The Happiness Manifesto Blog

How I Beat the Living Hell Out of Suffering and Made It My Bitch

Archive for the tag “wealth”

Thank You

So I have been a lover of the law of attraction and everything it represents for a while now.  And while I’ve had my ups and downs, my “oops!” moments and my “aha!” moments, I’ve been slowly moving forward, making incremental progress, learning some hard lessons and seeing deeper into myself than I ever could have imagined going in.  Last night was another one of those massive info dumps that feels so much like a meteor crashed into my mind planet, and my ecosystem is going to have to rebuild itself again.

If you’ve been reading for any length of time, it’s quite obvious that I am obsessed with making a home of my own.  Whether that’s a tiny house on wheels, a cob house, a beautiful old Craftsman bungalow… I just feel this inner longing for *home* the way that normal women who don’t, as Margaret Cho put it, ovulate sand might long for children.  I cry about it – a lot.  Not like, oh boo hoo, I want a fancy house to be a status symbol cry, but deep, profound sadness that can only be described as being adrift on a violent ocean, yearning for home.  I want my safe harbor.  I *need* safe harbor.  My ship has broken apart in the storm.

As much as I have tried to be positive about it, I’ve struggled.  I’ve done all the envisioning exercises I could think of – I printed out house listings I was in love with and hung them up where I could see them; I bought a few books on tiny house building and a couple of small tools that I didn’t already have as gestures that I was going to DO this; I bought beautiful vintage light switch covers to put in my new home; I said mantras like “I have everything I need and want available to me.”  And by the way, when you are paying for groceries with pennies from the penny jar and behind on rent, dropping $10 on a tool you don’t need yet is a big deal.  I thought I was sending clear signals of faith to the universe, so things were sure to happen!  And yet.  I would look at those house listings and think, good things like that don’t happen to you.  Other people get to have a home of your dreams, but not you.  I felt like I was torturing myself a little.  Real estate was already way beyond my income – and it’s only been getting more expensive.  But I kept looking at it.

I would get bitter about how easy it seemed other people had it – either now or in the past.  My most teeth-gnashing knowledge was that when my parents were my age, my father earned more at his job, with only a high school diploma, than I have ever earned in my life (and I’m not talking about inflation-adjusted dollars – I mean in unchanging numbers), plus they had my mother’s income as well.  He wasn’t a great employee – I grew up hearing tales of he and his friends going out drinking during their extended lunch breaks and going back to the office sloshed, or sometimes not going back at all (and yet, no one got fired for this, while I’ve been fired for showing up to start my shift ten minutes late one time too many).  With the gobs of money (in my eyes) from his dial-it-in job, he bought a two-bedroom house that cost five thousand dollars less than he made in a year, in a nice neighborhood in the suburbs.  Cars cost a few grand.  And yet, due largely to his gambling habits, my parents lost everything – the house, the car, everything.  When opportunity after opportunity had been handed to them as a gift from on high, they squandered it.  And it pissed me the fuck off.

Now, I get that it pissed me off because it’s all a matter of perspective.  To a kid that lives in a shanty town made of cardboard and spends their days fetching water from three miles away and can’t go to school, I’m the one who has had opportunity after opportunity handed to me as a gift from on high.  Just as to my parents, it wasn’t a big deal to have what they had – jobs were plentiful and stuff was cheap; the economy was good and don’t all the Mad Men drink cocktails in the office?  Normal!  Why would they have seen it any differently?  But I was so angry.  That anger said, I wouldn’t squander those blessings if I had them.  I wouldn’t take them for granted!

Which was all just a great big block to me ever getting any kind of blessings that I dreamed of.

Now, I tried gratitude exercises – but I felt like I was giving thanks for largely little things.  Somehow I thought that would translate into big things.  Well, it didn’t.  Because I was thinking of them as little things.  Hence the incremental progress instead of large leaps forward in the physical realm.

