Life Lessons in a Taxi

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I was heading to the hospital. He asked me point-blank what was wrong with me. I told him that I had just had my gallbladder removed a month ago and was heading to the hospital for a checkup.  

He had all the windows in the taxi open –  forming a vortex of hot muggy gross wind in the backseat, plastering my hair around my face.

He shouted over latest hits from across the sea as he swerved in and out of traffic.

I listened.

“You know, you shouldn’t eat too much. You shouldn’t eat to here.” He brought his hand up to the show the part where the neck meets the head to emphasize his point. “No, don’t eat too much. Not good for you.”

“You see here.” I pulled my hair back to see. “I keep my lunch here. I eat small meals. You eat too much at once and your body doesn’t digest. You need to let your food fully digest before you eat again.”

“The only time you should eat too much is at parties. So much good food. Only once in a while. I eat good steak and chicken and big shrimp. Then I take 2 Xantac and fall asleep.”

He stopped at a red light. The vortex died down.  He turned around to look at me.  I brushed the hair from my face.

“You know people like you and I try to do our best, but it’s not up to us. It’s up to god. I don’t know if you believe in god, but I do. He decides what happens to us. We can try our best to be healthy but in the end it’s up to him.” He raised both of his hands to the sky.

“He does give us lessons though. He gives warning. Yes he does. But only if you’re willing to really listen.”

And in the end, isn’t that the truth?

Thank you.

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My Reverse 365 Things Challenge

Background

I have always loved the feeling of not having a lot of stuff (is that weird?). When I was younger I dreamed of all of my worldly possessions fitting into a suitcase.

However, life happens. You become an adult and you move in with another person who has their own stuff and you buy a house and people give you stuff and you buy stuff to make you happy and you buy stuff that you don’t want or need because you have more disposable income. This happens and before you know it you have accumulated a ton of junk.

While looking into the depths of the internet, I found the 100 Things Challenge and read about many other bloggers who have done their own “X # of Things Challenge”.  I was inspired by this, but at the same time at this point it’s not realistic or attainable for me.

I found some other people who decided to start small by doing a “Reverse 100 Things Challenge“. In a nutshell, it means to get rid of a specific number of things in a certain amount of time. This resonated with me because it seemed to be a good balance of both doable and challenging.

Challenge Rules

I am so hardcore. Look at me, even coming up with rules and stuff?

For my challenge, I decided that I would like to get rid of, on average, one thing a day. I started this challenge on June 24th, 2014, so by June 24th, 2015 I hope to own 365 less things.

For me, 1 actual physical thing counts as one item (i.e. 1 book counts as an item vs. all the books I’m getting rid of). I know there is some controversy about in the minimalist blogging world about what constitutes as one item, but I like to live on the edge.

How I’m Getting Rid of Stuff

I think it’s important to get rid of stuff in the right way. I would like to state that it is my goal to pare down my possessions with the least amount of stuff going into landfills as possible.

I am dealing with my stuff by levels

  1. Level 1: The upper echelon of junk. This stuff has some monetary worth (i.e. higher name brand purses & clothing, newer books, crafting supplies). I will be selling most of this stuff on eBay. There are also some used book stores in town that buy books. I may look into this (has anyone ever done this? I’d like some guidance on this).
  2. Level 2: Mid-level junk (i.e. most clothing, some of my older books). I probably couldn’t sell it online but someone might want it so I will be donating this to thrift stores.
  3. Level 3: Junk junk. This really has no worth or resale value and nobody would want it (isn’t sad that I actually own stuff in this category – why am I holding onto it if it’s worth nothing?). If it can’t be re-purposed somehow I will recycle it. If I can’t recycle it then, gasp, I will be forced to throw it out.

I welcome any comments about ways that you have gotten rid of stuff that I might have missed.

The List

Am I the only one that’s strangely obsessed with what people choose to keep and what they’ve gotten rid of? Well, I’m adding to the obsession by posting my ongoing list here.

7 Things Learned From Completing a 14 Day Juice Fast

Is there anything more controversial these days than juicing? Srsly. It seems that people feel more strongly about juice fasts than smoking.

About 2 months ago I successfully completed a 14 day juice fast. Why did I do it? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’m not even sure if I believe in them, but I did one anyway.

Did I lose some weight? I guess, but I’ve pretty much gained it all back. Did I experience some other-worldly out-of-body state? Nope. Did my skin clear up or health issues? I don’t think so.

In my (not so expert) opinion, a juice fast is not a quick cure-all for health issues. It is not a permanent weight loss solution (some say it messes with your metabolism). It is not to “detox” your body (another contentious subject). It is not to feel “clearer”. Whatever the hell that means.

So, you may ask, what was the point?

