quest

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

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…

A Dream Deferred…Is Liberating

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What happens to a dream deferred?

– Langston Hughes

I am itching to “make it” as a travel writer. By “make it” I mean make money (even though I know it’s not about the money). I go places. Maybe not across the world with one backpack and a laptop. But I love road trips and I see adventure everywhere. And I want to share it through writing and fun photos. Lately, I’ve been researching travel writers and I even set up a skeleton profile on Matador.com. But every time I went to the page I felt something was “off”. Something inside me just wasn’t flowing into the travel articles I was writing attempting to write – even as practice.

So I unplugged from my life, did a few sun salutations, and searched my soul to find that nagging feeling. In minutes, I found clarity. This is not the time for me to be a travel writer. Oh, I know…”you gotta reach for your dreams while you can” but how can I reach for some of them when I’m bogged down in an attic half full of junk? My biggest dream is to live a minimalist lifestyle so that I can spend more time spreading sunshine. I want to get better at being a loving person (I have so far to go on this one). I want to live my goals and “do my thing” without any nagging voices inside me.

I need minimalism for my soul as well as my surroundings.

I wrote “Travel Writer” on my list of someday projects, closed my browser tabs telling me how to be a better travel writer, and exhaled. It felt so good. Like I had been carrying extra weight in my life’s backpack that I had not noticed. I went through a box of giveaway stuff with new zeal and pleasure.

I don’t know what happens to a dream deferred. But I’m going to continue on my simplicity quest to find out. This is my dream for now. Thank you for letting me share it with you. Cheers!

Minimalism and What We Leave Behind

20130707-140800.jpgOn the road in my treasured Jeep Cherokee. Just me and my Lily. Somewhere between two small Texas towns. The AC is out. Again. (It’s a long story). Warm air rushes around me as I head toward my cousin’s memorial service. It’s my favorite white noise. Sometimes I put my arm out the window and play with the wind. Up. Down. Up. Down.

I can’t hear my phone if I get a call or a text. For about an hour it’s just me, my Jeep, the wind on my skin, and the road ahead. Time to think and process where I’m going and what I’m doing. Not just the memorial service but all of it.

My mind wanders  to conversation with a well-meaning friend about how I should keep my childhood artwork because it might be nice to display some at my funeral someday. My response was self-righteous and inconsiderate. Pssht. I’m a minimalist. I don’t keep anything. But she didn’t mean keep everything from childhood. She actually helped give me some boundaries in my quest for simplicity. My apology was a little late and a lot lame. I should have listened better. Been kinder in my response…

At the little church where we gather to honor and say farewell to my cousin I stare at the photos and things he left behind and my mind wanders again. I said goodbye to my father in the same church more than twenty years ago. I’ve since said goodbye to his three siblings there as well. I inherited things from all of them. Things. Stuff. But they left behind so much more: stories, kindness, an appreciation for hard work, and a deep love for people and Texas. I have no greater inheritance.

It’s a small service. My cousin was a natural minimalist. He lived on a small ranch in a small cabin. He fought illness and social stereotypes while training horses. People take turns standing up and telling stories about him. “He was kind.” “He loved people and animals with all of his heart.” “Even when in pain, he had so much joy.” My favorite words are “If you knew Larry, you loved him.”

And like a flash of sublime light it hits me. In seconds, several moments blend into that tiny church. My conversation with my friend about saving stuff for my funeral. Driving in my Jeep. The pictures of Larry. His saddle. Memories of my dad. My aunts. My uncle. The words. The beautiful, sweet words that people said about my cousin.

For just a few seconds I get it. All of it. Life and what is important is incredibly clear. And I want nothing more than to love on the people around me, shower the world in sunshine, and leave behind more kindness than nicknacks.

The drive home is hotter. I don’t mind. The wind dries my tears and the ice water by my side keeps me cool. I’m going back to my collection of things with a new perspective. My heart is full of what matters more than my Jeep, or the heat, or the road ahead…

Thank you for traveling this path with me, dear reader. The AC doesn’t always work but the road remains a wonderful teacher. Cheers!

Room for One

Tell me what you yearn for and I shall tell you who you are. We are what we reach for, the idealized image that drives our wanderings. – James Hillman

Please forgive my deceptive title. This is more about me than a physical room. It’s more about the boxes I try to fit inside. It’s about feeling divided and longing for all of the versions of myself to move forward as one, simplified soul. It’s about overcoming my idea of your idea of my ideal me.

