deeper life

Growing Pains

I cannot believe how difficult it is to actually write this. I’ve had a post screaming in my  head for days now. Like a loud, beautiful piece of music that won’t go away until I DO something about it. So here I am and you know what I hear in my head? Nothing. Silence.

Whatever. I’m doing this anyway.

When I started writing and posting on my blog last year, my intention was to build something from which I could eventually figure out a way to monetize. I was in love with the idea of minimalism. I read stories from other minimalists who made money from writing about getting rid of their junk and I thought “Hey, I can do that. I love writing and I love getting rid of stuff.” Instant, easy, awesomness, right?

The more I wrote, the more I wanted people to read (and like and comment on) what I wrote. I needed that daily dopamine fix. I sacrificed sleep and time with “real” people in my life to get that little rush of feel good. My WordPress app on my phone became my lifeline to how many people had actually read and decided to follow my blog. As the readership increased, so did the time I spent on my blog and reading other blogs.

Looking back I see it now: I had become a blog junkie.

Then something happened that I could never have predicted. Ever. In a million fear-filled years of my life.

First, I took this set of pictures for The Closet Countdown project:

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This is where my life ended and began with a rather innocent thought. Something deep inside me bubbled to the surface. Ancient. Powerful. Dangerous. Here goes…I thought that I actually looked pretty in these pictures. I felt pretty. For two whole seconds I tasted that freedom that only comes from self-love and fearless living. I even attempted to write about it here  in a post about the morning after The Closet Countdown ended. Then Nancy (please go check out her awesome blog My Year[s] of Sweat if you haven’t already) posted a comment pointing out how I had grown in confidence since I started my little experiment.

A perfect spiritual storm poured down. It broke me. And inside I began to walk a new road.

It was beautiful and horrible all at the same time. Beautiful because I needed to begin to learn to like myself. Horrible because I was so afraid…

Writing and posting and commenting and responding to comments began to seem distasteful in a way that I could not explain. So I gave myself permission to quit. I used my time to dig deep. To learn to say loving things to myself. To forgive. To dream. To love. I found so many beautiful things hiding under a lifetime of fear and self-loathing.

The result has been nothing short of amazing. I will tell you more about it. But not today. Maybe not even tomorrow. But I will. Not because I feel like I have to. But because I want to.

I make no promises about this blog . I can’t afford to right now. That means I may not even respond to your wonderful comments. I may not read or follow your blog – even if you read or follow mine. However, I do promise to send sunshine your way. I’m not doing this to make money. I’m doing this to increase the light in the world. Simple but true.

If you are still reading, I am most grateful. It is not quite the rush that it once was but it adds joy to my day to know that someone read and enjoyed what I wrote. I’m fascinated by the connection we make as writer to reader…

Here is my sunshine for you today:

I wish you warm, beautiful light. The kind that fills your heart and makes you want to make the world a better place. I wish this for you with my whole heart…

Love and Light,

Ginny

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Little Heart. Beautiful Courage.

You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it. – Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon’s Character) in We Bought a Zoo

My favorite man on the planet has many talents, and he gets to include “versatile, gifted musician” on his life’s repertoire of skills. A bar in a nearby town has become a pretty popular spot on Thursday nights because they host an open mic night. It’s not your usual gaggle of solo singers and wannabe guitar players. The guys and gals who show up to perform have some serious chops. On a whim, I decided to release my deep attachment to going to bed super early and go with him.

I don’t know how things are for you. But I have these weird days when my perception of myself is all wonky. No matter what I do, I feel like my hair and skin look like crap and my clothes look boring, old, and show off every flaw in my figure. That’s how I felt while getting ready that day. I finally settled on my tried and true Lily, no accessories except for my dry, summer locks, and a little extra eyeliner.

I’m a bit of an oddball. I bring a notebook with me and write my thoughts when I don’t know what else to do with myself. I use writing to help me push through my strange insecurities. Oh, and beer. Beer helps too. While I sat with my little notebook, I watched people and listened to the music. I noticed the beauty in all of it. A light began to grow in my heart. Here are some snippets of what I wrote:

  • I’m fucking in love with all of it. This place. The dirty hardwood floor. The smoke. The lanky cowboy dancing with his granddaughter. The chick with the super bright orange toenails.

