Let's get down to it.
The steps laid out by Cait in the epilogue of The Year of Less are as follows (grossly oversimplified by yours truly):
I think I nailed the sixth order of business, hmmmm?
One of my favorite aphorisms of Cait's is that "personal finance is personal" and so is this experiment. I won't be opening a new savings account for this six month sabbatical from spending or taking inventory of the items I own the most of. I am midway in my decluttering journey and no longer have large accumulations of crap I don't need or use. I do however have medium accumulations of crap I don't need so I will be beginning with step 1.
I won't be perfect at this. I will falter and fail and pick right up where I left off, and I will take you along for the ride as much as I possibly can.
Tomorrow's post will be a compilation of my starting points for aspiring minimalists along with a collection of "before" pics..
Thanks for being here, this should be fun.
Last week I finished listening to the audio version of the book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders. She so eloquently sums up many thoughts and experiences I've had while stumbling through the world of minimalism. Whether or not minimalism has any relevance to your life, I can't recommend the book enough. She also covers topics that are widely relevant to humans in general and honestly calls herself out without tearing herself down. That's a tricky balance and I think she does a great job.
That brings me to my own experiment with concepts derived from The Year of Less. We're about to head into July which means the year is halfway over. I genuinely can't believe the strange turns this year has brought us all, and can't even begin to imagine where it will lead us for the second half. One thing that hasn't changed in my life is my desire to live it more intentionally.
I recently looked back through old journal entries and realized I've been praying for the same change of heart for years now. I want to put my people first and foremost, pay my full attention to what's in front of me, and surround myself with only the things that add value. I love my people well (though there's always room for improvement), but mindfulness and minimalism have not been anywhere close to "mastered". I could tell you my priorities all day long, but I was speaking about them rather than living them.
I've been on a minimalism journey since around 2016 (or have I always been on this journey, technically?). I became obsessed with The Minimalists podcast, books, YouTube channel, every work of their's I could consume. I went through decluttering and organizing sprees but quickly found myself back to my old habit of shopping to fill my time and the large hole in my heart.
It turns out old habits do in fact die hard.
Shopping has held a special place for me since I was very small. That was always THE thing to do on the weekends, after school, honestly anytime I possibly could. Herein lies a major discrepancy between how each of my parents operate in the world. My dad would buy a new $8 pair of jeans from Walmart and call it good for a decade whereas my mom could easily buy 8 pairs of jeans in a weekend. I'll let you guess whose side I emulated. I didn't understand as a child what I was doing, and I never took the time to question it. I continued these shopping habits into my post college years, though it ebbed and flowed. It's only been recently that I started investigating into why I leaned into shopping so hard and truly came to grips with the place it was holding for me.
The truth is I no longer need shopping to distract me from what hurts. I know how to sit with it now. And though I'm not perfect at it, I at the very least understand that I HAVE to sit with it.
I did the hard work of burrowing out from under the sad bomb shelter I spent years creating, and I'm ready to embrace the next chapter.
I want to invest this time so that my future journal entries don't read exactly like those of years past, wishing I behaved differently rather than actually behaving differently. The difference now is I've got two gentlemen on the scene who've already taught me so much. Rob is a natural at minimalism and inspires the hell out of me just by getting to witness how he operates in the world. Babies are minimalist by nature, and Gavin has shown me how little things matter and how much our time together does.
Tomorrow's post will outline what my "Half Year of Less" will entail in detail. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Happy quarantine day 39754836923 y'all.
Mother's Day weekend is upon us. This holiday is one I had no idea was so triggering for so many until I wrote this post on the subject matter two years ago. Motherhood, the lack of our motherhood, the loss of our mothers, our mothers not meeting our expectations, us not meeting the expectations of ours mothers, etc. is very emotional and potentially carries immense hurt, joy, fear, love.
But the greatest of these is love.
In Untamed, Glennon Doyle writes,
"Parents love their children. I have met no exceptions. Love is a river, and there are times when impediments stop the flow of love. Mental illness, addictions, shame, narcissism, fear passed down by religious and cultural institutions--these are boulders that interrupt love's flow.
This is something I did not believe until recently. I'm sure I'm not alone in having deemed myself unlovable or the love not existing rather than there being a boulder in the way. It's so much easier to vilify the ones who've hurt us than to release the situation from our hands entirely. It was really never ours to carry.
How others love you speaks only about their ability to love and not about how lovable you are.
This is applicable to all interpersonal encounters, including the well-intentioned folk who ask when you'll finally have kids, the oblivious well wishers who have no idea your pregnancy was unplanned, those who don't even acknowledge that this is your first Mother's Day since your own has passed.
We never mean to hurt our people. And yet there is so much hurt.
We won't all become mothers, but each of us is a daughter. I am going into this Mother's Day with a heart posture of gratitude for the one who carried me in her belly for nine months, and in her heart ever since. She hasn't loved me perfectly, but that was never going to be possible. The love is there and has always been, and the boulder gets smaller each time I let go of the middle schooler in me who couldn't understand any of that.
I so truly am with you this weekend, regardless of what your mothering situation looks like. Celebrate, don't celebrate, do whatever you need to commemorate or simply get through this Hallmark holiday. I hope you feel seen and loved and appreciated, and that the mommas in your life feel the same--from six feet apart.
Happy Mother's Day.
PS- I hope you caught it, but just in case the title reference is to Love in the Time of Cholera.
"She had never imagined that curiosity was one of the many masks of love."
Photo by Sarah Beth Photography
Maternity leave is quickly coming to a close.
Much as I assumed would happen, the time has flown!
And stood still.
And then flown again!
New parenthood is something for which you can't truly prepare. Sure you can prepare for the baby, and prepare I did! But there is nothing else in the world quite like parenthood. There are ways in which puppy parenthood leant itself to the real thing, but you can't shut the baby in his crate and leave for the day.
