Simplify with Better Habits: The Discipline of Minding One’s Own Business

It’s taken me a while to get this one published; honestly, this is my fourth iteration of this post. Every time I wrote one, it either seemed too sanctimonious, too petty, or too self-deprecating to be useful. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had several experiences that left me confronted with both other people’s hurtfulness and my own shortcomings (more the latter than the former, unfortunately), and I thought I’d write about it since it’s becoming one of my “projects” in this journey to simplify life.

Don’t you love being “in the know?” I sure do. If I overhear some gossip, I’m curious as to what’s going on. If someone’s upset, I want to know why. If there’s heaviness and tension in the air, I want to know the cause. And along the same lines, I struggle with wanting to insert myself into conversations. If I overhear two people discussing something I’m interested in, or something in which I have helpful knowledge, my compulsion is to hop (uninvited) into the conversation and offer my insight, or experience, or the answer to the question they’re looking for. If someone needs help, I want to help them, sometimes even if it’s something that’s not my place to help with.

Do you ever find yourself wondering what people may be saying about you when you’re not around? I absolutely do. But here’s the problem with that: people don’t pay nearly as much attention to you as you think they do, which means that, if they ARE talking about you when you’re not around, it’s not usually a discussion of how sweet you are or how good you are at something. It’s often negative. A few weeks ago, I found out that someone I’m relatively close to snarked about one of my physical aspects behind my back. After I got over being pissed and feeling a little betrayed, it got me thinking. Why on earth would someone feel the need to criticize my appearance to someone they didn’t know well enough to realize they’d share that with me? Why does my appearance matter to someone else anyway (unless it’s impeding their life somehow)? But even more importantly: do I do that too? And, the unfortunate answer is yes, yes I have. Just as this other person should’ve been paying less attention to my business, thereby not ultimately tainting my feelings toward her, I should be minding my own business enough to keep from making that same mistake with others.

This article from Tiny Buddha offers insight; this preoccupation with others’ business makes us depressed, and removes our focus from learning to find contentment and thrive in our own circumstances.

The Bible tells us, literally, to mind our own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

The desire to know is natural; it’s part of being human. But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Minding my own business is a habit I’m seeking to instill in my simple-living journey. Ditching Facebook has been a wonderful start, and I’m hopeful that, as I continue to pare down things that create needless stress, I’ll have less of an urge to focus on the things that do.

Is this an area of your life that you need to work on, too? Will you join me?

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I am Now Two Weeks Removed from Facebook…

Two weeks ago today, after a very-early-morning toilet moment and subsequent epiphany, I uninstalled the Facebook application from my phone and tablet after turning off all notifications. And today, I can tell you that I haven’t logged back in, not even once, and I genuinely feel like my life is better off for it. I wanted to share a few thoughts with you from what this last couple of weeks have held for me.

The usual disclaimer: I’m not judging you. Plenty of you are able to consume/use social media without negative effects/addictive behaviors. Also, I’m not guaranteeing that I’ll stay off Facebook forever, either. I’m still on Instagram (for now), and I’m still allowing my Insta photos and blog posts to share over to FB, so please know that I’m not against social media entirely.

But, I am against something that’s supposed to bring joy and entertainment becoming a huge time suck and causing stress and dissatisfaction with life. And, with as short as our time here on this earth is, I’m not a fan of something I can shut off and stuff in a pocket dictating my happiness and how I spend my free time. I’m rapidly approaching middle-age, and I don’t want to look back and see that a huge portion of my life was spent staring at a screen (of my own choice).

So here we go: the good, the bad, and the ugly (which is really just the bad, right?)

The Good:

  1. I’m less irritable in general! Since leaving the melee of Facebook, I haven’t seen a single political or theological rant, and no one has tried to sell me something, and it’s glorious.
  2. I don’t feel as bad about my life. It’s still a little shabby, a little overweight, and a lot infertile, but now that I’m no longer barraged with others’ carefully-curated social-media lives, I can maintain a proper perspective about my own little corner of the world.
  3. I’m reading REAL books. I bought a refurbished Kindle Paperwhite for this purpose, so I’ll be able to have several books at-hand but not feel like I’m staring at a blue screen, and I’m currently plowing my way through Walden. I also went to the local library this past Saturday and got a new library card so we can make use of our tax dollars. I haven’t read much since my Master’s program (I had some SERIOUS burnout after two or three novels a week for almost 3 years), and I forgot how much a book feels like an old friend.
  4. I’m staring at screens less in general. The good thing for me about Instagram is that there’s simply not as much to see. I follow a few friends, some celebrities, and some watercolor art and adorable animal accounts, but that’s pretty much it. Once you’ve scrolled for a few minutes, you’ve seen it all. Without Facebook to flip over to, I’ve just got to put the phone down and find something else to do.

