Monday, January 6, 2014

My House

There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.                                                     
Rumer Godden. A House with Four Rooms

I have spent a good deal of my adult life dealing with the after effects of trauma.   In the analogy of A House with Four Rooms, I have lived mostly in an emotional room which has been a dark, dank basement.  It has been a 24/7 struggle to control my environment to avoid triggers, try to maintain an appearance of normalcy and to constantly climb out of the holes I was forever falling in to.    And then, after years of therapy, I seem to have finally conquered PTSD.  

Two years ago I had a bilateral mastectomy and I much of my time in the physical room, the majority of my energy going into recuperation and regaining my strength.  

And so now I find myself free of those burdens, with a lot of spare “time” on my hands and a desire to better integrate these rooms within me into one whole person.

With this in mind, I have set my 2014 phrase as “my house”.

And because I am list oriented I have made this list as a guideline for my daily practice*** -

- do at least one type of exercise
- eat at least one piece of fruit
- eat at least one vegetable

And yes I know I should (and most often do) eat more fruits and veggies.  But this is more about being aware of what I am eating.

- learn at least one new thing
- read at least one thing from a different point of view than mine
- practice awareness through all my senses

- acknowledge whatever emotion I may be feeling and sit with it
- tell at least one person how much I care about them
- practicing “letting go” of at least one insult/hurt/disappointment

- spend at least one minute in the morning setting my intentions
- spend at least one minute at night to be grateful for the day
- appreciate at least one thing of beauty

And because I don’t want my house to sit in isolation,  my daily practice will include:

- compassion for someone else
- at least one good deed for someone else
- write or call at least one friend

It may seem like an extensive list to accomplish daily but most of it happens simultaneously.  For example, yesterday I went snowshoeing with my daughter.   I had a specific trail I wanted to hike, but she was leading and took us in a different direction.   

So all in one trip I got my exercise, I was aware of the cold on my skin, the smell of pine in the air, the awesome sparking reflection of the sun on the snow, and the sound of my snowshoes crunching on the snow.  I appreciated many beautiful things, particularly these -

and learned that they are called winter berries.  I let go of my need to hike the way I wanted to go, and told my daughter how very much I enjoy spending time with her.   Easy.  And I came home feeling great!

2013 was a year of unbelievable emotional and physical accomplishment for me.  I hope to make 2014 a year of great awareness and appreciation for all that healing.  And most of all to work on becoming one whole person again.

***daily practice will also include forgiveness if I don’t accomplish everything


  1. It's ambitious, but doable. And, I'm very glad to see the caveat of forgiveness!

    I may incorporate some of these practices myself. You are setting a good example, 8, take credit for that too!

    Snowshoe trip -- I had a feeling there would be some sort of outdoor snow-based activity for you with this storm. It's wonderful that you take advantage of what winter gives you. Good for you!


    1. I think the most important thing is to try to be aware of ALL these aspects of ourselves. It is easy to slip into one room and stay there because it is comfortable. My goal is mostly to be aware of the other rooms and work to spend some time in each.

      Sunday was the first day above 15 degrees to be able to go out and enjoy the snow. And it was another really light powdery snow. Beautiful. We are now hoping for a good mushy snowfall so we can make snow sculptures. If you live in the northeast, you might as well enjoy it.

  2. Oh how beautiful - that snow looks gorgeous! We hiked yesterday in about a foot of the darned stuff and it was wonderful. My son came back to the car completely and utterly sopping wet - what is it about 9 year old boys and their need to physically ROLL AROUND in any snow they see? Thank goodness for the wool long underwear that repel the water instead of absorbing it.

    I love these lists and the idea of four rooms - I've never heard it before, but it's very useful.

    And, the forgiveness clause - that's requisite.

    1. My dog does that too - just lays on her back and rolls around in the snow. She looks so happy doing it, perhaps we should all try it : )

      The forgiveness clause has already been put into use, and I imagine it will be well worn by year's end.

  3. I like that proverb as it reminds me of the four legged table… another image of balance which we all need.

    I remember reading somewhere that being holy means being “whole-ly”.

    1. I have long had a desire to reclaim what I lost long ago. I have learned that I can't go back to the person I once was, but I do yearn for that feeling of wholeness. That would be holy to me.

  4. Four rooms? I need a warehouse just for my emotional crap.

    Good luck with your list. I do believe that balance is the key to a whole and happy life.

    1. Balance yes. And awareness I think.

      Wouldn't it be nice if we could box up all our emotional baggage and storage it somewhere, off site? I was thinking that my physical room needs a complete gym, a personal trainer and a personal chef.

  5. Very impressive. Food for thought here...

    1. I hope it is workable. It will probably require adjustments. Mostly I am just working on the awareness and balance parts.

  6. I have heard this ... it also reminds me of the medicine wheel. Same principle.

    The only thing I would add is to also read things from the middle. What journalism used to be. Now one has to search it out.

  7. I hadn't heard of the medicine wheel and just looked it up. Thanks - it has given me new ideas for executing my goals.

    I think that social media has killed good information. The Huffington Post culls what they think is important, prints a blurb, and then everyone regurgitates it on their FaceBook pages. The world becomes saturated with it, to the exclusion of possibly more newsworthy stories, and then it goes away until the next sound bite the next day, hour, minute. And the same with the conservative feeds. I am actively working to find outlets that will give me a more balanced, and less handpicked, array of information. If anyone has recommendations, I would be happy to hear them.

  8. I would be happy to know those outlets too. Moreover, love the analogy and the idea of living in each room, each day.