When it comes to stuff, there is always too much, much too much of the time.
All of it needs my attention, nothing gets enough of it and like everyone I know, I’m sleep-deprived and overwhelmed. The dishes don’t do themselves, the mail keeps piling up, the pet sheds, the news howls, the weeds grow, and the laundry perpetually plots against us. Just when you’ve finished folding the last load, hot from the dryer on a sweltering day, you peel off your dirty clothes and the cycle begins again. Tabletops are rarely clear, drawers are full of long-lost keys and screws and parts unknown and the Christmas decor… don’t even.
There’s my own stuff, and the boys’ stuff, and the stuff the boys bring home from “the bins” to sell online that seems to multiply, and there’s all the stuff that’s been left behind. I swear I’m not a hoarder, I just have too much stuff. I’ve cut way down on buying and try to take two things out for everything that comes in, but I’m losing the battle and the war. Maybe it’s the spin of the news cycle that’s got me twitterpated, but I find myself waking up to the rotating clutter of life and the world at large. It’s America, after all, and we’re nothing if not a consumer culture but it is insane.
Our collective obsession with stuff is the emotion we attach to it. My brother dies. Stuff. My husband dies. More stuff. All of this stuff is too precious to be tossed because that feels disrespectful, right? Losing the person is unbelievably hard, letting go of a shoebox full of “How are you? I am fine” letters written by a love-struck middle-schooler should be easy. But it isn’t. I’m overly cautious, telling myself I’m saving things for the boys who may want to wander through these someday, even thought they’ve shown no interest over the last four years, and heaven forbid when my time comes, they’ll be stuck with a slim life insurance policy and a bunch more stuff.
Still… it feels like you’re erasing an existence.
What’s stacked in the garage, taking up space on shelves and in rafters, isn’t what overwhelms me… at this point. I’m concerned with what is right in front of me; the clothes I move from closet to closet as the seasons change, skirts too small and pants whose rise has grown short over the year, the shoes to be tripped over, and that folded laundry that’s yet to make it into the drawers. On Memorial Day weekend I spent a little “down time” looking at the feng shui of my home, trying to clear the chaos by moving furniture while listening to self-help podcasts on my iPod. Feng Shui is an interesting concept regarding the auspicious placement of your stuff to create good “chi”, which is all a fancy way of saying spring cleaning with magical intention followed by the dance of the tchotchkes.
The entire ritual made me feel better. Space was opened up, things were grouped in harmonious ways and, if the Internet is right I should be rolling in money faster than a wire from the Prince of Nigeria. While obsessing on the Bagua, best mirror placement, and the right corner for the lucky bamboo, I learned of a lesser-known feng shui practice. Getting rid of twenty-seven things a day for nine days. This is meant to empty what is too full, making room for more abundance (i.e. stuff). Both 9 and 27 are lucky numbers but something tells me that in the days some 3,500+ years before the invention of the magnetic compass, your average Chinese household didn’t have much more than twenty-seven things. Maybe that’s why they didn’t go a full two weeks.
Simplifying my life is an ongoing process, complicated by the need to make a living, the consumerist barrage of American lifestyle and some basic fears of letting go. Drawn to the efficiency and magic of it, I will embark on this journey, ready to pitch 243 things in less than a fortnight. I’m sure it it will take a few rounds before I’d make it to the garage, but it’s a start. I’ll let you know how it goes next week… if I don’t chuck the computer.
Did you know that Denver Botanic Gardens is ranked one of The World’s Most Beautiful Botanic Gardens? I’ve walked there every month for a year, sometimes more. Comfortable with the sweetness of time passing, I walk with friends or I walk alone. I always have an extra ticket…
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]You may have seen Brene Brown’s TED Talk before, maybe not. I watched it again today and I’m sharing with you because it’s soooo good. I hope you enjoy.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Let’s face it, courtship has never been easy. Where Victorian times had their parlors full of would be suitors perched on uncomfortable furniture with a maiden aunt breathing down their cravats, the 21st century has an app. Today’s dating game has replaced the calling card with a 240 character bio, a bathroom selfie and a photo of your dog. Rather than his recitation of poetry and her piano recital, we settle for few texts, a brief phone call and a face-to-face for a bit of sniffing over tapas and craft beer.
