not afraid to jump…

I honestly dislike this meme. Outside my comfort zone is usually some level of panic for me. However, when you can be smart about it and manage the risks to a level that lets you cope with the fear, it’s time to take the jump.

Image from This Is Indexed

Ok, truth? I’ve always been scared as hell to jump. As someone who suffers from fairly significant anxieties, I often feel like throat punching the various inspirational bloggers and writers who tell you to just go for it, as though it were the easiest thing in the world to take huge risks for your dreams. It’s also a little scary when you ask yourself, ‘what is my great passion?’, and you realize, maybe you don’t have one. That is to say, I have things I deeply love, but it’s more about enjoying a moment… Like the feeling I get starting out on a ride on my bike, when the morning light is streaming through the trees. Another is when I’m engaged in a great discussion with students and they are excited and engaged. I feel a deep welling of happiness in my heart when I’m spending an evening with family or friends. I love the excited satisfaction of completing a good design or freelance illustration. I enjoy the pleasure of a good book, or time playing with my pets. I love my art, and design and teaching, but I have finally come to realize after *mumble* years of age, that there is not a single grand passion, instead I have many things that if balanced and enjoyed, make for a passionate life.

So my “grand passion” if you want to call it that, is something very simple; a life well lived. One filled, as much as is possible, with a myriad of things that are important to me, this includes things like art, design and teaching. However, equally important to me is time to relax, to watch a good show, read a book or hang with the people I care about. I want time to pursue my Buddhist practice, time to play, time to work on things I feel matter. I want a life in which I have the balance and focus to appreciate all the little simple things that make up my day, and I have actually been working very long hours and pushing myself for a few months now towards this goal. My interest in minimalism, and easing back from the consumer driven lifestyle was in large part driven by this desire. I’m looking to not be on a cycle of working hard all the time at a job to buy things I don’t really need that puts me in debt so I have to work hard all day to… Well, you get the picture, I want to get off that wheel that so many of us get stuck on.

Girl jumping

Sometimes making a jump terrifies me, but sometimes it makes me feel like this.

Image by Kain Kalju

So I’m sorry it’s been a while since my last post but I’ve been crazy with this change. The big jump is that I am leaving my current job. It’s in my field and I love teaching the students, but it is a job with a lot of responsibilities that were outside of my skill set, and has required huge amounts of time beyond the regular hours in training. It’s been a crazy schedule and I’ve been stressing like mad over the last 2 years to try to handle it all. Long story short, I am going back to working as an adjunct instructor (where you are not full or part time, but get paid just for the number of classes you teach). I have some plans and real interest in new venues of teaching and training that I see as part of where education in my field is moving, and I’m excited to pursue them, but I am equally excited that I will again have time to take my 93 year old grandmother out to breakfast regularly and get out on my bike more than once a week. I look forward to continuing to challenge myself, but without working so far out of my abilities and interests that I am making myself stressed and miserable.

So it’s a jump, but me being me, it’s one I did fairly carefully and thoughtfully. I recently heard an interview with a minimalist who gave away all but 15 things, quit his job and then decided what he was going to do. Um… yeah, no. I will never have that kind of story for you. Sorry people, but anxiety disorders and throwing everything to the wind don’t go well together. In fact, my intention is of living a life that supports minimal stress and maximum time for pursuits, like exercise and meditation, that manage my anxiety in healthy ways. So I lined up adjunct positions and for a while, have been pulling insane hours to teach nights after my full time job as I built things up. So this week is my last week of full time work. Starting next week for a month or two I’ll adjunct for them till they find another full-timer to replace me (which I’m helping with). I will then, on very good terms, be leaving and working slowly towards building a career that I can largely do from home, with a few classes on the ground. I adjuncted for years when I was married, I was very happy and comfortable doing it. So a divorce and huge changes later, and I am in some ways returning to what I know works for me, and in some ways gaining time to pursue other aspects of my field like offering online training, that I’m interested in. This time however, I am doing it without the safety net of my husband’s income, which is a pretty huge jump for me.

So that’s where minimalism comes in. (You thought I’d never come back around to it did you?) I now need to live much more simply and frugally. I’ve been working on my new budget, but now it’s time to live it. I need to stay very organized as I am diversifying the schools I work at, and everyone is on a different schedule with different requirements. I will be at home more, so I want it to be clean and simple and well organized in all aspects. I want to ease away from a consumerist mindset so I spend less as I will, at least initially, and possibly for a while, be making less. I want to work on shifting my focus to doing simple things that are much more important to me. Rather than spending lots of money on expensive meals and buying things, I want to focus the pleasure of being with people and doing things I really care about and enjoy. So, I look down from the edge, excited and scared…

Time to jump. I’m ready.

Have you taken a leap, big or small to pursue what matters to you? Was it the right thing for you? How did it feel to take that jump?

What do you get the girl who has everything (she wants)?

Picture of Birthday cupcakes

Happy Birthday to me!