Sometimes you'll want to though!!
Motherhood is undoubtedly the biggest challenge I've faced so far. There are plenty of parenting books out there, but not one of them was written specifically for the wriggly little alien they yank out of you and then send you home with. This means you can read each one and still not be any closer to answers for why YOUR baby won't stop crying/pooping/barfing/seems to hate you. "The baby will stop crying" is a fun little ditty I was told while pregnant and the slow repetition of this phrase has gotten me through many a long cry sesh. Not entirely sure if I was trying to convince myself or Gavin of this, but the screams do always end.
Like any new endeavor, it can take a while to establish your sea legs. I'm learning something new each day (if not each hour/minute) and it's so cool to be taught lessons from a being who can't even control their own bowel movements. Gavin is almost 10 weeks old and he's finally starting to coo and smile and even giggle on occasion, but he's very selective about handing those favors out. Guess what else he does?
He notices my phone.
I have tried (and failed) so many times to capture said elusive smiles on camera (phone camera), to no avail. As soon as my phone replaces my face in his line of vision, his expression goes blank and he stares at the phone. Not to go all Aristotle on your ass, but that spoke to me on a much larger scale than failing to capture a smile. I know that I don't want him to be on social media, but what I hadn't considered was that I don't want him to equate happiness/smiles/laughter with a phone either. Sure, that can seem like quite a leap. But if every time he smiles at me I shove a phone in his face, what else am I teaching him? I want him to come to the conclusion he naturally did, which was to smile at the face of a person who loves and cares for him. We learn so early to smile for the camera (not just us millennials screwing up the next generation, even I learned that as a lil tot) but when did that replace smiling in our actual lives/circumstances?
I feel like this is where Instagram comes in to play. We're all too happy to capture a perfect moment and post it for the world to see but by doing so, so often miss out on the real-time moments in the lives we actually live. I am a lover of photographs and that won't change, but already my little guy is teaching me the big lessons. I love so much more that moment when he locks his eyes on me and smiles, and it doesn't matter at all that I'll probably never catch it on camera. It matters that I've stopped trying and am instead soaking it all in while I can.
I know that I will fail him time and time again, but I also know perfection is not what loving him requires. He has lots of earthly needs and diapers are unfortunately not free, but as for emotionally, his needs are few and simple. (PS-same goes for adults!)
I need to be there for him -- fully there, without a screen between us and nothing else either (except a diaper, truly they need those things!). I want him to equate my face with smiles and good baby feels; obviously this should evolve as he does but for now I feel like that's a fair ask from a nine week old. He certainly doesn't need to see my iPhone whenever he sees me.
I am admittedly a novice in the parenting arena, but I'm nothing if not a willing student so cheers to my newest little teacher.
Nora McInerney was the first person I'd ever heard speak on the idea of performing pregnancy.
What did that mean exactly? Why wasn't she interested in this performance?
Sure, she was months into a pregnancy a very short time after her husband passed away, but wasn't she the gushing, excited, beyond happy momma to be?
And that is okay! It is also okay if your situation is very much different than hers and you're still not interested in putting on a show for the world, which is something I could never have understood without going through this process myself. It is also okay if you ARE the glowing, gushing, over the top excited momma to be.
As you may have figured out, I fall in the former category. I do not enjoy the barrage of questions from complete strangers regarding a process that is painful and hard and sad while also being beautiful and miraculous and wonderful. HOWEVER, I need to stretch myself to understand that the questioners are simply trying to connect with me. And yes, it is sometimes in a way that may personally grind my gears, but ultimately I know this is not their aim.
Full disclosure here, I’d typed out a bit of a rant post regarding how pregnant women (or at least me, as I am no spokeswoman) are peppered with inane personal questions. I never posted because it didn’t feel right (also, raging hormones), and I’m glad I didn’t. A coworker who I don’t work closely with was asking questions about my pregnancy while we washed our hands after a simultaneous bathroom break and then shared with me her own struggle with infertility, a ticking biological clock, and a deep longing to be undertaking the experience I am now.
As easily as she shared all that with me, something clicked. What the majority of us seem to want is to be acknowledged, seen, and heard by another member of the human race. I think this may be why pregnant women are often a magnet for others of both genders—they have an automatic in to speak to you. It is not about me or the baby growing inside me at all, but rather a way to connect with another person on the most basic human level. Like my brother said, “Everyone loves a pregnant broad”.
To put it simply, the point is grace.
I need to be better about remembering that these interactions with others are coming from a pure place, or at the very least a place that has absolutely nothing to do with me. But I need to do that always, not just when the questions are in a higher quantity because I am pregnant. As an introvert, it always sends me mentally running for the hills when I can tell a stranger is going to talk to me.
But how am I going to spread God’s love when I make every interaction about me?
I can’t! Treating others kindly and in a way indicative of my faith is so much more important to me than answering the same questions over and over again is annoying to me. I shouldn’t need to utter a single word regarding my faith but it should be apparent in the way I behave toward others.
Pregnancy is hard and painful and full of curveballs but then so is life. Removing myself from the center of each and every interaction is important now as well as every other day I get to breathe and interact and be a human. I’m thankful for an incredibly easy pregnancy as well as for the experience to have opened my eyes to others in such a powerful way.
We never really have a clue what another person is actually going through, so grace upon grace is how I aim to treat others. It sure is how I prefer to be treated.
Performing pregnancy is not the point any more than performing humanity is. And if you want to break it down (or have a breakdown) to a person who knows exactly how human you feel, by all means ask me something personal regarding growing another human inside me.
I’ve got you.
Behind the dainty days is a whole lot of planning. And coffee.