I tried making myself feel like I already had the thing I wanted – and envision it in detail.  I was good at the envisioning.  I am a writer/artist, after all.  I came up with house design after house design after house design.  I thought, this is the one!  I’m going to get some money, and build this house.  I did it with cars, too – you can see the Smart Car picture in an earlier post from me going to their website and designing the one I wanted.

But did I feel like I actually owned that house?  Despite all my mantras, no, I did not.  The car?  Not that, either.  For a long time, I was sad when I saw cars that I liked – I felt like I was being teased with something I couldn’t have again.

For the past several months, I have been sending out love when I see a car I like (for the record, Universe, that’s Smart Cars, VW bugs, Mini Coopers, and Subaru hatchback station wagons.  Yes, I have to have the one big car outlier, because that’s how I roll).  Now it’s not forced, and I honestly smile when I see one and feel like the Universe is smiling back at me instead of teasing me.  It’s saying, “Hey look, here’s that cool thing you like!”  So I feel a lot better on that front.  But I was still at a loss as to how I was going to earn the money (because that’s what I was focused on) to build or buy my dream home… or my dream car.  The writing muse has been flirting with me but I don’t have a book near completion.  No publishers have responded to my short stories or found my blog and said, “Hey, we like your writing!  Want a book contract?”  I wasn’t hearing back anything from jobs I had applied to.  I didn’t suddenly have a sewing tutorial or cat video go viral on YouTube.  I wasn’t selling out of inventory at craft fairs or Etsy, or having people beating down my door to buy Beachbody products en masse.  So, barring a lotto win (I probably buy a ticket once every two months or so), I couldn’t see a way out.  It was “I need,” and “I want” …which is, say it with me, NOT what you should be thinking if you are trying to attract things to you.

In other words, I was dialing in my manifestation efforts, like I had always felt my dad had a dial it in job.  I was saying what I wanted but not feeling it.  I was faking it ‘til I made it.  I was smiling on the outside but crying on the inside.  But just like they say, if you smile even when you don’t feel like it, the action will often lead to you honestly feeling happy.  Well, the project-positivity-project has finally taken root, and I truly do feel positive about my life and the future.

What brought this on?  Well, I’ve been reading lots of books on manifestation, the law of attraction, and “new thought,” as they call it.  One of the pillars of these teachings is that you have everything available to you in the universe.  If it exists, you can manifest it.  If you can dream it, it exists.  “Hold,” you say.  “What about people who dreamed up things that never existed before, like inventors?”  Well, those inventions were made, weren’t they?  The components for anything you can ever dream are there – we just have to lasso them in.  The elements that made the resources that made the parts that made the first computer always existed – it’s just that no one put all those things together to create it until it was first imagined and designed, the international trade network was there, and prior inventions that were necessary for its creation – like electricity being harnessed – had been realized.

I understood this premise on an intellectual level, but I didn’t know it in my bones.  I didn’t feel like, okay, I have access to anything, my abundance is limitless, the world is my oyster!  Mantra after mantra did not seem to be infusing it into my core any more than I can learn through osmosis.

Last night was the shift that changed everything.

What triggered it?  Another Rhonda Byrne book?  Source material?  A great meditation session?  Nope.  It was one of those viral videos full of NASA footage, stirring music, and Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about how we are all stardust.

I had seen videos like that before – in fact, I think I had even heard that particular quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson before.  I loved them both, and thought they were beautiful at the time.  But just like sometimes, you read a book for the second time and all new things jump out at you, or it speaks to you in an entirely different way as you are at a different place in your life, this video hit me like a ton of bricks.  And I cried (this post is full of crying, isn’t it?  I swear I am not a geyser 24/7).  But it wasn’t “I’m sad,” crying, or even “I yearn,” crying – it was understanding crying.  It was feeling connected with everything and everyone in the universe crying.  It was a beautiful moment crying.  It was gratefulness crying.  I actually felt it.  It was a spiritual experience.  I felt myself expanding.