I just celebrated my birthday last week, and aside from the trauma of turning a year older, (wow, middle age, yippee) I found it still didn’t overshadow my enjoyment of the adoration one gets on their B’day, especially when one is an attention hog like I am. It was interesting however, to experience a gift receiving holiday in light of my new found enthusiasm for minimalism and simplifying my life. Aside from the fact that I have no interest in being extreme about this (yep, middle way) I am still very addicted to consumerism (working on it), so it is surprising  how much I still find I need and want.

I do see a shift however, as opposed to having things to have things, I am looking more critically at my life and asking myself what it is I actually need and/or would make my life simpler and richer. I had a jacked up microwave, which had become fairly useless and a constant source of irritation. (Yes, I should work with my irritation, but by the same token, making my outer world more simple and peaceful is part of a goal of this change). I knew the cost of fixing it probably would not have been a whole lot less than simply getting a new one, and it was a wierd off-brand so the chances of future issues was good. So instead of lots of little gifts, most of which would become stuff cluttering up my home, I asked for a new mic. I did research and ended up with a lovely new one that’s one of the top rated for reliability by Consumer Reports. I also was replacing the old one, so I was not bringing anything additional into the house. There was also the wonderful gift of some of my good friends helping me install the damn thing! ❤

Picture of new microwave

The new Microwave! It doesn’t turn the vent fan on when I hit ‘cook time’ Hooray!

Sears Scratch and Dent Outlet Centers Rock by the way…

Picture of guys installing microwave

It took many manly men much motivated mastery to install the new Microwave!

I know, as I work towards a goal of less work and working more from home, that having a house that is not only simplified and organized but also pleasing to me esthetically is a worthwhile part of this change. So I foresee a great answer to the “what do you get the girl who doesn’t want more stuff” to be things like gift cards towards Lowes and such, so I can put it towards certain home improvement goals. I read on one minimalist blog that many minimalists do like to have good quality things, what little they do have, as they are more pleasing and last longer. I see a lot of sense in this. If I end up working more at home down the road, I want to love the space. Changing the cracked kitchen tile for new flooring or replacing the stained white formica kitchen counters with nice solid surface is not adding new stuff, it’s adding longevity and durability (and hey, I’m an artist so yes, pleasing style) to the place I am living. Now I know some folks choose a minimalist life of extreme renunciation of goods and even home ownership. And I understand as a practicing Buddhist there is danger in getting caught up in placing to much expectation on the thing that is my home, no matter how minimalist, that could lead to suffering when things break, or if I were to lose what I do have. I’d rather, however, take a modest approach and create a pleasing space to live and practice in, and remind myself in my practice, that “the glass is already broken.” 

Some of the folks in my life already “get” what I am doing, my parents were kind enough to get me the awesome microwave. When I found at my dinner with them they had another present for me, I thought, “darn, they don’t get this, don’t want more stuff thing.” It turned out to be however, something I did actually need, a trifle bowl, to replace my broken one (apparently the trifle bowl is also already broken, heh). I make trifle often for the family gatherings and friends parties so it will actually get a lot of use. A couple of my friends took me out to dinner and entertainment as my “gift” this is one of the best kinds, I do love good food and hanging with friends is exactly the kind of thing I am doing all of this so I have the time and mindset to focus more on. Time with people, yeah, that’s a GREAT gift!

Picture of friends at movie

Watching the new Spidey movie in 3D at cinabistro with some of my besties! That’s was a great gift!

My sister was (as she stated) having none of my “minimizing stuff” so she got me a cute hat and necklace. So aside from the fact I love these gifts, I can still work with this… I have a ton of hats, including some old ones I got years ago that are worn and shabby, as well as old broken or corroded jewelry. So the “1 thing in, 2 things out” method works well for this, I will get rid of 2 old hats and 2 old/broken pieces of jewelry in place of my gifts, and then enjoy those gifts and use them well (it’s a damn cute hat!). Another friend got me an awesome pug shirt, a couple old racing Tees can easily be replaced with that!

picture of a pug picture t-shirt

The awesomeness of the pug shirt!

So my takeaway for birthdays, and gift giving holidays like Christmas is…

If you let people know you are making this change, many will try to be accommodating.

Even if you tell people you really don’t need anything, it often makes people feel bad not to “do something for you” so there are things you can suggest if they express frustration, such as…

The gift of their time is the best of gifts. They can get you dinner or a ticket to that movie you go see together etc. if they really feel the need to “get you something.”

Truly asses your needs, there may be something that needs fixing or replacing, gifts to help with that can be useful and won’t add to your “stuff”

Gifts for services, like in my case, a massage or facial, could be a very lovely treat, especially if you start trying to live on less not just with less and have less money for these kind of goodies!

Some people will still want to give you stuff. Deal with it. If you’re gonna be militant about this, no one’s gonna to want to hang out with you. Accept gifts with good grace, understand that person is showing how much they care about you. It may be something you love and want to keep, if so and you are not stripped down to bare minimum yet, use the “for every 1 thing brought into the house, get rid of 2” like I am doing with the hat and necklace my sis got me. Look at it as a pay it forward thing. You’re given a nice gift, you can take something of yours you don’t care about anymore and make it a gift by donating it to someone else!

So that was my first experience with people wanting to give me presents after I had made the decision to begin this lifestyle change. What about you?

How do you handle gift giving and receiving as someone who’s trying to simplify?