Monday, May 31, 2010

Just Like Starting Over

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

I've always been fascinated by the idea of living a more spare life, finding a way to live without being surrounded by excess material possessions. I try to purge unnecessary belongings. I try to organize and simplify my life. It goes in cycles, every six months or so I am swept up in a fit of frenzy to clear the excess baggage from my life... in this last year that urge - and the sense that I am too tied down by things - has just grown and the need to pare away the unessential comes upon me with far greater frequency.

When I wrote this old post, I was just moving into my current home. It's been a good nest. A place to heal wounds after a painful and complicated breakup. A place to become myself again and get my bearings. But the last year has brought a lot of changes to how I see the world. I don't feel safe all alone in this house. Incongruously, I've gained a fearlessness in my approach to taking chances that I can only attribute to having lost so much - eventually you start trying things because little failures, embarrassments and inconveniences that you once found daunting are small and insignificant in the face of so much tragedy. I overcame my fear of traveling across the world to meet my family. Joined a local performance troupe that does edgy humor - something far outside my normal comfort zone. I'm working on overcoming my fear of public singing. And I think I'm ready to genuinely let go of the life I built in this house and start anew.

I have an opportunity to move to a much smaller space - an unused studio apartment in the back of an old friend's home. The offer was prompted by her desire to help me set aside savings so that I will be able to buy my own house - something I want dearly to do - but the result will be that I spend the next year in a very beautiful but very small space. Right now I live in a fully furnished two bedroom house. In my new home I will be surrounded by gorgeous views and have a private porch and sit in my bed and look out into vast forest, but I will also cook on a hotplate and have to pare away well over half of what I own.

I'm terrified. And exhilarated.

I once told a friend that, when making life decisions, I wait and listen to my gut reaction. I listen for that little thrill of fear and excitement. A singing of nervousness that ripples through me when I stand in front of a change and some part of my knows that this is what I must do. Because that's where the great fear comes from - from that knowledge. From seeing what must be undertaken.

Since I feel like I'm building myself again - from the ground up - I think going through a similar exercise with my life will be just the thing I need. So I am staring at my books. My furniture. My television. My dishes. My rows of shoes... Deciding what I can live without.

So far, I'm feeling like I can probably live without everything except the bunnies, the books and the shoes.

I feel that rush of adrenaline. I think I'm ready to leap.

"A little simplification would be the
first step toward rational living, I think."
- Eleanor Roosevelt


  1. More on the Eleanor quote....
    The encouraging thing is that every time you meet a situation, though you may think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it you find that forever after you are freer than you ever were before. If you can live though that you can live through anything. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.

    You are able to say to yourself, `I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'

    The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line, it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

    You Learn By Living (1960), 29-30

  2. Missing you and thinking of you, sweet girl.