And in that moment, I truly, for the first time, knew that I was one with everything in the universe.  Not just on an intellectual level – but in my bones.  In my heart.  In my soul.  I knew I had access to anything and everything.  And I had gratitude of such a profound depth that it eclipsed all my little gratitude games and mantras.  I’ve had a great day today, and more is to come.  I don’t say that to mean, I hope I have more great days.  I just know that I will.

This blog is to say, don’t lose hope!  Keep at it.  Even if you are not feeling it at first, it will come.  Read, study, meditate.  Do all the mantras and exercises.  All those little efforts will prepare you for the much larger breakthroughs, like paving the road for a manifestation superhighway.  I think I just opened my on-ramp.  And I’m driving along in my dream car (I’m looking at you, Einstein)!

Do A Little Dance

Sometimes, when dancing, you have to let go and just trust.  If you’ve got a partner, you have to trust that they won’t drop you or step on your toes.  If you’re alone, you have to let go of your inhibitions and stop wondering what others will think of you.

This applies to life, too.  Sometimes, you have to let go and just trust.  And sometimes, that can be scary as hell.

I find myself doing the throw-my-hands-up-in-the-air-in-unabashed-trust move, only to take a good look at what I’m doing and grab onto that safety bar in a gut-clenching, reflexive spasm, like letting go on a roller coaster.  There you are, feeling all secure in your seat, hands waving in the air, then you tip over the top of that hill and… hold on for dear life, even though you’re just as secure as you were on the way up.  I have to learn to keep my hands up there, and just scream my head off like all the other thrill-seekers.

First I was dancing, now I’m riding roller coasters.  Because that’s the kind of blog post this is going to be.

It’s never the metaphysical stuff I fear.  “The Shift”?  2012?  Unleashing the oddness that is the Real Wren upon the world (well, perhaps y’all should be afraid of that one)?  Unearthing old psychological scars?  Downloads?  Hippies (I live in Colorado, I had to make a South Park reference)?  Nope.  All good.  Bring it on.  I want to bend the metaphoric spoons with the best of them.  It’s the old Maslow’s hierarchy of needs thing: I look at my bank account, which I was completely unconcerned about this morning, and clench.  I start adding up bills in my head, minus planned income, and I start freaking out about where the remainder is going to come from.  This morning I was in happy, it-will-all-come-in-time land.  Then cold, hard numbers had me looking up at the sky, wondering where the hell that you-don’t-have-to-worry-about-this-anymore windfall is when I really need it.  Which of course (*cough*LawOfAttraction*cough*), is exactly what I shouldn’t be thinking.  Thinking I need, thinking I want, thinking I don’t have it already just attracts… needing, wanting, and not having.  It’s fear-based thinking.  I need to dance on over to the love side of the spectrum.

I’ve already been working on exercises to change the way I think about money.  How many of us have this problem: I’ve heard over and over how “dirty” money is.  I’m not speaking metaphorically, here: I mean it has germs on it.  Think about where it’s been.  So I got into the habit of, touching money = germy, so I should wash my hands after I touch it.

Think about what message I was sending the universe: money is dirty and gross, I don’t like touching it, and I must wash myself clean of its essence any time I have some in my hands.

That’s a solid F- in Law of Attraction abundance thinking.

So I’m trying to override the hand-washing need and the “ew, germs” thoughts; I keep two dollar coins in my pocket (dollar coins make me happy, I like them) to look at and think, “I like this money; I like holding it; I’m keeping it” when I come across them; I’m doing an exercise from The Power that has to do with how you store money in your pocket/wallet, and what you think of when you look at it.

OK, so I promote my grade to a C-.  I’m still looking at that bank account and going, “I must plan!  That bill is due, and that one is soon due, and that one is overdue!  I must know how I’m going to pay them!  I must have details!  And what about the rent?!”

I need to look at my bank account and think, “I have so much money in there!  I never have to worry about this again!  I should go car shopping and buy Einstein right now!”

