My son has always loved Legos. Which is great, because they’re a mom-approved toy in our household. Heartily endorsed. I loved Legos as a kid and I love them as a mom. His dad and I are divorced and while the reason has nothing to do with Legos, this shows a difference between our approaches to life.
At my house, Legos are stored in big bins and are to play with. Once something’s built, which generally takes about 10-20 minutes, my son will take it apart and store all the pieces together with all his other pieces. We do have all the instructions in case he ever wants to put a set together again the way it was sold. But, I’m not sure that’s ever happened. Instead, he and his friends make up whatever fantastical creation they want to and then all the parts go back into the bin when they’re done.
At his dad’s house, however, Legos are to put together and display. You follow the directions, assemble the unit and then it stays together on a shelf to admire. A good skill to have, the direction-following, just not where I see the most value in the toy bricks.
However, it is how I came to be driving from Indiana to Tennessee yesterday with my car packed to the gills with plastic tubs of assembled Lego structures. His dad wants them to live at my house now and made me promise that they stay assembled. I’m not sure actually I promised that, but there they are all loaded into my car and taking up a surprising amount of room. Like, every single inch of my Forester.
At some point in the drive Cody was messing with one of the builds, probably repairing something that had come apart when we loaded the car. And he remarked at how many he has. And he’s right, there were a lot. But what was interesting was the conversation that ensued.
“Mom, I have an awful lot of Legos don’t I?”
“Yes, you sure do.”
“I kind of feel spoiled looking at them all.” Long pause. “Mom, am I spoiled?”
Actually, yes. You certainly are. We all are. We live in a place in which we’re far more privileged than most of the rest of the world. While there are issues with poverty here, and while we’re certainly not a wealthy family, you and I, when compared with most of the rest of the world, live in extreme comfort. You have more toys, more food, more privacy, more opportunities, more space and more comfort than others. You don’t really hurt for anything. If you want something, you can either work for it, or I can buy it. Not that you have everything you want, but you have so much more than most.
In some respect, that’s a disadvantage to you. You don’t have to try as hard. You don’t have to be as creative, as resourceful and as scrappy. However, that being said, spoiled is also an attitude. You can choose to act spoiled or not to. There are ways to have things and not be spoiled.
This conversation about stuff, while short, was really important.
I told you last week I was releasing my hold on my stuff. I’m in the midst of a radical closet purge. Trying to get rid of enough things that I can eliminate nine lineal feet of dresser space and still fit everything easily in a 6′ reach-in closet. I’m well on the way there. Ever since that I release moment, it’s been pretty easy to get rid of things. There have been a few instances in my life where I felt an internal switch flip. This was one of those moments. I’m done being a slave to stuff. I want to look in my closet, my room and my home and feel expansiveness, space, clarity, adventure, ease and freedom. I want to know that what I have is used, valued and useful, but held loosely.
I’ve also been doing Whole30 this month. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s essentially a real food short term elimination diet. That means I’ve cut out all sugar, grains, beans, processed food, alcohol and dairy for the month. When I talk to someone who’s never heard of it, I can see them calculating and their eyes getting big as they think about what they ate in the last few days and the implications set in.
Basically, I eat meat, eggs, vegetables and some fruit and seeds and nuts and healthy fats like coconut, avocado and olives. All real food. For 30 days. Most people look at me like I’m crazy. No soda? No desserts? No cheese? No…whatever their food vice of choice is? Nope. How can you do that? I could never do that! Well, sure you could. First of all, it’s only 30 days. Second, unless I’m in the midst of a cookie or chip or ice cream craving (which does happen occasionally), I don’t see it as deprivation.
But, when I tell someone that, I get more incredulous looks. How can you possibly not see it as deprivation? I’ll give you an example. I went camping this month. It was a retreat getaway with a friend and I wanted her to feel spoiled and pampered. She’s in that toddlers-at-home and work-full-time phase of life and just needed a break from her world for a few days. So, I planned and cooked. When I sent her the menu, her response was, “Wow, we’re going to eat like queens!” We had chicken fajita bowls, grilled sweet potato wedges tossed with salt and lime zest, grilled peaches, an egg scramble with chorizo, peppers, onions and potatoes, pulled pork lettuce wraps with avocado aoili, steak and herb roasted potatoes and cinnamon cooked apples and pears. This is good food, friends. This isn’t deprivation. I don’t feel deprived. I feel protected from all the chemicals and fake stuff I’ve eaten for years and years. And I feel better than I ever have before.
I’ve told you three stories today. My son’s Lego question about being spoiled, my closet purge and how I’ve eaten this month. I’m struck by how we tend to fight against limitation.
Don’t put limits on me.
Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.
And voluntarily live within limits? Unthinkable.
I want you to understand that the constraints on your life aren’t the problem. They aren’t spoiling your life. They aren’t limiting your freedom, happiness and contentment. Only you can do that. Only you can limit your happiness and contentment. Constraints actually allow us to prosper. Guard rails are there not to limit your freedom, but to protect your course. Within constraints, creativity flourishes.
It’s not about how many Legos my son owns or doesn’t own. It’s the conversations about how he relates to the things he owns that’s crucial. It’s not about how much I purge from my closet or my home. It’s about the things that stay and my attitude towards them. Do I clench them tightly or are they held loosely? Do I control them or do they control me? It’s not about what I can’t eat. It’s about what I choose to put in my body and why.
It’s not about the limitations in your life. It’s about your life within whatever limitations are present. Quit spending your energy fighting the limitations. Whether they’re emotional, relational, financial, career or something else. In the immortal words of Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge and with a nod of great respect to all US Marines. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Look at what you do have. What is possible. Find options. Create freely and wildly. Live gloriously within whatever limitations you have chosen or been given. Life can be had there. But, you need to choose to live it.
This week’s piece is called Sea Glass. I set some limitations on how I went about it. I keep my painted paper for collage in a 10 drawer rolling cabinet. I had my son choose a number corresponding to a paper drawer. I could only use pieces from that drawer and only straight lines. He happened to choose one of the drawers with the least amount of variety which made it harder. What’s interesting is that last week, I had no limitations. Anything goes. No initial plan. No rules. Intuition only. This week, with the limitations I set, I struggled less and enjoyed the process more. Whether it’s a better piece is a whole different discussion.
There are some limitations that are really difficult. I have a friend who will be in cancer treatments for the rest of her life. And she’s having to deal with finding a new normal and living within new physical limitations. Not all limitations are as easy as my closet and my food. I understand that. But, whatever yours are. What if you took your eyes off the limitation and focused instead on life?
Want to process the ideas in this podcast further? Download the Coffee Talk Worksheet or put this week’s art on your phone: Episode 38 Downloads