Minimalism and Happiness in Practice

I’ve been working on streamlining my life for a while and I’m learning it’s going to be a work in progress forever. It’s not just about a one-and-done cleaning marathon a la Marie Kondo, but an ongoing self-care check-in to ensure I’m focusing on what’s truly important to me. I just finished coursework for an online course I was pretty excited to begin, but for which I quickly lost enthusiasm. The lectures were pre-recorded, the discussion forms were hardly touched, and certainly not by the professor, and many of the referenced materials were, quite unfortunately, unavailable for students to download and read without purchasing a full textbook. This wasn’t the case with a course I’d taken a couple years ago – for that course, the professor recorded the lectures new each week so the material was fresh, relevant, engaging, and also responsive to anything we’d brought up in the discussion boards. That professor also made sure to have all referenced materials available for viewing or download so we could get in-depth information on the discussion topics. I loved that course and was looking forward to expanding my mind again in a similar fashion with this summer’s course.

Of course (ha, ha), from reading above, you know how that went. But…me being who I am, I stuck it out and finished the course. I completed all assignments, though I wasn’t nearly as prompt with the final ones as the first. I watched just enough of the recorded lectures to pass the assignments. By the time I finished the coursework tonight, it had become simply more “noise” in an already-overstimulated mind. I’m actually relieved to have the course behind me, and although I learned some new basic concepts and it got me thinking a bit more outside the box, I don’t feel it was worth the effort I put in. The few hours I spent watching, reading, and writing could have been spent finishing the novel I’m reading, or the memoir I’m writing, or working out just a little bit more. I could have called my grandparents or played with my cat, or made gourmet dinners. These activities make me happy, and yet, somehow often find their way to the bottom of the priority list.

I think it might have to do with deadlines. I can work at a ridiculous pace if I have a deadline. Without a hard goal in sight it becomes difficult for me to gather my thoughts. Nothing seems quite real without a deadline. I need to do a better job of remembering nothing is guaranteed. Sure, I have that book from the library for a month, but eventually the month will be up, and I better finish that book. My memoir is about a time in the past, but the more time that passes, the less vivid the memories become. I can’t lose five pounds or shave five seconds off my mile pace if I don’t lace up my shoes and get to work. My grandparents won’t be around forever – and the truth of that chills me. My cat also won’t be around forever. Actually, it’s entirely possible they’ll all leave this world around the same time. That’s terribly depressing. And Travis and I have oodles of fresh produce from our CSA to turn into adventure-fuel instead of crisper-drawer-fodder.

I saw this on Instagram last week and it got me thinking:

How well am I doing with this? I had actually started my “happy list” a month or so ago, and I have a lot of work to do to align my “what I do every day” list.

I know I need to begin with cutting out that which doesn’t belong: the time-sucks, the mind-numbing digital feed of knowledge (nonsense?), the self-imposed pressure to finish everything all at once, the rat race in general. What does belong? What do I really, truly love? What makes me happy? And what’s worth saying “no” to all the other stuff for?

Calling my grandparents, going for a hike, eating great homemade food, reading a book, writing a book, snuggling, playing with my cat, riding my bike, hanging in my hammock, learning about the world around me, noticing beauty in the small things….these are just a few items on my happy list.

What’s on yours?

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