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emptiness

Pretend you have reached the “perfection” of minimalism. You have Kondo’d your life. Everything has been cleaned, decluttered, simplified, culled, curated, purged and pruned. You own nothing that does not spark joy, wasn’t useful or beautiful, didn’t hold intense personal value, makes you turn cartwheels or burst into song upon seeing it. Your home and life are now (mostly) an empty vessel.

Your space echoes. It’s shiny. “Cleaning” takes 5 minutes and laundry 1 hour. Per month. It’s perfect.

Now what?

What’s next?

What are you going to fill your time with?

I mean, the point wasn’t to have and DO nothing. That would be boring. And then we’d turn around and fill everything back up with the same old crap we just got rid of.

Stop!

Think!

BREATHE!

Make a list. What is valuable to you and your time? Why did your do this to begin with? What didn’t you like? What did you expect it to be like? How do you feel now? What do you want to do? What is your goal? What are you going to do now???

 

Perhaps today, before you are “perfect,” you might want to sit down and think about this. Write it down. Make a plan. Because I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like the sound of “emptiness.”

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Less house

I wrote a bit ago about how much space we use and what we really need. At the time I thought that about 1200 sq feet would be adequate. I’m not really into building a “micro” house. Living in the northeast and freezing my rear off for 9 months out of the year doesn’t lend itself to wanting to be stuck inside an itty bitty space with 2 children, my dog, 2 cats and my husband. Love them all but I need more room than that.

As we’ve been decluttering and getting rid of stuff I am looking around and thinking that if we get to the point I want to arrive at, we most definitely won’t need the amount of space we currently have. This in turn has me looking at and thinking a lot about smaller homes in our area (and elsewhere) and trying to figure out what I really like.  In fact, today I was walking at lunch and found a cute little green house for sale. I sent my husband a text to get more info. It’s within walking distance to and from work and had a cute little yard (read: manageable). I almost fell over when he sent me a text saying this “little” house was 2700 sq feet, asking $175k and the taxes were over $9k!! Where are they hiding all that space? It must have a finished basement or something. Ugh. Seriously from the outside this house looked like half of my house and yet it’s actually bigger. Ha!

So I got to thinking that one of my favorite landing places was actually a local apartment complex with an amazing tub, open floor plan and situated in a quiet area where the deer roam so close you could almost hand feed them apples. Believe me, I tried! They only have 2 bedrooms but that’s all we really use right now anyway. Dogs are allowed, although I don’t know what we would do with our kitties. The closets are big enough to hold the clothes I now have since purging although we would have to perhaps combine our 2 dressers into one. My husbands dresser is kind of beat up and old. He can sacrifice…

Of course, we still have a house to contend with. But our long term plan is to move anyway so why not make our goal to downsize to the point where we could sell our house and get an apartment temporarily while we find the house and location of our dreams? We’d save on the cost of rent. We wouldn’t have any repair bills. No lawn to mow. No driveway to plow. Wow, what a dream.

Really though, the more I think about this, the more I think it makes great sense. If you know you want to move but don’t want to be a slave to the housing market, why not sell your house first, get an apartment and then work on getting where you want to go without the pressure of selling your house while a job or another house is waiting for you? Plus, you can save time and money in the process and pay off your debts with the proceeds from the sale.  I don’t really see the down side here. Unless your husband likes being a hermit. There’s always that. Well, and there’s the school issue too. But I still think it’s a smashing idea. What do YOU think?

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People

Anyone out there a people pleaser? Need positive feedback? You always want to make everyone happy and to like you.  You are mortally wounded when someone doesn’t melt from your charm and wonderfulness? It’s hurtful when people don’t warm up to you immediately. You wonder what you did wrong? They didn’t invite you to be part of their family the first day they met you? Devastating.

Alright, maybe that is a bit exaggerated. That kind of behavior would border on psychotic but you get the idea.

I used to be a little bit like that. Maybe I am still a tad bit that way. The good news is that I no longer allow it to cloud the way I feel about myself. Much.

