Get rid of all the things – Part III

Little things count. Bags of clothes sent to Goodwill, community centers and drop boxes count. Seldom used household items and non-sentimental trinkets are all candidates for the downsizing process. Garage and yard sales lose their attraction. Instead of looking at them with the thought of what treasure you might find, you long for the day when you can have your own sale. Everything I see now causes me to question its long term utility. It is a change in my thinking that I wasn’t expecting.

One must be a bit careful. It can become easy to look at everything as expendable. I’m not quite ready for that. Getting rid of something only to find I would need it will cost me in the end. That is one benefit of starting a purge while there is no hurry. A time will come when I am ready to move into a smaller space and the need to get rid of stuff will be more urgent. By that time, I expect to have much less than I do now so that the process is not overwhelming.

The last things you should get rid of are clothes, tools and cooking items. At least that is what I am thinking right now. I am not following a particular plan but taking bits and pieces of what others are doing. Some of the people I’ve read are over the top and into lifestyles that are not of interest to me. I am not a vegan, yoga practitioner or tree hugger. I am not interested in eating bugs, hunting my own food or growing a garden. The nomadic lifestyle is somewhat alluring, offering the opportunity to see different places and not be tied down to one location and climate.

Having lost my wife has made it easier to get rid of material things. When you no longer have the person who means the most to you, everything else’s value decreases. Of course I am not talking about people. Inanimate objects no longer hold the appeal they once did. And so we can more easily part with them.

Stay tuned for more on my path to smallness.

 

Finding my happy place.

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I finally did it. After spending a great many years working in positions where I couldn’t wait to go home and dreaded waking up in the morning, I made a huge change in the type of work that I want to do. I’m not sure if this something we can all do. “They” say to do what you love and success will follow. That is a much easier plan for those who start life with some idea of what they want to be when they grow up.

Back in the day, as my son would say, I had a notion of what interested me. Although I got off to a decent start, I failed to follow through. I have no one else to blame but myself. Sure, I could rattle off a list of circumstances that legitimately caused some changes in my life. Ultimately, we are all responsible for the choices we make, or that we fail to make.

I have not had a bad life. I married a wonderful woman and I wish more than anything that she was still here with me now. We raised four fantastic children who are smarter and more talented that I ever was. I had a career and jobs that, regardless of my complaints, kept a roof over our heads and food on the table.

Now I am in another season of life where my lifestyle and choices affect only me. And so, I gave up my search for the highest paying jobs that were geared toward my accumulated experience and turned in a completely different direction. In the past year I left a position that paid better that I could have hoped for at my age and with my limited skills. I gave up the security of earning enough to pay my bills. But, most of all I gave up work that I did not enjoy. And that, my friends, in the point of this story.

With a few dollars saved and much trepidation I began a search for “fun” jobs. This was not an easy way to look for work. Career builder, Monster and the other job search engines apparently consider quite a variety of jobs “fun”.  I beg to differ with their opinions. So it was up to me to figure out what a fun job really is. I knew I wanted to work with happy people. In a nutshell, I needed to avoid unhappiness. All my previous jobs seemed to be in the arena of serving disgruntled consumers who were victims of unfortunate circumstances. After many years of working in this type of environment I began to assume that everyone is basically unhappy and angry. This is not what I wanted.

I tried to imagine places where everyone was happy. Disney World? Too far away.  Fitness centers? One look at me and any potential member would find another facility. Entertainment? I can’t sing, act or dance.

I started to consider tourist attractions and other fun places such as vacation resorts. I even considered the travel industry. After all, who is happier that someone going on vacation?

After many fruitless searches I found a position as photographer with a vendor associated with none other than one of the most famous and long standing entertainment venues, tourist attractions and historic places in the world. And so I became a photographer at the Grand Ole Opry House right here in Nashville. Everyone who goes there is excited. No one is upset. No one is angry. No one is disgruntled. If ever there was a group of customers, actually they are guests, who are happy about where they are, it is these folks.

In the short amount of time that I have been in this position I have interacted with tourists and vacationers from just about every state in America. I have also met people from many other countries. Young people, old, and every age in between. I have learned much about photography and am learning more all the time from my teammates. Everyone I work with has been kind, welcoming and helpful.

Everyday that I am scheduled to work, I drive to the Grand Ole Opry House. I walk into a place where countless country music artists have walked. I stand on the stage where they perform. I take photos of people standing on a world famous, priceless, 6 foot circle of oak that was cut out of the Ryman Auditorium many years ago. I have walked on that same spot countless times since working there. I look out from the stage at the same seats and lights that the artists see. Best of all, my job is to tell people to smile and let me capture a moment that they will never forget. Some guests have become overwhelmed and actually cry as they stand on the circle while I take there picture.

