The direction of my life has felt in a flux for more than a year. And I guess that’s not really news – who hasn’t felt directionless or confused about next steps?
Decisions have felt arduous and unclear at times, and even when they’ve been ‘made’, an army of questions has whirled in my head, eager to poke holes in my plans. But I seem to have landed solidly on moving overseas this year, despite nearly talking myself out of it for the umpteenth time.
Mostly, because I know that as challenging as it will be at times, it will be much more extraordinary. This direction might be the making of me. Nevertheless, I’ll be leaving security and familiarity, home, for places I know very few, and know little of. And that’s all in really only a few months time.
It occurred to me this weekend that even though I’ve been dreaming of an adventure like this one since I was in high school, that I’ve been spending an awful lot of time wondering and worrying, losing sleep, over all the change – at times, cursing my need for ‘adventure’ and ‘spontaneity’.
So I’ve been trying to focus on preparing for what I’m about to do instead of questioning it. Part of that comes with accepting uncertainties, and that embarking on a journey out of one’s ‘safe’ place is in fact about those unknowns.
One such preparation has been downsizing. Getting rid of lots of my belongings and making minimal (suitcase size) room for the items I’ll need over there has been liberating, once I reminded myself that it is just ‘stuff’ I can replace if I really need.
Bigger still, has been the idea of detaching from places and people – the familiar ones that enter in and out of my life regularly, but more so, a near and dear few that I hold in my heart of hearts. I might be gone for six months, but I could be gone for six years, and the thought of those who understand me, soothe me, inspire me not being a daily part of my life brings out a selfish and conflicting part in me. Perhaps I have everything I need within, but these few show me the most honest reflections of myself, the glowing and the ugly. I feel I’ll lose a part of me when I leave here.
So aside from reminding myself that Skype is a thing, I remind myself that the love and connection I have for them does not grow strained and thin, stretched by distance. It remains whole and intact, it fills me up.
It isn’t a thing we have to have less or more of, love. We can take it wherever we go.
Everything you want lies on the other side of learning to trust yourself. Take a chance. Have faith. You already know who you are, what you want and where you want to go.”
The truth is I really like being the odd one out, in a place where I know no one.
I feel most alive when I’m in the corner of a cafe half-way round the world, trying to order a coffee as those around me go about their daily routines. I love meeting strangers in happenstance, and falling into deep conversations about all that brought us there. I’m most myself when I’m wandering the backstreets of small Euro-towns or Asian alleys, overhearing the murmer of families and friends sharing stories.
Perhaps it’s quite romanticised, but I’m filled with a burning curiosity, a desire to soak it all up.
I’ve realised that I’ve unconsciously stepped away from some of the guiding thoughts I try to live by – mantras, if you will. A friend reminded me. We were having a conversation about being in control versus being in charge – there’s quite a difference.
Picture in control as a person – an uptight, rigid individual, focusing on all the elements in their life in detail so that they remain in order and play out as desired. Perhaps they’re quite agitated, tired, a little cagey at times. I’ve been this person a number of times – when looking for a new job, moving apartment, or developing relationships. And sometimes, that minute focus really pays off.
But when it doesn’t, when things don’t go to plan, when the in control person’s expectations aren’t met, they can come crashing down, depending on the scenario. It can feel like a tumbleweed of ‘the world’s against me’ when expectations don’t meet reality.
The in charge person is softer, calmer. They exude a sense of organised and ‘right where I need to be’. Of course, they too have expectations, wants, needs and desires. But their outlook is different – they accept that life is a flow of events and moments unfolding and that sometimes it feels like it isn’t going to plan when things don’t happen as expected or hoped for.
I’ve been this person too. Getting hit with an unexpected or unwanted blow – some heavy, others light changes of course. And when I’ve let go of my unmet expectation of how it was meant to be, I’ve always found it easier to move forward, even in the shitty situations. Not necessarily picking myself up and dusting off the very next day – time and processing is important – but taking on the mindset that life is a flow and I have the choice to embrace it, be grateful and trust in divine timing.
Being in charge is about letting go (and remembering that you always have a choice about how to react to any situation).
Being in control is forceful, unforgiving, unwilling (sometimes it might even just be learned behaviour…how we’ve seen others feel and react to similar situations to what we find ourselves in).
Maybe letting go involves going inward first, or tackling a situation head on that perhaps you’d sidelined or packed away as too difficult or painful to confront – before being able to rid yourself of thinking about it, trying to understand it over and over and control what someone else thinks, feels, says, does and how it impacts you. Other times its experiencing a situation as it unfolds, being aware, and trying to move gracefully with it, understanding that whether you realise it or not, it came your way as a sort of necessary stepping-stone to what’s next.