See, I have always prided myself on being “nice.” I wanted everyone to like me and if they didn’t I wondered what was wrong with me. The older I got, however, the more I realized that not everyone was going to like me no matter what I did. Some people make fast judgments when you meet them based on things you can’t control. Some people don’t care that you are nice. They don’t trust that. Some people don’t want a new relationship no matter who you are. Some people just suck.

Actually, a lot of people suck. They suck at being friends. They suck at being friendly. They suck at communication. They suck at thinking about others. They suck at basic manners. They suck at being people. Sometimes I suck too.

Besides that, what I first realized was that the only person I have to please is Jesus. As a Christian, He’s my priority. However, there is also no earthly thing I can do to ever truly please him. I can’t earn my way to heaven no matter how many homeless people I feed, clothe or give spare change to. I could take them into my house and give them a job and babysit their kids and I still couldn’t earn a thing. In fact, the only thing I can do to earn anything of value is to simply accept the most expensive thing freely given: salvation. Jesus did all the work and I have to do is accept. This is an amazingly difficult step for SO many people. Most people actually. Apparently excellent free stuff is hard to give away. Crazy.

So if HE is the only one I have to please and there is no way I can do that other than giving up and just doing it His way, then where does that leave me with other people? Good question.

I can spend all my time trying to please other people and never winning. I can spend all of my time trying to please myself and never winning. I can spend all my time trying to make money to buy  things to impress people who don’t like me. I can totally ignore other people and live as a hermit (actually sometimes that sounds like the best option…)… Or maybe I can “Let it go” as that incredibly obnoxious song says.

Well as annoying as I find it, I have found that “letting it go” so to speak has been helpful. I’ve let go of the idea that everyone must love me. I’ve let it go and admitted to myself that I really don’t like everyone else. I’ve let it go that you can do everything in your power to please someone else and they can still ignore you or put you down.  I’ve let it go and erased a lot of people from Facebook.  I’ve  even let it go and started wearing sneakers again (even though someone I once dated found is so abhorrent that I stopped wearing them for many years).

What I didn’t give up is always trying to love other people as they are. Why? Because although I may not like people for whatever reason, I am called to love others by virtue of being a Christian. Now, lest you think I am taking this out of context my bible reading friends, I know that we are called to love one another (Christians). This is how non-believers are supposed to recognize us. What I mean is that I try to always look at other people, believer or non-believer as Christ might look at them. As broken and in need of saving. We were all incredibly offensive to Christ, yet there he hung on the cross for us. So how can I do any less for someone else?

This doesn’t mean I am a floor mat. Au contraire. Even Jesus gave people chances (over and over and over) to understand and hear as he preached but jumped to action when the offense was too much to bear. Like in the temple when he cleared the merchants tables. “Cleared” might actually be putting it mildly.  It’s ok to stand up for yourself. I can forgive but I don’t have to forget and let someone keep doing bad things.  That would just be stupid. Or pathological.

I also don’t have to sugar coat everything and say things specifically to make people like me. I can can just be me and tell the truth about myself. I don’t have to like things other people like just so they might like ME.  Nor do I have to do things I don’t like to make other people like ME.  In fact, the ONLY reason I, as a Christian, should be doing things for other people (especially if I don’t like it) is to do it for God’s glory, not mine. Whatever I do should be to direct any attention to HIM.  Yet STILL a lot of people will find offense. I personally cannot win this game.  It is not mine to win. (And that’s probably a good thing…)

Alright. So if you have hung in there with me this far, hang with me for just another moment and I promise I will get to the point.

Striving at minimalism, I have read about getting rid of stuff. I’ve read about getting rid of “toxic” relationships. I have read about getting rid of expectations. We are supposed to eliminate the superfluous to get to the “meat” and focus on what really matters. Give up all the little crappy things and keep only the really good stuff. Figuring out which is which is occasionally painful yet freeing. For me, one of the things cluttering up my life were unrealistic expectations and desires for things, tangible and not, that were hurting me when they were unmet. One of these things are relationship expectations. Another thing has been to be “liked.”  I am now trying to let these things go.

