No Regrets

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I used to say that only had one regret in life – that moment when I moved from Massachusetts to New York. I distinctly remember moving on 4th of July weekend, thinking it ironic that at a time when everyone else was celebrating freedom, I was in fact, relinquishing mine, and voluntarily taking up chains. I spent well over 10 years after trying to return to Massachusetts.

It didn’t work. The cost of living is way too high for me to be able to pull an income to live there without being homeless. Not only did I have to face that heart crushing reality, but I also came to realize over the course of time, that I needed to let go of that solitary regret. There is a Buddhist saying that if you live in the past, you are depressed, if you live in the future, you are anxious, and to live in the present because it is a gift.

I agree wholeheartedly that the present is a gift. When I face challenges or adversities and start to become stressed, I try to summarize the situation by identifying the two or three things that are bothering me the most. Then, if I mentally set those things aside, I realize that life is pretty damn good and start counting my blessings.

Now I live with no regrets.

Regrets are borne out of the “woulda, shoulda, coulda” mindset. We all have it from time to time. Sometimes we wonder how life would be if we had done this differently or chosen that over what we are doing. The key is to not get caught up in that exercise and beat yourself up over what could have been. It typically happens when we are contemplating major life changes. When faced with big choices, choice A is sure to have a distinct and different outcome than if we were to go with choice B.

I have had some pretty major life changes over the course of the past year. My 20-year career as a college student ended, and I have been out of school for 6 months now. I have no regrets. The timing was right. I was ready to be done. Four or five years ago, when various people were encouraging me to drop out of school due to my grueling commute, I was not ready to be done with school, and to drop out at that time surely would have resulted in regret. The timing was right for me to be done now. I am completely happy.

About 3 months ago, I completely deleted my faceboook account. Every so often, I will be in conversation with someone, and they will say “I saw it on facebook,” or “on facebook …” and trail off. I just smile and nod. I honestly do not feel I am missing anything by not being on facebook. My stress levels have decreased significantly. I do not feel the pressure to keep up with the Jones’. I am no longer subjected to everyone’s drama. Believe me, to quote the infamous Deadpool, facebook is to my mental health like what “Limp Biskit did to music in the 90s.” I am significantly happier without it.

To add to the plethora of changes that have been occurring, I cut my hair last week. You are probably like, “whatever, I get a trim every 7 weeks.” I typically get my hair trimmed also, except this was a major cut. My hair has been halfway down my back, approaching my butt for going on 10 years, and it is now up above my shoulders closer to my ears. One of my coworkers did a double take and literally almost fell over when they saw it. It just needed to be gone. When your hair is so long and so fine that it not only gets caught in every seatbelt, purse strap, and starts to attempt to try to dreadlock itself, when you don’t want dreadlocks, then its time to be gone.

With my new hair, I can drive with all the windows down without having to worry about my hair being knotted worse that a rubber band ball, and showering is quick and easy. Believe it or not, I can still style it in my signature braids for running, although the braids are now so small, they make me look like a toddler. My hair is just slightly longer than that kewpie doll look.

I am looking to sell the bed in my spare bedroom so that I can reclaim that space for a different, yet to be determined, purpose. Not only am I changing myself, but the space around me.

Big changes that are coming in the future is that I will be shutting off my home internet, and giving up my space in the parking garage I use for work and having to walk a few miles to work from someplace that has free and safe parking. Giving up Internet and parking are going to be challenges, but are necessary changes that need to be made for financial reasons. There are only two ways to get more money in life to pay for necessities. You either earn more money or you reduce your expenses.

I could earn more money. I could apply to teach at one of the colleges in the area or look for some other part-time job. I don’t want to. I enjoy the time I have now with my given work schedule. It is not worth it to me to sacrifice my time to work another job to try to get more money. Now that I have experienced this phenomenon called leisure time for the first time in my life, I am hooked and do not want to give it up. I spent decades working 70 hours a week. I don’t want to do it again.

The only way to come up with more money to cover the unexpected medical expenses I am facing right now is to reduce my expenses. The only frivolous expenses I have are parking and Internet. So, they have to go. Once the parking and Internet bills are gone, I am only left with necessities like rent, electric, car, and insurance. If cutting parking and Internet does not free up some cash to pay medical bills, then I don’t know what will.

