Reset your alarm before summer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2002

Spring is almost over. Memorial Day has passed, and we will soon be welcoming summer.

Song lyrics from several years ago implored us to "Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer" Will your summer days be crazy? Will they be filled with hurry, scurry confusion? Think about it. Children will be out of school and complaining of boredom by the end of the first week of their summer vacations.

You and the other adults in you extended family will be shuffling thither and yon amongst yourselves in the annual round robin child swap. You must be sure that your brother and sister-in-law in Tuscaloosa get the pleasure of your little Boomer and Bernice for a week this summer, especially since you had to endure their three monsters at Christmas.

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Your own family vacation trip must be planned. It is almost guaranteed that despite hours spent discussing the possibilities, pouring over enticing brochures and then taking that all important family vote on the destination for this year, you will displease at least one person in your household. (Just try to be sure it's not you!) And those of you with teenagers will have the struggle of "I'm staying home. I'm not going on some lame trip. Gross!"

When you won't allow the "home alone" fantasy your teen is having, like a friend of mine, you'll probably hear something like "I'll go, but I promise you I WON"T HAVE ANY FUN!" Translated that means, "I'll see to it that no one has any fun. You'll be sorry!"

At some point during the summer, grandparents possibly will get hurt feelings because they have either too much or too little visit time with the grandchildren. Be careful here. Should you allow your in-laws to have even one day more with your darling children than your own parents get, you'll pay for years to come. It will become a point of leverage that insures your compliance with requests throughout the foreseeable future. And just to add icing on this cake, chances are strong that sometime this summer the babysitter or day care provider will move out of town on short notice.

How in the world can you prepare yourself for all this? Let me give you something to consider. It's still spring so there's just enough time to create order in your life.

I'm talking about spring-cleaning here. I know that usually is about vacuums, mops and aching backs. If you can't find anything in your home because everything you have is in the "junk drawer", you've lost control and you need to get it back. It's time to get some really big trash bags and use them. You know how to do it, and the reward will be a serene, organized environment that gives you and your family breathing space.

Explore the Japanese theory of positive shapes and negative spaces. Allow some space in your home for your thoughts and ideas to expand. Get rid of the accumulated "stuff" that no longer comforts you. There was a time when I filled my home with mementos from the past. I allowed no empty spaces. That no longer appeals to me. I began to feel smothered by the hodgepodge of "things" I had around me. They needed to go. I now prefer simplicity. That worked for me. You must discover your own way. The point is to find the style that expresses who you are today, and then create it. And that's the easy part.

Now comes the hardest part of this project. You need to confront the emotional clutter that has accumulated in your life. Everyone has it. Hurts that are forgiven but not forgotten, disappointments, loss and the myriad other things which whisper to you in the middle of sleepless nightsclutter that should be removed.

Through introspection, you can correct the course of your stressful life and get rid of the things that drive you crazy. You can let go of the anxiety, the peevishness and other negatives that mar your sense of order, and steal your joy. A good way to begin is by what Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book, Simple Abundance, calls book-ending your day.

First thing in the morning and last thing at night, give yourself as little as fifteen minutes of quietude. During this time reflect, meditate, plan and, most importantly, concede that it all starts from within. Frenzy, turmoil and despair come from within, and conversely, joy, serenity, and courage come from within. You are so busy and may think that it is impossible to find time for this exercise.

Make time. Not only do you deserve it, you owe it to yourself and to your higher power. Life is a gift. Care for it with respect. As you nurture your spirit you become more able to nurture those whose care has been entrusted to you.

Katherine Paterson wrote, "What a gift of grace to be able to take the chaos from within and from it create some semblance of order." Will a semblance of order make you a better parent, spouse, friend, or employee? It is easy to find the answer. Set the alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier than usual to find out. This could well be the most important project for you this spring.