Minimalism – how do I break habits?

I’ve recently become fascinated by the concept of “minimalism”.

It first entered my life by way of my boyfriend. A guy who owns little and wants little. Everything he owns is either in our studio apartment (which is widely empty even with both of our stuff) or in a few boxes back in Wisconsin. And this guy is one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. It’s not perfect, but rarely do I see him in a terrible mood.

As we approached the move we made a few months ago to Colorado from Wisconsin I knew I had to go through everything my parents had held on to me since I was a child. I wanted to seriously take the time it would take to declutter and get rid of the things I didn’t need.

And I did. I got rid of a lot. I wouldn’t say I own a ‘minimal’ amount of things – there are still things I can think of back in Wisconsin that I should’ve let go of and that I will let go of when I find my way back there, but I still let go of a lot of things. I came to Colorado with very little.

Initially it felt great. It felt right. Our apartment feels roomy and wide open – open to possibilities. It feels comfortable and breathable. However, its hard with the holidays coming up and this sense of “what do I need to buy now?” constantly whirling around in the atmosphere, to keep this minimalism approach. It’s a very recent addition to my life and because of that I find myself slipping back into old emotional habits and thought processes around stuff.

It’s interesting to now face those thought processes and be aware, “this is me falling into the consumerist habits of our society, this is not me truly needing something”. It’s fascinating to take some of these moments from an outside viewpoint and try to walk away from the habits at work. It’s also difficult. Extremely difficult.

We’ll see how it plays out, but I’m attempting to work on a wide variety of aspects in my life. It’s a challenge and a blessing to be this aware of where I’m at.

I’ve heard it said that when you’re deep in a project, typically of some creative medium, everything you notice in your life begins to reflect or relate to that project. It’s like when you get a new car and suddenly you see that car everywhere, or you dye your hair pink and you suddenly notice the plethora of others with pink in their hair. It seems to be the same with creative projects.

This weekend was a testament to that idea. While I am not what I would call “deep in a project”, I am deep in the trenches of identifying what I hope to do as a Theatre Educator and what I would like to creatively take on in that role – I am deep in the trenches of grad school.

I’ve found that the majority of my writing during this first class of my first semester has ended up revolving around empathy. This word pops up over and over again, I’ve become obsessed. I’ve realized my background with First Stage Children’s Theatre in Milwaukee where their motto is “Life Skills through Stage Skills” has effected my teaching philosophy profoundly. I’ve seen the power theatre can have in cultivating life skills, such as empathy, and I’m determined to spread these effects.

This weekend, at the Jaipur Literature Festival, I heard great literary minds calling for the very thing I am hoping to cultivate: empathy. Over and over again this theme came up in a wide variety of talks. What we need in this world, these literary minds pleaded, was to remember that “we are a collective” (Carolyn Finney). To remember the mutual humanity that we all share and realize that we need everyone to be successful in order to be a successful society.

This came up over and over again. This was represented in the work these artists were doing – they were all attempting to spread the idea of empathy, cultivate it, express how important it is. And I sat there in these audiences just filled with inspiration and joy.

I had started to recently wonder if the work I want to do has already been done, if its been “figured out” and “perfected”. Which of course I know this isn’t true, otherwise we would all be living in a perfectly empathetic world and that merely isn’t true. However, I needed some justification it seemed for diving into this field of Theatre Education where so much research has been done and so much work is being created out of. I have to realize that just because I can’t think of a wildly new approach for this work, doesn’t mean that this work isn’t important and the world wouldn’t benefit from my choice to continue using Theatre as a means to creating empathetic human beings.

I felt that there was this cry – this cry from all these great minds – for empathy to be a widespread pandemic. If empathy could spread as quickly as stereotypes and fear and racism and misunderstandings then we might find we like the world we live in just a little bit more.

Jaipur Literature Festival – the universal cry for connection

Today I took in the Jaipur Literature Festival in Boulder.

After spending the day in a variety of sessions, I can firmly say this festival was magical, is magical. I spent the day listening to discussions and stories around the country of Bhutan and stories from Her Majesty the Queen Mother of Bhutan herself, the Black Lives Matter movement and the state of the “black community” in today’s society, the state of Latino and African American voices in literature, and the current state of the National Parks system and its relationship with the diverse community of the United States. I heard personal stories, excerpts from books, statistics, references to other literary works and poems. The topics of environmentalism, racism, equality, privilege, democracy, and education were all discussed.