The Bad (and Ugly):

  1. I never realized how much I shared random thoughts with everyone. Sometimes I miss it, because there are things that crack me up that I want others to find funny. But then I’m also faced with my own narcissism; do I really think I’m hilarious enough that other people need to see it constantly?
  2. FOMO is real, ya’ll. I’m missing scrolling through my comedy pages and seeing what some of my more distant friends are doing.
  3. People tend to talk to you like you should automatically know what’s going on via Facebook. And when you don’t, they assume you’re being sanctimonious.

But even the bad things aren’t that bad, really. I haven’t felt an urge to go back yet, and as a result, I’ve managed to pare down one more thing that’s causing life stress. It’s much easier to cope with stress when you simply have less stress to cope with.

More to come on this de-stressing, simplifying journey!

The Burden of Social Consumption (aka: Why I am Ditching Facebook (for Now at Least) and I’m Back!)

I let the blog go for a very long time this time between posts. I hate that; it just seemed that, every time I wanted to write, I felt overwhelmed by the blank page, or like I didn’t want to add more to the already loud world of the internet. But here I am, back in this space of mine, and I think I’d like to ponder a bit about social media and the reasons I’m returning to blogging.

Joey and I are in the midst of what’s probably the most stressful couple of years in our lives. Last year, we took over duties as caregivers for his terminally ill aunt, all while working through the process of getting ready for an adoption. We honestly thought we may be parents by the end of the year, but such is not the case. She passed at the end of last year, and through her generosity, we now own her home. It is an amazing gift, but one that came at the cost of a great deal of sanity, as managing someone’s palliative care in-home is overwhelming.

“Overwhelming” has been the theme of the last 18 months, it seems. Between life stress and job stress, I’ve found myself withdrawing from friends, picking at my arms more, and spending waaaay more time in front of the tv and on social media than is probably healthy. And it all came to a head a couple of nights ago.

I was plagued by insomnia, talking to the Lord and trying to hash out some things with Him and plead for some answers, and I got up to go to the bathroom, taking my phone with me as usual (TMI, but there’s a point). It’s quarter after midnight, and I check Facebook (as we all do while on the throne, right?)….and see that I missed my cousin’s birthday. I’d failed to write “Happy Birthday” on her wall, and I was disappointed in myself, and all of the sudden overwhelmed when I realized I’d been forgetting a lot of “Happy Birthday” posts lately.

I finally made it to sleep around 3 am and was back up at 5 for work, and once I got to my desk, in the silence of the office, I was struck by the insanity of it all. Why should something I voluntarily use for entertainment cause me such stress? Why am I liking people’s status updates just because I believe I should; why do I think people need to know if I’m currently watching American Ninja Warrior?

Over the last few months, I’ve found myself typing a status, only to delete it, either because I came to my senses and realized it was something inane, something passive aggressive, or an opinion that may be inflammatory when I simply don’t have the energy to argue with people about it. And I’ve found myself irritated by posts about religion or politics, and began to wonder if I would feel less antagonistic toward those people (who I generally like) if I were not subjected to their inflammatory posts. I found myself feeling increasingly dissatisfied with my own life with every view of others’ carefully curated “social media lives.” In short, I was beginning to find Facebook completely overwhelming rather than fun.

Later that day, I was catching up on Tammy Strobel’s blog (Rowdy Kittens), and worked my way back to her post on breaking up with social media (sorry Tammy! I didn’t realize Feedly didn’t update to your new Squarespace feed!). And I realized it was time to let Facebook go.

What if this season of writers’ block is largely due to my consumption of social media without leaving myself enough blank space to think…and actually write? It’s easier to flip over to Facebook and see who’s up to what or read some ridiculous clickbait article with the same pictures I’ve seen a hundred times. It wasn’t making me happy.