(There’s another video of his I can’t find that highlights this more clearly – essentially, while yoga and meditation and ‘clean living’ and all the more mindful, trending extra-curricular stuff is great (of which much I subscribe to) and you totally could and should do it, don’t look at those activities as the whole ‘letting go’ landscape – you still have to try, you still have to be and do.) It just might not all pan out the way you expected – but it will go down as it should.
As my friend and I discussed in control versus in charge, I struck an instant parallel to Power vs. Force. (Fascinating, if not slightly too-many-layered for me, read – but nonetheless very impactful).
“Power serves others, whereas force is self-serving.” – David R. Hawkins.
As I write this, I’m surrounded by various piles of stuff – ill-defined, ever-prevailing, cluttery stuff. Then there’s the more solid items – the chair I’m perched on, a floral armchair rescued years ago from a suburban opp-shop, bar stools, a toaster, graciously green plants that complete my apartment. And art, travel nick-nacks, little ditties I’ve painted and propped.
I’m getting rid of a large portion of my possessions, and each time someone from Gumtree turns up to take an item out the door my heart hastens a little. And I’ve realised it’s not because I particularly warmed to that bar stool, or really ever loved those shoes, it’s that when they’re gone, I feel a little more out of ‘place’. Place in the sense of who I understand myself to be, how I identify, nurture and tend to that person.
We come to associate ourselves with certain smells, textures, patterns, with pieces of furniture, rooms, configurations, and lights-of-day. I’ve indulged myself with skyline views lazing in my arguably most-loved possession, my hammock, on many occasions, and have come to know its sway – as I sip my coffee, as I stargaze, as I ponder life – as a ritual.
On one hand, how utterly lovely it is to have found such peace in this nook on my balcony. How glorious that we discover routines and relish in them. Routine can be a joyous, invigorating or motivating part of one’s day.
Less really is more
On the other, no wonder we find it so hard to detach – this stuff becomes a part of us, we allow it to take hold, like barnacles. Or rather, we become like barnacles – latching at clothing items we’ve not worn for years, worrying we can’t go on quite the same without the cutlery set or the cheap-but-charming armchair that hardly ever gets used in favour of the lounge. We seem to have mistaken consumerism for safety, comfort and contentment.
I really do believe we must work to become less attached to our stuff. It’s okay to love something, to relish it, but I think our obsession with it all has gone a little too far.
Here are three points on minimalism, and why it could be a positive influence in your life:
There’s happiness in having less. Buying stuff, or taking free stuff, often just makes us happy for a while, says Fumio Sasaki, author of ‘goodbye, things‘. “I think minimalism is a method for individuals to find the things that are genuinely important to them.” “I think saying goodbye to your things is more than an exercise is tidying up. I think it’s an exercise in thinking about true happiness.”
Minimalism is about realising what’s important to you. You might find that many of your possessions don’t really serve a purpose in your life. Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus from the Minimalism documentary say, “There’s nothing wrong with consumption, the problem is compulsary consumption.” “We’re tired of acquiring things because that’s what we’re supposed to do.” “When I heard about minimalism, it wasn’t about just getting rid of my stuff, it was about taking control of my life and about stopping being told what to do and actually deciding what I wanted to do.”
You can make it your own. Some people choose to embrace minimalism to the enth degree – possessing only a handful of items, while others take photos of the items they throw away, or choose to keep a box of ‘sentimental’ values. Others have large homes, while some have gravitated to the tiny-house movement. The important thing is that your mindful about the meaning and purpose of your possessions.
I sold my lounge today. I was surprised to sink into a mild anxiety on the bus home, before a young boy, his sister and mother, rang the doorbell to say they’d arrive to pull it all apart and dislodge it from my space. But I had made memories on that couch, it was comfortable, it was where I worked, snoozed, snuggled and caught up with friends.
The thought also crossed my mind that each time a big item is taken away, I’m a little closer to leaving, as though it’s mostly just my ridiculous (and ridiculously under-utilised) wardrobe holding me down.
Letting go: mental house cleaning
But now it’s gone, I realise I didn’t particularly need it, nor do I feel lost without it. In fact, I feel a little less weighed-down, a little more free – in a sense, the Friheten Ikea sofa was holding me back and I’m just fine without it.
I’m moving seaside for a few months, before heading over to Europe. I’ll return to very little, and need to find a shared space to live for a while. I know I’ll look forward to the next set of creature comforts, to creating a new space of my own, embellishing it with keepsakes, embracing cosy nooks.
But I intend to travel – and live – lightly.
And as I venture into 2018 with a great many plans up my sleeve, and into new and unexplored territory, it seems fitting to be stripping back, starting afresh and creating new space – at home, in my heart and in my mind – to take a leaf out of Louise Hay’s ‘mental house cleaning’.
In order to make room for the new (whether it’s new clothes or new thoughts and ideas), we must release the old and the outworn. This is true for physical items as well as mental ideas. – Louise Hay.
I’m ready for a year of less stuff, and more adventure, surrender, courage, love and creativity.