When I write a blog post here in my life’s little word playground, I wonder who will read it. Who will even care about what I write about? Who will connect to my thoughts? I keep trying but I don’t really fit in the boxes I see out there.

I am a mixed bag of categories. I have kids in my life but I’m not technically a mother. I appreciate conservative ideas and modesty but I have a sailor’s vocabulary (sorry Mama, but you know it’s true) and I love the art of belly dance. I grew up in the city and but now I live in the country. When given the chance, I’m really good with people. I’m funny and charismatic but people scare me and I avoid them. I love to travel but I don’t go anywhere.

Feels like I don’t really fit in.

I feel caught between worlds. I read about stay-at-home, homeschooling moms trying to create a happy home and I get it. I also read about people traveling the world with simple gear and a heart to write about their adventures and I get that too. Minimalism. Organizing. Living a full, happy life. I get those too. (notice I did not include how to get incredibly wealthy…I don’t get that one yet…).

The thing is, I’m pretty sure the boxes don’t matter. It’s perfectly fine if I’m a non-mom who has kids and loves to experiment with minimalism and random travel gear for road trips and commutes. But part of me really wants to fit in one of the more traditional boxes and I end up feeling so divided. Par for the course in the conundrum that is me.

On my quest for simplicity, I anticipate many lessons. I can see ahead and the faster I move, the more narrow the road becomes. I can’t drag all of my divided selves along with me. It’s part of my search for minimalism. If I make myself fit in any box, my quest is over. Boxes don’t move. Boxes don’t dance along life’s path.

If there’s only room for one, then I guess I gotta just be me. This strange, inconsistent mix of zeal for a beautiful life and insecurities is all I really have. So I leave behind the boxes and dance…

Thank you for traveling with me this far. I appreciate your company.

Quote for the Quest: Life is Short

My brain is foggy these days. More foggy than usual because I’ve decided to take a break from all grains and most sugars. It’s just an experiment. I think it’s fun. It’s not fun right now because I think I’m going though some withdrawal symptoms that might be considered the “low carb flu”. Nausea and “brain fogginess” are two of those. Ugh. I had no idea. I’m willing to try it for a few months to see if it increases my energy. It’s just another part of my quest for simplicity.

While wandering the vast, wide world of inspiring quotes on the internet, I found one that I love. It’s a little gift to you from my life’s little backpack. Part of my quest (besides experimenting with minimalism and simple living) is to share what I have along the way. Cheers to all. I hope your journey is bright and beautiful…

“Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”- Henri Frederic Amiel

In Love with an Idea

The process of preparing for this experiment has already revealed a lot to me. Mostly about myself. A little bit about humans in general.

I have these moments where I’ll take a break from my computer work or phone calls and I imagine my world without all of these things taking up space in my life and in my mind. I think “oh how grand it will be to wake up in my sparsely furnished bedroom, choose a simple outfit from almost-empty closet, and go to work in my uncluttered home office.” Like a character from a fairy tale, I expect someone to whisk away my belongings while I sleep.

I’m very much in love with idea of a minimalist lifestyle…but not so much in love with all the work it takes to get there.

There are people who just “chuck it all” and head out to the woods to embrace the writings of Thoreau. With nothing but a journal and peaceful spirit, they walk away from all their possessions and embrace the simple life. Must be nice.

I think part of taking on the responsibility of a simplified life is accepting the work that must be done to get there.

There are days I would LOVE to take everything I own, put it in a big pile, and set it on fire. But this too, is a romantic notion. A fairy tale. Because I would hate to watch the burning of the poetry book my mother gave me when I graduated from high school. It was hers in college. It is my favorite book and I hope to pass it on to my daughter (or son) someday.It’s one thing to say “let it burn” and another to scrape up the ashes of your grandmother’s music box.

I’ve actually been working very hard to reduce my collection of things. It’s taken years for me to get down to the many things I currently own. What I’m learning is that in the end things don’t matter. But this isn’t the end. And we must decide how we feel about our things. Well…you don’t have to but I do.

That’s what this quest is all about. I’m not quitting. Besides, I’m a sucker for a good story and I want to see how this one ends…