So, I know that not all of my patients like me when I tell them things they don’t want to hear. But I am still going to tell them because I care and I want to provide the best healthcare I can. I know my children won’t like me when I tell them things they don’t want to hear but I am still going to tell them not to do things that will injure them. I know other people won’t always like it when I talk about Jesus but I will because we all need a savior. And when any one doesn’t like me for any reason I am learning to be ok with that. I can’t change who I am fundamentally.

Really, I “Just gotta be me” and hope that some people “get” me.  Maybe someday I will have a best friend again. Maybe not.  I am not alone (although that all probably makes me sound really pathetic, lol).   Jesus always has my back.

 

** I don’t know exactly who to credit the photo above to but I love this woman. I’m thinking she doesn’t give a crap what anyone else thinks, heh. I borrowed it from Jenny Josephs post last year.

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Word of the year 2016: BREATHE

Have you seen this? The “word of the year?” I thought about it and thought about it and wonder of wonders it struck me during yoga that perhaps my word this year could be to just “breathe.”

A little background: I have recently become an anxious ball of nerves. Anxiety has been an unwelcome guest in my home. Maybe it was inevitable. The great aunt I take after most (and who was my favorite) also suffered from anxiety. I’m built like her and I have her cheeks. Like her, I was always thin and then around 40 I filled out.  The difference being that she reveled in the fact that she had developed curves. Me? Not so much. But hope of hopes, she eventually slimmed back down without much effort. I am battling every step…

I guess in some ways I am grateful. It has forced me to re-examine somethings in my life. Things that I didn’t like doing have become things that I have panic attacks over. It makes it a bit easier to say no when you almost have a brain infarct over something every. time. you. have. to. do. it.  I have also had the presence of mind to be able to step back and thing about what DOESN’T cause this to happen. Or at least, to a significantly lesser degree. What actually is still enjoyable.  Maybe I should do MORE of that.  Like kayaking. And yoga. I think this is also going to be the year of the kayak. For anyone (you know who you are) interested, THIS is my birthday wish 😉 THIS would do also…

Back on track–> What am I actually doing about this? Well, first I gave up a responsibility at church that I just couldn’t remember to do. Even though it was a quiet behind the scenes kind of thing that I really enjoyed at first, forgetting to do it is actually a major problem and leaves someone else scrambling on Sunday morning. Not cool for them and not cool for me when I remember that I was supposed to have done it during the service and then apologizing profusely afterward. Ugh.  I will likely revisit this one in the future when “life” quits being so obnoxious because I really liked it. It was kind of meditative and I am not a mediative kind of person (it even freaks me out in yoga class…).

Then there was this more major, in your face thing that I was doing at church that I had a little freak out over. I guess I do that more than I care to admit. Well. I emailed one person about it who said it was ok and understandable that I don’t do it. Ok. However,  when I sent a more official email elsewhere it was not met with the same aplomb my first email received. It may have been met with a phone call, in fact. Apparently what I honestly thought would not be a big deal was, in fact, a REALLY BIG DEAL. Well then. What do I do?

BREATHE.

just BREATHE.

 

 

 

 

 

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Trimming

I’ve been quiet here of late because I have been swamped with life. Despite my best efforts to do the “simplicity thing” I have failed miserably. It’s time to get back on the horse and “Ride, Sally, Ride!” (I actually have no idea what that song is about but it fits…)

Recently I had an opportunity to interview for a new position. And the day they offered me the job, I was offered another interview elsewhere which happened to be the position I applied for first. Funny how life is. I won’t hear for at least 2 weeks about that one but in the mean time I have accepted and given my notice at my current position. The change means that I will be working full time again.