Before everyone throws a fit over canceling home Internet, be aware that my cell phone has unlimited Internet. When I switched phone carriers last fall, I not only saved myself over $100 a month in the switch, but I also went from having an Internet cap to unlimited. I can still email, catch the news, sports, and weather right from my phone. In fact, in looking at my Internet usage over the past 6 months since I have been out of school, the only time I bring my laptop out and plug into the Internet is when I’m writing this blog. Not only can I do that from my phone with an app, but I also have access to some places with some pretty good wifi if I want a larger platform than my phone. Spending $2 at my favorite café once a week for coffee and wifi is a whole lot cheaper for Internet at a grand total of $8 per month ($2/week x 4 weeks) than what I am paying now. Plus, going to the café once a week gets me out in the community. Or, maybe I will alternate. If I can blog through an app on my phone, then maybe I will only frequent the café twice a month. Either way, I do not feel I am using the Internet enough to justify paying for home access, and the money I will save by shutting off Internet will be better used for other bills.

The hardest transition is going to be giving up my parking pass. Having a parking pass is a huge convenience. It is close to my work, it is in a safe location, and the car is covered so I do not have to deal with snow and ice in the winter. My car is safe there. Now, the challenge will be finding a safe place to park my car. Once I do find a safe place, I will have to walk a few miles to work. Normally, this is no big deal. I run marathons, after all. The challenge is that the time of day I will be walking due to my work hours is not the safest time or place to be on my own, but after surviving some negative experiences in big cities, I will be sure to play it safe.

I have done a lot to decrease my expenses in recent years. Most of it has just been cutting out excess and fluff. Getting rid of my parking pass will be my first true sacrifice in trying to get more money to pay for bills. I am hoping I don’t regret giving up my parking pass. Time will tell. It is definitely going to be a huge change. I have viewed my parking pass as a way to keep my investment (vehicle) safe, so my life is about to get more challenging.

Whenever we face big changes in life, we have the potential for regret. I want a live a life with no regrets. I want to look at all the options, make an informed decision, and jump in with both feet: this is what I’m doing and live with the consequences. Change is scary. It is fear of the unknown. Even the best-laid plans do not always work out. We may make a decision, and then find out information later that makes us wish we had made an alternate choice. Yet we can only go on what is in front of us at that time. How do you live a life with no regrets?

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Beach Reading

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Above: The one time I took a novel not related to my degree fields to the beach last summer. 

I am very fortunate to live to live in an area that boasts one of the top 10 largest book sales in the country. This weekend, I spent a whopping $8.14 on 20 paperback novels and 5 CDs. One of the CDs was brand-new, still in the plastic shrink-wrap. It was the final weekend of the Friends of the Library book sale, and I made out like a bandit.

I have been to the book sale plenty of times in the past, but this was the first time I was able to choose books out of pure pleasure. The past 20 years in school, I would read the occasional novel unrelated to my degrees over one of my school breaks. I typically had a wish list of this popular novel or that new release. This was my first time making choices based on subjects and authors I have always wanted to read and never had time to look up.

One of the novels I chose has a sticker affixed to the front proclaiming it to be a perfect beach read. That sticker made me stop and think. I have read plenty of guilty pleasure “beach reads” in the past, although I have never read any of them on a beach.

Even though I used my park pass quite frequently at the beaches last summer, I took reading for grad school with me almost every single time. I was multi-tasking to the max and not fully enjoying anything. There was only one week when I had a “slow week” writing my thesis that I took a book not related to my subject area, as I needed a break from grad school.

This summer may very well be the first time in my life that I go to a beach and sit and read a “beach read” novel while my feet are buried in sand. While I sing the praises of the library and much prefer to borrow books than purchase them at some big box store, I feel justified in my book sale purchases because the money goes back to the library. Not to mention, I try to keep library books in good condition. If I take a book to the beach, it will at the very least be sandy, and at worst, maybe wet or damp. I would rather have a book I own suffer the consequences of being a beach read then a library book.

What makes a book a good beach read? I’m not sure. This seems to be another one of those first world problems. I am joyfully looking forward to long summer days spend surfing and lounging on the beach experiencing what it feels like to read a leisure novel in sand and enjoy every moment I have in the sun.

That small sticker that says, “beach read” makes me think of how to slow my life down and enjoy more. Life has changed so much in the past 5 months that I have been out of school and started to institute major changes.

In some ways, I have been wandering aimlessly trying to figure out which activities I want to keep in my life and in which directions I wish to go. I have walked into the library and just picked up whatever was new or looked good. I have been to book club trying to figure out what I like and want to read. At the book sale this past weekend, I was finally able to confidently pick up books, and be like, “this looks good,” without having to put a lot of thought or planning into the process. I did not have to consider whether I would have time to finish the book before it was due back at the library or before school break ended. That is some sort of freedom.