Now, a few things, just to be transparent. I’m not judging anyone; plenty of people genuinely enjoy Facebook without negative ramifications. I’m not being sanctimonious, and I don’t have privacy concerns; we have no privacy on the web, and our conscious decision to use social media means we’re willingly giving that away. I’m also not against social media in general; I’m staying on Instagram (for now, at least), as it doesn’t leave me with the same level of stress. I’m not deactivating my Facebook, and my photos and blog links will continue to share over there. But I won’t be there.

Instead, I’ll be taking advantage of the freedom of not being overwhelmed by every missed birthday, every happy picture of a lifestyle I can’t have right now, every angry political rant I don’t agree with. I’ll be using that “free space” to learn more about being a better horseback rider, to exercise more, to plan more epic hikes, to work on hand-lettering (something I’ve wanted to learn for a while), to talk to the Lord, and to WRITE. To create more than consume.

Life is stressful enough. We shouldn’t be needlessly making it even more stressful for ourselves.

So, I’ll be here more often, hopefully, and I’d still love to interact with you. Drop me a comment, find me on Insta. Send me an email. But also, shut off your phone for a while.

The Lupron Diaries: Vacation and Victory

Last weekend, Joey and I took a trip to Waynesville, NC, to stay in a cabin in the woods and hike all the miles. Although the accommodations left a bit to be desired, I think this was probably the best camping trip we’ve ever had.

On Friday, we hiked the Pink Beds Loop again, but this time, we made it all the way to the waterfall off the Barnett Branch Trail.  It was WELL worth the mile of straight uphill.  The waterfall was about 25 feet high, and the water was ice cold.  Indy was thrilled to get a drink.

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Here’s a shot of Indy at our campsite.  She looks so regal.  I think I overestimated her ability to adapt to a strange situation, though.  She didn’t enjoy being trussed up on a lead, and she was afraid of the campfire.  She’ll learn, though.

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On Saturday, we went to the North Carolina Arboretum.  I’ll have to do a separate post dedicated to that, because I took a TON of pictures.  The below is part of their quilt garden; every year, they create a different pattern on individual squares. This year was a butterfly; can you see it?

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They also had a fantastic bonsai exhibit.  Joey has dabbled with bonsai here and there, so he was beyond thrilled to see all of the trees. I took pictures of each one, and it’s definitely renewed his interest in picking it back up again.

We ended up leaving on Sunday so we’d have a day to recuperate at home, but not before hiking Pinnacle Park in Sylva, NC.  While we didn’t make it all the way up to the pinnacle, we did get plenty of beautiful pictures along the way.  The below is at Split Rock, about a half mile up the trail.

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The first mile of the hike was along this creek; it was full of cascades and rapids, and Indy wanted to check out each one.

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We hiked a total of 11.5 miles over the course of three days.  It was exhilarating, but also an eye-opener.  We’ve got a lot of work left to do before Mount Mitchell at the end of July.

I’m still counting it as a victory over Lupron, though.  On previous camping trips, we would’ve spent the bulk of our time hanging around the campsite and snacking.  This time, we spent it out in nature, working out and getting excellent views along the way.  I did have a few clumsy moments, but Joey was there to grab me before I stumbled.  I had a few “Lupron sadness” moments as well, but he talked me out of those.  He’s pretty great that way:).

Hiking has been such an effective means of dealing with this journey through endometriosis and its treatment.  I’m forced to unplug while we’re out on a trail…there’s no phone reception, no chance to fiddle around on Facebook or check my Instagram feed.  I’m forced to be observant of the present moment and little else; I have to watch the ground diligently for roots and rocks.  I have to pay attention to my surroundings lest I miss a beautiful waterfall (or a bear…it goes both ways).  There’s no time to think about my dysfunctional body or whether or not we’ll ever get to have a biological child.

There’s just miles of trail.  And not dying…there’s that too.
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Vacation Fail and Feeling Stuck…

I let a couple of weeks go by without blogging; it’s okay…it happens. Vacation came and went, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the time of relaxation I’d hoped it would be. It started on a good note; we got $158 for our dishes, which was about what I’d expected, so I’m satisfied with that. It’s also good to have them gone, even though the cabinets are still in dire need of both purging and rearranging. That’ll come at some point.

