Reflections on 2017 and Beyond
In my late 40’s, I believed hitting 50 would be as daunting as it would be mondo…and retrospectively, it has proven to be much more and only getting better with each year. Did I go through the proverbial mid-life crisis? Maybe. Call it what you want. It is change.
Now nearly two years after that birthday and pondering on the exploration that has catapulted me into my life’s ever-changing new happy place, I am proud to pursue making life what I want it to be and become. It’s even sweeter because as we grow more experienced (never old), we recognize our marked days. Each lived and each missed moment becomes precious. Looking back, I started prepping for this pivotal sojourn in my own way and out of a grave need to feel connected again, something which slipped away as I grew older. A few experiences which were part of my life’s “show” bolstered new attitudes, perspectives, and ways of being in the world. This is my story of wandering as a pilgrim in life…and I am loving each mark made on the exploratory path that I creatively craft each day. And that is what it is—our path to the freedom, love, and feelings we all crave to experience.
While I grew up modestly and with no perceived unmet needs in a German military nuclear family, by my mid-30’s I had been sucked into materialism (with new cars, boat, off-road vehicles, pool, etc.), making money, achieving professional status and the need for the occasional accolades, and accumulating things, not unlike many others. After a dissolution with my partner of nearly 11 years for a variety of reasons, I woke up from a long nap and started thriving again. The materialistic life and the constant need for more more more were no longer a fit, in fact, it never was. All of it exacerbated anxiety about the need to hold on and the overwhelm of “what if” I lost any of them, or what or who would I be if I didn’t have them.
Several things happened: I started to get rid of the excess that was seemingly weighing me down. While this was definitely a process, it has become addicting to purge (or reassign ownership) accumulated treasures. Initially, I parted with clothes that had worn in years. Integral knick-knacks that had outlived their sentimental value found new homes (including the garbage). I said “Goodbye” to the all-important and needed belongings in my small abode that were screaming, “Why do you still have me?!” Ironically, some of these pieces had not been touched in years other than moving them for “reorganization” or for dusting.
While getting rid of stuff and not feeling the need to accumulate were big steps, I moved forward with allowing the release of relationships and obligations that no longer felt good or left me drained or unsupported or even anxious. Not everyone was receptive to my new way of being in the world, but I have reconciled that I live for me which hopefully, and ultimately, makes me better for the people in my life. I figure if there is enough depth in the relationship, it will may survive again some future day…or maybe not. Finally, as part of the transition and with some self-discipline, guts, and determination, I obliterated certain food items from my diet that were poor fuel for this body. This has transformed my physical machine to run be well-oiled with literally and figuratively less weight and junk on board to facilitate optimal functioning and with anticipating many healthy and active years.
Sometimes the way to move forward is to have some big event that underlines the impetus for this transformation. Sometimes it is nothing in particular, but we are just ready for the next stage. What promulgated me into a life of further exploration into minimalism and “letting go” was my pilgrimage on the Camino De Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James. It called for suiting up with a back pack of belongings (recommended weight of “stuff” you carry with you of no more than 10% of body weight) that I had to lug for the 510 miles to make the trek from the French side of the Pyrenees along the beautiful towns in Spain to the west coast of this country in Galicia, dubbed the “End of the World.”
It is on the two separate trips to Spain that I – along with so many pilgrims from all over the world – realized that we really need so little to make us happy in our daily moments, or at least so little of some things and so much more of the intangibles. The only moments that really count are the “now” moments, as they collectively form our whole lives. It is also the “stuff” of life that bogs us down in so many ways. I got rid of a few packed belongings early in that trip, realizing that all that we carry can and will potentially weigh us down and slow our progress. The take-away is that it is that way in life as well. There are no disadvantages to owning and carrying less with you.
People have questioned my decision to live with less. They don’t get it. Seriously. I don’t feel like I live as an ascetic. I have all that I need and no longer worry about buying anything. If I want it, the want will soon disappear if I sit on it for a few days, and I usually make do with what I already have. Amazingly, I have never felt a sense of lack or deficit or fear that I was not enough by owning less; on the contrary, it has only been empowering to have less and feel/be/live more! It has been and continues to be an incredible journey to reorganize, minimize, specialize, and optimize what I feel is important in life: Feeling connected to intelligent, motivated, discerning, and thriving humans; reveling in seeking and making memorable experiences; laughing and crying in joyous or sad times; being unburdened from debt, grudges, fear, binding obligations, and a sense of being overwhelmed with stuff; and seeking opportunities for soul-searching and reflection….all of which yields authentic happiness along our journey. It has felt so wonderful– without guilt – to reach a mindset of being free and clear and manifesting more positive into existence because I have freed up space for it by letting go of the contrasting, negative stuff of life, and 2017 was no different. Isn’t that what we most of us strive to achieve? One needs nothing more than that which is palpable in the heart and not necessarily in the hands. We can achieve that by letting our values – infused with a little courage – prevail in our existence. It’s an ongoing work in progress!
The mantras that I live every day: It’s your pilgrimage. Live your life simply, unencumbered, intentionally, mostly debt-free, fearless, and happy. Take only what is needed. Let the rest go. Live your values. Trust that all will be provided.