Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On.

Good evening, Dear Reader. We’ve been riding out “the winter storm that never was” for the last couple of days here in the Show-Me State. My WTForecast app has had fun telling me how cold it is, but other than wind, a little freezing drizzle, and cold little slivers of ice hitting my face, I’m still wondering where this thing is and if it is coming at all. I hope it doesn’t, but you know…Mother Nature doesn’t ask me. She’s kinda independent like that. And certainly more in control of the weather than I.

While I sit here wondering if we will see snow this week, I decided to forge ahead on a new series focused on the things we are letting go of this year, as outlined in this post from January. I’m going to spin the “Topic Wheel” (Kinda like the Pitch Perfect Riff Off scene) to see where we land today. While I’m doing that…

Grab a drink. Settle in. The topic for February is…

Songs about sex!

Kidding. Clearly, you didn’t see that scene. Anywho….

I’ve chosen to write about letting go of “The Illusion of Control”. I think this is going to get good and interesting because I’m thinking about me and my fella. He, the ISTJ, and I, the INTJ, think very much alike and we are also two individuals used to being in charge. To add to that mix…if you believe in this sort of thing…he’s a Leo and I’m a Virgo. In other words, we are both independent, determined, logical, and used to things going a particular way. I’m convinced, watching the two of us work through a decision about dinner or the next road trip, that the world is run by INTJs and ISTJs. We decide, we plan, we get going. Boom! How anyone else gets anything done without those two personality types is beyond me. But, as much as I like our similarity, there are times when one of us just simply has to yield to the other. You can have too many head chefs in the kitchen, right? Sometimes I’m right. And sometimes he’s right. The key is affirming that to the other.

For me, this yielding thing doesn’t come naturally. I’ve been operating under the Illusion of Control for so long, that it’s been hard to let go of that constant fear of losing it. And for those of you who think I just made that title up, The Illusion of Control is a real thing. It was named by psychologist Ellen Langer and, according to a highly credible source (Wikipedia), “The illusion of control is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events, for example, when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence.” (Kinda like the character Marty Byrde in Netflix’s “Ozark”.)

The thing is, though, when it comes to my fella…I trust him. I mean, I’ve trusted him enough so far to say “okay” to a lot of things I wouldn’t have before. If you’ve been reading any of my stuff over the past few years, you know that trusting anyone is not easy for me. But there’s somethin’ ’bout this boy. Swoon. As independent and in control as I seem to be most of the time, it is refreshing to stand back and watch someone else run the show. And he does it so well…I just let him do it. I don’t think he’s going to steer me wrong, most of the time. Case in point, the way he asked me out on our first date went like this…

Him: “How do you feel about a real road trip with a semi stranger to go on a quest for whiskey?”
Me, in my head: “Girl. Don’t do it. It’s dangerous. You don’t even really know him. He used to be cop. You know cops are cray-cray.”
Me, out loud: “Um. That sounds terrifying. When do we leave?”

It’s been odd, trusting this guy, because unless my anxiety is yellow-level or higher, I have been able to just…breathe and let go. (Be all in, you know?)

So, we find ourselves here tonight, Loves. And I’ve got a few things that I can offer you as you take the step toward letting go of the Illusion of Control. One of my favorite bloggers, Leo Babauta, wrote his own take on this topic here which is a great read if you want something a bit more Zen. If you’re ready for a little spicier version, most likely sprinkled with cuss words, then please continue…

  1. Trust the process. I’ve said this for years. I’ve even said it to some of you. But it is absolutely true. The Universe only unveils your life’s plan in little segments at a time because It knows that if you knew the whole story upfront…you’d cash out your chips and never finish the game. As hard as it can be at times, I encourage you to have some faith that everything is working out exactly the way it is suppose to in the exact perfect timing for which it was meant to happen. That terrifying road trip guy? He asked me out four years ago. And we met for lunch. And that was that – for various reasons. Something just didn’t click then. And why does it click now? Who the fuck knows. It just does.
  2. Stop petting your peeves. Seriously…sometimes we can be our own worst enemies and we continue to do the same things over and over again expecting a different outcome. Some would say that’s the definition of insanity. And here’s the kicker: You are absolutely choosing to do that. So? Stop that shit already. I have a real life example of this nonsense for ya. There’s a perfectly good highway that takes me from my hometown to the next town over…except I absolutely hate merging onto that highway. I don’t like the drive. I don’t like the traffic. I don’t like seeing the two million square foot “church” on the side of the road…I just don’t like it. So, about mid-December, I started going a different route. I head out by the lake…around the bend…cut through the country…and arrive at my destination calm, cool, and collected. Sure, it takes me few minutes more but since I’ve stopped petting my own peeves, I am simply happier. You, too, can choose differently.
  3. Change the lens. I’ve recently taken up photography and I’m learning what different lenses do for a photograph. The same goes for your life. If you continue looking at your life through the lens of what you think it should look like, you won’t be able to recognize how it could actually look if you looked at it differently. My son believed he only liked cheeseburgers (Plain!) from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Sonic. I’ve told him over and over there are better burgers and he just would not buy it. Until someone else encouraged him to try one at Freddy’s this week. Someone, besides his mother, told him – and I quote – “I think these burgers are really great and I think you’ll like it, too“. He tried it because the lens (person suggesting it) was different.

