stories

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.

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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…

It’s About The Stories

Ginny and Julie. Circa 1980.

Our lives exist in a series of stories. Stories. Memories. It’s the collection of those stories that we present to the world as who we are. I love the stories. They surround me with love and life-lessons, filling my days and changing my moments. I love the idea that we are constantly creating our own story to share. Stories. Memories…

Many years ago, four hundred miles away from where I lived at the time, two boys did something foolish that would change my life forever. After years of dealing with what they did, I’ve learned to see how they were unintentional teachers. Painful lessons, yes. But good ones. I’m honestly grateful.

Mozelle Austin, my “Granny”, lived in a small, Texas town. It’s where my mother grew up and where I spent Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and many weeks in the hot Summer months. She was a wonderful woman. Strong in her faith and tender with her love, a most beautiful soul. She owned Mozelle’s Grocery, the only place in town to get a cold beverage, a Mrs. Baird’s fried pie, play a game of dominoes, and get your mail.

I have wonderful memories of the sound of my bare feet running across that hardwood floor. I spent hours eating gum balls and playing with her cash register. On cooler days, she would turn off the air conditioner and let the breeze blow through the screen doors. People would stop by to get mail and visit with my grandmother – mostly locals and tired, thirsty men from the nearby cotton gin. Even then, I sensed the magic of the place.

Fast forward to my teenage years. Granny retired then not long after, passed away from heart failure during surgery. Unable to part with the building, my mother and her siblings used the old store for storage. Treasures within a treasure itself. As I moved into my twenties, I needed a place to store the things I loved but did not use. Things saved for “someday”. Clothes, dolls, furniture, books, my Father’s rocking chair from his childhood…

Enter my unintentional teachers. I don’t know why they did it. I don’t want to know. I have some guesses but they don’t matter. The bottom line is that they set fire to Mozelle’s Grocery. That plain, small town structure had no value to them and in one night, they destroyed the building and our belongings. The left behind a grotesque pile of charred objects and ash. Nothing survived. The boys weren’t harmed at all.

I felt angry and hurt and sad. All those things I meant to pass on to others, just gone. The children in my life will never get to sit in my father’s rocking chair or play games on my little bamboo table. No one one will ever see the Easter dresses my grandmother made for me or my baby blanket that my mother made for me.

The biggest lesson I learned was that it was just stuff. It’s stuff I don’t have to process, or hang on to, or get rid of. In one night, the decision about what to do with most of my childhood things was made for me. A huge weight lifted from my shoulders.

On days when my possessions feel overwhelming, I am sincerely relieved that I do not have to deal with those things now. I’m pretty much buried in my current collection of stuff so that would have been even more stuff to wrestle with emotionally and physically. I can’t get it back.

On other days, I get a little sad when I think about some of those items. My father died when I was fifteen. The situation with his will and my step-mother was “complicated”. I have so few of his things to keep with me along my journey.

But if my limited experience with minimalism has taught me anything, it’s that it’s not about the stuff. It’s about me and my memories. My stories of Granny, and my dad. It’s about who they were that I carry with me and choose to make a part of who I am. It was never about the store or the rocking chair.

So I send out a “Thank You” to those two boys. You helped me to let go when I might not have been able to. I needed the push. I hope that you have full lives that you lack for nothing. May your hearts be full of love and joy. For you have blessed me in my quest for simplicity…

As always, thank you dear reader. I’m grateful for your time.

(In the picture above, that’s me on the left and my cousin Julie on the right. We are sitting at my bamboo table and that is my father’s rocking chair in the front near Julie. Memories. Stories…)