Random Thoughts…and otherwise

The Gift of ‘Ah’ in My Journey to Minimize


This afternoon, I went swimming. Which may not sound like a big deal—just a short drive down the street and a leap into the water—but for me the trip was significant and monumental, as it’s what I had planned to do every day in February, and didn’t.

February was going to be my month: For the first time in a very long time I would be alone. And because of this, I was going to spend those 28 days in an intentional, personal detox and cleanse, from a particularly challenging 2016—a revive, a refuel, a re-me. I was going to sleep and swim and practice yoga, and read and write and re-energize. I was going to take care of myself, because, unfortunately and ridiculously, that is not something I usually do. Or, do well.

I plan to, intend to and want to do these things. Often, I set aside time, but usually at the last minute I don’t. Not because I’m lazy or a slug or a quitter (sometimes I’m one, sometimes I’m all), but because I’m a well-practiced procrastinator who is easily distracted from doing things that bring me joy. I’m distracted, like many, by the voice in my head that says You should really be doing, or looking after, ____. And, it’s not a lot of fun. At all.

So, I had plans for February, big plans, joyful plans, and, then, well…

Sometime around the night of January 31, while I was looking for something to watch before bed, I happened upon Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. And, that was that: Less than half-way through I looked at my swim bag sitting on my dresser, looked back at my screen, and the voice in my head said, rather loudly: You should really be doing this. And I listened.

For every one of the 28 days of February, with laser-like precision and intense, un-wavering focus, I was not lazy or a slug or a quitter: I conquered. Victoriously. Every room, closet, drawer, cabinet, surface, paper, nook and cranny of my life, including, most-importantly, the four large boxes of ‘Childhood Memories’ in my garage, which I have carted with me throughout 20-some moves in my adult life alone; the boxes of school work and trinkets and mementos from my adult daughters’ childhoods; hundreds upon hundreds of photographs; and the two large boxes, also in my garage, filled with my late-parents’ belongings—the boxes I’ve been petrified of touching, the boxes that have haunted me day and night for the past eight months.

I loosely followed The Minimalists 21-Day Journey into Minimalism, read every post and every single additional essay included, from beginning to end. Sometimes twice, sometimes more. And, while lots of it was easy—turfing a toaster, a lamp, unworn clothes, travel mugs, scores of mini shampoos, soaps and conditioners, my daughter’s wisdom teeth (no explanation), picture frames, endless, endless crap—some tasks were extremely hard, a lonely, devastating, sometimes laugher-filled, often soul-crushing, emotional journey.

My saving grace and champion and muse, was a simple passage I found it one essay, entitled “Letting Go of Sentimental Things” which validated the truth of which I have known all along:

“Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.”

And those are the words that carried me to the pool today: The voice is quiet, for once, I am free.

I spent close to three of the four weeks sorting through my memories, and, I will not lie, or make it pretty, it was fucking hard. However, and quite beautifully, in the most unexpected way, I finally allowed myself to grieve. Alone, I didn’t need to be strong; I could allow myself to be and feel like the little girl, me, in the pictures I found. The girl who’s spent both years and months attempting to make sense and accept the loss of those from which she came.

And, that, those three weeks of spent emotion, have been the greatest gift I have ever given myself. Raw. Cathartic. Healing.

Again (I suggest you tattoo this to your brain):

“Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.”

This is what I’ve learned: In the heaviness of life, and the tribulations we come to endure as our time marches on, we sometimes forget where we came from. We get caught up in the minutia, the noise, the hurts and losses that multiply amongst and on top of each other, that become a darkness and a burden and a shackle, that, somewhere along the way, overshadow our truth.

Or, much simpler, our truth gets lost in our crap—material and emotional.

I have a beautiful life. It began here, in the joy found in this picture…

I’m there too, you just can’t see me: I’ll draw my first breath from this beautiful world five-months after they danced.

Soon I’d have this…
and then this…and this… and this…

And all I need are all of these thises, a small box of a mementos, a broach in my drawer, a reminder to be grateful and the words “You Are Loved.”

On the 28th day, after many trips to the thrift shop, I took a tote to my daughter’s, stowed a tote for my other and posted two boxes to my brother: My heaviness lifted, the things I held for too long, with love and fond memories, gifted to those to whom they really belong.

And, then I sat for a moment in my car outside of the post office and went ‘Ah.’ Ahhhhhh.

Ah is a feeling, not just a word. Ah is a cage door opened to freedom. Ah is a light. A bright shining light. Ah is a sensation. Ah is awe. And, awe, are the memories within me, forever and ever, no longer within my things.

And, then, this afternoon, because there is joy, I went swimming. And I was free.

Minimize Me, Maximize Me
Less Will Be More in 2017
The Minimalists  (Highly recommended: Perhaps required reading for a lighter, more meaningful life.