The search for love changes and evolves as we wander through life. In youth we’re still finding ourselves, our careers and our passions, even as we seek another. We crave romance, a Hallmark card soulmate, or perhaps “The One” to fill a driving desire to start a family. Years after the big things have been done and you find yourself single, how do you find the next “One”? You hope, of course, you’ll meet the old-fashioned way; at the art museum, the grocery store, the dog park:a friend will introduce you or… you’ll go online.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time –Maya Angelou
This where it gets complicated. Profiles that lead with “I’m just a simple guy…” –(code for I haven’t read a book since college), photos of a grown up man in a baseball cap and mirrored shades (can you say creeper?) or Colorado favorite, standing on top of a mountain in a spandex suit with your bike held over your head (the cult of the super-fit)– make me think being single ain’t so bad.To me life’s next “Big Thing” is the way I choose to spend every moment between this breath and the grave, so choosing who to share this precious time with takes intention, an open heart and a bit of research. As a writer and Realtor my online profile is wide open. A simple search for Tracy Denver brings me up on the fist page, which makes it easy for a potential date to know a lot about me with a few clicks of a mouse and though I’ve never shown up to find someone so well-prepared, before I meet someone in LoDo after dark I’m going straight to Google.
Most of the time you strike out but when you find they have a blog, you’ve stuck cyber gold. Writing a blog is the epitome of sharing… sometimes over-sharing. Whether it’s business expertise, travel stories, life experience or how often you floss your teeth, you tell us who you are. You write about the day your cat died, I see how you handle grief and loss, the time you left it all behind to travel the world tells me you’re independently wealthy, incredibly irresponsible or in search of nirvana. A month in Spain, a week in Columbia, a year in India all have different connotations, don’t they? Bloggers tell their story, put it out for all the world to see and most likely forget about it… but it’s out there.
Most people like to live in illusions- J Krishnamurti
You read the blog, had the date, started the relationship,and conveniently forgotten what you’d learned before you’d pulled up to the first valet. Still, you surprised when the story unfolds exactly as written. We all do this. It doesn’t take a blog to get the information, we get it from friends and family in the way they behave, in the emotional well we return to time and again, knowing it is dry. So, what is it in us that chooses to ignore what we know in favor of what we want to believe is true? Real time politics show us that even Trump’s own words do not dissuade those who want to believe in him. The world woke up after the #Brexit vote, shocked by the results, raging at reality and reeling from effects that global economists have predicted for months. We share information on Social Media to support our beliefs without checking the source or the facts. In a world of spin, Tweet, best intention and illusion, how does one discern the truth?
The heart wants what the the heart wants- Unknown
To know the heart, yours or another’s, it takes silence and the stillness to listen carefully. Listening is a skill to be cultivated in our noisy world. Not only must you tune out the distraction to truly hear the other, it takes great patience to listen deep within oneself. Attention must be paid to the clanging, the white noise and the story. What is the truth of the story being told and how is that filtered by the one you create? Sifting calmly through the actual information, careful not to judge, is more productive and requires more of you than spinning fantasies and making excuses. Illusion mimics scar tissue, protecting an open, tender heart from that which it already knows. Know what you know.
And if someone tells you they rarely floss their teeth… believe them.
I have this friend…
And this friend set up a series of tasks to be done in a specific amount of time. We all do this, right? That’s probably how you spent your day. Morning alarm clocks ring and the battle begins with a slap of the Snooze button. Racing to meet due dates, deadlines, and school schedules, we “block out” time, “tackle” to-do lists and “rush” through traffic. Sounds like a football game. We complain there’s never enough of it, chasing minutes rather than savoring moments as if the only measure of time is what can be accomplished between sunrise and sundown. Time has never changed… you have.
