My Favorite Things

IMG_5139

This morning I am waiting for coffee to brew so that I can put it into one of my favorite coffee mugs, flavor with my favorite coconut milk creamer, and have a leisurely morning warming up for the day listening to some of my favorite CDs. Christmas made me realize that I am very fortunate in my journey towards minimalism in that I am now surrounded by my favorite things and use them on a daily basis.

What is in my life brings me joy.

I came to realize that this week as everyone around me was running around hurried over the Christmas season, and I was just kind of there – relaxed. My big success this season was being able to downsize Christmas from three boxes to one. This is not meant to be a la Scrooge or Grinch-like. I am now surrounded by only my most favorite and meaningful Christmas decorations. Some of the things that said goodbye from the 2 boxes now gone include items such as a string of lights on which only half the bulbs work, some large and heavy clay ornaments that only served to weigh the tree branches down to the point of being unsightly instead of decorative, and the Christmas tree skirt that shows every snag and cat hair.

This year, I enjoyed the holidays with working lights everywhere, ornaments on the tree that were beautiful and meaningful, and music that filled my heart and lifted my spirits. When I had a glass of wine this week, it was in one of my favorite wine glasses that had previously sat in the back of the cupboard – because it was a “favorite” glass it simply sat unused. Why shouldn’t my favorite glass be used as everyday-wear? For what special occasion was I saving it? Life is a special occasion. We are on this earth for a limited time, and the time to enjoy what makes us happy is now.

As I had extra time off from work for the holiday and was home, I also added a few items to the general donation box that was not associated with the Christmas purging. As I looked at the donation box and moved it from one part of the room to another, I thought: “If I were moving, would I want to deal with this box? Would I want to carry it and load it into a truck and unload and unpack it?” Looking at the items in the box, the answer was no. I am so glad to be getting rid of the items in the donation box so they do not weigh me down both literally and metaphorically.

I’ve been on this minimalist journey for about 4 years now, and while the outflow has slowed, it does still continue. I never know what I am going to find where, and be able to take the critical eye over items deciding on whether they are useful or bring me joy.

The upside to the stream out slowing to a trickle means that, for the most part, my favorite things surround me. My goal is to be surrounded only by what I find useful or by that which I love. Life is to short to waste not only on the accumulation of needless and useless crap, but also life is too short to waste on that stuff’s storage, maintenance, and upkeep. As a result of removing the unnecessary, my holidays have been filled with peace. Peace not bought in a store. In fact, this peace has been acquired by actively avoiding the store and removing things I never should have bought in the store in the first place.

As I sit here looking at the favorite mug that was always in the back of the cupboard because it was “the favorite,” I realize that the time is now. The time to use your favorite things is now. The time for happiness is now. The time to do and say all those things you wanted to do and say is now. Life is very short.

Do your favorite things surround you? Does it bring you joy? If not, what do you think about removing the unnecessary so that which you truly love has the opportunity to shine?

 

 

Advertisements

Time is a Gift

IMG_9020

I’m not going to lie. The past month (the first month) of my retirement has been wicked hard. No matter how much I giddily anticipated the slow down, transitions never quite go as planned. As mentioned in an earlier post, my life did not just slow down. It came to a screeching halt.

As painful as that transition was, it served as a wake up call. I definitely got a reality check. I have always thought of time as a commodity. I have never valued my time. My time has always been bought, bartered, or sold, and it has never been my own. In the past few weeks that my life has slowed down, my time has been my own. When you are so busy going from one thing to another, you never have time to think. When your life slows down to a point where you once again retain ownership over your time, it can be an uncomfortable process if you are not used to having time on your hands and are unsure of how to handle this newfound gift.

Old coping skills die-hard. My first thought, in a moment of panic, was that I have to go back to school. I need a fifth degree. I don’t know from where or in what, but I need another degree. Then, I was able to stand back and ask myself, “Do I really want to go back to school?” The answer is no. Twenty years of college was enough.

This transition probably would have been easier on me if it had occurred at another time of year. In spring and summer, my life is full of outdoor activities such as running, surfing, and spending time at the parks. In the winter, I have a tendency to hibernate. While I have plenty of things to do and plenty of ways to entertain myself and stimulate my brain, what I lack is human interaction.

The biggest benefit to slowing your life down is that not only does it leave you with more time on your hands, but also gives you the power to control what you do with your free time. Once I determined that I do NOT, in fact, want to return to school, I asked myself what I do want to do.

I came up with some ideas.

Some of those ideas I decided I do not want to do right now, but in the fall. Some of those ideas I decided were more of a time commitment that I am willing to give right now. While I need human interaction, I do not want to trade school for some other all-consuming activity. I want my time to be my own.

I have identified two activities that I want to do that seem to require a level of time commitment with which I am comfortable. After the holidays, I plan on putting my plan into place to engage in the two activities and hope to pull myself out of the rut into which I have fallen.

I have checked into many different volunteer opportunities with a great many deserving entities. While I would love to help them all, I simply cannot. The beauty of having time on my hands is that I get to choose what to do with my time. Time on my hands is not only a gift to me, but also what I choose to do with the time I have been given can also be a gift to others.

Part of my intention in slowing down my life is to identify what is important and what is not and to be able to focus my energies on the important things. Life is too important not to do so. Time is a gift and not a commodity has been a very challenging but very deserving lesson I have been learning the past few weeks.

Do you view your time as a commodity? Are you constantly working just to get ahead when really, it would mean so much more to your family if you could come home even an hour earlier one day? At the holidays, we purposefully take the extra time to spend with family and friends and to engage in activities that bring us joy.