And as much as I try to Stuart Smalley my way around that one, my inner “realist” is like, “Groceries, Wren.  Concentrate on what you can actually do.  Concentrate on what you need right now.  Groceries.  Rent.  Bills.”

I hesitate to, say, go to the Smart dealership and look around because I feel like I’ll be wasting the salesperson’s time if I don’t have the ability to sign on the dotted line today.  But that’s exactly what I need to do.  I need to go and sit in the car, and imagine owning it, and feel what it’s like in there.  I need to act, with confidence, like I’ve got all the funds in the world.  Because otherwise, I’m just sending the universe mixed messages.

So my assignment, if I choose to accept it, is to go and drool over Smartcars, and possibly annoy some innocent salesperson asking about getting it in that nifty brown color.  It’s not wasting their time or mine, if this prompts the universe to channel the funds to me, and then I go back and find that nice salesperson and buy the car a month from now.  That will be my dance of confidence.

So what dance do you need to do to move forward, and show the universe that you fully believe you’re doing it?  Leave a comment – let’s give ourselves homework assignments!

Fulfilled = Fulfillment

This thought is still fresh and somewhat percolating, so forgive me if I need to revisit it later to clarify some things, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the difference between being fulfilled and being a fulfillment.  Here’s what I mean: being fulfilled, as in, you’re content, you have all that you need, your wants and desires are fulfilled.  Being a fulfillment is more like being the fulfillment of a plan, your destiny, or even your potential.  How many of us were told in school to “fulfill our potential”?  In other words, it would have been a crime if Einstein had become a janitor (that one movie with Matt Damon notwithstanding).  We want the great scientists to be great scientists, the great artists to be great artists, the great parents to be great parents, etc.  We don’t want people inherently gifted in one area to ignore those gifts trying to pursue endeavors where their contribution might be mediocre at the expense of what would be amazing contributions in their naturally talented subjects.

A lot of people don’t believe in destiny or fate, and that’s fine, I’m not altogether certain that I do, either.  At least not in the sense of how they are normally understood.  However, I think it was Leonardo DaVinci’s purpose to be a great artist and inventor, Stephen Hawking to be a great scientist, Michelle Kwan to be a great athlete, and Jimi Hendrix to be a great musician.  And I think all of us have a “purpose”.  No, we’re not all going to be world-renowned or famous, but say your purpose is to be a great parent: maybe you don’t win any awards or get a ton of recognition, but your contribution goes forward beyond your life through the lives of the kids you raise.  You’re still changing the world, even if you’re not in any history books for doing so.

So, fulfilled versus fulfillment was what I had been dwelling upon, and then tonight while meditating, I was asking questions of the Universe/God.  What am I supposed to do, why am I here, what’s the meaning of life, you know, mild stuff.  No pressure, Universe.  In this same meditation session I was putting out there my wants on a very “physical realm” type level.  I want financial security (I’ve already discussed the difficulty in focusing on higher purpose when you’re stuck low on the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs totem pole).  I want a home.  I yearn for a home.  I dream of a home.  I look at real estate listings and cry.  Really, really (really), I’m obsessed with having a home of my own (yes, it’s just me and the kitties in my apartment, but I rent.  I want a home I can truly call my own).  And as I was thinking of the more physical realm stuff, one of the larger answers hit me: I’m supposed to write my book.

Yes, the book has transmogrified in scope these past several months, and the original “happiness manifesto” idea has given way to a much larger concept (plus, I found out sometime after starting this blog and the book that there is apparently already a book called “The Happiness Manifesto” – oops!  While I’m sure it does not have my subtitle (“How I beat the living hell out of suffering and made it my bitch”), I didn’t even think to search for similar titles when I was still in the just-starting-out phase of writing.  Gah!  If anyone finds this blog looking for information on that book, sorry – not me.  I didn’t even know it existed until I was browsing on my Kindle one day and lo, there it was.  I just about kicked myself.  I’m sure there are books out there with alike titles, but still – so it’s a good thing that that is no longer the title).