So, in closing, here’s the deal, kids: You can’t control every aspect of your life. I think even the dumbest of folks understand this at their core. And you are not dumb. You are a fucking rockstar. In fact, you are so much a rockstar that all the members of Aerosmith wish they were you.

So…just take a breath. Inhale the good shit. Exhale the bad shit. Spin the bottle. Just like that fateful childhood game…the outcome may not have been what you thought you wanted but it might just be better than you ever expected.

Leaving you, as always, with a quiet and calm song by Jimmy Buffet. I personally think this song pairs well with a crisp Chardonnay with floral undertones, but alas, I’m on the wagon for a few more weeks. Enjoy the song and have a glass for me. 

BTW, if you liked this post and think others might enjoy it too, feel free to share it on social media.

Sharing the Love…

As my editor, Kathryn, looks over several of my newest blog posts, I decided to share some inspirational pieces with you.  I made a promise to my readers that I would stay on track this year and I want to keep the momentum. If you ever wondered how I got started in this new lifestyle and developed this mindset, then I want to introduce you to some of my favorite people!

Grab some hot cocoa, a cup of coffee, or a nice steaming cup of tea.  Settle in.  Relax.  (How can I?  I’m so damn busy?!?!)  Just do it, already.  It’s important to take a deep breath, rest, and restore your soul.  Start now.  And start reading about some of these amazing lives…

Becoming Minimalist by Joshua Becker.  I will sound like a complete cult follower and a possible weirdo by admitting this out loud about a man I have never met but JOSH BECKER changed my life.  If I didn’t love to write so much and share my battle with materialism with the world, I’d simply just redirect to you Josh’s blog every week.  No one says it better than Becker.

Simple Mom by Tsh Oxenreider:  You don’t have to be a mom to enjoy what Tsh has to say about living a simple life.  She’s an easy read and her ideas are a breeze to carry out.  I picked up her book, Organized Simplicity, at the library (I don’t buy books anymore 🙂 because, well, that takes up space).

Get Simplifized by Dan and Vanessa Hayes:  More of any organizational blog than living the life blog, but they have some excellent tips.  My favorite, and definitely on my wish list, is to build a ‘home office shed’ for both myself and my husband since we both work at home.  That would free up two rooms in our house, or help us realize maybe we could even downsize more (Although, my house payment is less than $620 a month…so I’m pleased with the space and payment.  It might be hard to find something better).

The Complete Guide To Imperfect Homemaking by Kelly Oribine.  I started following Kelly on another blog but since the birth of her 6th (5th??  7th?? ) child she’s only able to maintain one blog now (What???  Really, Kelly.  Get on the ball. 🙂 ) so I’m left to catch up with her on Imperfect Homemaking.  That’s okay.  I love her simple style and love that she manages to raise that many children on one income.  She rocks.

365 Less Things by Colleen Madsen.  Like me, Colleen had no intention in starting some big self-improvement project, nor did she set out to change the world.  Well, she’d done both.  Her practical application to reducing clutter is easy to follow and über easy to implement!

Organised Castle by Fairy.  Just starting her journey into the world of blogging, I can totally related to the challenge of finding simplicity but also finding time to share the message.  She links to several awesome like-minded souls (and even mentions me!!) so check her out.

Finding Contentment – Thoughts on the Downsized Life by Donald Miller.  Some people believe that amassing possessions and debt is the key to being more happy but Donald is not one of them.  He’s not totally convinced that downsizing will make anyone happier, but he does believe that it is a huge component.

I believe when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear.  I was at the end of my rope.  I was completely unhappy, stressed out, and felt like I had no free time at all.  I stumbled across this blog one night, and the rest is history.  I hope to be part of the community of people changing the lives of others with my story.  Enjoy that cup of coffee!

A Year In Review

Today is New Year’s Eve, and with every New Year’s Eve, I consider ways I can make myself a better person during the 365 days to come.  Usually I write about it, only to revisit the musings a year later and feel bad because I didn’t do any of that stuff I said I would do.  Yet, this year, I revisited my post from last New Year’s Day and I realized I really have done most of the things I set out to do.  And I was proud of myself.  I am proud of myself.

This post is a reflection of what I wrote on January 1, 2011 and my notes on what I said I would do.

1)      I said I was going to clear my schedule a bit.  I did and I didn’t.  I really reduced the amount of activities I had become involved in, and I reduced a lot of ‘clutter’  therefore reducing my responsibilities to my ‘things’.  However, I started a new job in the summer which reeked havoc with my free time.  Alas, I did do my best to protect my weekends from anyone and anything work-related.  The result is that I embraced a new hobby (knitting) and found time once a month to meet with some of my girl friends to just hang out.  Also, my relationship with my husband grew stronger and as I look back on 2011, can really only remember one argument.  That’s really cool since stress & money are the top killers in relationships.  We didn’t have much stress…and we didn’t have much money.  So I guess I was committed to trusting the process.

