perserverence

Minimalism. Hard Work. Big Rewards.

Work is love made visible. – Kahlil Gibran

Though my outside circumstances are pretty rough, I’m in a great place internally. A big part of that is because I’m working very hard at being a better person. I honestly flinch to write that. Work hard? At being kind and caring and honest and sincere? Aren’t we supposed to just “be” those things naturally? If we are, I’m screwed.

Enter minimalism. As I began the action of reducing my things, I learned early that it is not an easy process. It’s taking a long time because I don’t want to just throw it all away. I’m a curious person. I want to explore why I hold on to things and why I feel the need to let go. Minimalism has become much more about the internal work than the external process of eliminating stuff.

I feel like I’m finding important pieces of myself buried beneath my collection of clothes and old beliefs. Pieces I told myself that were worthless because I had to “work” to make them shine.

The process fascinates me. I examine an old toy. Then I examine the belief that rich people are all assholes. Odds and ends I’ve collected on my journey so far. A lot of it is a bunch of crap. There are days when it’s not fun to decide what to do with a box of baby clothes or my scraps of religion.

But it is worth it. For the first time in my life, I’m learning to like myself. What a treasure to find on my quest for simplicity.

A few days ago, I remembered an interview with Kris Carr I’d seen years ago. She is a fabulous woman. Please check out her documentary titled Crazy Sexy Cancer. She is a survivor and an inspiration to many. She said something that stayed with me and as I grow into my new identity as a person with less baggage, I’m ready to embrace those words. Please watch the video below to hear her response when asked how she stays so positive (the answer is within the first twenty seconds of this clip).

I’m ready to work hard at being a better person. I’m ready to let go of my belief that the good stuff in life comes easy and without effort. So far, all the good stuff in my life has come because I’ve worked for it. All the miles under my feet. All the love in my life. All the joy in my heart. All the light in my soul. Yes, they are gifts but if I don’t nurture them and work to make them grow, then they are as worthless as I once believed I was…

Thank you dear reader. Whoever you are. Wherever you are. As you read these words, know that I wish great things for you, my fellow traveler along my simplicity quest. I’m honored that you would walk with me.

Shine on,

G

Minimalism and Liposuction

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“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost from The Road Not Taken

Have you ever tried to lose weight? I have. You set your goals, you visualize a thinner, more muscular you. You work hard. You count calories or cut sugar or carbs or whatever. At first, it’s so easy because it’s so fun. Every minute spent working out feels like you are getting closer. Soon, your favorite clothes will fit again, your skin will glow, and everyone will ooh and ahh over the new, fabulous you. You’ve got your eye on the prize there’s no stopping you. But then maybe months weeks down the road did you start thinking oh eff this! I’m getting liposuction!?

Everything turns to rubbish. Your once-beloved salad combo makes you want to gag. Your favorite exercise guru has grown horns and uses her/his pitchfork to remind you of how you just need to work harder. Maybe you’ve lost a little bit but you still can’t zip your old jeans. And then you really must decide if it’s worth it. I call it the liposuction crossroad.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I chose the one with all-you-can-eat chocolate cake and potato chips.

No I didn’t (though I do love chocolate cake and potato chips). It took me a year to lose twenty pounds. Not four weeks or even four months. A year. This post is not about why I wanted to lose twenty pounds. It’s about minimalism. Really. It’s about my decision to not take the easy way out.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I chose the one with fewer processed foods and trails for running.

When I was about ten years old, I had a teacher tell me that I always take the easy way out. Ten. Years. Old. It was like a curse in a cheesy movie. Only she failed to tell me how it could be lifted. I had to find the “cure” on my own. I took her words and lived them and fought against them. I still do. My antidote for the curse is a constant dose of gratitude and forgiveness when I think of her. (And I think of her every time I hit those cruxes in my life.) I have to ask myself if I’m choosing the easy way out.

Here on my simplicity quest, I am at my liposuction crossroads. I just want it to be over sometimes. Throw it all overboard and get on with it. I want instant clear spaces and hours and hours to write and dance and run and think. I’m tempted to take a few boxes back up to the attic. The Minimalists, and Leo, and Courtney have become like my old Daisy Fuentes workout video. Irksome reminders of how far I have to go. I’m one phone call away from telling Clean Sweep to come and make it all better. Or go on a shopping spree.

Then I’m ten years old again. I see my teacher’s face. I hear her words. And I have to ask myself if I’m going to let this curse affect my simplicity quest and my desire to fully embrace minimalism. Will I take the easy way out by quitting?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I chose to take the wide open path marked by rows and rows of incinerators and shopping malls.

Not really.

I take a deep breath. I go for a run. I watch the clouds roll by overhead. I remember how much I’ve sorted through already. How good it feels to see the empty space where a box of stuff used to be. Stuff I don’t need and stuff I’ve thought about and sorted and pushed out of my life. I think about how having less of that stuff means having more time for the important things.

I remember that there are others who have chosen the more difficult path to simplicity. I find strength in their stories. I am not alone…

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and I took my ten-year-old self by the hand, gave the finger to the curse, and grabbed another box from the attic.

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.

The Closet Countdown: T-5 Days

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 “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

The Closet Countdown almost ended for me yesterday. I hit some sort of wall. Not fear this time. Just fed up with thinking about it. Ready to just get on with it…but not really. Thinking about my things for too long just makes me sick to my stomach and I don’t want to deal with the tedium. As I stood and stared at my ten tops and now six pairs of shoes, it hit me…this might be why minimalism is not the most popular lifestyle choice.

It’s a pain. A real, brain-taxing pain sometimes. Going through stuff and making decisions about dresses and socks can be mentally exhausting and well…I’m lazy. This culling process feels like work. Feels like I should be doing something better with my time. Certainly something more “noble” or “impressive”. I almost quit.

I sat on the floor and let my mind wander as I considered really quitting. Pathetic. I know. I’m reconciled to the fact that I have these moments. Most of the time, they push me to give the finger to that discouraging voice inside my head, grab the reigns of my conflict, and ride it into the future. I have to know how this part of my story goes. If I quit now, I won’t get to know all the great things I could learn.

Yes, I’m lazy. But I’m also hopelessly curious and stubborn so that works out…most of the time. 🙂

The good news is that I’m not quitting and in preparation for the closet countdown, I went through a box of current clothing and easily got rid of half of it using my favorite Hell Yeah! method. That felt good. I still love that feeling that it does get easier (read more about how it gets easier here). It gets easier to let go. I guess that’s why I keep at this “silly” project. I’ve had a tiny taste of the mental and emotional freedom that comes from dealing with my stuff and I want more. I hope to find it as I continue to experiment with minimalism.

Thank you for wading through my rants and struggles (and triumphs!) related to minimalism. I appreciate your company on my simplicity quest. Cheers!