Anywho, The Book (it will heretofore be referred to as The Book in capital letters, as even though it has another working title, I don’t want to a: goof again before I’ve researched that no one else has a book out by that title and b: it’s still shifting around in my head, and I may change it again when all is said and done.  I’m not putting it past me at this point).  The more I think on it, the more The Book is my raison d’être.  I want to write.  I’m meant to write.  Don’t worry, I’m not growing a massive ego and thinking I am The Most Awesome Writer Ever, but I must write.  I used to write so prolifically that I could reliably sit down and pound out a chapter in one sitting, giggling to myself as twists and turns came to me as I was writing them.  I gauged if it was any good or not by how violently my best friend threatened my well-being if I did not write the next chapter soon (I was really good at a cliffhanger).  Now, of course, I look at those old stories from my college days (or high school days or junior high days – yes, I wrote stories to share with my friends back then, too) and think, wow, I was really young.  Characters developed in my head as I was writing them, and so the original vision didn’t always mesh with the end product.  I was famous for going back and doing re-write after re-write after re-write in an attempt to align the earlier flying-blind parts with the later now-I-know-who-this-person-is-and-where-the-story-is-going parts.  I was more famous for forgoing paper altogether and just regaling my friends with verbal stories; the aforementioned best friend and I would take a random drive and she would put forth her one-word request: “Story?”  My friends knew the universe inside my head by then and it was nice to just shoot the shit with my characters and not worry about having to spell out backstory for potential new readers to understand what I was talking about.  Also, it was the most awesome way to test out new ideas and character developments ever.  But I digress.

The point is, I’ve always been a writer.  And lately it seems to come in fits and spurts, and as often as not I go back to the completed parts and look on them with disdain some time later.  It’s not that it seems terrible, but it does seem contrived.  Or young.  Yes, there’s that word again.  When I look back at my writing and think young, it’s the equivalent of crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it in a wastebasket.

Though now I look at my old stories and think young, I actually was young at the time.  I’m allowed to think the oeuvre of my twenty-year-old self seems young.  But I don’t look at it with disdain: I look back on it with fondness and pride.  I actually wrote that book, and that book.  I told thousands of stories.  I drew thousands of related comics.  One of the friends who read and heard the stories even drew comics based on the characters in my universe.  I inspired someone else.  My stories spoke to someone else.  I couldn’t have asked for better confirmation of worth than that.  Yeah, I was young, but my youthful stories spoke to other young people.  To this day I can drop a reference to those stories among that group of friends and get a giggle.  And two of my cats (I have three) are named after two people from that pantheon of characters.  Those stories are a huge chunk of my life.

Today, not only have I shifted my focus both in reading and writing to non-fiction (it’s rare that I pick up a novel anymore, though it does happen occasionally), but I don’t seem to be able to sit and churn out a chapter as I used to.  I would be okay with a slower pace if it was at least steady, but it’s not that either.  It’s very much as if my muse is teasing me with hints of what I will be writing more than actually writing it.

Tonight, in that meditation session, the reason came to me: my mind is still too focused on the Maslow’s Level Two stuff to be absorbed in The Book.  Back when I used to sleep, eat, and breathe Story, it was my survival mechanism.  Life was supremely craptastic and so I escaped to the much better world in my head, and ran on autopilot in “the real world”.  Now I’m firmly anchored in “the real world,” and unable to fully let myself escape into Book World.

Therein lay my answer to the fulfilled/fulfillment question: it shouldn’t read “versus”.  It’s more like, in order to be a fulfillment of your purpose, you need to be fulfilled.

I’m not fulfilled in the “physical realm”.  I need to be so I can let go and fully engage in The Book.