Eventually I started thinking that I have a lot of other obligations, not necessarily ones that I care for, and certainly not ones that I would feel bad about giving up. Working more during the day would necessitate doing less outside of “work.” And so the trimming begins…

 

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Indecision

I don’t know what to do.

Does this ever happen to you? I have something I want. But, I don’t want to over-want it because, well, you know, I am striving toward minimalism. I shouldn’t want anything too much. And then, if I do decide to acquire something it should be of good quality so it will last and I won’t have to replace it too soon. Like, ever. Because I’m a minimalist. YET, because I don’t want to over-want it and I want to make the BEST decision about it and not pollute the earth, exploit vulnerable people, shop locally, think  globally, be practical/functional/versatile and not status-label minded, all I do is obsess over the decision because it might just be the end of my world if I choose the wrong thing.  In the end, I make no decision because, well, indecision. It’s too risky.

And all I wanted was a tote bag because the one I have drives me crazy because to flops over and don’t hold its shape. Good grief.

I think I suck at minimalism sometimes…

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Travel clothes

I wrote a post a while back about my travel wardrobe. I packed for a work conference in back pack and a large purse. Some people were impressed. 

In the mean time, I have been perusing Pinterest and there are a lot of posts about how to pack for a trip, be it 3 days or 3 weeks. Many have an opinion on what you should bring and then they give you a myriad of ways to put the clothes together in different “outfits.” Great. 

But here’s the thing that I keep thinking about: If you are traveling, no one else you see will know that you wore or didn’t wear any given outfit any other day of your trip unless you are traveling with a partner. A good travel partner won’t care that you wore the same thing for 3 days out of 5 of your vacation.  And Strangers   probably don’t give a crap. Actually, it would be weird if they did. 

So next time you are traveling, bring enough clean underwear for each day of your trip. Grab your favorite pair of jeans, a basic dress, 2 short sleeve or sleeveless tops depending on the weather, a cardigan and a blazer. Bring a pair of dress shoes for dinner and a basic pair or walking shoes. Wear the crap out of them. No one will know and you won’t have to think about your clothes while you travel. Bring a little patchouli and no one will expect you to even be clean. Ok, that was a joke. I do appreciate regular bathing and I also wear patchouli. 

Seriously, no one needs to bring more than one bag of stuff on a trip! I’ve packed one bag on my last 4 vacations/trips and I didn’t even need all of it. Let go of expectations you have of impressing other people. No one really cares unless you’re a fashion editor or a celebrity.  Thank GOD I am neither! 

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Bittersweet parting

Have you ever gotten attached to something and kept it for an unreasonably long time? Then let it go?

I sold my old car last night. The gentleman is coming to pay me the rest of the money today and take it away. It makes me kind of sad. Ye old Volvo was purchased used in 2006 within the first couple of weeks that I knew my husband. It saved us the first winter I lived here because it was AWD and he couldn’t get his car down the driveway and we were snowed in. The Volvo plowed right through the snow to take him safely to buy a snowblower.

I drove it for work as a hospice nurse. It kept me safe on the road in the middle of the night when I had to go attend a person’s death. I drove it down to Long Island and back one day with my two older children to attend a birthday party for my aunt. I was pregnant with my twins at the time. That was crazy.

I drove it to Maine on our first vacation together. The one when I got a call saying my 95 year old grandmother had died.

It has never left me stranded in the snow although it did leave us stranded in Orange NJ once on our way back from an anniversary trip. That happened to be 2 days before Christmas. We spent Christmas Eve driving back in a rental, renting a U Haul and trailer and bringing it home. It spent 9 weeks getting fixed. That’s 9 weeks without a car! Stupid car.

After getting a new oil pump, motor and turbo, it got a new alternator a few months later. I’ve lost count how many wheel bearings and brakes and rotors have been replaced. I’ve been nursing it through it’s hiccups and testy transmission but my mechanic finally said that yes, it needs a new transmission. So we bought my “new” car from a friend and the Volvo has been sitting at my church (I was afraid to try driving it up the hill to my house).  I finally put signs on it and posted it on Craiglist after over 2 weeks. I guess part of me wanted it to magically spring to life again.

