Monthly Archives: April 2017

On the unique challenges of thriving on lateral change

It can be bewildering to finally get what you want.
I’ve always been an obsessive person. I obsessively do just about everything I do, whether it is wallowing in my own misery, researching an interesting topic, dieting, or planning a trip. I’ve been planning on moving to Mexico since February of 2015. Since then, I took a lot of very big steps to get here (getting rid of all of my things, moving out of my house, buying an RV, saving money,) but ran into a series of infuriating road blocks that prevented success in achieving my goal until this past February, nearly two years to the date that the idea was formed and about a year and half later than I had hoped.
I’ve been here a touch over two months now and it feels “real,” finally. The shiny is wearing off and the reality of this new existence is setting in. My routine feels like a routine rather than a novelty, I barely hear the waves crashing outside my window, and the iguanas are more of a dog teasing annoyance than an enjoyable wildlife encounter. I get a lot of work done, but I spend a lot of time alone. Aside from the amazing view, my studio isn’t that much different from a concrete jail cell: sparse, functional, and isolating.
This is what I wanted, right? Two years, so much planning and preparation, so much worry, so much money. It was all for this. I made it.
Now what?
As you can possibly tell from my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalism lately and this week I read Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki. It’s the latest in a spate of literature that has modernized a lot of ancient ideas about the joys of simplicity and owning less. I was taken by a number of notions and plan on sharing a couple of other posts loosely related to subject matter within its pages, but the first idea that really struck me is that happiness and joy are things that are best triggered and maintained by change.
Not really a novel concept. In fact, this is something my gut has always known and I’ve done quite a good job on acting on it throughout my life without the affirmation of scientific studies or any form of philosophy to influence me. I have always struggled with stasis but spent a good portion of my life trying to combat that instinct to seek change, to keep evolving, because change is not compatible with traditional notions of American success. In American culture the only change we are supposed to strive for is progressive change. We are always building on past accomplishments and “leveling up” in a beguiling form of progression. This kind of change calls for a foundation to be built on though. It is a kind of change that requires stability, and roots. We go to to school to get an education to start a great career and achieve financial success through promotions and building wealth. We start a relationship to get engaged, to get married, to have children, to have grand children. We get a home to decorate and fill with things and put our stamp on it and call it our own. All of these seem like change—they are changes. But because of the systemic progression they aren’t dramatic changes and I suspect that that is not only sufficient, but preferable to most.
I’ve always needed something…more. I think I thrive on lateral change. The whirlwind, totally uproot your life, fake your own death kind of change. Or, you know, quit your job, sell all your stuff and move to Mexico kind of change. I’ve always thrived on the kind of changes that take every damn thing I’ve got in me to accomplish, and when I accomplish them the novelty tends to wear off quickly and I find myself looking for the next “project” to stimulate joy and engage my senses and creative efforts.
Which brings me to now. That dreaded “now what” that follows success. It’s not a bad place to be, really. It means I accomplished a huge goal. But that accomplishment comes with the burden of choosing my next adventure, which is a distinct privilege I am grateful to have these days.
So bear with me as I sort through the options, because there really are so very many. So many business ventures that are calling my name, so many places I could go next. Sometimes your direction is obvious and others it is much less so, but honestly…figuring it out is half the thrill.

On the slow path to minimalism.

I’m not a minimalist by nature, anyone that knows me at all would scoff at that idea. But I am slowly becoming a minimalist by force of circumstances and it’s so. damn. liberating.

I guess my path towards minimalism started a couple of years ago when I decided that my little house in downtown Anchorage, the one actually so packed to the brim with stuff that it was suffocating me, had to go. It was unhealthy physically and psychologically and I couldn’t keep subjecting myself to the weight of so many belongings. I was living in a prison of my own creation. I had collected that prison in piecemeal through six years of depression and manic episodes of inspiration in which I thought somehow buying more things to contain my other things would make the things less…overwhelming.

When I moved out of that tiny one bedroom house there were bags full of things intended to hide or organize or contain other things. Bags that had never been unpacked after I brought them home. Bags that maybe had three year old receipts in them because I wanted to return them when I walked in my door and realized how inadequate and ridiculous I was to think this was somehow my solution, or my salvation. Most of the time hopelessness or embarrassment kept me from following through with those returns, so they languished on a shelf or in a closet or in the basement, mouldering with the other forgotten toys of organized homes and neat spaces. Thousands of dollars worth of things that never left the bag they entered the house in.

Getting rid of it all was hard. Not because I still wanted it, I hated it all and if I could have walked away and dropped a match I would have been relieved. It was hard because sorting through things to get rid of them forces you to confront the sadness that brought them into your life. It forces you to acknowledge the mental illness you’ve been denying for so long and all of the things that goes with that suddenly surface, when you’re sitting alone in a heap of crap you don’t want too embarrassed to ask for help. Hoarding has a complicated relationship with isolation and depression. It often begins with depression which can make even basic house keeping and organization seem overwhelming. It quickly spirals into isolation because you’re embarrassed to have people over and you feel guilty if you go out to do things because you should be getting your shit together at home. Once these two things are in place, you’re set up for the real business of hoarding to get underway because people don’t understand it and they are cruel and judgmental about it—usually unintentionally—and it creates an environment which makes asking for help seem impossible and therefore it keeps getting worse. It just keeps snowballing until you break, if you break.

Luckily I did. I got to the point where I couldn’t do it anymore. That rock bottom kind of thing. I knew I wanted so much more in life and my belongings…all that CRAP…was keeping me from doing it. I was 30 years old and living like a goddamn spinster cat lady and it was no longer acceptable, no matter what the cost of breaking free. I’m so glad that I was able to get to that point and get just enough help to get rid of it all and start a new life for myself. I know not everyone is so lucky, but all it took was one friend saying they would be there full of understanding with their work gloves on and no judgment to help me do the heavy lifting. Bless her heart. I was salty to work with because it really is such a difficult thing, but she put up with it like a champ. That’s a real friend.

I moved out of that house two years ago in June. I didn’t get rid of everything, but I got rid of at least 3/4’s of everything I owned. When I moved to Mexico in February, I left some things in storage in Alaska (yet to be purged) and came here with two rubbermade totes, two suitcases, and my dog. In the last month I’ve realized even this is too much for me. I’ve worn less than 1/4 again of the clothing I brought, the desktop iMac and DVD collection has sat unused, the toiletry bag full of my slimmed down makeup collection has not been opened, and my colored art pencils remain in their zippered pouch with factory points intact.

I have added a few things: a pot with a lid to replace my small camping pot, a lounge chair for the balcony, and some plates, bowls and coffee cups.

I have also added to my wardrobe, surprisingly. I bought three spaghetti strap bamboo rayon slip dresses, two wrap skirts, and a pair of leather Mexican sandals called hauraches. These items, in addition to my sports bras, bathing suits, and capri leggings, are literally all I have worn for the last month. Not one other thing from the pile of clothing I brought from Alaska has been touched, and today it is being packed up to go away.

This is a lighter way of life in every way and I feel so lucky to be living it.