  • It’s a gritty good time at its finest and I’m so in love with all of it.

  • None of these people give a shit about minimalism or running or travel clothing. But we are here, connected to the music and the beautiful noise of a good time.

  • I’m not a smoker but I inhale deeply. Let the air and the music of voices fill me.

  • I stand at the edge of the universe in complete awe of it all.

Then my eyes wandered to a rather overweight woman across the room. She was sitting with friends and seemed happy. There was a lovely glow about her. Then a familiar “knowing” came over me. It doesn’t happen very often. It requires a lot of courage on my part. Mostly because I’m still growing out of my insecurities. But I also know that I must do it or I will regret it forever.

I knew I had to go tell her I thought she was beautiful.

So here I am, bad hair day, running low on confidence, and I feel the nudge to walk across a crowded room, in front of the band, approach a stranger, and like a total kook, tell her I think she’s beautiful. Great. Just great.

At first, I really balked. No way was I going to do this. No effing way.

So I drank another beer and thought about it. My heart felt so full love for the moment. So in a break between songs, I gathered my courage and went for it. I walked across the room without tripping. I made it to her and here is how the conversation went:

Me: Hi. I know this is really random and you might think I’m crazy but I just want to tell you that I think you are beautiful.
Her: Me? Oh thank you. What a sweet thing to say! Bless you.
(She touched my arm.)
This is my first time to go out in years.
Me: Well you look great. There is just something about you that I noticed from across the room that glows and I knew I needed to tell you that.
Her: Oh thank you (with tears in her eyes). I was just telling my friend that I thought you were beautiful had such pretty hair.
(Then she hugged me.)
(I smiled.)
(Her friends were giving me some pretty strange looks.)
(I didn’t care.)
Me: That’s all I had to say really.
(I smiled and shrugged. Unsure of what to say next.)
(She hugged me again.)
Her: Thank you again.

Tears filled my eyes as I went back to my seat.

I pulled out my notebook and wrote about our conversation. Then I wrote this:

Now I’m the nerdy girl in her Lily dress writing in a journal. In a bar. Shit yes. This is who I am.

The memory of the last time I felt the urge to tell a stranger I thought they were beautiful came back to me. I’ll skip the details but the bottom line is that she hugged me too and told that her husband had been fading into Altzheimer’s and that she had been having a really rough time. She said it made her day to have someone tell her she is beautiful.

For the rest of the night, I didn’t care about my hair, or my dress, or just about anything else. I was alive and full of light. Completely on fire with life.

My favorite man on the planet played like a boss and on the way home patiently listened to me as I told him about what happened and how this moment made me feel so beautiful. It wasn’t about the damned dress or the hair or my nerdy little notebook. It was about being connected to the light inside and pushing past my personal barriers and feeling myself shine. He smiled and agreed. He already knows I’m a total kook. 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read this, friend. I really appreciate your time and I hope that in some small way, it encourages you to listen to your heart, step outside of your comfort zone, and shine…

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This is me and my adorable friend Nikki on Thursday.

Confessions of a People Pleaser

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‘You want to know how I did it? This is how I did it, Anton: I never saved anything for the swim back.’
– Vincent (Ethan Hawke’s Character) from Gattaca

Writing about minimalism has been quite an experience for me. It’s like my soul needed to get rid of all the physical crap covering my dreams. There were reasons I buried them. Deep, personal reasons. I didn’t know it until I started digging and purging and writing. The more I pull away the clutter of my life, the more I must deal with those reasons.

In keeping with my commitment to remain transparent in my writing, I have a confession: I have this constant, inner-nagging to start a money-making blog. “Do what you love” they scream from flashing banners and obtrusive adverts, “and you can be rich.” I constantly go back to my own post about Making Money Online to remind myself that it takes time…and money does not pour in from the sky as I write about my personal struggle with releasing boxes of junk from my attic.

