I’ve been doing this minimalism thing for several years now–walked the walk, wrote the book, etc. It’s the normal state of things here at home, and it suits. But every once in a while something happens to remind me that I’m still vulnerable to wanting to shop my brains out.
Staying on the Right Road
It was my mother’s birthday last weekend. She came up to have a get-together with the family, stay overnight, and do some shopping. I drove us to the shops, the kids came and treated us all to pizza (which Mom really loves), and I made a cherry cheesecake with a single candle for a wish. Eighty-two candles would have melted the cake. We had a good time.
But a funny thing happened while browsing the shops: my old want/buy addiction kicked in. When my mom visits, I set my work aside and make that time with her my focus, which is a good thing, and any number of lifestyle and relationship writers will tell you the same. But Mom is a lifelong recreational shopper. She really enjoys it, really gets into it–and I swear it’s infectious.
Now falling off the wagon was understandable, since we’ve not only been on a typical minimalist material lockdown, but a Read more »
It’s been a number 107 summer–and that’s where we’ve been, right here at home, about 99% of the time, working for 90% of the waking hours, with a breaks in the garden and Netflix at night. The 1% we aren’t here we are visiting with family. And that’s okay. Different, but okay. Certainly keeps things simple.
Going Bananas at Home?
There are times in life when certain kinds of projects take precedence: moving house, building a house, or major remodeling; having a baby and adjusting to parenthood; setting up a new business, either online or brick and mortar; helping a family member downsize and relocate or dealing with an estate; recovery and therapy after an accident or illness or helping someone who is going through it.
I personally know at least one person going through each of those things. How much extra activity anyone can handle varies from person to person; certainly the older one gets, the less extra can be done without detriment to the main activity. Steve is setting up a new business, about which I’ll post in the near future, but for the most part I’m immersed in writing novel #2. It’s working title is An Unexamined Wife, and continues my heroine Charlotte’s adventures as a sleuth. While it’s going faster than the writing of novel #1, it has its challenges. I have set a goal for myself to have three novels published by the time I turn 60, which will be in July of 2015. That means getting #2 out before the end of this year, ideally this fall.
To do this means a lot of BIT–butt in chair. I’m not the fastest writer in the world, so it takes a bit more BIT to make progress against a a deadline, even a self-imposed one. Yet books don’t get written in a vacuum, and certainly don’t reach their target audience in one. Whether traditionally- or self-published, reaching one’s readers (almost, but not quite the same as marketing) is largely up to the author. This means getting comfortable not only with blogging, but social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.
One friend who underwent moving house is Tamara at Suburban Satsangs, who recently blogged about a project to post one picture a day on Instagram for the month of August, via Susannah Conway’s #augustbreak2014. I had an iPod, an Instagram app I never used, and a need to expand my horizons in a fun and low-impact way, so when Tamara issued a double-dog dare to join her in this project, I just hadda do it. There are daily prompts you can sign up for, if you like. I liked, and if you are interested in writing prompts inspired by the photography prompts, check out my daily series on my writing blog, Meg Wolfe Writes. That’s for the month of August. I’m getting the hang of posting them on other social media too, and longing for the day it feels like second nature. I’m liking Instagram–it gives you all sorts of tweaks to make a lousy photo more interesting!
There’s been visits with my mother and my granddaughter, get-togethers with the kids, but no trips to the beach or to Chicago. In fact, we haven’t been to Chicago since last September and we’re not renewing our Art Institute membership. But getting to watch the baby grow and interact more and more each week has been great fun. All the work on the garden last summer has paid off, too, with a lush and quiet outdoor room we enjoy during coffee breaks and even an occasional meal. In time, all this will change, the routine will be a little more “cluttered,” with more going on–good things, even.
But for now, it couldn’t get simpler. Is your summer a simple one?
One topic of conversation that’s come up often in the last few weeks at Chez Min Woman is taking the time to enjoy family and simple things like, well, summer.
Greens and Purples in the Garden
Seven months of winter will do that (or even one month, if you’re just not a winter person), and certainly a grandchild will do it, too. Those little ones are not little for very long, and Steve and I have been in full grandparent mode, entranced by the baby that has evolved from the infant, and watching the baby (now four months old) make those physical and verbal steps toward toddlerhood. She has us wrapped around her exquisitely chubby little finger.
