|photo by me|
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. “ Albert Einstein
Frugality, simplicity, minimalism, whatever you call it, there seems to be a groundswell of people out there living it and blogging about it. Many are intentionally trying to find a quieter, simpler space in this feverish world we live in by reducing their consumption, refusing to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ and living their lives more meaningfully.
I started thinking about this some time ago. We recycle, we reuse, we cook at home, we budget, we donate to charities, and yet I still felt overwhelmed, stressed, pressured to conform. I pushed the juggling to the limits. After all, I’m a woman and women are good at juggling, right? In the process, I compromised on the things I truly found enjoyable for the sake of those I thought I had to take on. And the more I took on, the less effective and efficient I became.
There was ‘career’ to think about, a job that seemed desirable and covetable, with lots of travelling and gadgets to keep me connected. I tried to compensate for my absences with toys and books I brought from my trips, but the guilt levels were raking at me like demon’s claws. I was always exhausted, ridden with allergies, headaches and mood swings. Yet, I ignored the signs; I persisted, stuck in my own thinking that “this too shall pass”.
And then, just after a really relaxing Christmas, I experienced my first panic attack. I was driving on a freeway at 100 km/hour when my arms and legs started cramping. I got so breathless that I thought I was having a stroke or a heart attack so I ended up being taken to ER by an ambulance! I ended up with a serious anxiety disorder and a massive fear of driving!
In the last four months I went through a denial phase (“this can’t be possibly happening to me”), a fight phase (“I can beat this”) and now I’m in the acceptance phase (“it is OK to feel this way). I was lucky enough to come across a clinical psychologist who specialises in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and who also runs a yoga school. He’s helped me become once again connected to a greater sense of purpose and a deeper encounter with what’s important in my life.
The first and the most important thing that needed to happen was to put “ME’ in the centre of the process. I needed to show some compassion and kindness to myself first. I needed to dig deep to find that courage to change direction. So the simplification and de-cluttering process began at work, at home, how I related to people, family and friends. Every aspect of my life is being reviewed – it is time for the toxic things to go and the nourishing ones to come back.
I still haven’t fully got to that stage that I can say that I live every day of my life in a meaningful way. Far from it. I still tremble at the thought of driving, I’m still in the same job (minus travelling) but I see this now as a journey, not a destination and that I’m making that courageous move in the pursuit of a simpler and happier life.
PS. Some may think “what’s a big deal? It’s only anxiety.” OK, so it is not a terminal illness, but stress and anxiety are insidious conditions that can have profound effect on people’s lives and those around them. If left untreated, they are likely to lead to serious mental health issues such as depression and suicide. So please don’t ignore it.
For more information visit http://www.beyondblue.org.au/
Useful links and inspirational blogs about simplifying your life:
http://www.franticworld.com/ (highly recommended if you want to know more about mindfulness)