In March of 2010 I took an online Mondo Beyondo class. Their website does a much better job than I can at describing what it’s all about, but I found it deeply rewarding, and I’m not really the woo-woo let’s-explore-our-feelings type. I’m more into burying feelings under a comforting layer of junk food, you know? For the purpose of emotional blunting, I find that Ben & Jerry’s Blueberry Vanilla Graham frozen Greek yogurt really does a bang-up job.

Anyway. One of the assignments involved putting a message out into the world. I chose the section of a grocery store where I hoped it would be discovered by a frazzled new mom who might appreciate a random note from the universe:

Screen shot 2012-04-25 at 4.26.36 PM

My favorite assignment, though, was to ‘create a clearing.’ This was described in the class as:

A clearing is a wide open empty space in your life that is ready for something new or amazing to emerge. A clearing can be a cleaned-out closet or a regularly unscheduled Saturday. A clearing can be dissolving an unproductive business partnership or going to bed early two days in a row. A clearing can be saying no to a pesky friend or saying yes to a forbidden treat. A clearing can be as simple as taking out the trash or as serious as leaving a job or ending a not-so healthy relationship. A clearing can be recycling that piece of furniture you never really liked, not for one second.

However you choose to create your clearing, the point is that you let go of something in your life that has no purpose anymore, drains your energy, or draws your attention in a direction that leaves you feeling more burdened than free.

Man, that one really spoke to me. I was still at Workplace then, frustrated and unhappy and feeling trapped in a bad situation I couldn’t seem to improve. So my interpretation of the assignment was to clear the living shit out of my office. I cleaned all the clutter and junk—every drawer, every shelf. I recycled things I no longer needed. I dusted. I took home every knick-knack and keepsake. I removed every single photo, everything about the room that made it mine, because I wanted all my energy to be focused on me leaving that place.

Coworkers jokingly asked me if I was quitting, and I laughed and said of course not.

Six months later, I did.

I think about that assignment a lot. I mean, I’m not saying the simple act of tidying up my office made a difference … but who knows. Maybe it did. Maybe that was the start of a brand new path, one that eventually led us to the place we are now. If I was still tied to that job, there’s no way we’d be moving to Oregon.

Dreams never die. A-fucking-men.


41 Responses to “Butterfly effect”

  1. Shannon on April 25th, 2012 4:56 pm

    Can’t tell you how much I loved this post tonight. And how timely it is. Funny how that happens sometimes, isn’t it?

  2. michelle l. on April 25th, 2012 5:00 pm

    I was in a miserable work/life situation and feeling trapped a decade or so ago, so I started sending out resumes. I also started packing boxes, figuring that one way or another I would be moving soon. I’m pretty sure that was part of the reason I finally landed a new job. And the move cross-country was so much easier because I had already gotten a head start on the packing. I’m finding myself in a similar situation now, so I guess it’s time to clear some space. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Stacy on April 25th, 2012 5:01 pm

    Ditto what Shannon said. Thanks.

  4. warcrygirl on April 25th, 2012 5:22 pm

    I’m totally doing this, the note-leaving thing. I love little acts of kindness as much as I love paying it forward.

  5. Jen on April 25th, 2012 5:24 pm

    This actually choked me up a bit. I sure hope you’re right, and I’m so happy that for you it is xo

  6. kathleenicanrah on April 25th, 2012 5:25 pm

    oh, yes, but of course they are tied together, right? Can’t tell you how happy I am that that particular dream didn’t die, and instead is here, happening, now- pink eye and broken collarbone and all (I’ve found dreams realized don’t keep life from happening, I say 24 hours after my MBA graduation, and laid up in bed with a terrible bout of old school, high fever flu)

    I love the idea of a clearing, and want to think up my own. Bring on the butterfly effect!

  7. sooboo on April 25th, 2012 5:30 pm

    Creating strong, focused intentions can be so powerful. You definitely steered the ship!

  8. Colleen on April 25th, 2012 5:34 pm

    I too want to mimic what Shannon said. Thanks for this!

  9. Angella on April 25th, 2012 6:11 pm

    I love you.

    That aside, I needed this today.

  10. Janelle on April 25th, 2012 6:27 pm

    This is the perfect time for me to read this. Thank you, and hooray for your upcoming move!

  11. Sarah Lena on April 25th, 2012 7:12 pm

    ::deep timely sigh::

    Blogging (not mine; the blogging of others) has so many times renewed my faith.

  12. shygirl on April 25th, 2012 7:26 pm

    Amen indeed, sister. A-FUCKING-MEN INDEED.

  13. Shannan on April 25th, 2012 7:53 pm

    This post a giant barrel of awesome. Love the idea of a clearing…it makes my head space happy just Thinking about it!

    Congrats on making your dreams come true! A-fucking-men indeed!