Now, I’m not saying every wild dream has to come true in order for me to fulfill my purpose in writing The Book.  In fact, that would be a Star Trek-worthy paradox, as completing and publishing The Book is one of those dreams.  What I’m saying is, I need to feel “safe” enough to go and live in the alternate universe that you really have to take residence in in order to pen a meaningful work.  I need to not worry about how I’m going to pay the bills, or where I’m going to live, or when am I going to do this or that.  I need to have some basic things taken care of that are taking away precious focus from writing.  I have been better about not stressing so hard about things like money, but to be frank when I’m not sure where/how/when it’s coming, I do focus on things related to it, like: I need to list more things in my Etsy shop.  I need to check Craigslist for temp jobs.  I need to make business cards.  I need to “network”.  I need to list more things in my Zazzle shop.  I need to submit another article in an attempt to get published and paid for something now.  Etc.  It’s a very different distraction trying to establish yourself as a freelancer than working a full-time “day job”.  It may be more miserable, but in some ways it can be easier to mindlessly punch in, do work, and punch out again.  The more mindless the job, the more my mind wandered off and dreamed up new stories.  But then again, when I was in a horrid make-you-cry-in-the-restroom type job, there was no daydreaming there.  Well okay, there was, but it involved choice words to certain real-life people and maybe a middle finger or two; not exactly “storytime”.

So, I made a deal with the Universe.  God knows I don’t need or particularly want a lavish, crazy lifestyle.  But I do very much want certain needs taken care of, which would free up my brain to go live in Book World.  I want my own home; I want financial security; I want a car (yep, 33 years old, never owned a car.  In NYC that may be normal, but in Denver that’s shock-worthy).  The car seems arbitrary until you consider how much more involved it is for me to go anyplace (hours instead of minutes whether I’m bussing, bicycling, or walking.  How much can I carry or cart around if I’m grocery shopping.  The fact that I can’t do those things I would love to do and have always been good for my soul, like drive into the so-close-and-yet-so-far mountains and just enjoy the scenery or load up an SD card with metric tons of photographs.  There is no city bus that reads “pulls over at every cool spot for photographic opportunities”.  Go and visit friends and not worry about the last bus out or if I can hitch a ride.  Not have to deal with creepy creepers following/chasing/stalking/bothering me (yes, that’s happened… a lot) walking home or waiting for a bus.  Etc.  For me, it would be rather life-changing.  So I told the universe that basically, I need for the little things to not be so hard.  I need for them to not be so thought-consuming.  I need to be able to live somewhat on auto-pilot again but not because things suck; because it’s easy to do so.

It’s not that I want to be permanently on auto-pilot, though I do want my life to be permanently at least a little bit easier.  I want to know that if I follow my muse into Book World, where time moves much more slowly than it does here in physical realm, then I’m not going to come out of it with a completed chapter and an eviction notice.  I want for my physical realm to be safe so I can go play in the alternate Universe.

So there it is.  I get a safe home, the world gets my purpose fulfilled.  Not a bad deal, eh, Universe?

Lightening the Load

I have lived in the apartment I’m in for over four years now.  It’s a 600-some-odd square foot one bedroom with a balcony.  When I first moved in, I had had a bunch of stuff in storage jammed into my parents’ shed and front closet that was unearthed and moved in with the rest of my things.  At first I thought the chaos was just the natural result of moving, and thought it wouldn’t be long before I had the piles all unpacked and sorted.  I knew I had a lot of junk in there; I had always been a packrat.  But I didn’t think it was too unwieldy.  Eh heh.

Try as I did, I just didn’t seem to have enough space for all my crap.  I didn’t understand how this was possible.  I had never had a whole living space to myself before: I had always lived with family or roomates prior to this apartment.  SURELY after cohabiting with other people I didn’t have enough to fill the whole apartment all by myself, did I?

Oh, my dear Lord.  I did.

And we’re not talking big items, like furniture.  Oh, no.  We’re talking boxes upon boxes of books, piles of clothes that I hadn’t sorted for a donation bin since I was a teenager (I’m 33 now), and obscene amounts of mail/catalogs/magazines that had gotten unmanageable, and in a fit of “get it out of the way,” I had shoved in a box or bag always with the intention that I would “deal with it later.”  Those boxes and bags apparently multiplied like bunnies when left alone in a closet.  Now was later.  I had to deal with them.