2)      I took a look at my credit report.  I don’t know about you, but pulling a credit report to me is like going to the principal’s office.  I really get sick at my stomach regarding the entire thing.  However, I didn’t do this until the end of the year, so consequently, I have declared 2012 to be the year I start paying down debt  beginning with changing things in my life that contributed to using or increasing my expenses.   Ironically, getting out of debt started with my decision to quit my job.  I know, right??  But manicures, business suits, airport lattes, data plans on my cell phone, and dry cleaning expenses were a nuisance.  I wanted peace and prosperity.  And I wasn’t getting either.

3)      I re-evaluated my ‘social’-ness on my social networking sites.  I decreased the amount of info on LinkedIn, deleted anyone who reminded me how much I hated high school from my Facebook ‘friends’ list (and even axed a few family members whose drama gave me heartburn).  And decided to make this blog more about helping people embrace the conceptual ideas and less about venting my rage on what had started as a creepy online diary.  To erase my entire cyber footprint  is a fantasy of mine, but I don’t think that is really possible anymore.
4)      I made a list of the 5 people who made 2010 fantastic and I decided to spend more time with them.  Some I didn’t get to see in 2011 as much as I hoped, but they still made the cut for 2012 of which I will make more of an effort to hang out.  At times I kill two birds with one stone, inviting a friend to come to another friends house with me, but still…I now know when things get tough on whom I can really count.

5)      I don’t know if I made something better than anyone else this year, but I did commit myself 110% to all the things I did attempt.  I think my Banana Bread is still the best ever, my second knitted hat was much better than my first knitted hat (and my knitting instructor told her husband “I taught her to knit and I think she’s going to be better than me”.  That was a proud day, since really; I didn’t embrace knitting until sometime in September 2011).

6)      I let go of my quest to earn more and made a promise to spend less.  In fact, at the end of 2011 I looked at the job I mentioned previously and I decided it wasn’t for me.  For one, when you travel for a living you have expenses that other people don’t have.  Even if the company reimburses for meals, you don’t have the comforts of home each night and go out on your own dime to simply fight off the boredom.  It was a difficult decision for me because the firm was great and my co-workers even greater.  But, I didn’t like some of the things I thought I needed to do in order to fit into the role and I didn’t particularly like the fact that I was gone all the time.  I decided to cut spending and find a job that was more in line with my own core values – which at the forefront is ‘simplicity’.  Traveling for a living does nothing to encourage a simplistic lifestyle – starting with dumping all your belongings out twice a week so TSA can rummage through them.  I began to loathe the entire experience.  I started out as a new recruit and quickly began road-weary.  I never wanted to become a veteran business traveler.

7)      I made a list of 10 things I could do without and seriously did an okay job at steering clear of them.  The hardest?  Half & Half in my coffee, wine every night, a data plan on my phone, and pedicures.  After 2011, I will still admit this to you, faithful reader:  I do not miss that data plan AT ALL but I admit…I would truly LOVE getting a pedicure and sipping wine on a Tuesday night. Yes…Every. Tuesday. Night.  And any other night of the week, for that matter.

8)      I finished something.  Oh God.  2011 become the year I battled the infamous knitted hat.  To my close friends and family and the ladies at A New Yarn, it simply became known as ‘THE hat.’  I started this darn thing a month before my husband’s birthday in 2010.  When his birthday came and went, I said “I’ll give it to him on Christmas (2010).”  Then it began…the anniversary gift that never transpired, the Valentine’s Day gift that never transpired, and finally the 2011 birthday gift that never transpired…you get the point.  Everyone said “Maybe you should just get some new yarn or even just admit that this hat isn’t going to happen” to which I would reply “Oh.  This hat will happen.” (For emphasis, reread that statement imagining a slight shake in my voice and gritted teeth.)   In October 2011 I ripped the entire thing out, rolled it all back into a ball and started all over again.  That hat had become the epitome of two things in my life:  Failure and the inability to finish a project.  I took one look at that grey ball of yarn, cast on 100 stitches, and decided once and for all that this hat and I were going to finish what we started.  On Christmas morning, 2011, I threaded the 3 inches of yarn through the top of the hat and pulled it tightly, weaved in the ends, and sighed a bit of relief.  I then wrapped the thing up for a Christmas gift for my husband.  Since then, after 14 months fighting with one hat, I’ve managed to make another one – for myself – in about 14 hours.  I don’t know.  Don’t ask me.

9)      I set one goal in 2011.  That goal was to go to work for a major consulting group.  I reached my goal and realized (although the company is excellent and full of excellent people) that it wasn’t a good fit for me.  I was crushed to realize that all I had worked for up until that point was not all that I had hoped it would be.  Alas, I am sticking to the plan and only going to set two goals for myself in 2012, although I’m toying with not setting any at all – a Virgo’s nightmare.

So the overall arching theme for 2011 was to practice rational minimalism, decrease my desire to buy things I didn’t need, simply my schedule and my life, and spend more time with the people of whom I care about deeply and to decrease the amount of time I spend with energy-sucking, drama-filled individuals.  Overall, I can say “I think 2011 was a very good year”.