Minimalism and Flexibility: How to stay sane when everything happens at once

When I woke up this gloriously cool morning, I thought to myself , “Man it’s nice to have a slow paced Monday ahead.”  Then everything changed, and suddenly, I’m filling-in, rearranging, TCoB and all the other things that happen on a not-relaxing day.

And it’s ok. It really is.

One of the things that’s great about my life right now is my level of flexibility. Partially because I’m in an in-between season, but mostly I have minimalism to thank for the space to manage a day when all the unexpected things happen at the same time.

Last week I wrote about my obsession with moving and changing things (we have a new smaller bed arriving today, whoo hoo!). Seeing my stuff through a minimalist’s eyes has certainly reduced the amount of belonging in my home. But minimalism isn’t really about stuff. It includes stuff, and for me it began with getting rid of stuff. At it’s heart, minimalism is about making space for what’s most important, and embracing those things fully.

While minimalism may have started with my stuff, it became about making space for who I am. Minimalism is why, when I reached the end of my ability to function without some alone time last week, I was able to move everything aside and make space for self care. I’m not flexible because I have a clean counter-tops, but because the commitments I make on my calendar, to my family, with my friends and for myself are all things which matter most, instead of a jumble of possibly good opportunities with no real relationship to who I am. Breathing space matters, so I make room for it. I schedule it in, and I honor that commitment without guilt.

It takes some courage to apply minimalism to my schedule. It means sometimes I am generous with my No. For instance, we’ve filled May with delightfully fun and celebratory events for people I love deeply, including myself–BIRTHDAY GIRL! Plus, I have two weekly commitments for ministries in which I am heavily invested. Which means anything else that comes up is 99.5% likely to receive a no response.  Yes, I may disappoint people. They may feel I, somehow, let them down. Maybe, but probably not.

The thing is, I have a tendency to see myself with an inflated sense of self-importance. I like to believe I am needed by more people than I am. This isn’t to say I am not appreciated; I am and I know that. But in many instances, I am replaceable, and I believe it’s very healthy to realize this. It doesn’t mean I am not loved. It means I understand where I fit in the world. This understanding is a very freeing way to relate to everyone and everything around me. It helps me make decisions without guilt or resentment. My yes is yes, and my no is no. Those to whom I am irreplaceable, my husband, my children, my family, my intimate relationships, they are the ones who will receive my greatest focus. Other things may be important, but they aren’t permanent, and that’s ok.

All of this self-awareness is possible because minimalism encourages self-exploration and discovery. I know myself better, because I have made space to understand who I am and how I tick. Clearing away the clutter, physical, mental, spiritual and in my schedule, makes room for options and flexibility. It’s why I may feel some stress today, but not nearly crisis or meltdown level. I’ve made space to honor true emergencies, and still meet my most important responsibilities. Everything else is adjustable. It’s truly liberating to be able to say that and mean it.

The intersection of margin and play: A Playful Manifesto reboot

Nothing feels more expansive to me than an unscheduled stretch of time.  When I take a day to refocus, I swear, I can actually feel my brain, my physical brain, relax.  Learning how to create margin in my schedule and responsibilities is an on-going process, but I am getting much better at it.

While I not looking at my to-do list and not vacuuming the bedroom, my brain was deliciously occupied with plans and fun projects for the summer (I can barely stand not to write about it today, but I’m saving that fun for the weekend. It’s going to be great!). I hooked new yarn and dreamed about our new bed. For a little while, I stood outside and glowered at the tomatoes which aren’t going to grow anymore apparently.  I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls, or seven. What?!! I’m almost done with the whole show!

In other words, today was great big unruly, lazy, restful enjoyment, and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it. It’s true; I require a good deal of margin to be at my best, but I’ve decided my best is worth the wait.

Last week, I planned to start a sort of throw-back Thursday theme, sharing writing which originally appeared on the Middle Places blog (A moment of silence, please.  They were good years). Instead, I decided not to stress over an in-depth project today.

However, while I was sorting through the word treasures, I found this fun little piece from last summer, which completely fits my mood today.  I remember feeling full of hope and inspiration when I wrote it. Which helps me believe that maybe I don’t hate everything anymore. Maybe I just hate some things, now. It seems a little writing, running, music, booking and hooking and great deal of margin is exactly what I need in this season.

So as a reminder to us all: The playfulness manifesto, a reboot

 

Playful Manifesto

Today, I will not lose myself in the mundane or the hum-drum.
Time is precious and happy memories last a lifetime;
No one reaches the end of their days with regret over unwashed laundry.

I may make a to-do list, but I reserve the right to leave items for tomorrow.
I may sleep in, or I may get up early to see the sunrise.
Some weeks I will do both,
And take naps.