For someone who has never been a fashionista, nor ever had much money to spend on clothes, most of my collection having been hand-me-downs or gifts, I sure had a TON of clothes.  I knew I hadn’t gone through those boxes gathering dust in my parents’ closet in forever, but it astounded me how much I had managed to accumulate.  In retrospect, I think I should have dumped every article of clothing I found into one big pile and took a photograph, so that I would be able to have a “before” and an “after” picture.  If I had done so, I could have sent the results to some producer at A&E and they would have thought me a candidate for the show Hoarders.  It was horrific.  I had been in total denial as to the level of my clutter and packrat ways.  If you had given me another decade or two down that trajectory, I might have actually been a candidate for the show Hoarders.

Why the hell did I save all that crap, people always asked me (OK, it was mostly my mother that asked me).  I would get defensive about it at the time and honestly couldn’t have told you.  Insecurity is a big part of the answer.  I do empathize with those reality-show sufferers, because I get that aspect of it.  It’s been hard whittling the piles down, and I’ve had years to work on it; those people have a weekend.  It’s a good thing those producers never saw any “before” pictures from me, because doing it that fast might have given me a heart attack.

On the one hand, I grew up poor.  As I said, I didn’t really have money for clothes and had to make do with whatever I had.  So it was kind of a security thing to hang on to every piece of clothing, because I probably couldn’t go out and buy more.  I had a hard time even letting go of items I had worn into the ground.  By that time it was a favorite object, which brings me to difficulty number two: I get sentimentally attached to all sorts of things.  Favorite old sweater now in tatters?  Sentimental object.  Book I loved but would never read again?  Sentimental object.

So how the hell did I even start to pare it down?  In stages.  At first I just focused on the mail-catalogs-magazines bunny family.  It was easy enough to sort through that, but even there I originally was hanging on to much more than I needed to.  I have since made further rounds into the files I thought I should save at the time and have been pulling more out that I now know is silly to hang onto.

It was about this time that I started discovering a huge motivator: apparently, the stuff at my parents’ house had gotten infested with carpet beetles (or at least, what I can identify as such through Google images).  I am a bugaphobe.  And a germaphobe.  And SACRED BOVINES, BATMAN they were everywhere.  I almost never saw a “mature” one – more often than not I found empty cocoons or squirmy little worm larvae things (ewwww).  But what do they like?  Books and clothes.  What do I own?  Books and clothes.

I can’t tell you how many things that I probably would have tried to save that I threw down the trash chute because it was beyond my willingness to de-louse it from the carpet beetles, or their empty cocoons.  Oh, God.  It still makes me squirm.

And they don’t just stay in one place, either.  They went from clothes that hadn’t been worn in a long time to the clothes hanging in my closet.  I have pulled everything out of my closet and dresser and washed my entire wardrobe because I found one worm on a sweater that was “in rotation” – or a few of them on something else I actually wore – probably three times.  The whole wardrobe, three times.  And again, this is before any clothes purging had even begun to take place, so that’s a lotta laundry.

I gave up on using my closet for clothes, and instead turned it into “storage,” to try and get the clutter and chaos out of my living space and once again hidden behind closed doors.  But that could only work for so long.  Even with the closet stacked high with boxes and bags of random crap, my space was still clutter-mania 2000.  My mind felt just about as chaotic as my living space did.  Oh, and I wasn’t going to get rid of the remnants of the #(&%^*$(& carpet beetles by stashing things away instead of cleaning them and sanitizing like my name was Mr. Monk.  So, the purge progressed.

While the progress was painfully slow in the beginning, the more I purged, the easier it got.  And it not only got easier – it started to feel great.  Every time I tossed a box down the trash chute or a bag of clothes in a donation bin (yes, there was washing), I felt a little bit lighter.  My mind felt a little bit clearer.  OK, I thought.  Once I get all these clothes I don’t wear sorted I will feel SO much better.