  14. Scott on April 25th, 2012 8:34 pm

    You kick ass, as usual! You’ve earned all of this goodness, so enjoy the hell out of it. Damn hell ass goodness!

  15. sarah on April 25th, 2012 10:01 pm

    Wonderful, wonderful. So happy for you & your family.

  16. Frannie on April 25th, 2012 10:37 pm

    My husband separated from me this past weekend. Left me for someone else. World is upside down, I feel the worst I have ever felt in my whole life, can’t even describe it. This post is so appropriate for my life right now. He had the kids (after I cared for them while he was m.i.a) and I was driving to study and saw him and the other woman walking my kids and hers. He was like why are you interfering? I couldn’t help it. I felt like what about interfering on my dreams? It’s awful but I feel like things will work out.

  17. Frannie on April 25th, 2012 10:39 pm

    I want to say I didn’t follow him. It was a huge surprise for me, but now I don’t have to guess. Things happen for a reason, man.

  18. Eric's Mommy on April 26th, 2012 4:53 am

    Funny, I was just thinking last night that I need to do a major “purge” of my house. I’m going to start 1 room at a time. Thank you for being my motivation.

    PS-Have you tried the Ben & Jerry’s Red Velvet Cake OMFG, talk about dying and going to heaven!

  19. Deanna on April 26th, 2012 5:44 am

    I keep thinking about how brave you are – leaving workplace, hubby’s startup, writing about hard times, trying new things. I know you say you are sooo shy but I read things like this and think about how brave you are. And then I read the comments and see that your words touch so many. It’s pretty cool. I hope you realize that.
    I just wanted to hold up the mirror and show you how amazing you are, how your words affect people.

  20. Emily on April 26th, 2012 6:16 am

    Dude. You make me want to keep reaching for our ultimate family goals even though some days I feel like we are just hamsters on this continous loop and it seems out of reach. Your family getting it’s goals and dreams make me have hope that someday we will to!! Thank you for making me believe!!

  21. Sara on April 26th, 2012 7:41 am

    Thanks for sharing this piece of wisdom! Very inspiring and timely today as I struggle with a soul-sucking job.

    I’m so happy for you as you embark on this next adventure in Oregon.

  22. L. on April 26th, 2012 7:51 am

    I almost never comment here but I read you often. I loved this post. I have been packing up old baby stuff but have always had a reason not to actually go and donate it away. No time, too busy, things like that. Well, today’s the day. My children are wonderful, 3 and 5 years old, and actually only get more enjoyable as time goes on (something else you actually assured me would happen – thank you!) I know in my heart we are done having kids, but that decision has been a bit hard. Making this clearing will help me look toward the wonderful future our little family has. Thank you for this very timely and excellent post. Best of luck in Oregon! I’ll be reading.

  23. Lisa on April 26th, 2012 8:19 am

    I just LOVED this post. Wow. It really spoke to me. Thank you!

  24. LizScott on April 26th, 2012 8:39 am

    Man, yes.
    YEARS ago – like, HIGH SCHOOL – a teacher/mentor at my school was giving a talk to a bunch of seniors about his battle with depression. It was a gusty thing to do, now that I think about it, and I still remember it. He told one story that I will always remember:
    – His shrink had told him he needed to stop going home every night and drinking scotch until he blacked out, he had to stop rewarding himself with obsessively eating junk food, he needed to get outside and participate in the world. And that advice made him SO MAD and he was SO ANNOYED at his doctor — the scotch and the cookies and the getting to sit inside by himself were the only things in his stupid life that he had to look forward to! How could he take them away! Then he’d have nothing!

    Of course, flash forward: the booze and the food and the self isolation — the things he felt were the only bright spots — were the exact things holding him back. He had to let go of what he used to cope to get to a place where he didn’t need to cope anymore.

    I think about that story a lot. A few years ago I was in a job and career I didn’t like, but I couldn’t even begin to think about leaving it. I needed the money and the career and I’d invested so much time in being successful there and how could I imagine giving it up? Of course, staying in that place was what was keeping me from doing what I really wanted — clinging to that career made it impossible to get OUT of that career. I mean, no shit, but when you’re in it… you’re really in it. It was until I was willing to let go of the need for it– step back and just walk away — that things got really good. And it sucked doing it and I was unsure and I had lots of moments of fear and doubt and tears and “oh fuck.”

    6 months after letting go of the concept of my old career, making a change that moved me off the fast track of it – I was recruited for my dream job. A job I never would have been able to accept if I hadn’t already started the process of moving and leaving the old track.

    Life, man. I just don’t even.

  25. Lisa M. on April 26th, 2012 9:11 am

    Frannie, I’m so sorry. It sucks for you right now, and I’m sorry that you’re going through it. In time, I hope that this situation feels better to you, for the single reason that if your husband hadn’t left, he would probably still be cheating on you, and it’s better to get the toxic influences out of your life. Reach out to your friends, ask them if they can spare some time from their busy lives to try a new thing with you. When I had a bad breakup, tae kwon do saved my sanity. It was just so exhilarating to kick that freaking board! One of my female friends took me to go and look at fossils, and that has led to a new hobby for me, I liked it so much. I wish you the best.

