Friday, July 31, 2020

Joy Project: Harmony

Happy Friday, and happy last day of July! It's been more than two months since my last post, and honestly it feels as if it could have been two weeks or two years. These are such strange times, and it's easy to lose track. But the real reason I've been absent is that I've been helping my mother downsize from a four-bedroom house to a tiny apartment.

Downsizing does not come naturally to my mother. She's a keeper, a collector, a saver. She's not the only one; women of her generation learned to "waste not, want not" and were expected to be the caretakers of a family's history through its artifacts--the dishes and quilts and photographs and mementos, sometimes going back generations.

I knew the house was full--that was more than apparent to the eye--but once my sister and I started digging in, the density surprised me. Every closet, every shelf, every drawer, every cupboard. I couldn't help but think of a black hole drawing in matter and compressing it until not an inch of space remained. I won't go into all the details at this point, but suffice it to say that the clean-out is requiring a significant amount of physical and emotional energy. And time.

So this is the context in which I read the next chapter of Ingrid's book, Joyful. The chapter entitled--wait for it--"Harmony".  (For anyone who does not believe the Universe has a sense of humor, I submit this bit of synchronicity as Exhibit A.) 

A significant component of harmonious surroundings is order. Though humans love things wild and messy sometimes, we are also drawn to order. Order implies safety and predictability, which were vital to early humans. "The greater the complexity in an environment," Ingrid writes, "the greater the need for an underlying harmony to bring a sense of order and ease to a space." Order is a manifestation of harmony, and "harmony offers visible evidence that someone cares enough about a place to invest energy in it."

I'll add to that a lesson I learned from my mother's house: if you do not invest energy in maintaining order, the resulting disorder will take that energy from you, and then some. 

For ideas on how to promote harmony within a space, many people turn to the Chinese art of feng shui. And although it is prone to mystical overtones, it really is just about the smooth flow of energy. For me, a big part of that is simply paying attention. We get so good at overlooking things that we hardly notice the stack of mail on the table or the chair that everyone bumps into. Ingrid describes this as "finding friction at a moment when you really want momentum."

So far, 2020 has been full of friction of all kinds, and it doesn't appear that it is going to get much smoother in the near future. But as I move forward with the idea of harmony fully planted in my brain, I'm going to concentrate on reducing the friction within my control. 

Wishing you a harmonious start to the month of August!