Addictions

I’ve had some strong addictions in my life: TV. Internet (YouTube, Facebook, and mindless browsing). Food (specifically overeating and eating out of boredom). Thrifting.

In the last year, I’ve actively worked on most of these. I moved out of my parents’ house and into an apartment where I specifically and intentionally didn’t get a tv nor an internet connection. I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly and easily I overcame those, and didn’t even miss them. In my journey into minimalism, I’ve kicked my addiction to thrift store shopping. I credit Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to this. It literally changed my life and I am so incredibly grateful, my words cannot even do justice to the relief and gratitude I feel.

I am still working on overcoming my food addiction. This is by far the strongest and most difficult to break.

But today I wanted to talk about how being in certain environments and around certain people, who share your addictions, is so enabling and such a step backwards.

When I go to my parents’ house, there is junk food everywhere. I literally have no self control when I’m over there. Luckily I am full of self control at the grocery store, and never ever even once buy crappy food to bring into my home. It’s almost as if I see it as bringing in some dark, sinful, morally wrong thing that I would never allow into my home. But, once there is bad food in front of me, all control is lost.

The way I bond with my parents is through watching tv. I go over every Sunday night for dinner – but it’s not a sit-down “family dinner”. We all sit in front of the tv and [over]eat while watching some inconsequential show. And then again on Monday night I go over to watch The Bachelor/ette with my mom. This is truly how we bond. The last few seasons I told myself (and others) that I wasn’t going to watch it. But yet here I am again.

I know very well that going to my parents’ house is a bad place for me. It tempts me with my tv and food addictions. But I feel like a bad daughter if I don’t go hang out with my parents. Or I would feel ungrateful if I refused a dinner invitation.

The last addiction I mentioned above is thrifting, which my mom also shares. Her house is full of clutter and I genuinely feel emotionally uncomfortable being in her house and being around all of that stuff.

What I’ve realized, basically, is that I am uncomfortable and tempted when I go to their house. I want to stop. One big reason I just quit my job was because I can’t mentally afford to keep bringing my dog over to my mom to babysit during the day. Because it means that I have to go over there. And to get tempted every day. I know I’m not strong enough to handle it.

I think I know what I need to do. I need to just stop going over there. Find a different babysitter for the dog. And maybe feel like a crappy daughter but I need to take care of myself. This isn’t about a lack of care for my parents. It’s about how its been a lack of care for myself for so long. And I think I finally want that to stop.

Just be glad to be here

Just be glad to be here

As I usually do while shopping online, I listened to Pandora radio tonight. One of my favorite stations is Buddha Bar, and a song that often plays is called Hayling and it’s by FC Kahuna.

I’ve heard this song many times but tonight the words struck me as more than just words, but actually something of meaning:

Don’t think about all those things you feel

Just be glad to be here

If you’re stressed out right now about money, or about that person who’s under-appreciating you, or about family drama, or your messy house, or whatever else it may be — stop thinking about it for awhile, and just be glad to be here. Be glad to be alive.

Remember what Carl Sagan said and reprioritize those things which are bringing you stress.

Tomorrow is another day. You can think about your stuff then.

Or you can listen to this song again.

Cars are meant to be driven

Cars are meant to be driven

A few years ago, a friend of mine was moving across country. She was planning to drive — all the way from Iowa to California — so that she’d have her car out there for her new job.

“That’s a lot of miles to put on your car, though,” I said, doing my best impression of a rational adult.

“Yeah–”

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

“Well, cars are meant to be driven.”

This concept blew my mind. “You’re right,” I said. “You should totally drive.”

I have this tendency in my life to save things. I wear my crummiest clothes around the house and out running errands while I save my newer, trendy, I-actually-feel-good-in-this clothes for “going out” or “seeing people”.

Going out and seeing people are things I rarely do. So most of my life is spent in clothes that aren’t that great. Meanwhile my more interesting clothes eventually go out of style having hardly gotten any wear.

My family and I tend to save the tastiest food for each other — everyone’s afraid to take the last piece of cake for themselves. But what happens when we all do that is that the cake eventually goes moldy and has to be thrown out.

I rarely burn candles because I want to save them to have, since I enjoy burning candles so much.

Just as cars are meant to be driven, clothes are meant to be worn, food is meant to be eaten, and candles are meant to be burned.

I just thought of another example: last night I was KonMari-ing my beauty products and as I was sorting through my nail polish collection I realized 1) how many I have, 2) how incredibly old some of them are, and 3) how 6 days out of 7 I sport chipped nail polish because I feel like redoing it more frequently would be wasteful and that I’d go through nail polish too frivolously.