The span of what was a part of my discourse today is wide and yet each session and each conversation came back to the same theme. It felt to me like every topic was crying out for the same thing: connection. Every session discussed how important connection is for the future of these topics, for the success and change necessary for a positive future in these varying realms. How we as a society are all connected, how we as a world are all connected, how the entire system in which we live is inevitably connected.

Of course this idea may seem obvious.

But if you think its so obvious then let me ask you: why are we always trying to separate it? Why are we always trying to put things in their own boxes and draw divider lines between them all? What is this obsession with separation – when in reality this world would not exist without connection?

This world is a gigantic fabric of which we are all apart of and we keep spending our time pulling out threads – can’t we see that if pull out one thread it unravels us all?

 

“As long as we continue to think of ourselves as separate we will be able to distance ourselves and keep our comfort.” and “if we are comfortable we aren’t evolving” \

– Carolyn Finney

 

And this cry for connection directly correlates to what the speakers as writers all do: tell stories. Sharing stories is a way in which we as people all connect and we have connected this way for thousands and thousands of years.

There are millions of stories in the world and there are millions of stories still untold. Untold because we don’t let those voices speak, untold because the speakers are afraid of the consequences of speaking up, untold because we refuse to listen. These untold narratives are missing pieces to this gigantic puzzle known as “The American Dream”. We’ve never seen the whole picture, and as someone said today – we never will – because we’ve spent all our time and energy on the separation.

Today we need to push and press for those untold narratives. We need to encourage the unheard, encourage the scared, encourage the “separated” to be apart of the narrative.

“This is your story too.” Heather Hansen

And on a personal note: today’s inspiration and cry for connection reminded me a lot of what I’m currently working on in my career. As I work towards a Master’s degree in Theatre Education I’m reminded that theatre is a form of telling narratives, theatre is a form of connection, theatre is a platform through which to tell the untold narratives. As I enter into the platform of Education I need to remember the importance of cultivating connection and above all empathy to enable connections to be made. Through Education I can help create the skills needed to empower the untold narratives to be written, to be performed, to be shared, to be connected with and in this way perhaps we can begin to thread the fabric back together.

 

The best thing to do with your life is everything. – Amy Rose Spiegel

This quote jumped off the page of a recent book I’ve found my nose in, “Action: A Book about Sex”. Now I must warn you this blog entry has NOTHING to do with sex, it just happens that this hysterical and well-written book got me thinking about the bigger picture of my life.

The best thing to do is everything…..seems pretty self-explanatory. Do everything. Everything that you want. But for me – well that made it all the more difficult. I immediately thought, “what is the ‘everything’ I want to stuff my life with?” What is the ‘everything’?

I’m the person who needs a list, who needs bullet points, who yearns for specifics. This word ‘everything’ is to broad for my understanding and I can’t possibly bring this idea to life if I don’t understand what specifically I’m bringing to life.

So here I am. On the journey to figuring out what my ‘everything’ is going to look like.

I’m currently in a place where I feel like I’m just floating and my long-term goals in general are blurry. I can’t seem to shake the dust out of my eyes or the hesitation out of my breathing. I just don’t know right now.

The one solid goal I have currently is to complete my Masters Degree (seeing as its only the first semester of my career as a Graduate Student I’ve got a bit of time left working on that one). This one solid goal is being worked towards every single day: I’m either reading books or articles or Dissertations or I’m writing wordy yet eloquent papers of my own.

But sometimes I think this one long-term goal, another degree, another piece of paper, has me putting hold on any other creative aspirations or adventurous aspirations or career aspirations. This one long-term goal doesn’t even help me solidify what it is I want to “do” for a career. Obviously the degree puts me in a specific field: Theatre Education. But believe it or not I have multiple roads I could take within that field. I have no interest in being a classroom teacher (at least not for any of the first 12 grades) and yet here I am studying Theatre Education.

Obviously you can sense my confusion with all my rambling.

I can’t figure out what my everything is. So I’ve come here to type it out and see what list of things I come up with. Thus I think it’s time I literally make a list – a list of the things I want to fill my life with:

  • laughter
    • I want to laugh on a daily basis. I want to make others laugh. I want people in my life to make me laugh in the best way. I want to learn to laugh at myself.
  • love
    • I want to love and be loved daily. I want to cultivate love in others. I want to see love change the world.
  • adventures
    • I want to travel and see the world. I want to explore the natural beauty of this earth. I want to rock climb, swim, hike in magical places. I want to gather experiences.
  • theatre/arts
    • I want to cultivate art in this world. I want to create. I want to use the arts to change lives, because I know they can.
  • teaching
    • I think laughter, love, and adventure all come with teaching.