Still my little brain continues to buzz with ideas and strategies.

Which brings me to my second confession: I’ve been holding back. I have ideas and topics I want to write about and decide to “save them for my someday blog.” (You know, the one I’ll create and from which I will instantly get millions of viewers and huge commission checks?) And here is where I argue with my teenage self (my self-righteous, know-it-all teenage self who thought I should always have a very “noble” job) and tell her that I want to write about clothes.

Yes, clothes.

Not saving children in third world countries or how to live without plastic. But clothes. And not just any clothes. Adventure clothes. Clothes that can go from home to work to play. Clothes that travel the world or to the grocery store and still look great. I believe that all of life is an adventure.

It’s one of those dreams I found while digging. Letting it lie dormant was an early lesson in impressing people. When I said I wanted a career in fashion, people often nodded and smiled. When I changed my answer to “lawyer” I got a lot more interest and encouragement. So from then on, I dedicated my little soul to making sure my answer impressed people. Even if my heart wasn’t in it…and I intentionally hid my desire to do anything with clothing as a way to make a living.

But here I am, surrounded by people who choose to read what I write. Encouraging, wonderful, beautiful people. People like you who love to write and explore and discover the dreams we left behind. You don’t seem to mind my strange hue of sunshine. It’s a new, beautiful place. I love it. I don’t have to impress you with my words. I just have to be sincere.

Clothes sincerely fascinate me. I love how lines, and fit, and color, and fabric can highlight our best (or worst) features. I love discovering new ways to wear a sarong. I love figuring out how to coordinate five items into twenty different outfits. Versatility. Quality. Comfort. Function. Style. I love all of this about clothes.

I’m tired of letting my old need to impress people keep it buried.

So from here on out, I’m not going to hold back. Clothes are a big part of my simplicity quest and I have much to share on the subject. I read other blogs (about clothes) that I want to share with you. I want to learn more about the science of style and the beautiful differences in our body shapes and tell you what I find. I will continue to praise the Lily Dress but I want to explore other items I might consider essential. I’m so excited. I’m smiling as I type.

I come full circle with another confession (and a bit of surprise to myself): I don’t care if I make a dime writing about it.

It feels so much better when I don’t hold back. And when I don’t apologize for who I am, what I love, and what I want to write about.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. It is my heart and soul poured out into words…

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Stone Gate Days and Minimalism

“Do not be misled by what you see around you, or be influenced by what you see. You live in a world which is a playground of illusion, full of false paths, false values and false ideals. But you are not part of that world.”
– Sai Baba

On random days, I get this feeling. This uncomfortable feeling that we live in such a fake world. Buildings. Food. Politicians. As I look back, I can see that I’ve felt this way since I was very little. But it wasn’t until my twenties that I gave it a name: Stone Gate Days.

Our transition from Houston to “the country” took about a year. We made weekly trips back and forth to get more things (oh how I wish I could go back to that younger version of myself and tell her to just leave it all back there). On these trips, I watched the quick development of a cookie cutter subdivision go up almost piece by piece.

First, they cleared the land of its native trees and bushes and grass and flowers. Then trucks hauled in dirt to make roads. They covered it with concrete. Not long into the process, they built two columns on each side of the entrance. Tall, ugly pillars of particle board welcomed the contractors as the houses went up.

The houses were nice. Ordinary as far as subdivisions go. When they were finished building them, they brought in trees and pallets of grass. I thought of all the trees they tore down. The animals they probably displaced. Then I went home, felt the rough country grass beneath my feet, fed the goats, leaned against an old oak tree and promised to protect it.

The whole time, those unattractive, unfinished pillars waited. The neighborhood seemed finished. I wondered why they would leave those awful towers of crap-pasted wood at the entrance, convinced that they must just be place markers.

On a solo trip (to get more stuff, of course) I saw why. A group of men in dust-covered overalls worked around them, pasting stones to the cheap wood. On my way back by, I stopped and stared. It looked like real, solid, stone columns. At the top, the sign read “Stone Gate”.

I cried all the way home.