The cheapskate’s dilemma

I do think my frugality plays a massive role here. The more I use something, the more I’ll have to buy to replace it. The more I wear my cute clothes around the house, the more they’ll get washed and worn and become pilled, and have to be replaced.

But also, what if that outfit would have been perfect for a hypothetical event that likely will never exist, but by then I’ll have ruined it by spilling the juice I don’t drink on it? Then what? Then I’ll really be sorry.

There’s a great video by Youtuber and ex-image-consultant Mimi Ikonn where she addresses the tendency to save clothes.

You can skip ahead to 1:54 for the part most relevant to this post, but you have the 6.5 minutes, so just watch the whole thing.

Mimi says:

What I realized is that you can’t keep these clothes for “special occasions” because every single day is that special occasion. Every day you’re alive you should be presenting your best self to the world and the world in return rewards you with new opportunities, a better mood, and just a better energy overall.

Life is meant to be lived

I didn’t intend for this post to go the direction of clothes and products, but I guess I didn’t have a specific direction in mind.

I think my point is, don’t be afraid of living your life. Dress well today; burn that candle you love today. If you fill your life and your space with things that spark joy, you might as well actually let yourself enjoy them.

 

What’s something you’ve been saving?

I’m finally living

I’m finally living

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the mentality that “once ___ happens, then I’ll be happy”.

Once I graduate high school, then I’ll be able to live the life I want.

Once I’m done with college and have a career, then my life will really start.

Once I meet the right person, I’ll be all set and I can stop stressing all the time.

Once I get out of this town, I’ll finally be happy.

I’ve heard it said for marriage and having kids, too. Add retirement to that list and basically we can assume that we’ll never be happy as long as we’re attaching our happiness to some external event or achievement.

I’ve known that this was a bad mentality for awhile, but that didn’t change the fact that I still felt that way. I still wasn’t happy in my day to day life, and I felt my life was lacking until I could just get that next thing I wanted.

But, I’m pleased to say that I no longer think my life is lacking. In fact I really like my life and I think it’s pretty awesome. I often take moments to appreciate it and I feel what I would describe as true happiness and gratitude. In fact, something less-than-great happened recently, and yet despite feeling a decent amount of sadness about it, I have also continued to feel gratitude for all the other areas of my life that are majorly winning right now.

What comes first, appreciation or awesomeness?

I don’t know. I don’t know where to pinpoint when my life started being awesome and when I started realizing it. Did the awesomeness increase once I started appreciating what I already had? Or did my gratitude only grow once things started going my way?

I do know that practicing gratitude is something that completely changed my life, and I can credit implementing that practice to my religious conversion a year or so ago.

But something that also changed was that I took my life into my own hands and made the changes I wanted. There was a time a few years back when I realized I didn’t have any hobbies anymore. How did that even happen? It was a sad thing to realize. But even once I did, I couldn’t bring myself to start any again, because none of them seemed appealing.

I wish I could say how I found interest in them again, but I honestly don’t remember. Did I just start doing them and fake it til I made it? Maybe.

I now play piano often, and I get so much satisfaction and self-worth from the progress I make. I have been learning Spanish on Duolingo for probably a year now, and just recently started reading some Spanish texts using Readlang (I highly recommend both of these, and they are free!) I’m in a book club now, and reading more. I’m following some interests via blogs and subreddits (like minimalism, veganism, and tiny houses) and I started blogging again! It feels great to be learning and exercising that part of my brain. I have such a love for learning that I almost forgot I had.

I live at home with my parents and my dog, in small town Iowa. For years I was ashamed to admit that. For years I craved the excitement of life in the big city and all the lights and noise and expenses that come with that lifestyle. Now that’s the furthest thing from what I want.

Meeting more people in town and making friends and joining different groups (church, a group for Young Professionals, book club) and going to events (the local radio show’s monthly cooking demo, the farmer’s market) has given me a new appreciation for this little town of mine. Plus I’ve gotten closer with friends here, who are literally incredibly amazing. I am so grateful for them, and I have no idea how I am lucky enough to have them in my life.

With the exception of a couple people who were out of town for awhile, all these people, events, groups, and hobbies have been here, this whole time. What changed is me.

I’m already living my life

I used to be so caught up on reaching my destinations, I completely forgot to enjoy the journey. It’s not even that I forgot, I just didn’t find the journey appealing. But now I do.

I still don’t have “a career”. I’m not dating anyone. I have no idea what my life will look like a month from now let alone five years down the road. Uncertainties which once made me uneasy are now just a part of life that will happen when they happen, if they happen, and I’m sure they’ll be great. And if they’re not, I’ll change them.

I can finally say that I’m enjoying the journey, come what may. There are so many opportunities available in the world. I can take them if I want to.