When I think about beach reading, I tend to think of it in context of class. People who have more money obviously have time to sit on a beach and read. When I was going to school full-time and working 70 hours a week, spending more than 3 minutes in the shower was a luxury, forget having a few hours to wile away on a beach. Then I think back to the mid-20th century when beach trips were actually the recreation of choice for the working class. Beaches are typically free. If you had a day off, you would just grab your towel, some sunscreen, and a good book, and head into the great outdoors for the day. In today’s society, time is at a premium. Actually having time to read on a beach is finally a luxury I am going to be able to have since rewinding real slow.

What books have you read that are perfect beach reads? What makes a novel a beach read? Isn’t any book I take and read while laying in the sand a “beach read?” When we slow down our lives, we have more time to do things we really enjoy – even if that something is to sit in the sand doing nothing at all.

 

Complacency

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I was talking to someone this week that was saying that they felt stagnant. Part of complacency is fear. We are afraid to let go; we want everything to stay the same. New places and experiences are frightening. Fear of the unknown has held many in place, and it is often a detriment.

This same person inspired me to reignite my passion(s). Since finishing school last fall, I have been kind of wallowing. I was a college student for 20 years – practically my entire adult life, and I honestly do not know what to do with myself or how to fill the void that is left now that I am not in school. I have been trying various activities, and it has been hard to find my groove.

I also realized that when we become complacent, we become reactive instead of proactive. I have pretty much simply been responding to whatever crisis or need happens to need my attention instead of being anticipatory and trying to do proactive things to make my life easier. When I was a full time student and working 70 hours a week across two jobs, there were some proactive survival skills I employed, such as preparing large batches of food ahead of time and freezing them in individual portions, so that I would always have allergy friendly food to eat with my hectic schedule.

Yet nothing has prepared me for life in the real world as an adult. I have a new set of challenges and circumstances for which to prepare. It has now been 6 months (6 months!) that I have been out of school and in the real world; it has been a rude awakening. While it may sound cliché, I have learned that even the best-laid plans can be shaken down to their very foundations and destroyed. Survival skills that I learned and used while going to school full time and working 70 hours a week now need to be adapted to address the unique challenges of trying to juggle work, health issues, and leisure time.

Ah, leisure time! Such a first world problem!

The number one thing I have learned these past few months is to be grateful every single day for everything I have and do, for those things are fleeting.

In the words of the great philosopher, and star of my most favorite movie of all time, Deadpool: “Life is an endless series of train wrecks with only brief commercial-like breaks of happiness.” The only way to achieve those breaks of happiness is to break out of complacency and push the envelope. The best moments lay just beyond your comfort zone.

To this end, not only have I completely re-evaluated my priorities in life, but also I have made a concerted effort to double my KonMari  efforts in evaluating my possessions and surroundings to be sure that I am living an authentic life and that I have and do things that are in complete alignment with my values and goals.

A small example of an area in which I have been complacent is my spare bedroom. Now, 5 or 6 years ago when I started my minimalist journey, I did so with the intention of preparing for a large out-of-state move. That move did not happen. I then nested. I took my spare room, which had been a cat playland/library and turned it into an actual spare bedroom. This was partially due to trying to live out one of my fantasy selves: that of the socialite who frequently holds house parties and entertains overnight guests from out of town who come to visit me from far away so that I am not always the one that has to do the traveling.

In the 5 or so years that the spare bedroom has been in existence, it has been used maybe twice. To me, that is not enough justification to keep the space as a spare bedroom. First, if I were to move, then I would no longer be able to afford a 2-bedroom. I would at most be in a 1-bedroom, probably a studio (most likely living in my car again) with the way housing prices have skyrocketed in my area. Second, while I do have an extra room as long as I am living here, I want to be able to use that room for my own purposes, and not simply have it there to be kept clean awaiting company I never have.

I have decided to sell the bed in the spare bedroom. The money is going to be put toward my passion of running (I will not have sponsorship for my fall race this year, and must cover my hotel room and expenses in entirety). Not only am I going to shake myself of the complacency of maintaining a spare bedroom that is not used or needed, but also I am going to use the money to fuel a passion, and once the spare bedroom is empty, I will use the room to fuel another (as yet undetermined) passion.