  26. Molly on April 26th, 2012 9:29 am

    This blog is amazing. Not only do your posts speak to so many of us but the comments often just blow me away. So many good thoughts and shared wisdom.

    Frannie I am also sorry you are going through the shittiest of times. I too hope this is your “clearing”.

  27. Sonja on April 26th, 2012 12:40 pm

    THIS IS FANTASTIC! I love the thought of “clearing a space” and I feel like my life desperately needs that. And I even like the little task of putting a note somewhere that someone would find it. I’m going to do it.

  28. David on April 26th, 2012 8:03 pm

    Thank you Linda. Very well written and hits home.

  29. Melissa A. on April 27th, 2012 6:57 am

    Frannie, I too hate to hear what you are going through. I once went through an awful experience that shattered my world and learned from it that when I reached out to friends/neighbors for support or just to vent, I was shocked at how they all stepped up and were there for me. Even people I don’t know well. Please reach out to someone to help get you through. My favorite advice: It is ok to not be ok.

  30. MEP on April 27th, 2012 7:05 am

    Can we talk about me for a minute? About six months ago I ended a close friendship because it was toxic. I love this friend and it was so painful, and I struggled a lot with wondering if I had done the right thing. But as you described, it was so CLEARING to my life. It opened me up to get closer to other friends who are less nuts (and better people, frankly). It removed a bit of stress with my husband. It allowed me to see that the drama was worse for me than the fun times and the pride of being there for someone (a grown ass woman) who “needed me” were good. I don’t feel like all clearings need to be as difficult or permanent as ending a relationship, but I’m really glad I did it. I didn’t realize she was holding me down until I cut her loose.

  31. Kathryn on April 27th, 2012 12:04 pm

    I just resigned from my job of nine years and was looking for a little sign to let me know that I made the right decision. Thanks for making that happen. You always post the right thing at the right time.

  32. Kim on April 27th, 2012 12:20 pm

    This was amazing for me to read too. And Frannie? I went through something similar a few years back (we ended up getting back together after a 9-month separation) and your story reminded me of the time I was innocently sitting in traffic (the separation had already begun & I had already started having moments of being okay) when who pulls up next to me at a red light but my husband & the Other Woman. He looked at me with a sick, sad smile, she looked like she wanted to kill me and I waved, smiled and spun off when the light turned green thinking how ridiculous life is sometimes. I wish you peace & happiness – you will laugh at this someday.

  33. Nancy on April 29th, 2012 1:45 pm

    Fabulous post, Linda — I love it! So glad you write this blog and share it with the rest of us.

    This next phase of your life is going to be amazing – I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

  34. Lisa on April 30th, 2012 8:17 am

    Timely post for me – I started removing personal stuff from my office a few weeks ago. I’m ready to move on and need to put the word out to the universe. Happy for you that you made the transition!

  35. Lorri on April 30th, 2012 12:31 pm

    I just really love you. I’m a faithful reader and a rare-if-ever commenter. But you influence, delight, encourage and stay by my side with every post. Thank you, friend.

  36. cara on April 30th, 2012 12:58 pm

    thanks for sharing this post. :)

  37. Amy on April 30th, 2012 1:53 pm

    Thank you (she types with tears in her eyes). I started a new job one month ago, leaving a very toxic environment for a fabulous, supportive, expanding one. It was scary and hard after 11 years, but it is so worth it. This all on the heels of leaving my marriage which had also become toxic and harmful for two young boys to grow up in. Starting over at the age of 44….dreams never die.

  38. Kate on May 2nd, 2012 10:03 am

    I have been reading you for years (2003-ish?) but I don’t think I’ve ever commented. I just wanted to thank you for this post. It inspired me to go to the Mondo Beyondo website and sign up for their upcoming Dream Lab. It sounds like just what I need. Thanks for this & all the years of wonderful writing.

  39. Claire on May 7th, 2012 5:49 pm

    I really appreciate you posting this. I loved the bit about clearing space. It inspired me to clear space this weekend in my car, and to spend some time thinking about the new adventures I’m inviting.

  40. Shannon Lell on May 9th, 2012 7:43 pm

    Aw, I loved this one. I guess because I’m TOTALLY a woo-woo let’s-explore-our-feelings-type. :-)

  41. Jill Browning on May 13th, 2012 3:00 pm

    Shit. I cleaned out most of my cubicle a few months ago, except for a few pictures hanging so that my coworkers/bosses wouldn’t get the wrong idea. Nothing’s happened so far. But now I’m going to take those fucking pictures down because fuck ’em. So thanks. And I’m so happy you get to move to Oregon. ;)

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