Thursday, December 06, 2007

A bigger smaller life

Yikes, I'm here, finally. I sat down to do my usual morning email and blog surfing, and landed the convertible to find it empty. Who's supposed to blog today, I muttered. Then I checked the schedule. Ah. Me. ;-)

So this is what I know about how I'm going to charge into the New Year. A few days ago Oprah featured Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote EAT, PRAY, LOVE back again on stage. Have you read the book? It's amazing. It follows one woman's journey to finding herself.

I know, those books are everywhere. Every other woman has written one of those. And why would you be interested in one written by a middle-aged divorcee who spends most nights crying on her bathroom floor? I thought the same, until I started reading. Gilbert has a great way of engaging the reader and connecting. I'm not divorced, and I don't cry on the bathroom floor. But she spoke to me. There were so many parts of this book that made me nod, and sometimes sniff back a few understanding tears. I've told all my friends about it. Somewhere in this book, a piece of it will connect with you. I promise.

I'm not going to review the book. I just wanted to repeat something here that Gilbert said on TV. She said she wants 'a bigger smaller life'. Meaning, she'd like to make the material and needy part of her life smaller, and to make bigger the spiritual, emotional and connective part. Is't that neat? A bigger smaller life.

It is what I want. I have slowly begun this effort toward smaller over the past few years. Cleaning out my junk piles, excavating closets, tossing stuff and things and material items that I just never use or touch or consider. I still have a house filled with stuff. It's a long process. Or it could be short and quick. I just need to tell myself that's how it should be. The hubby and I are determined to build a new house within five years. Smaller, because we don't need three bedrooms and all that extra footage in the basement. Yet, bigger in that the space will serve us as we need, and only exactly as we need.

As for stepping into the bigger? I am saying 'no' so much more than usual. For chronic 'yes girls' who never refuse a request, you've got to start adding a few 'nos' to your vocabulary. I'm stepping away from drama. You all know we live it, crave it, and act it out on occassion. I'm teaching myself to recognize the moments that don't serve my soul, and to learn from them instead of trying to be an active drama-queen participant. I am learning what makes me happy, joyous, and content. I am not fretting over the small stuff, and if I do, I don't beat myself up for it. I'm reaching out for connection with friends and family. And spiritually I'm am learning what brings me peace.

It's all just a start, but an exciting process. Here's to a bigger smaller life!

What about you? At whatever point in your life you are, what have you learned about yourself? What are you learning? What do you want to learn?


Betina Krahn said...

A bigger smaller life. Sounds good to me. I understand the desire to quit worrying about material goods and "stuff" and to concentrate on positive things like growing and learning and positive mental work and joy and peace.

I am trying consciously to give with joy. Which means, doing good things because I WANT to do them, not because I've been shamed or "expected" into doing them. I am trying to be a positive force in my own life and in the lives of those around me. I am working at improving my own ability to love and to respect others. I have been looking for ways to help others and to make an impact. I'm getting glimmers. I, too, am stepping away from the drama. . . which takes so much energy and gives so little back.

I am learning to maintain hope and clarity of spirit in the face of difficult times. Maybe that is what the last 15 years have been about for me. I may be a slow learner, but at last I'm getting it. And when I do, I want to share it with others.

Samantha Hunter said...

Neat. I learned this lesson with writing, actually. As much as I am a commerical writer who needs to produce and sell, if I'm not happy, and if I'm not honoring my imagination or my muse or whatever you want to call it, then it's really not worth doing. While making a living is important, there has to be something bigger to what we do than the check that comes in the mail.

I'm all for trying to live a better life, and I think whatever helps people do that is good. For some people, it could be treasuring the material, I love my material things, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. ;) But again, I think there has to be more, as well...


lois greiman said...

Ahhh Hauf, you speak to my heart. You know you do. I myself want a tiny little cabin in the woods. It would have a chair, a bed, a computer and a big window from which I can see my horses. Why do we have all this junk we neither want nor need? Is it conditioning? I saw a t shirt the other day that said, "And God said, go forth and shop. You think the economy is going to fix itself?" Hmmmm. We have a Christmas rule amongst the kids and me. All gifts must be handmade or second hand. It's really been fun. We laugh our way through gift opening.

Debra Dixon said...

Michele-- Loved the post. I've been struggling with this for about 3 years. We began a house remodel so we had to start the recognition of the stupidly material aspects of our lives as we prepared to have our house turned inside out. My father died during the process and my husband had two major surgeries. That year was the wake up call for a "bigger smaller" life.

In my house the phrase I use and my husband has come to recognize is "I just want my little life." Which means the life about my family and without drama or grandeur.

Lois-- I love the 2nd hand or hand-made!! I've finally gotten both sides of our family drawing names. It wasn't an easy struggle and took a couple of years to break the "sneaking gifts" habit, but I'm so glad we're all finally on the same page. I wouldn't mind a 2ndhand or homemade Christmas so I'll suggest that the next time we get some griping!

flchen1 said...

Thank you, Michele! What a lovely post :)

Cindy Gerard said...

Wonderful post, Michele. I think you've touched on something we all strive for. Bigger, yet smaller. I find that in family. They are priority one - everything else comes second. I'm so much happier that way. I'm going to have to check out this book, though. Thanks for the recommendation.

Christie Ridgway said...

My s-i-l was also crowing about this book, as have some other friends. Okay, okay, guess I have to read it.

I think we're doing better as the kids grow in the material good department. We were just talking about all the plastic stuff we used to buy them for Christmas, but then Son 2 kept mentioning all the wonderful fun he had playing with the gazillion Legos and the Matchbox cars and we realized, hey, they served (and are serving) their purpose. So we didn't do to bad.

I'm trying to learn serenity. How to stop worrying about my kids, my books, my...everything, and just live and enjoy my very good health and my ability to do this job I love.

Helen Brenna said...

Sorry, Michele, I love your post, but this is seeming like too darned hard of a question for me today :(

I think it's that holiday stuff creeping up on me. Could be a looming deadline, too, not sure.

I would like to learn how to relax, though. I always have to be busy doing something. Maybe that's why I don't get enuf reading done!!

Playground Monitor said...

I haven't read the book but I heard a piece about it on XM radio. My favorite concept was "il bel far niente" or the beauty of doing nothing. I'm afraid I've practiced it too much lately, but at least now I don't feel guilty about watching the birds feed outside or going to the park downtown to watch people.

We moved 2 1/2 years ago and I got rids of tons of "stuff" and would have gotten rid of more if the DH would agree. We kept the same square footage but it's all on one level with a flat lot and all brick. It's our "middle-age friendly" house. *g* And even with all the "stuff" I got rid of, about every three months I give a couple bags of "stuff" to the thrift store when their truck is in our area.

I don't want more doo-dads and things to gather dust. Give me books, money for travel, money for clothes, bath and body products, did I mention books? I try to give Christmas gifts that you can use up.

Great topic!


Betina Krahn said...

Great idea, Marilyn-- gifts you can use up. I've done that some years, not realizing what I was doing. Now I'll try to do it intentionally.

My kids are always asking me what I want for Christmas or birthdays. . . now I can say "something I can use up."