I had big plans for that car. Did you know Volvo has a million mile club? There are cars that have gone over a MILLION miles! Wow! Well, they say you gotta dream big.

We have some history, me and my Volvo, and I am sad to see it go. Today is kind of bittersweet. And as much as I am enjoying having a car that reliably shifts gears I know that I will not have the same relationship with this car as I have with the last. I also have fond memories of a white Jeep Wrangler my older kids still talk about. Heck, I even remember crying my eyes out when my parents sold their Nova when I was a kid. They replaced it with a gold Toyota Corolla. Cars. They can have a serious impact. Perhaps in a few years I can start dating a Lexus. I think I could make some memories with a Lexus 😉

Happy trails!

Liz

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Simple vacation. Good luck.

What is a simple vacation? That is probably a complicated question. If I asked 100 people I would get 100 different answers. None of them would necessarily be wrong either.

The next question is, why go on vacation? I honestly don’t know sometimes. First, I want a break from my job. Second I usually want to go visit a beach. Third I dream of relaxing and reading a book or two.  Fourth I want a change of scenery or have a specific place I want to visit. Since having children, the only thing we seem to accomplish is seeing someplace different and probably hitting a beach but there is NO RELAXING.  Except for the Pina Coladas, work was more enticing than our trip last year with children to Key West. Really.

What is it worth? Is a week away worth the stress of packing up stuff for 4 people, anticipating what they will need for a week, traveling all day for 2 of the 7 days of your vacation, spending 1/3 of your usual food budget on ONE MEAL, the amount of your mortgage on a weeks stay at a rental or hotel, losing your sanity and your camera all to get a glimpse of the beach for a total of 5 hours out of a 7 day stretch? Hmmmm.

How long? So as you can tell from the last paragraph, 7 days really doesn’t sound like enough yet more might be torture depending on who you are with and where you went. I bet Key West without kids would be much more enjoyable. I might actually get to see Charleston if we don’t take them on our next trip there. With children a week anywhere seems plenty. Without them, you could likely continue to enjoy yourself for much longer…

I may seem a bit harsh when it comes to the little people but what it comes down to is that I know my kids would be just as happy going to the local park for a few hours for FREE as they would be going away somewhere. On the other hand, I get much more enjoyment out of going AWAY.  But when the two of those meet in the middle, it doesn’t seem worth it for either.  At least for me. Yet we seem to keep trying… The only vacations I ever took my older kids on were to visit family at a lake in New Hampshire and once to Disney with my parents. The New Hampshire trips were actually quite fun. Disney? Not so much.

Perhaps you are a camping family who enjoy relaxing around a campfire and sleeping in tents or campers. You can all hang out together and chill and enjoy it. You think camping with your kids is the bomb (or is it balm? I really don’t know.).  Or perhaps you love being on the go go go for a week at a time entertaining little ones and going to bright shiny places that keep them entertained. Awesome. But I ‘d rather poke my eye out personally. That’s why I can’t say what the perfectly simple vacation would be for anyone other than me. Overall I think there are some basic guidelines for vacation though:

  1. It shouldn’t leave you more stressed than you were before you left.
  2. You shouldn’t go into debt for it
  3. You should still like your traveling companions when you are done.

If you accomplish all 3, you win.

My perfect “simple” vacation?

2 weeks on a breezy island with palm trees, spending time reading a couple of good books, writing down my thoughts, talking to my husband (and other stuff) without interruption, drinking coconut drinks, listening to the waves crash, getting a massage and a tan, and doing not much at all.  There should be adequate laziness during this time to instill a bit of guilt and inspiration to give back just a little bit more to humanity because you feel THAT GOOD when it’s over.  So if anyone wants to gift me with a trip at any time I hope they read that and take it to heart. Its all I want on any given day really.  Just a little piece of paradise…

Just keep dreaming 🙂

Liz