Remember when you were young and summer break was so exciting? Sleeping in, sleepovers and sleep-away camps sound divine in early June, but come September the summer had lasted long enough. You got bored. The natural rhythm of seasonal time brings us full circle; from the restless excitement of the final school bell to the excited entrance into the next grade—taller, tanner and ready for the next adventure. Why don’t we feel that anymore? Because we’ve got this time thing all wrong.
The measure of time is a natural cycle of days, nights and seasons in continuum. We are fooling ourselves that it can be managed, bottled, blocked or wasted; it can only be perceived as having value or as the enemy, but in its essence it just is. And it’s all we have.
All this said, I do find that my life is more fluid and enjoyable when I set up time to focus on any given task—time blocking is one word for it. When I allow myself to be fully engaged in a single activity— property searches, phone calls, exercise, writing and even paying bills— I feel and perform better when I give up the notion that I’m in control of time. Living with sensory integration disorder, I’ve learned that the race with time is one I’ll never win; dust and laundry prove my point. It’s easier for me to choose how to engage with it and to give myself the gift of focus. In a multi-tasking paradigm, I never get things done. In engagement it flows and flies, making the most mundane… joyful.
So my friend… Overwhelmed and over-scheduled, stretched to the bursting point. Setting aside weekends and evenings to catch up wasn’t working and the desire for life/work balance had become more stressful rather than reducing it. There was no room to move forward with so much on the plate. “I’ve planted some poppy seeds in an egg crate, set them in the sun, and when the seeds have sprouted and the plants are robust, I’ll have completed what is weighing me down”.
What a wonderful thing, I thought; to give oneself the time it takes nature to make manifest what is possible and mirror a span in time. Last time I checked in the reply was, “cultivating poppies”, an image I adore as I move through my own sense of task and time. Today there was a rainstorm, our sunny skies turned grey and the sweaters came out again. Soon we’ll be wishing it weren’t so hot. Both are needed to cultivate your poppies.
I have great clothes. Really. I have a closet full of beautiful clothes for every occasion in only two sizes, perfect for the life I think I’m living. I have coordinated outfits and signature pieces, perfect for the office I pay for but rarely go in to, perfect for the camping trips scheduled but abandoned, mountain weather I’m rarely in, the soirees I attend but can’t find anything to wear to and every imaginable combo for the vacations I take and over-pack for. Theory and reality.
Most mornings I wake up at dawn, pull on a t-shirt and a pair of snappy yoga pants I bought for the classes I’ve paid for yet never gone to, take my son to school, return home to make a delicious hand-crafted cappuccino and head to the desk in my home office. I fire up the computer and the laptop, open my contact management program on one, my writing program on the other, log on to the MLS… and Facebook. (You know where this is going, don’t you?)
All of this is fine really, and I do get things done. I mean, something must be going right to be able to pay for the multiple devises, the software, the yoga classes, the office desk fee and the closet full of clothes. And I devote enough time to writing to keep calling myself a writer. But where is the gap between the life I think I’m living and the one that takes place day-to-day?
The question of theory is a check-in on the goals and resolutions for 2016. In theory I’m the girl who gets up at dawn, pulls on those yoga clothes, does the school drop-off, heads to the gym/yoga class, showers and dresses into the sassy ensemble I’ve carefully packed and loaded into the car, and shows up at the office for a full day of work as a busy Realtor. At the end of the day (in my mind) I return to my home office and work for an hour or two on the Great American Novel before throwing a few shallots in the pan to sauté.
As a self-employed single mother, my time is flexible but never my own. Like most in my profession, I wake up every day unemployed and have to get my hustle on, as we all do, but rather than punch a time-clock, I have to time-block to get all that prospecting, house showing, contract writing, negotiating, parenting, exercising and creativity in. Don’t we all? Frankly, I’m not sure how anyone does it, who has time to bake cupcakes, or which day “laundry day” actually is.