It felt like someone had drawn a curtain and I could see behind the false things of my world. Not just the subdivision. But all of it. It stained me. It broke me. In a red pill kind of way.

I don’t have to drive by that subdivision to remind myself of Stone Gate. When money was very tight one year, we decided to “treat” ourselves with a fast food burger. And then it hit me again. The “food” was fake. All a chemical illusion. I get the sense sometimes when I go shopping or catch a few commercials while waiting for my oil change. That sense that we are surrounded by lies.

I don’t cry for hours any more. My therapy is to go for a run in the woods. Or just press my face against the rough bark of a cedar tree to smell its sap. I hug my favorite man on the planet. I play with the kids in my life. I call my Mom. I pet our dogs. These things are the “realest” things in my life.

On my quest for simplicity, the easiest things to get rid of are the things that remind me of Stone Gate. Plastic parts painted to look like metal. Lotion that smells like lavender but doesn’t actually have any lavender in it. Foods that have to scream “natural” and “wholesome” on the label with a chemical ingredient list a mile long.

I’m still feeling my way around minimalism. I move forward. I fall back. I stall. I learn. The more I do it, the more I realize that I want a life free of Stone Gate. I want my living space, the tools I use, the person I am to be as real as possible. Simple. Beautiful. To the core.

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Minimalism. Just. Got. Real.

Sad painting

“When I diagnose my depression now, I think it was partially about saying goodbye to these kids that I always expected to have but already knew that I wouldn’t.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

Years ago, I had a crazy idea to put most of my things in the attic. I’m still going through them. Since the beginning of this year, I have braved the cold and heat of the storage space to chip away at the pile of boxes and random bags of things I don’t need. Piece by piece, I have lightened my load significantly. I am almost finished. I have only a few boxes left.

So close. Yet so far away.

At first, going up there was fun. Discovering boxes of things I could easily get rid of was thrilling. But now there are few surprises. The boxes that are up there are there because I’ve been putting them off. I know what’s in them. And this is where minimalism and I must get very real with each other.

The box I must face next is plain, average sized, and labeled “baby clothes”.

Minimalism and personal development seem to go hand in hand. Do we choose minimalism because we are ready to start dealing with our emotional inventory? Or does the internal work come with the commitment to minimalism? All I know from my experience so far is that it’s happening at the same time. In committing to dealing with the things from my past – things I don’t need anymore and things I hide from myself – I am committing to deal with the emotions and memories from my past as well. Not an easy task for me.

The baby clothes are mine. My mother saved them for me. I kept them in the past because they reminded me of my fabulous early childhood spent in San Salvador and Naples. I don’t remember but I imagine myself wearing them while scooting around with my parents from place to place where strangers would pinch my cheeks and touch my blond hair. As if holding the fabric would bring all that back to my mind somehow. But there is another reason I still have my old baby clothes.

I kept them in case I had a daughter someday.

Years ago, we tried to have a baby. I’ve always wanted children. Because I worked with kids so much, I reckoned I’d be an awesome mommy. I’ve attended five home births. I’ve studied homeschooling and taught homeschooled children. I’m great with kids, most of my friends have them, my sisters have them, I’m pretty sure it would make my mother’s year if I had them. It’s what women my age do…right?

I didn’t get pregnant. Instead of going through a lot of trouble to “make it happen”, I searched my soul and found something unexpected: I don’t want to have kids. I made the decision (and until my biological clock stops ticking, I continue to make the decision) with eyes wide open. I made it knowing all about the beauty and rewards of being a mother. I made it even though I knew it would disappoint people. I made it because I looked at my life and decided to put everything I could be as a mother into the lives of other women’s children – and into my relationship with my favorite man on the planet.

Getting rid of the box does not mean my decision is final. If I ever change my mind or if Mother Nature has other plans, I can always buy baby clothes. But getting rid of that box feels like a message to the universe. Not a reminder of my regrets but the decision to intentionally disappoint people. The decision to leave a few dreams behind so I can build new ones.