But the other thing I realized, is that it’s okay that I usually don’t want to.

Mark Manson wrote an article called Why Some Dreams Should Not Be Pursued. And what he said really resonated with basically everything I’ve ever “wanted”:

For most of my adolescence and young adulthood, I fantasized about being a musician — a rock star, in particular.

But despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time to figure out why.

I didn’t actually want it.

There’s a reason I haven’t moved out of this town. There’s a reason I haven’t climbed some corporate ladder. There’s a reason I haven’t gone husband hunting and gotten myself some kiddos.

I don’t want to. Not right now, anyway. I’m totally open to the idea that some day I’ll want to move away or make some different life choices. But right now, those aren’t the things I want. And that’s okay.

The freedom that comes from letting go of the pressure to have these things is extraordinary.

Simple living isn’t mediocrity

Between my recent endeavors with minimalism and self-acceptance sans superficial accoutrements, I’ve really gotten into this simple living thing. I realized I can get by with so much less. That applies to what I spend my money on, but also what I spend my time, energy, and stress on.

For so long, I feared a life of mediocrity. There’s some quote about how a life of mediocrity is worse than failure. I’ve always lived a simple life (although I didn’t have the language to identify with that movement until recently), and I always mistook it as a life where I just didn’t do anything. I wasn’t really living.

The fact that I hadn’t traveled around Europe or gone the typical American route of the stressful 9-5 must have meant my life was lacking. Even the fact I couldn’t bring myself to wake up an hour earlier to curl my hair and put on false eyelashes meant that there was something seriously wrong with my priorities.

I can hardly type that sentence without laughing now.

This isn’t a life of mediocrity. It’s a life of meaning. It’s a life of simplicity. It’s a life that doesn’t drown out things of value with meaningless distractions.

It’s a life I love. It’s a life I’m grateful for. It’s a life I’m designing and perfecting as I go. And it’s completely okay that I don’t know where it leads. I kind of like it better that way.

 

What’s something you “should” want but don’t? Have you let go if it yet?

Conditional kindness isn’t good enough

Conditional kindness isn’t good enough

In light of the recent shootings and various acts of violence going on in our country and around the world, there’s been a lot of posts on social media about how we need to love each other and stop tolerating hate, etc. This is of course great and I completely agree.

But here’s something I saw shared recently:

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Now while it’s clear the intention here is to be another one of those lovey-dovey “I’m helpful” and “I’m a decent member of society” posts, the reality of this message is no better than the violence it’s presumably against.

When kindness is conditional

The caveat “if you’re nice to me” is really quite dangerous. What happens when someone isn’t nice to you? How will you react? Will you act out in violence? Or maybe withhold kindness and call it fair? Because if so, your heart is in the same place as those whom I refuse to name.

We need to love people. That’s it. Love people. Which people? All people.

But what if they’re not nice to me? ALL people.

Even the people who are jerks. They’re the ones who are most vulnerable and most in need of love. And your acts of kindness towards them will likely make a bigger impact on them than on the nice people who share your religious and political views.

Whether you want to take a page out of Jesus’ book or Buddha’s, there’s a lot to learn about unconditional kindness that I for one would love to see implemented in our society on a much larger scale than it is now.

Us vs. them

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When we see people as separate from ourselves — whether they are different because they are “black, which, straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian, rich, or poor” or any plethora of other differences we can have —we feel less inclined to help them. They aren’t family; they aren’t friends. They “don’t even go here“. So when they’re in trouble, why should we come to their rescue? In fact why should we even be that friendly towards them unless they are friendly to us first?

firsttheycame

A better alternative

How would the world be if everyone took a proactive approach to kindness? If we all reached out with love for one another, regardless of the response we might get, or not get. What if we gave kindness without conditions or expectations?

Imagine that’s how you lived your life every day. How would you then feel if someone suggested to you that you be nice to someone if they were nice to you?

That would require you to now decrease your kindness. You’d go from being kind to everybody, to now only those who are kind to you. This idea would likely sound odd to you, and feel very unnatural.

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If being kind to everyone without conditions or expectations is our natural state, then we will indeed grow to find anything else unnatural and uncomfortable. The person I aspire to be creates positive change by being a light in a world of darkness. I aspire to give kindness to those who need it most, to those who need it least, and to everyone in between. And I hope the kindness they receive will inspire them to pass it on to the next person. But if not, I will accept that. I can’t control how people react or what they do with my kindness. I can only control myself.

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Who do you aspire to be?

How to get out of your head in stressful situations

How to get out of your head in stressful situations

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle is one of those trendy new-age spirituality books that many of you have likely heard of. I’m sure there are plenty of blog posts summarizing it and book reviews either praising or hating it. (Here’s mine.)

