Surfacing

This is a different post than I usually write on this blog. It is about my journey through the last few years in a toxic corporate job, my battle with depression and my belief that amazing things are coming.

Have you ever been scuba diving? If so then you know that when you are submerged deep in the water you don’t really realize it. You know you’re swimming and you might be aware you are underwater, but you can’t really tell if you’re 5 feet under or 50 feet deep.

I feel like this has been my life for the past few years. I knew I was under water, and I would have told you I was just a little under, but what I hadn’t realized is that I was in deep. Way, way under.

I didn’t really know I wasn’t breathing at all. I was holding my breath to see if I could survive another day, thinking that everyone in corporate America ‘worked’ like that. I believed that it was acceptable to live in a toxic environment because it was a career and work is never all that fun. I was just living for Friday at 4pm and slipping down past whatever progress had been made over the weekend on Sunday at 9pm, dreading the next morning. People around me were worried. I was getting physically sicker by the month. But, I kept telling myself that this was life in the fast lane. This was what was required to get the paycheck and have the title.

But I was cracking. Or maybe I cracked. I was losing myself and those who loved me.

Until earlier this summer, when I left my ‘big, corporate job’ and we went away for 16 days. I cried almost every day we were gone. I was broken and sad and wondering how I let myself be sad and broken for so long. Wondering who I was now that I didn’t have the corporate title.

We downsized our home in order to live the dream we had been dreaming. I took a job with a smaller, more personal company and we started living our weekends, instead of just trying to make them last longer.

That was almost 6 months ago. To be honest, at first I thought I had made a terrible mistake. I thought maybe this new job was just like that last one. Or maybe the benefits would have been worth staying for. When I realized that wasn’t the case I started to wonder if I was broken. Maybe I didn’t know how to be a good employee or manager. I questioned myself, my decisions and my wants.

But something else started to happen too, slowly. I started to not dread Mondays. I got control of my anxiety with some help from my physician and from a counselor. I started to look again for the things I really enjoyed and I made plans to incorporate more of those things into my life.

And, I got brave. Braver then I think I have ever been before and more brave then I thought I could be. I went to my new employer (only 5 months in) and I told them what I wanted. It was completely different then the job I had been hired for. But I pitched it. I told them exactly how I wanted my work life to look.

And they said yes!

Not just yes, but a resounding yes. I was initially afraid to even ask, but once I did something great started to happen. I started bobbing above the water I hadn’t even realized I was under. Just a couple bobs at first but as the days went by I spent more and more time breathing in the sunshine that floating on top the water gave me access to. Day after day I felt myself coming up and out of the darkness. I felt myself smiling. Really smiling and laughing and enjoying everything.

Its been a journey. Not always an easy or fun one, especially for those closest to me. They saw me losing myself and could do very little to help. I knew I was breaking me, but I didn’t have the courage to change it.

I’m not going to tell you I’m totally fine quite yet. Years of living in harsh environments takes time to heal from. I talk to my counselor a few times a month and on occasion I find myself worried if this will last, but I wake up most mornings and I am amazed at the sunrise. I stop each evening on my walk into our condo and watch as the moon rises in the sky and the sun casts brilliant orange shadows over the western mountains. I breathe. Deeply. I praise because I’m thankful and I incorporate gratitude into my daily routine. I am deeply grateful for those who stood by me. Who loved me. Whose life this experience altered too.

I’m glad to know you can have a career and be happy. I’m happy to know that Sundays can be days that are filled with fun things and I can go to bed without dread.

I share my story in hopes that maybe someone else will read this and know they too can be happy. I hope that person doesn’t stay in a place that makes them less. I hope that you will never be in a place that makes you stop breathing.

Look for the sun. Never let the darkness hold you under. And if you find yourself in that place, reach for the surface with everything that is left in you. Because the sun is shining. There is warm air waiting for you to breathe deeply into your soul. Be braver then you ever thought you could be. Because, you are worth the effort.

-rache

What to do with Christmas

Christmas is one of the holidays that can create some apprehension about minimalism. I was listening to some podcasts recently and one perspective was to make sure you tell all of your family about your decision to be a minimalist and give them a list of things they could get you, and your kids if you have them, for gifts. The second idea was to just quietly live your life, accept any gifts that are given and make decisions maybe a few weeks or months down the road as they come up about what things you keep like you would any other day with items in your home.