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Some bend down and rub their hands over the wood. Others just stare at it in wonder. I have seem pnople lay down photos of friends and relatives who passed away before they could make the pilgrimage here. The guests are babies, parents, high school groups, senior citizens. People have come onto the circle with walkers and wheelchairs. The wood creaks when walked on telling, how old and seasoned it is. Everyone is respectful and aware of its significance.

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And so right now I am at the right place and at the right time in my life. I have other plans for my future but this is a big part of it. I am not going to get wealthy doing this but happiness has its own value. I’ve learned that doing something you enjoy sometimes means you have to scale down and make your lifestyle fit your paycheck instead of trying to make as much money as possible so you can have lots of stuff. At least that is the case now for me. I am past that time in my life where I need a large house and fancy car. Now I just want to enjoy each day.

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Get rid of all the things!

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I never imagined myself as one of those people who could eventually want to only own a minimal amount of stuff. When I lost my wife back in 2012 I started to change. After my initial period of grief I eventually rearranged the furniture, and made some small changes to the decor. Soon the last of my children will leave the nest and there will only be me.

I have never lived completely alone. This will be a first for me. It was not part of the plan. I expected to have my wife with me for an indefinite period of time. Not only did losing her change who I am but it also seems to be changing who I want to be. When you have your whole family around you, the home and all that is in it takes on a personality, sort of an extension of who everyone is. You must have enough room for everyone to have his and her own space to the extent you can afford. You’ve got to have beds, closet space, bathrooms enough for everyone. Even with sharing these spaces there is only so little you can get by with when there are two adults and 4 kids. There has to be a place to prepare meals, do laundry and well, live.

Now that it is getting close to being just me everything is starting to feel like clutter. Just when I thought I had arranged everything just the way I would like it, now it all feels like more than I need. My overall plans for the future have changed too.  Because of this,  I have started looking at what is around me and wondering if I really need all of it. Do I really need any of it?

In the past couple of months I have started selling things. A couple of the items were some that I searched long and hard for before buying them, looking for exactly what I wanted, finding the best price and making sure it fit in my budget. Wanting is often more fun than having. Instead of shopping at garage sales I am constantly looking around for what I can get rid of.

It has been interesting reading blogs and watching videos about living minimally. Getting rid of a few bigger items wasn’t that difficult. I sold a tent, bike, picnic table and a few other items with no regret. It’s the little things that are the hardest. You don’t realize how much junk can accumulate. I often will look at something and not know why I have it. It was part of something bigger but I can’t remember what it came off of. I have been afraid to throw it away because I may suddenly remember how important it originally was. This is one of the habits that is difficult to break when trying to get rid of superfluous stuff.

This morning my daughter showed me an item that she planned to send to the local community center along with some clothes. I looked at it and was about to take it from her and stash it. It had no utility at all. I had to really fight that urge not to keep the item. It was a small conquest to win out over the urge. I have to do that with lots of other stuff. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a hoarder. My apartment is not crammed full of old newspapers, magazines and collectibles. In my future I do not see room for anything but the necessities. And so I am taking little steps to get rid of all the things that are unnecessary and have the least amount of emotional significance. There will always be some things that cannot be parted with. I will get these down to a manageable number though and see what my kids might be willing to take possession of.

I am actually excited about doing this. The less I have the better I feel. I have even gone through photos to see what can be discarded. I cannot believe how many pictures there were of inanimate objects that I could not place and people I don’t even know. And so these are gone.

I am looking forward to see how much I can really remove. When my oldest daughter moved to a new apartment I had her look around my place and take whatever decorator items she liked. I thought it would be hard to part with them but it wasn’t. I am looking forward to getting rid of even more. If any of my kids drop by, I’ll do the same thing, have them look around, see it, claim it and load in into the car.

In future posts I’ll share more of my plans for what is next and why I’m getting rid of so much. You might be surprised to see how minimal I’m willing to be. I might be surprised as well.

 

An open letter to my wife on what would have been our 33rd anniversary.

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Today would have been 33 years of marriage. It’s hard to know when to stop counting. The words “Happy Anniversary” have lost their meaning. Soon you’ll have been gone for 4 years. Of course the 1st one was the most difficult. They have become easier as time passes. But, easier is not the same as easy. It will never be easy.

Getting accustomed to life without you has been an ongoing project that will never be finished. Reading about others in the same boat and encountering those who have recently lost a spouse reminds me that this is part of life. Not a good part but a part never the less.