I think the vacation was doomed to start. I really wanted a big trip like we had last year where we went to different attractions, museums, and tours. I didn’t communicate that well, so we ended up in a cabin in Asheville.
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It was a gorgeous cabin right on the French Broad River, but part of the withdrawal symptoms from going off this Celexa (I’ll do a post specifically on that in the future) is his terrible feeling of malaise and irritability, and having too much downtime lets my mind just sit in that place and the depression snowballs on itself and gets worse. That ended up being exactly what happened.

That’s not to say that there weren’t bright spots, though! We had campfires the first two nights.

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And steak and eggs for breakfast Tuesday (steak cooked over the fire)!

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We went to the Museum of Cherokee History.

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It rained all day Wednesday, and then I woke up Thursday with a cold. I swear, this is the fourth vacation where I’ve gotten sick. We ended up leaving Thursday instead of Friday so I could be sick at home. The last year is the sickest I’ve ever been, honestly.

I’ve been struggling with feeling “stuck” lately. We’ve reached a bit of a crossroads in our lives right now and are trying to figure out where to go from here, and that’s been challenging. I haven’t been praying or reading the Bible like I should; I know that’ll give us clarity and probably show us what to do but, for whatever reason, it’s proven to be easier said than done.

It’ll all make sense in due time, I’m sure.

The De-cluttering Continues: On Emotional Detachment and Making Some Money, too!

One of the funny things about life is that items which are completely practical at one point can become completely impractical over time.  Take, for example, my everyday dishes.  When Joey and I got engaged, we were both still in college, but we knew we’d be heading off to go to grad school/seminary, so there wasn’t much point in registering for lots of fancy things as we knew we weren’t going to be putting down roots for awhile.  I also knew that my grandma had promised me her fine china, so there was no need for me to register for two separate sets of dishes.  I settled on Pfaltzgraff’s Ocean Breeze pattern for our everyday dishes.  They were simple, neutral and inexpensive….so inexpensive that we actually ended up with eighteen place settings once all was said and done (we returned 8 and kept service for 10).

Ocean Breeze

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They’ve served us well over the last twelve years…they moved with us from our tiny studio apartment in Monroe, NC to Waco, TX, and back to NC.  They’ve entertained quite a few people and held countless tasty wins and dismal fails.  But here’s the thing….they just don’t “fit” us anymore.  They’re heavy and clunky and, quite honestly, I’m tired of anything that can/will shatter when dropped.  A couple of years ago, my mother-in-law gifted me (after I may have HEAVILY hinted that I wanted them) with her old everyday dishes (Corelle’s original Crazy Daisy pattern from the 60’s), and the durable, break-resistant vintage dishes fit my tastes and life now.

Corelle Crazy Daisy Dishes

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We’ve been talking for years about getting rid of those Pfaltzgraff dishes…I was going to list them on Craigslist or put them out for sale on Facebook, but we just never got around to it.  No more. Joey emailed Replacements, Ltd this past week and they are buying our pattern (it’s discontinued), so today, he packed up all of our dishes and we’re going to drive up to Greensboro, NC on Monday to see how much they’ll give us for them.

boxed dishesI thought I’d be sadder about parting with them, but I’m not.  Just like so many other aspects of life, things that used to be a “perfect fit” don’t always remain that way, and things that were reasonable and practical sometimes become irrelevant or cumbersome.  The real challenge lies in being able to emotionally detach oneself enough to recognize the things that don’t “fit” anymore and to let them go.  And it’s a challenge I fail more often that not…I’m far more sentimental than I’d like to be, which sometimes leaves me hoarding stuff out of some irrational emotional attachment.  But I also understand that de-cluttering doesn’t happen without a few goodbyes, and the dishes had to go.

Here’s the real kicker, though; even after a full set of dishes to serve ten, the cabinets are still full of crap:

still full cabinetsObviously, we’ve still got some work left to do.  But hey, at least it’s something, right?  Change is just a series of small steps that we take for the better.

Go through one of your cabinets/drawers/whatever this week.  Chuck what’s trash, and sell or donate what you don’t need. Maybe we can all cut back on the things that don’t “fit” in our lives.