I’ve always said I wish I had my own treadmill so that I could run inside when the weather is icy without having to leave my house and without needing a gym membership. In fact, my “dream life” is to be in a house in the woods completely off the grid run by solar panels, and of course, a treadmill so I could run in inclement weather. Who knows – once the bed is gone in the spare bedroom, I may seriously look at using that room for a treadmill. Time will tell.

The point is, the more we move out of complacency, the more beautiful life can be because we can control some of what happens to us. We can be proactive instead of reactive, and put into motion things that we want to have happen instead of waiting for life to happen to us. If life is only punctuated by brief moments of happiness, then I want some control over what that happiness entails.

If we operate from a place of happiness and gratitude, then we are better equipped to face the challenges that life throws at us. If you have ways to get either through or around the train wreck, then the continual train wrecks of life are just a little bit more manageable.

Break out of complacency. Fuel your passion.

 

 

Bottom of the Seventh

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Above photo: watching the 2013 World Series with Kitty

For some baseball fields, it’s the 7th inning stretch. At my baseball field, the bottom of the 7th is when we actively rally behind the team to turn it around if it is a game in which we are behind. As a lifetime fan of perhaps one of the most controversial teams in baseball, I can tell you that the bottom of the 7th has taught me a lot about patience, perseverance, faith, and how to stand strong in the face of adversity.

The past few weeks have been extremely challenging for me. In addition to my autoimmune disorder, my work schedule has quite literally blown up in my face in epic proportions, and we have also learned this week that the most important person in my life has cancer. This is one of those moments in which it is the bottom of the 7th in my life.

When it is the bottom of the 7th, you know the end is near. You know the outcome will probably not be good, but if by chance, it is good, then not only will it be good, but also it will be great. When you are trailing at the bottom of the 7th, you are either going to fizzle out like a dud or pull something off with a bigger bang than the inception of the universe. Either way, it’s time to rally. No team just walks off the field at the bottom of the 7th just because they are trailing. No sir. There is still time to write your own ending.

The bottom of the 7th has taught me to have faith in what may come. Just at that moment when you think all is lost, all of a sudden, there will be bases loaded and someone hits a homer to bring everyone in. Just because the game has been lackluster to this point does not mean that it’s not about to turn around. You prepare yourself for the worst, yet hope for the best.

One of my favorite quotes is from Satchel Paige: “Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don’t move.” At the end of the day, the only person you have to answer to is yourself. Knowing that you have done your very best is all you can do sometimes. When you are at the bottom of the 7th and under pressure, this is the time to be sure that you are using all of your coping skills and doing adequate self-care to face all the challenges ahead.

I’m not sure how I am going to react when I lose the one who has been the only constant in my life for almost 18 years. I am preparing for the worst. I’ve been through some major crap in life, but I already know that when this death occurs, it is going to be the lowest and worst point of my entire life. I am at the bottom of the 7th; I already know how the game is going to end. It’s time to just start throwing strikes because home plate don’t move.

I am very fortunate in that at least I know I am in the bottom of the 7th. It’s not like some Mario game, where all of a sudden, the guy goes belly-up and falls off the screen, and it says, “Game over.” I know what is coming so I have time to prepare. This is not the first time I have watched someone I love die from cancer, and I am sure it will not be the last. However, this is the one who has been with me the longest in life, even longer than either of my parents, and I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my body.

There have been many times in my life that I have been at the bottom of the 7th, and I have been able to rally every time. This is the only time I have ever been at the bottom of the 7th and I honestly don’t know how I am going to be when I come out the other side. I just know I have to be strong while this person is alive to take care of them. It’s not about me. It’s about the ones we love and spending time together and being able to show love. It’s about being able to enjoy the time we have left because life is so short.

I am very fortunate in that I am finally done with school after spending 20 years in college so that I finally have leisure time to be able to attend to what’s important. Spending time with those I love is the most important thing in life, and when I was in school, every single relationship in my life suffered.

I am thankful that for the first time in my life, I only have one job. This month marks the one year anniversary of my only having one job instead of two or three. It is so amazing to only have to work one job 40 hours a week instead of running around everywhere working 60-70 hours a week. I’m not sure if I’m getting old, or just plain tired after 20 years of working multiple jobs, but it feels so good to only have one job.

Being done with school and only having one job are things I try to be thankful for as I face the most challenging bottom of the 7th inning in my entire life. If I am about to experience the worst thing ever, than at least I am coming at it from a foundation of being at the best place in my life.

The bottom of the 7th reminds us to look forward and re-evaluate priorities. When the game is all done, you want to know that you gave it your all and did your very best. Are you giving your very best? How do you rally from the bottom of the 7th?