After a while I have begun to develop and fall into new patterns. Or perhaps I am just falling back into some of my patterns from when we were not yet married. It is difficult to remember that far back. That was another life. And now, this too is another life.

When a couple marry, we become someone different than the person we were previously. So much changes. And now, being alone again, I am once again becoming someone else. At least that is how it feels. Whoever I become, it is just another part of life. The circumstances that brought us to this point were beyond our control. Now many things are in my control, though not all that I wish. Whatever comes now, be sure that you were, and are a part of who I am. I hope that side of me that you helped make is always a part of me.

What does today mean?

It is the first day of the new year. This day means so many different things. To some it is a change to forget about the mistakes and bad situations from last year. When I was growing up, my dad and I had a tradition of setting fire to last year’s calendar. Looking back on it I understand why we did it. We wanted to forget that year and erase it. I don’t feel that way anymore.

Last year wasn’t bad. Off the top of my head I cannot think of anything so horrible that would make me want to forget it ever happened. Not that it was all roses and bliss. But if I have to think very hard to remember what was so terrible, then really it must not have been that bad. The year my wife passed on, 2012, that is one of those years that I would not mind forgetting. But last year, not so much.

January 1st could be just another day on the calendar. One might say that it is no different that any other day and the fact that we give it so much importance and recognition is circumstantial at best. I tend to overuse the example, but if I was stranded on a deserted island, January 1st or New Years Day would have very little significance. It might be nothing more than another scratch on a cave wall or cut on a tree trunk to mark the passing of time as I light fires and make marks in the sand hoping for a rescue ship or plane.

If January 1st is a day to start over and make resolutions, then every second we live is also an opportunity for the same. It is never too late to start over. Admittedly, if it was so easy to do this then every one would. Every time we made a poor decision or mistake we would chuck it to the past and begin anew. It should be that easy. Unfortunately, for most people, it is not that simple. Well, not for me anyway. If it was, I would have started a long time ago. But I am older and wiser now, and my circumstances are very different from what they were several years ago. Even though in many areas I have a lot less choices available to me, at the same time, I have a lot more and in the next few years perhaps I will have even more.

And so, today, I will make no resolutions. I will not commit to any promises to myself or to anyone else. Those are hollow and nothing more than opening the door to opportunities for failure and disappointment. What I will do is work on how I think about my life and how I perceive the world around me. Every second of every minute we live has the potential for change and for something good. Being afraid has taught me a lot over the years but I don’t care to be afraid anymore. I have a pretty good grasp of what I do not like. Now it is time to find out what I do like and might like if I tried it. The best could be yet to come.

Getting used to being alone

After today it will be three years of life as a….and I don’t like to say it….as a widower. The word is sad and foreboding. Am I becoming accustomed to this life without her? I suppose to some extent, I am. What is my other option?

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Tonight is the anniversary of the night she left to spent the rest of eternity with God. It is a new life for her, one that is quite beyond my comprehension but I know it has to be wonderful. Now that some time has passed since that awful time I’m learning to look at my situation in a different light and perspective.

Neither of us chose this new journey that we’ve embarked upon. Hers of course, is the one we will all eventually take. I’ve written enough about being sad and missing her. It’s time to stop writing that way. I’m pretty sure I’ve said all there is to say about that.

Life really is different and trying to embrace the positives without feeling guilty and as though I’m betraying her by being happy is a difficult thing. The alternative would be to stay miserable and sad and to wear it on my sleeve for all to see. It’s a way of proclaiming, look at me, I’m still grieving! But I’ve found that I don’t enjoy being around that person and I’m guessing that no one else does either.

If I’m being transparent, which I usually am, I always have the concern that I’ve become content without her. That somehow I’m glad for it. That I prefer it. It’s an uncomfortable though that I expect is not uncommon in my situation.  Do I like being alone? I like it as much as I did before I was ever married. I had no problem being single. I don’t have any problem with it now except that I expected to live out the rest of my life with her at my side.

It is as though I am two people. One is just a middle-aged single man, with grown up kids and grand-kids who has many years (I hope) ahead to enjoy life. The other is the man who lost his wife and doesn’t know how to let that go.  I walk with one foot in each life, switching back and forth between them.

Learning who I am now, at this new time in life is a challenge. I don’t require sympathy or condolence, maybe just understanding.

I’ve made changes. I have ideas about what I’d like my future to be. Nothing concrete, but some hopes. It really is a process. I guess all we can do is take life day by day. Since it really isn’t the end, it might be the beginning.

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