I know I don’t have to get rid of it. I’m not a hardcore minimalist. Not yet. I just don’t want to hide things anymore – things, emotions, or anything else. I don’t want to have things I’m not willing to face. I don’t want a box of beautiful of baby clothes to rot so I can tell my mother I saved them for her someday grandchildren.

Minimalism is not just about things. It’s about facing the past. It’s about facing the future. It’s about getting very real with who we are and what we want out of life. I believe our physical life is a representation of our internal, emotional state. I have a long way to go before I can say I’m a minimalist. But box by box, I’m getting there. I force myself to deal with the things I keep hidden.  With each decision to keep or get rid of something, I decide where I’m going and who I want to be.

A box of baby clothes is not just a box. It’s an opportunity to create my journey and move forward. Nothing hidden. No regrets.

Stuff and Love

20130718-112020.jpgAs I lighten my load and explore many negative emotions associated with the process, I’ve learned that sometimes, the joy comes later. That’s the good news for me and for anyone else experimenting with minimalism. The joy isn’t always there right away. Well, not for me anyway. I second guess myself a lot. So this process is not any different…

I’m still working through the stuff I put up in the attic when I first started My Simplicity Quest. It’s a lot of stuff. But every day, I take down a few things and decide to keep them or get rid of them. So far, it’s just that. Making a place for the things I decide to keep and converting my boxes of old pics to digital copies is for later. Next year, probably. I must keep it simple or I will quit. I know because that’s what I’ve done in the past.

Some of the stuff is easy to toss in a box labeled “Donate”. It’s not useful, beautiful, nor does it hold special meaning for me. But other stuff is not so easy. I’m getting better. Taking a picture before I send it on helps.

I used to think I loved some of my stuff. But as I sort through all of my personal possessions (and endeavor to be honest with myself) I learn that it’s not the stuff that I love. It’s the people I associate with them. It’s the memory it represents. It’s the way I use it in my life. Stuff is just a reminder of love. My guitar reminds me that l love music. My dad’s old Dunhill lighter reminds me of his pipe and his cigarettes and the way he liked to smoke them while reading the paper. My dresses remind me that I love to feel girlie.

In a big, fat cheesy way, it’s all about love.

Yep. I went there.

(Don’t you love how you start out with an idea about what you want to write and then when you begin it grows into something else? It’s like some strange magic. It only happens when I get to the page and put it out there.)

I had a different title for this article: “Take a Picture. Say Goodbye. Let it go. “I was going to write about finding a picture of a an old backpack. How it made me happy to see it instead of sad. I had details to share about how my identity was wrapped up in that bag and all the happy memories I associate with it. The difficultly of letting it go because it was falling apart after years of use. The joy in knowing that I made the right decision.

But I guess my heart needed to know why I felt that sadness and why I felt that joy. My head and my hands gave me the answer through the process of writing. It’s about the love. Not the stuff.

Thanks for traveling with me along this path. I am quite the corny companion. But if you’ve read any of my other posts, you already know that. And you are still here. I think that’s awesome. Cheers to you and the love you find on your journey…

The Closet Countdown: T-4 Days

018The official blast off of The Closet Countdown is coming up fast. Now that I’ve dealt with some fear and frustration, I’m ready to think about other aspects of this experiment. I recently wrote about why I’m doing this whole minimalism thing and suddenly all my apprehension and worries faded back. The whole point of doing this minimalism thing is not to get in touch with my inner whiner. It’s to live a deeper life. So I might do some simplifying of my objectives and see if I can pick one goal to work on with all the time I’m buying for myself.

Random Thoughts on Day Four:

  • I’ve decided (thanks to a small patch of poison ivy on my leg) that I’m going to figure out how to keep a pair of pants for yard work. It will probably be my faithful pair of work overalls. Yes. Overalls. I’m just cool like that in the garden…
  • When I unpacked a box full of clothes I’d put up in a previous experiment, I found a few tops I wanted. Had to make some “tough” calls on what to put in the “unchosen” category considering I put tops on my number ten slot.
  • Summer and a love for the outdoors means sweat. Which means I might be doing laundry more often. Might have to experiment with some hand washing for fun.

That’s all for today. Thanks for stopping by!