratitude part is silly. And yet actual research done, unrelated to Marie and her work, shows that showing gratitude for things and people in our lives can actually be a powerful antidepressant. It can even be more helpful than medication. So even that tiny part is very important.
I have read the sweetest tributes to this work and how it has affected people. A mother of a young one who has challenges communicating verbally heard her son speak more words than he ever had before when she asked him which of his books brought him joy. He had been watching his mother go through her own process for days. I do not think she even expected him to answer; and yet he did. He told her he did not like the book she held; he liked the book about the stars and the planets. It was a "wow" moment for them. She had not known.
So many sweet things happen like this that people call it “Kondo magic.” Make some room in your life and you never know what will take its place. It is not always “things.” The space changes might trigger inner changes: a simple, conscious looking at your life and how it is working for you.
What is important to me?
What can I let go?
What brings me joy?
Love yourself enough to ask.