We should be doing that all year round, not just at the holidays. Time is a gift both to you and to others. Take this time of year as an example of how much joy could be in your life year round if you only view time as a gift and not as a commodity. We have so much when we rewind real slow.

 

120 to zero

IMG_9715

Zero to 60 sounds so sexy when you think of a V8 engine with synchronized 6-speed shifting under the hood of some hot ‘vette with the top down on a sunny day. Every once in a while, we all feel the need for speed, however that may manifest. Sometimes it’s the feeling of pedaling superfast on your bike like you were a kid and letting go of the handle bars. Sometimes it’s trying to run super fast and get under a 6-minute mile. 0 to 60 takes on different meanings for everyone, but always results in excitement.

120 to zero does not elicit the same thrill. It is pretty much the equivalent of hitting a brick wall. No one wants to be a crash test dummy. Unless you are talking about the band, they are pretty cool. My personal favorite is Afternoons and Coffee spoons. I digress. When slowing down, the key is to slow down slowly, not to come to an abrupt halt. It is true in traffic as well as in life.

I feel as if I have gone from 120 to zero in the past month. My purpose in retiring from 20 years as a college student was to do so gradually so that I could adjust to the change without instigating any sort of crisis – midlife or otherwise. Slowing down slowly did not happen as I envisioned. Once I completed my master’s degree, my life came to a very abrupt halt.

The first few weeks were not too bad. It was similar to being on school break such as the winter break for the holidays or even summer. However, now reality has set in, and I am not really sure what to do with myself. The change in seasons is not helpful. At least in summer, I had the parks and the beaches. I took my schoolwork with me as a necessary evil, but I certainly had plenty to do between leisure reading, my surfboard, a Frisbee, and a few other beach toys. In winter, things are much more dismal.

With the exception of the past week, we have had snow on the ground pretty much every single morning since mid-October. We haven’t even hit New Year’s yet, and I am already going stir-crazy with cabin fever and frustrated with my lack of a game plan. Oh, sure, I now have plenty of time to get caught up on leisure reading and to binge watch certain shows I have checked out of the library on DVD. While I have plenty of things to do, I feel like my life is going nowhere fast. I have hit a brick wall.

This was not my purpose. My purpose was to slow down gradually, not come to an abrupt halt. All of my social interactions were school related, and my phone never rings or dings anymore. If I am not in school, it’s like I don’t exist and no one bothers to talk to me. Quite frankly, it’s probably just as well. A big part of the reason why I have not been online much is that I have nothing to say.

While 120 to zero was not my intent, it is my reality. Now I have to figure out how to pick up the pieces and move on. Abrupt halt to my social and intellectual life was not something I wanted.

People say I should get a hobby. I have plenty of hobbies. What I lack is something to give me meaning, and people with whom to interact. I am not sure how to fix those challenges.

Have you ever had an abrupt change? Even when you see something coming and feel you have planned so well, have you had something happen that completely sideswiped you in a way you could never anticipate? Zero to 60 is exiting. 120 to zero is hard. Hopefully I will find a way to turn this around into something more exciting. When one door closes, another one opens. Right?

Maybe not.

Back in the Saddle

shoe pic

Look who is off the injury list with a 2-mile trail run! It was a balmy 39 degrees as I laced up my second pair of Mizuno Wave Rider limited edition model 15s today. I was very fortunate that in my first run back after my last marathon in which I tore muscles in my right hip that I was able to run comfortably without pain today.

I was very fortunate in this injury in that I received stellar medical care and was able to have the luxury of listening to my body completely in regards to what it needed to heal. My massage therapist introduced me to Thai massage to help with this injury, and I highly recommend Thai massage not only for injuries but also for routine maintenance. While I have traditionally received Swedish massage, now that I have experienced Thai, I do not want anything else. Apparently, if you go to the hospital with an illness or injury in Thailand, hospitals provide this type of massage as medical care. After having 4 sessions to aid in the recovery of a torn muscle, I completely understand why this is medical care.

Now that I am off the injury list, I am officially in the off-season. Off-season is the time for cross training and for building strength for the upcoming 2016 running season. I have spent my time on the injury list fully evaluating my injury from all angles, and have determined the best ways to prepare for the next running season. I have figured out which muscle groups need to be worked and how in order to avoid a repeat of the injury I received this year.

Runners are not made on race day. Runners are made in the days and months of training preceding the race. While I am not currently actively training for the 2016 running season, I am working on cross training and strength that will provide the base I need in order to train in 2016. While I am running this winter, my mileage does not often go more than 5 or 6 miles in the off-season. My running is supplemented with swimming, strength training, plyometrics, and various stretching, lengthening and flexibility routines.

While I was ecstatic to be back running in my Mizunos today, I know I have a long road ahead to be sure that I can build a better base for 2016 that will be impervious to the injury that plagued me in 2015. The off-season is not the time to be soft. The off-season is the time to work all muscle groups that do not always get worked once the high mileage of full marathon training kicks into gear. I anticipate that I will not need to start training for my 2016 race until about June or so. I have about 6 months to work my muscles to make sure they are injury-proof for the next race.

The best part of the off-season is the flexibility and creativity that is involved in this portion of the training process. Think of Rocky in Philly chasing chickens or pounding cattle ribs. This is the time of year when training does not have to be orthodox, as long as muscle groups are being worked and prepped to be able to handle the intensity of marathon training that is yet to come.

So, I am back in the saddle again. It may only be 2 miles, but I have a lot of work ahead of me. While I am technically off the injury list, the injury is never far from my mind, as I now must work to be sure that it does not happen again. It’s good to be back.