 

So I’ll admit to you – that list took no time at all to write. It came out before I could think about it. It came out earnestly and passionately. And here I sit dumb-founded at the fact that I seem to know what I want.

Now none of that list is concrete – there’s nothing I can sit down and create, I can’t write a paper that is love, I can’t dance laughter………

or can I?  I’m backtracking again because here in lies the truth. I’ve always thought I had no direction, but my direction is clearly stated above – I must work towards a life filled with love and laughter, with a plethora of adventures, and days filled with teaching theatre/arts in order to do my part to change this world, to create this world. To create. To cultivate.

That word is my everything – cultivate.

How could I not have seen it before? Cultivate. That’s what I want to stuff my life with – the cultivation of love, laughter, adventure, theatre, inspiration, education.

I suppose the hard part is figuring out how to manifest that life. But….well this is a start.

Blue Lipstick

I have recently purchased a tube of blue lipstick, sapphire siren to be exact. It was bought with the intention of solely used for Halloween this year (I’ve decided to go as Babe the Blue Ox this year to go along with the Lumberjack costume my boyfriend pulls off so handsomely).

But this lipstick…..this lipstick is pretty awesome. I loved it immediately.

Now, I don’t wear lipstick. I don’t wear much makeup. In college I spent a lot more time on my appearance than I do now. I tend to go for the “I just left the gym” look or the “It’s a dress so I look cute, but I didn’t try at all” look. They work.

Today I looked at that blue lipstick on my bathroom shelf and then at my grad school work that I’d been working at all morning. And for some reason I put that blue lipstick on, I grabbed my red jeans, my black crop top, and my yellow beanie. This is probably the most soulfully Hayley outfit I’ve put together in a long time – blue lipstick included. It was fun, it was different, it was quirky – the things I’ve always been, but haven’t always put forward so much recently. And then I left – in full blue lipstick glory – to go to Fall Fest down the street.

As I stepped outside my apartment building into the sea of college students who live in the area, I felt nerves bubble in my stomach, I was hyperaware of everyone I passed, noticing if they were noticing me – suddenly outside my safe studio apartment the blue lipstick felt neon, glaring, heavy.

And this is where a thought popped into my head that is the reason I’m writing any of this, a thought that is probably the reason I needed to put that blue lipstick on today:

“When did it become so scary to wear blue lipstick?”

Seriously? Does that sound like a scary thing to you? No way. But here I was nervous, scared of what people were thinking.

Ridiculous. Absolutely absurd. I felt at home in this blue lipstick when I was alone, but here on the sidewalk I felt like I stood out too much, no wait – I felt like I didn’t want to stand out at all.

I started laughing under my breath at the absurdity of it all. I’ve been living like this for awhile, but I have no idea when it started. I have no idea when I started hiding myself in public, especially around these frat guys and sorority girls who I generally wouldn’t hang out with in the first place.

I have no idea when I started shrinking.

I don’t want to shrink. I don’t want to hide. I don’t want to put away the blue lipstick after Halloween.

I’m not going to.

 

1 year.

1 year.

12 months.

365 days.

….with one person.

This is what an anniversary is. The celebration of time passing, of surviving, of enduring, of choosing.

Choice.

This is what love is. I’ve come to the conclusion in the recent year,

and in perhaps the year before that,

love is a choice. It is a decision.

Yes, there are chemical reactions, there are emotions involved, a bond is formed, commonalities are noted, memories are created

but in the end….when those days turn to years….love is a choice.

It’s a situation you choose to be a part of, a situation you choose to fight for, a situation you choose to cherish even when it’s challenging.

You give up wondering if there’s anything better, anyone better.

You choose.

 

A year ago I chose. Without necessarily realizing the gravity of my choice, the reality of my choice.

I chose to ask a simple question that catapulted me to where I am today. To sitting here on the floor beside our bed, that we bought together, in our studio apartment in Boulder, CO just before midnight, just before the day of our 1 year anniversary.

I looked him dead in the face and blurted out, “What are we doing? Are we dating or not?”

Because I was done playing games.

And here I am. Choosing to ask and answer that question every morning with,

“I’m in. I’m all in.”

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