So in this post, I’ll skip the full summary and just focus solely on the number one thing I took away from the book: a super simple and practical tool that helps get me out of my head in stressful or anxious situations. To do that, let’s first get into some background for those who haven’t read the book.

You are not your mind

Tolle writes about what he calls “watching the thinker”, which is paying attention to the voice inside your head, but doing so as an impartial witness. Doing this allows you to recognize that you are not that voice, and thus you don’t have to entertain nor agree with everything it says.

So when you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. … You feel a conscious presence — your deeper self — behind or underneath the thought, as it were. The thought then loses its power over you and quickly subsides, because you are no longer energizing the mind through identification with it. This is the beginning of the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking.

When I’m in a stressful situation, whether I’ve just committed a social faux pas, or I’m dwelling on a personal failure, the common theme is that my mind will likely be racing. This very much feels involuntary and difficult to turn off.

So what’s to be done?

The single most vital step on your journey toward enlightenment is this: learn to disidentify from your mind.

This of course is a process that takes practice to master, but I have noticed immediate effects even from the first time I tried to witness my mind as separate from myself. It’s like being afraid of the huge monster until you see that it’s just a tiny bug’s shadow projected onto the wall. After that, you couldn’t convince yourself to be scared even if you tried.

One day you may catch yourself smiling at the voice in your head, as you would smile at the antics of a child. This means you no longer take the content of your mind all that seriously, as your sense of self does not depend on it.

There’s an important implication here that no matter how “enlightened” we become, our mind will always come up with negative, paranoid, or preposterous content. It’s not that this will change, but rather that we will no longer identify with it, no longer assume its validity, and will go as far as to smile at how outlandish it is.

You’re not your emotions either

Mind, in the way I use the word, is not just thought. It includes your emotions as well as all unconscious mental-emotional reactive patterns. Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind — or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body. For example, an attack thought or a hostile thought will create a build-up of energy in the body that we call anger.

Just as we easily identify with the thoughts our mind has, we also fall into the trap of identifying with how we feel.

I am angry. I am sad. Instead, we can frame it as merely an emotion we feel, not something we are. Feelings come and go.

The question

So, here it is.  With an awareness that you are not your mind, the next time you’re stressed:

Make it a habit to ask yourself: What’s going on inside me at this moment?

Take a moment and just observe. What thoughts are coming up? What emotions am I feeling? Is there any physical response happening?

An important note here is, “don’t analyze, just watch.” Maintain a separateness from your mind as an outside observer. Then “feel the energy of the emotion.” Remember that emotions are the body’s natural reaction to your mind. They are not to be judged, but merely observed. It’s okay they are happening.

This reminds me of a quote that was shared with me the other day:

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It’s okay to have a meltdown.  It’s okay that your mind will have negative, self-defeating thoughts. It’s okay that emotions will arise from those thoughts, and that you will feel physical discomfort sometimes.

Let me summarize the process. Focus attention on the feeling inside you. Know that it is [accumulated pain] . Accept that it is there. Don’t think about it — don’t let the feeling turn into thinking. Don’t judge or analyze. Don’t make an identity for yourself out of it. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you.

To be able to pause for a moment in a stressful situation and take an honest look at what’s really going on inside of your mind is to give yourself a real chance. If you can’t break the identification with yourself and your mind, you have no chance. You will be a slave to whatever irrational thoughts come up. You will reduce yourself to being your emotions.

Using this technique has completely changed my perspective. As someone who tends to over-analyze and worry, being able to step outside of that has been like opening a window in a smoke-filled room. I can breathe. I have hope. Everything will be okay.

Let me know if you try this technique and how it works for you!

The way we think about charity is dead wrong

For this month’s Young Professionals Ted talks lunch, I chose the talk. The talk I chose is called The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong by Dan Pallotta.

Here were the prompting questions I came up with to lead our groups discussion:

“These social problems are massive in scale, our organizations are tiny up against them, and we have a belief system that keeps them tiny.” Do you think that if enough people change their beliefs, organizations can grow big enough to actually do things like cure cancer and end homelessness?

He talked about the hypothetical Stanford MBA grad who makes $400k/yr and who donates $100k to charity. Which role would you choose for yourself: that one or the role of CEO of the charity?

If a Disney movie flops, no problem; but if a charity tries a new endeavor and it doesn’t produce the results, their character is called into question. Do you think this is the right perspective to have? Should charities be more careful when it comes to risk taking with donations?

People often wonder what percentage of their donation goes to the cause vs. overhead.
Have you ever reconsidered donating to a charity because of the fear your donation will be misused? Have you had the belief that overhead is not part of the cause? What do you tend to assume overhead means?