The garden has also has us under its spell. It was overhauled last year and this is the first full spring and summer for many of the plants and transplants. The clematis that just sat there all last summer has boomed into a lush green vine top-heavy with the darkest possible purple flowers atop the arbor. The honeysuckle seems to grow another foot each time it rains–and it’s been raining a lot. The fragrance is heavenly. The shrubs are flourishing, the trees seem to have doubled in size–weren’t they just twigs five years ago, and now over fifteen feet high and ten in diameter?
Two of the roses seemed to be dead after the harsh winter, but one of them stubbornly refused to be dug up–it’s sprouted new growth, and looks healthier than ever. The other rose has been replaced by another clematis–which, like it’s sister plant did last year, is just sitting there. Overall, however, the garden is lush and we love to sit out there under the umbrellas for coffee breaks between bouts of work.
The work is demanding, mostly because it has to be. Time is of the essence. But no matter how important it is to work, whether for a living or for its own sake, there are other things that are even more time-sensitive: an elderly mother; a son and his wife in their prime; a baby; a spouse. A warm day in a peaceful garden. A bike ride around the neighborhood. Just life.
It’s as simple as that.
Next summer, the view from the garden might well be one of a condo under construction, dusty and noisy and we’ll no longer have a backdrop of open green space. We plan to enjoy the show, if at all possible–very little we can do about it, anyway. Or maybe we won’t be here at all. There are a lot of rather vague possibilities, some attractive, and some decidedly unattractive.
No point in worrying about it, in distracting ourselves from either the work at hand, or from the pleasures to be had.
How’s your summer going?
If there’s one thing most of us know about the human experience, it’s this: the difficulty of delivering on one state of being while in the throes of a very different state of being. A common example would be when one is sick, but a paper or other project is due and no extensions on the deadline are allowed. Or you have allergies or cramps but must put on your game face and uncomfortable shoes and be the very model of professional comportment All. Day. Long. Perhaps the worst is when your heart is broken, but you need to keep on keeping on, often without anyone else knowing what you’re going through.
A Certain Amount of Denial
It’s a minimalism, of sorts, when you think about it. You find a way to shrink the amount of space your personal reality takes up in your head in order to attend to something larger than yourself, or at least more important in the larger scheme of things than your pain.
Part of being properly socialized is learning to take the focus off ourselves and hopefully place it on our role in the world. However, even to this day, the expectation of acceptable behavior is all too often matched by the expectation of acceptable thought; people feel coerced to deny to themselves that they are unhappy, frustrated, in pain, or even hungry. Even after social changes made “finding oneself” in its various forms acceptable, far too many people still can’t maintain a comfortable balance between their public and private selves: mindlessly doing what we’re expected to do is not the same as choosing to act differently than we feel with a desirable end goal in mind. Self-denial in this sense contradicts the pursuit of happiness.
Denying the expression of our personal pain can turn into denying that there might be a larger problem. This is how oppression gains a foothold, whether in a relationship, in a workplace, or in a nation. Then expressing our pain itself becomes part Read more »
Reading and writing about minimalism naturally triggers a bit of online research. One day my search turned up the terms “Diderot effect,” and “Diderot unities.” I only knew of one Diderot, the 18th-century French philosopher–sure enough, the terms referred to him, and in particular to an essay he wrote on the problems with consumerism, “Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown.”
When the new spoils us for the old
Diderot describes the gift of a new red robe, so beautiful and luxurious that it makes everything else in his wardrobe and home look unacceptably shabby by comparison. So he replaces his utilitarian straw chair with a leather one, his simple fir bookshelf with an inlaid armoire, etc. This process of upgrading continues with purchase after purchase, including expensive art from auction houses, until he is in debt and his lifestyle no longer reflects his original values:
I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one.
The “Diderot effect” is the phenomenon of a new possession causing a chain reaction of acquiring more new possessions to go with it. Things that “go with” one another are referred to as “Diderot unities.” These terms were coined back in the 1980’s by anthropologist Grant McCracken in his book, “Culture and Consumption,” and expanded on by sociologist Juliet Schor in her essay, “Learning Diderot’s Lesson: Stopping the Upward Creep of Desire;” they have since become part of the language of analyzing consumer and marketing trends. Do a search for those terms, and you’ll find lots of articles and posts that pretty much say the same thing.
What I find particularly interesting is that Diderot is one of the foremost philosophers of the Enlightenment, also known Read more »