I thought about these two options off and on for a few days and found that neither of them sat well with me. I don’t want to tell people what to get me for Christmas. That feels wrong on a number of levels. I also, don’t want people to waste money on things that may not be kept for very long or buy gifts just because they feel like they should.

I believe there is a happy medium between these two options and its the one our family has been doing for years, not under the umbrella of minimalism, but as a way to really spend quality time together.

Our adult children and their spouses and myself and MP share an outing every year as our Christmas gift to each other. We come together and bring ideas of things we can DO together instead of buy each other. One year we rented a beautiful mountain ‘cabin’ (that slept 15) and spent a weekend in a resort town. Another time we went to a hockey game and once we went on a reindeer drawn sleigh ride and dinner.

One of the things I love about these gifts is that I still remember them. Unlike the sweatshirt or socks I may have received and not ever worn, these gifts create long lasting memories and build on our love for each other. I always remember the laughter, the food, the games and the quiet breakfasts.

We usually do the event in January or February so we have something to look forward to and to lighten the load for other engagements around the holidays. It makes the perfect ‘get-together’ again when winter is really starting to set in.

The other great thing about this gift is I don’t have to store it. I don’t have to find a place for it. I don’t have to wonder how long to keep it. I don’t have to feel bad if I didn’t like it or never wear it. Its a win-win all the way around!

MP and I still buy gifts for the ‘babies’ as I like to call them and a few for each other. One of the grand kids is 7 and the other 2 1/2 but they are still ‘the’ babies. With another on the way this winter I’m sure our Christmases are about to be even more fun filled and I can imagine that as the kids grow, we will incorporate them into our outings as well.

What are your Christmas traditions and how does a minimalist lifestyle play into those events?

And with that….here comes Fall, and Thanksgiving, my very favorite holiday!

-Rache

My “I Want” Exercise

I was listening to a podcast earlier this week and the presenter asked the question, “What do you want?” In this context he was asking the listener to actually list out on paper things they wanted. I thought about it while I drove and decided to take the challenge, so this week I wrote out a list of things I ‘want’.

I started every sentence with the words “I want…” and just wrote until I felt like there wasn’t much else to say.

This was one of those experiments where I decided not to think too hard about what I was writing, to not judge myself, to write whatever I thought and to not edit along the way. Just write. Much like Julia Cameron’s suggestion when doing “Morning Pages ” from her book The Artists Way.

Julia asks people to hand write their thoughts first thing in the morning each day. She suggests at least three pages of free flowing, non-edited conscious stream of thought on a page. I look forward to the time when I can start most days with this journaling habit. For now, I used this technique for my “I want…” list.

At the end of my 4-5 minutes of typing, it was almost surreal to reread what I had typed. My list lacked things like a new car, or the latest Coach cross-body bag. It didn’t have a trip listed or new clothes. There were no household items or dreams of meeting someone specific.

Instead my list consisted of a lot of non-tangibles. Things like peace, time with my grand babies, quiet mornings and big holiday meals with my family topped my wants. As I read down through what I had just let myself write, I saw that the things I want most in life aren’t things at all. They have to do with heart and love and people. And about who I want to become.

This would not always have been the case. There was definitely a time in my life where my list would have looked much different. I am a recovering purse addict, so Coach bags used to be my want all the time! (At one point in time I had over 50 purses!) And I’m not saying I’ll never want or buy something just for fun again. But my list fleshed out the things that are most important to me.

In his blog, Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Becker writes “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing everything that distracts us from it.”

We have definitely minimized our life by downsizing, being intentional about purchases and how we spend our time and it was evident to me that my want list is full of the things I really do want most… people that I love, things that I enjoy doing and time focused on becoming the me I was destined to be.

It was a fun assignment to participate in. I would highly recommend it. Just remember, let yourself write whatever comes to mind. There are no wrong answers. Don’t edit and don’t judge yourself. Just let yourself be free to write.

Once you have your list, chase those things. Create the story of your life that highlights all the things you love most. That’s what I plan to do with my list. Chase and work for all the things that I want.

Everyone’s list is going to look different. That is a beautiful part of this exercise. Just like minimalism or any thing in life, each of us will have our own interpretation of how this will look. There is no right and there is no wrong. There is just you and what is important to you.

Try it and let me know what you learn about yourself. Until then, choose things that make you happy!

~rache