But this is not specifically a productivity rant, rather an inquiry into the glitch that keeps us from writing that book or taking that tango lesson. Modern American life asks us to buy into images of perfection, because without feelings of personal deficit, how could we sell things? Madison Avenue must create the perpetual void to be filled with luxury cars, hamburgers, fashion trend and heartburn. We’ve grown so uncomfortable with the empty space within, the interesting space, we hurl ourselves moment-by-moment, away from it with busyness. I call it perpetual prepping; getting ready to be ready. It is the yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, seeking a way in or a way out.
2015 was a “structural” year for me. I opened the windows, dumped out my toy box, and got rid of what I’d outgrown, was no longer entertaining and/or working. The result was the grand realization that what I want I already have, I just want it more clearly. No sweeping changes or mid-life crisis, only the desire for simplicity, authenticity, and presence. I could dump my theory into the mixing bowl, add a dash of focus, blend until it becomes reality and, boom. Cupcakes!
I try this, making the commitment write more, I add time. I rearrange my head to include my body, specifically exercising before the caffeine has fully hit, a yogi move for sure. The night before, I pack my gym bag, my work clothes, briefcase, and put them in the Subaru. So excited to become that new and improved Tracy, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep, but pop of bed at the first alarm. Being met with a “Hello” from Adele at sunrise should only happen if you’re just getting home holding your high heels, but I rally. Dropping Gabe at East, I pull into 24hr Fitness by 7:45 feeling pretty damned good about myself. Maybe I can be ‘that girl’ after all, I mean this is going great, right? Workout complete, I’d even remembered the towel, my self-esteem rising with the hot shower. Pulling on the nude fishnets I’d never worn, I’m troubled by the fact that the crotch seems to want to stay halfway between my knees and hips, the hem has fallen out of my skirt, there’s a spot on my blouse which hadn’t come out in the wash and I’ve not packed mascara. I soldier on into the office looking like a hot mess, reminding myself it’s day one. The next day goes better, though I forgot to pack a bra which wasn’t my best look at 25 either.
Day-by-day, as I morph my theoretical life with the reality I dream of, I learn how much courage it takes to truly be yourself. How much clarity it takes to slough off cultural concepts of needing to fill a void. I am that void, that mystery, and with all the new space in the toy box it’so much easier to find what I’m looking for. And though a few million things need practice, today I will be more present, plan, and try not to forget my foundations…my mother’s word for the brassiere department.
Quite early this beautiful morning Gabe and I flew into the sunrise toward DIA, racing the clock to catch the plane. My youngest at fifteen has never flown alone until today. After two planes, one long delay, one two hour bus ride and one another, he is now officially off the grid. Tonight my younger son sleeps under the stars on an Outward Bound Heroic Journey with twenty-five other grieving teens in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area outside of Ely, Minnesota. I don’t even remember a time when he’s been out of ear shot, or text range. When I got the email, “Well, they’re off, and we usually don’t hear from them during the week, so… just relax and we’ll see you on Sunday”, my immediate response was a sense of relief he’d arrived safely. Hours later, there’s been no “what’s for dinner?” bounding up the stairs, no eye roll when I answer and, knowing that it will be that way for a week, it suddenly feels so different than when he’s at a friend’s.
Absence rings through the night air as I sink into the idea that he is officially off the grid. How strange in this modern day to have your child out there in the big wide world without an electronic tether. I wonder if he’s homesick, if he’s scared, and I don’t know if that’s out of my deep concern or a deeper sense of wanting to be missed. I worry and hope he’s warm, dry and has a belly full. I smile because he’ll learn to read a compass, and I’ll learn to navigate my way by the heavens. I take a moment to feel the space between us, the silence, and I know this is something I’ll have to get used to.
I’m practicing, feeling the fullness in the emptiness. Last week the cat came home after three days, very sick, and he went off again to spend three days at the vet. The house was not the same without him. This week is Gabriel’s turn for a solo adventure (god I hope it’s better than the cat’s) and the house is not the same without him, either. Spring has been a time of adjustment as we lean into the first year of life without their father, Dane. But change comes bearing unseen gifts, and broken hearts can be open hearts. Softer.
