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Speaking to the Soul: Clearing the decks

Speaking to the Soul: Clearing the decks

by Kristin Fontaine

The readings for 3 January didn’t speak to me this week. They are at Mission St.Clare for those who are interested.

What I have been thinking about is clearing the decks, physically, mentally, spiritually. This is fairly typical of me, I harbor deep impulses to get rid of things when I am stressed. There is no doubt that 2016 was a stressful year for me personally, medically, and professionally. The details of that stress are less important than their effect. I’m ready to start the new year with a clean slate.

I want to let go of books I’ve been keeping because I might read them someday. The reality is that I do most of my reading in short form on electronic devices these days. I used to be an avid long-form book reader, but that part of me is gone and keeping the left-overs adds unneeded weight to my mind. My mental inventory of my stuff becomes clogged with such items.

Un-read books* are just one category of physical things that weigh heavily on my mind and cause me to think “I ought to do X” and then feel bad that I’m not doing X. I suspect the coming year is going to be difficult without X in it.

What I am really doing when I clear my physical space, is clearing my mental space of outworn ideas, things I thought I wanted to learn, or concepts about myself as a person that no longer fit who I really am.

My self-concept used to include being a voracious reader. Years ago I couldn’t imagine not being that person, but here I am in 2017 and I read two hard-copy books and a small handful of e-books. That was it, from someone who used to read a book a week and could devour an entire book in a night. Some of that shift was cultural and some internal to me but the net result is that my habits and what I enjoy are different than they were when I was in my 20’s. My 20’s reading self is, for all intents an purposes, dead.

One of my on-going projects has been to encourage people to get their estates in order. As part of the work I have done on that topic I have learned how little our personal possessions mean to the friends and family we leave behind. I am the person in my family who is the most into family history and all of the objects I have from various grandparents and great grandparents would fit in one small room with space to spare. That is multiple full households of belongings boiled down over the years to a few keepsakes. Most of what they owned may have meant something to them, but without the web of their life the meaning falls away.

If I have things in my own life that no longer hold meaning for me, letting go of them will make more space both physically and mentally for the things I want to do and the ways I want to think.

If the present is a boat in the rough seas of the past and present, it behooves me to think about packing only that which will nourish me on the journey.

So for 2017 I want to pack in daily prayer for my spirit, yoga for body and mind, political action for the future, and knitting, baking, and music to feed my body and spirit. Hopefully these things will give me strength to do the work I have been given to do personally and professionally in the year to come.

What do you want to pack on your own boat and what would you choose to leave behind?


* And if I do feel the need to read a physical book, I have a physical library within 3 blocks of my house with amazing inter-library loan options (and ebooks!). So not only can I read all the books I want, I can do it for the cost of the taxes that support our library system– for which I pay anyway.

Kristin Fontaine is an itinerant Episcopalian, crafter, hobbyist, and unstoppable organizer of everything. Advent is her favorite season, but she thinks about the meaning of life and her relationship to God year-round. It all spills out in the essays she writes. She and her husband own Dailey Data Group, a statistical consulting company.


Image: Painting by Ann Fontaine “Boat”


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Ess Beigh

Superb! Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been strongly motivated to do recently – and why.

Linda Pineo

Thank you!

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