What I Learned From Juicing for 14 Days

1. Not eating is hard. There is a certain sensory and social pleasure that comes from eating. When this was removed, I went through a period of sadness. It was an interesting experience, because I’ve never realized how much joy I got from food. I felt a huge gap in my life that took a while to figure out.

2. Not eating is easy. Once I got into the swing of things (I would say around days 4-5), it became oddly easy. I realized how much of an influence our daily habits can have. It made me question, how many healthy habits could I bring into my life if I was serious enough about it?

3. 90% of our hunger is ‘mind-hunger’. I read somewhere once that a way to tell if you’re actually hungry is if you’re hungry enough to eat an apple. I was never hungry for apples. I was hungry for chips. I was hungry for chocolate. I was hungry for things I couldn’t even name. I was hungry in such a deep way that I realized food would never fill. I got to point near the end where I felt sad watching other people eat things that I knew they weren’t hungry for. Empathy in the deepest way I suppose.

4. We eat our feelings. Well, I do anyway. Like I mentioned above, I felt a lot of sadness during this period. It wasn’t about anything in particular, I just think that I was getting in touch with stuff that I haven’t ever dealt with. I felt like I got to the point where I could step outside of myself and objectively analyze my emotions. I’m not sure that I’ve experienced this again since.

5. I can do hard things. I had pretty much accepted that I have zero willpower. I tend to skip town when things get hard. I needed to do something really difficult to prove to myself that I’m not a loser.

6. There is something greater than me. I had previously read Women, Food, & God (and have reread it many times). This was the first time the words truly sunk in. I would highly recommend reading this book (fasting or not). In short, it’s about how we replace our connection with god (spirit, whatever) with food and our obsession with ourselves.

7. Fasting is a spiritual tool. Fasting has been used for thousands of years as a spiritual practice and whether you like it or not, you will take something from it. This can be something good or bad. Done safely, it is an important spiritual tool. You will learn something about yourself. Some people are in the right position for these types of realizations, some are not. Make sure you’re in an okay mindset if you choose to take this on.

Procrastination on the Grandest Scale

Our neighbour to the one side of us has a beautiful and immaculate yard. He has many flower gardens, trees, and an enormous and impressive vegetable garden. He is retired and spends morning to night from the spring thaw to the first snow flakes mowing the lawn, raking, watering, and generally puttering around.

People that come over to our house look at his yard and watch him work with a sort of amazed confusion at the singular dedication to his gardens.

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Before we’ve dismissed him as “retired, so of course he has the time to do all of those things”.

“What else does he have to do, right?”

One evening I was sitting out on our back deck. He was out putting down some mulch in his vegetable garden and I started to watch him as he worked. I started to really observe, to step outside of myself and notice what he was really doing.

I soon became aware that I was watching someone in what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as the state as “flow”. Flow is defined as:

“The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”                                                 Source

Csikszentmihalyi has linked this state to positive emotions, joy, and satisfaction in the person experiencing it. It is linked to a purer, deeper form of creativity, in which the person is operating outside of thoughts and emotions and are just “being”.

To see someone so completely in their element was so jarring. It was clear that this was a meditative experience for him. I realized that I’m not sure if I have anything that I love that much to let it entirely consume my being in this way. Sure, I have my moments of getting lost in a project. But definitely not on a daily basis and not enough to dedicate every free moment to it.

I questioned to myself- what would I do if there were no time, monetary, or societal restraints? What would I do if I had the freedom to spend my days as per my choosing? I wish that I could say that I had a some sort of life shattering epiphany when I asked myself these questions and that I immediately quit my job, moved to southern France, and decided to dedicate my life to artisanal cheesemaking or beekeeping or something or other (wouldn’t that make a fantastic memoir? – eat,pray,love v.2.0). As of now I’m not pretending that I have any answers. What I do know is that I want to spend more time on the things that bring me closer to this flow state today. I hope to achieve more small bite-sized moments of joy throughout my day.

It is easy to say that if we were retired, won the lottery, quit our jobs (etc. etc. etc. and so on, and so forth) that we might only then have the time to spend our days pursuing our passions. On more than one occasion I’ll admit that I’ve wistfully sighed “I can’t wait until I’m retired and then I’ll write, sew, learn watercolours, travel the world, bake bread, get in shape, meditate (etc. etc. etc. and so on, and so forth)”. It’s like procrastination on the grandest scale (and I like to procrastinate so I would know)- procrastinating about experiencing joy.

What is attainable is bringing in small moments of flow into our day-to-day lives. Spend less time-consuming junk (crappy TV, trashy magazines, processed foods) and bring more fulfilling things into your day.  Truly experience the mundane. Take 1 minute at work to close your eyes and breathe. Walk barefoot through grass. Learn something new.

Don’t procrastinate about feeling joy.