Refusing to hurry, I will waste time.
If there is cake, I will eat it.
As often as possible
Yes! will be my response to myself and my loved ones.
I will read books that make me feel.
I will watch movies and eat popcorn.
Since, both ice cream and watermelon both have healing properties,
I will have second helpings of both

I will smile often,
Be in pictures with my family.
 The words “beach body” or “bikini ready”
will not be a measure of self worth.
I will wear pajama pants at inappropriate hours.
As the sun sets,
I will drive fast with the windows down and the radio on
Full blast.
I will live in the moment.
When I forget to live in the moment,
I will breath deeply and try again.
Then I will try again.
I won’t stop trying.

I will swim in the lake.
 Lie in the sun,
Rest.
I will stop looking at the time while rushing everywhere.

Playfulness is as important to life as discipline and responsibility.
I will not lose myself in in should and must.
Instead, I will laugh, because laughter is a miracle.
Embracing imperfection I will remember
just because I can’t do a thing perfectly doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.
It’s perfectly acceptable to be weird.
or eat cake and ice cream for breakfast.
I don’t have to conform to the modern definition of anything.

 Now, let’s go out and play.

Introvert Cookies: how I defy cultural norms

Each week when we meet together for Celebrate Recovery, we have snacks.  It’s a well-known law in the south that wherever two or more are gathered in His name there will be a covered dish. Now, I’m not opposed to snacks in the least, but I gave myself permission to defy cultural norms and not take food every place I go. Therefore, I don’t snack socially anymore (the basic, don’t eat if you didn’t contribute principle – my own rule, not anything imposed upon me). It reduces my stress level and my waistline. Win-win.  But Monday evening, my friend was concerned about the quality of her cookie contribution. I sacrificed my principles and taste tested a cookie, strictly for quality control.

It was delicious. Amazing. Soft, crumbly, buttery shortbread cookie topped with melted caramel and chocolate, which then cooled into a sort of shell. If someone made a homemade twix bar, it would taste like this cookie, only this cookie makes twix blush with shame. I know this because after the first cookie I ate two more. I am the sort of friend who will sacrifice deeply in this way.

There was, however, one slight drawback to the cookies. The caramel, as it hardened, became very, very chewy. And as my friend does not stint on ooey-gooey toppings, it wasn’t a thin layer. The result was an amazingly, delicious cookie which rendered the eater entirely unable to communicate during the consumption process, or for a few minutes afterwards. Worth it.

While most CR guests are in small group, two or three of us set out the snacks in a separate room. This is where the quality control occurs, and it is where two of us succumbed to shortbread cookie ecstasy and silence for several minutes. What’s funny about this is both of us handling the set up are highly introverted. Together, we share our introvert struggles, anxieties, and what we like about our personalities, even when they make it difficult to fit in. We are also quite comfortable to be together quietly for large chunks of time, as introverts do. On Monday nights, these quiet setting up moments are sandwiched between two periods of high social interaction for us, This little bit of quiet space is always welcome.

So here we are, alone in a big room, chewing cookies. And chewing cookies. More chewing. And still more chewing, delicious buttery, caramel-y cookies.

It went on for a bit.

And then, we got the giggles. We attempted conversation, but we just couldn’t do it. We could not talk and consume this cookie at the same time. Instead we immersed ourselves in cookie-chewing until the experience ended. After we laughed and giggled…and ate another cookie…we decided to call them Introvert Cookies. If handed out to a room full of people, these cookies would halt conversation for a very long time. Which of course got us giggling even more. We had to eat another cookie to prove our hypothesis.

Sure enough, delicious silence. Just like I like it.

It’s interesting to me, as I look back, not just on this silly moment, but over the last year, how much more at ease I am with myself. My decision to eat before leaving home so I don’t have to take a covered dish somewhere, or my contentment with sitting quietly in a room even with other people around, or a hundred other quirks and oddities which make up the essence of me have long been a point of internal contention. One day I finally realized I don’t have to conform to popular culture. I don’t have to buy certain things, or eat certain ways, or be on certain bandwagons just to fit in.

I can do these things, and sometimes I do. But when I do, it is without pressure or resentment. Giving myself permission to be who I am has freed me to do everything more wholeheartedly.

It helps when we realize, we all exist in imaginary cultural boxes. Christians think this. Teen-agers do that. Poor people are this way. The world works that way.

Except it isn’t true, not all the time, or for every person. Boxes are neater, sure. And whole lot easier. We all experience tremendous pressure to conform to box where we mostly identify. But what would it look like if we didn’t? I don’t have the answer, but exploring the possibility has led me on a very healing and exciting journey.

If you like, we can share an introvert cookie and think about it.