This is the stepping off place, the launch pad where he blasts into the world and I am earthbound on my own wilderness adventure, canoeing through the unfamiliar waters and portaging over time. Somewhere out there in this great big world lays my baby boy, drifting to sleep to the lullaby of mosquitoes buzzing. We’ll both make adjustments this week, and learn more than we can remember. But my, won’t we have good stories?
There’s a lot of talk in Denver about this “crazy new real estate market”, how “everything’s different than it used to be”, and after six years of heartbreak, I say “thank god”. For those interested in real estate, and for those who might be considering buying or selling a property, understanding the big picture is critical. So here’s where it stands.
Most people think this tremendous seller’s market and that the super low inventory is something new, or that the market’s going to suddenly erupt overnight. Neither is true. Here’s the truth: we are FOUR YEARS PAST THE BOTTOM of our last real estate cycle. Just because the Denver Post is suddenly aware of the real estate market, or Zillow writes screeching articles about the tight market in order to sell ad space don’t be fooled. It’s not new. It is a logical continuation of a market that is reacting strongly to the over-selling we saw between 2007 and 2009 (which finally bottomed out in 2009). It’s doing exactly what real estate market cycles do. They rise and fall over long periods of time, but historically (and I mean over the past 40 years) residential real estate appreciation has averaged 6 percent per year and there is no reason to think that is going to change over the next 40 years.
We tend to think of market cycles in short-terms, spiking and crashing over short periods of time, but a quick look at the last market cycle clearly shows this is not how real estate works. Real estate cycles tend to move in much broader periods, 7-10 years are typical over the past 40 years. This is why predicting short-term market movements can be very difficult, whereas assuming the market will move in 7-10 cycles is a pretty good guess. During these past four years, as we continue the rise from our low, we have seen more of a seller’s market. Plummeting inventory and rising prices drove nervous buyers into multiple offer competitions with happy sellers getting the price they want. In fact, look at Chart Y and you’ll get a great perspective of how strong our market is. You see that the metro Denver 2013 Closed Dollar Volume of all residential sales hit a new high which translates into a record amount of money in the pockets of sellers. Good times for sellers!
Many of my buyers are understandably nervous. Rents are skyrocketing (up 8% this year) but news articles and TV reports claim the market is teetering on the brink of a crash, creating a “Fear of Buying”.
So let me be clear: no one can predict the real estate market with 100% accuracy. I can’t, the Federal Reserve can’t, the banks with all the money can’t (obviously!), no one can. But, understanding how market cycles work, and recognizing how low our current inventory is, I can say with confidence I do not see any impending weakness in the market over the next couple of years. We are four years into what will probably be a typical 7-10 year cycle of low inventory and rising prices. I can’t tell you what the Dow Jones will finish at next Monday. I can’t tell you if the Rockies will win their fifth game of the season. I can’t tell you what the weather will be on April 3rd. But I can say with confidence that real estate tends to move over predictable long-term trends, and this market cycle has a long way to go.
Admit it. This thought has crossed your mind, hasn’t it? You’ve probably even made a mental note to ask me, or worse… unsubscribe. So what makes me send you this monthly missive? The reasons are few, but they’re mighty.
1. Yes, I am in the business of helping people buy and sell homes and I’d like for you to think of me should that thought also cross your mind. Pretty crafty, huh?
2. To keep you up to date with the Denver real estate market, how it’s doing and where it’s headed. Like this little ditty from USA Today.
2. I believe that life is richer when experienced in community, and that a community is empowered by engagement.
3. I believe that real estate is all about story. Every home, every buyer, every seller, comes with a tale to tell, a story to reveal.
4. I have a knack for meeting interesting people who do really cool things and I want to share them with you.
And here comes the mighty…
5. Every month when I send out my newsy little newsletter, chock full o’ tips about home values and market trends, writing of the wonders of a swanky little art space, or the best place to take a burlesque dance class on a Sunday morning, you call me. You reach out via comment, Facebook, phone or email to let me know what you thought, ask me a question, or (best of all) set up some face-time. And I like that. A lot.
Building and deepening relationships, creating dialogue, drinking coffee… whatever I can do to help you put a little bump in your daily grind.