Thursday, September 10, 2015

It's Not About Me, Either

So just the other night I was lamenting how much more work I have to do, and this time on my self - not on my possessions.

Already, thankfully, I have something to share. That even though I'm entering into this time where my attention is focusing inward instead of out, it's not about me at all.

In fact, it's about everything else.

It's about getting off of Facebook, shutting down the computer, and reading a good book.

It's about dusting off my guitar case, and then opening it and letting my fingers recall some of the songs I used to love.

It's about going for a family hike after work.

I have done ALL of these things since my last post. And, it feels wonderful: freeing, stimulating and rejuvenating.

This is what downsizing has given me. It's not less stuff, or a smaller house, or an edgy lifestyle, or material for a blog. It's FREEDOM.

I just have to remember not to forget.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

It's Not About Stuff Anymore

So... our 21 days is up! Do you want to know what happened - what really happened?

[Ok, good. I was hoping that you would be okay with knowing the real story, and not some made-up, fancy blogpost aimed at getting attention.]

Because, nothing. Nothing happened.

Well, not much.

I mean, yeah, we found that we didn't need a bunch of stuff that we'd stored in the basement. And we found a few things that we did need: the baby's swing, some shoes, paperwork. We haven't gotten rid of all the other stuff, even though our 21 days is up. Though I do have plans to do another yard sale soon.

But I honestly thought this would be a revelatory experience, with more freedom springing up in our lives like fresh bamboo sprouts in a Japanese forest. But really, it was just living our same ol' life, with less stuff.

So I'm starting to get to the place where this whole small house living experiment is not about the stuff anymore. It's not about the house, or the size of our house, or the amount of stuff we have or don't have anymore, or the number of things we have gotten rid of or anything like that. It's starting to be about something much more personal and sensitive and maybe even private.

Because, the whole point of my husband and I choosing to live this way - giving up our belongings, our personal space, our comfortably full-sized home and our comfort zone - has been to enjoy life more. To live better. To be independent. To experience life more fully and feel alive.

And, even after all we've done to get to this place, I don't always feel too much different than I did when I had a full closet of clothes and overstuffed bookshelves.

So I realize that now is the time that I have to start working on - not my stuff, but - me. I've shaken off some of the weights that kept me living with stress and work. And now there's a lot I need to do internally, to address my thoughts, my beliefs, my habits and my behaviors that hold me back and keep me stuck in a place where I'm stressed and dangerously burdened.

I'm reading Everything That Remains by The Minimalists, and tonight I'm struck by something else Joshua writes. It's not heady, but it has my brain in a tizzy. In chapter 8, he writes that, after an intense process of downsizing his belongings, leaving his corporate job, ditching technology and simplifying his life, he gave up his goals.

As soon as I read that, my brain went, "What?!" because I.

This is how I live. It's how I measure myself. It's how I know I'm successful. It's how I got through school. It's how I finish my work every day. It's how I know I'm having a good day. It's PART of me.

I make lists. Even if it's not on paper, it's in my head: what I want to accomplish for the day, for the morning, for the weekend.

I like numbers. I studied math. I like their reliability. I like to quantify things. I like to compare. If 75% of my list is done, I feel much better about myself than I would if only 50% is done.

But it doesn't bring me any real contentment. If anything, it's momentary, and it lasts only long enough for me to make a new list of things to do or tasks to accomplish the next day. There's never any achieving, there's only doing.

So thanks, Joshua. Thanks a lot. Because I have no idea how to do this. I don't have any idea how I could give up this thing, this way of being, that feels so fundamentally part of myself that I don't even know if I have an identity without it. I don't know to function without goals. I've always constantly asked myself what I want to be, where I want to go, what I want to do, this year, next year, the next five years. It's just what I do.

But I realize it's getting in the way. It keeps me from relaxing and having fun with my family, the thing I keep wanting SO very, very goodly. It keeps me from getting on the floor and building blocks with my daughter. It keeps me from tickling my son's tiny big feet. It keeps me from sitting on the deck with my husband staring into the night sky. I might still be doing those things, but I'm not really there. My mind is elsewhere, thinking about the other things I need to accomplish. Even when those things are dishes. Or paperwork. Or web design. Or blogging. Or whatever.

I don't know where this is going to take me. I don't know how much of this journey I'll be able to share. I only know that I have to try and go there.

I think I am going to have to be quite diligent about this. I mean, I think I actually need to focus my attention on this. In comparison, getting rid of our stuff seemed easy. We were moving to a smaller house, so things just had to go; it was a simple matter of volume. It was like trimming my fingernails: it had to get done, and it was a relief.

But changing the way I think about my own life, and how I function in it, and how I define my success, is surgery.

Keep me in your thoughts, and please share your thoughts, especially if you are also reading Everything That Remains (as I would highly recommend you do and I don't get paid by anyone to say that). You can email me privately here.

Until I'm able to write again, peace and love. Enjoy the life you have!