But it started to progress from clothes.  I started to give away other stuff, too.  Dishes?  Jewelry?  Books?

Oh, yes, the books.

When you’re as huge of a bibliophile as I am, AND a former borderline hoarder/packrat, you save every book your grubby hands have ever managed to own because they are PRECIOUS GEMSTONES OF KNOWLEDGE AND HAPPINESS.  Or something.  Even in my wildest purging dreams, when I was celebrating and posting Facebook updates like, “I threw out three bags of stuff and four bags of clothes in the donation bin this weekend!!  Yay!!!” (because I have a wild and interesting life, don’tcha know), I never thought I’d be able to part with books.  Any of them.  At all.  Ever.  I thought they’d have to make a memorial library with all my books after I kicked the bucket one day, because that collection was here to stay.

I started giving away books.

Now, bibliophiles, don’t freak out, I still love my tomes and am keeping a lot of them.  But I started with little kid books.  Then young adult books.  Then topics I’m not really obsessed about anymore books.  I even gave away some books that were cherished friends but I knew I had outgrown and someone else would get a lot of pleasure out of, so off they went to a new home to make someone else happy.

And for someone that used to stress over sorting a box full of mail, giving away some of my precious books made me actually quite happy.  It was liberating.

Now, I know y’all are thinking, this is a very wordy and very worldly discussion about purging physical items.  Really, is it relevant to a happiness/personal growth blog?

Yes, in so many ways.

For one, having a less-chaotic physical space does wonders for a chaotic mind and spirit.  I feel a lot calmer when my surroundings don’t look like a storage unit threw up in my living room.

For two, less stuff = less work cleaning/maintaining/keeping it free of *^%*&%$^ carpet beetles, and more time to devote to more important/pleasurable activities.

The third point takes a bit of explaining.  When I was a giant stressbucket of unhappiness and worry, I had more rules that structured my life than Leviticus and was terrified of stepping outside of my comfort zone.  Giving away things that had previously seemed so important was basically a giant metaphor for letting go of things in my mind and my soul that had seemed so important, but were not serving me well anymore.  As goes the mind, so goes the apartment.  Or vice versa.  This is why I use the term “liberating” to describe the act of purging material items.  It’s not just “hey I don’t have to cart around as much junk if I move,” though yes, that’s good too.  I was cleaning up interior space at a rapidly increasing rate, and my exterior space was just reflecting that.  The more mental spring cleaning I did of old attitudes and behaviors, the more I was able to clean up my living space.

There is still work to be done.  Oh, boy, is there still work to be done.  But now when I do it, it feels rather lovely instead of difficult.  I am quite happy now that my apartment has no storage space beyond the bedroom closet and a coffin-sized coat closet though I lamented it at first.  It forced me to deal with my issues.  And my mail.

So, purge, my friends.  Purge things in your life that no longer serve you well, be they physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.  It makes flying so much easier when you’re not weighed down.

Honoring your needs

Right now I am working on a chapter about honoring your needs.  These can be any needs – physical, emotional, spiritual.  And while on the one hand I have made great strides in honoring my needs in all three categories and no longer feeling guilty about it, I still had a block in place when it came to a certain need: money.

Without going into too much detail, lest this post turn into a “triumph over adversity!!” daytime movie, I grew up, shall we say, in a “scarcity” mindset.  And that mindset followed me well into adulthood.  I always felt like other people had things, other people had opportunities, other people had things go their way, and I thought that just didn’t happen for me.  Even as I learned (and am still learning, because I don’t think any of us can ever truly say we’re done learning such things) to accept various things that I have long struggled with as not bad; even as I learned to accept my body the way it was, etc., I still had some convoluted notions about wealth.  Either there was the old self-esteem issue of thinking I didn’t deserve wealth; or perhaps the spiritual guilt issue of not thinking I should want it at all; or the flat-out defeated notion that even if I deserved it and and wanted it, it was never gonna happen.  In short, I could think “that would be nice” or “I deserve a turn” all I wanted, but that was not going to open the path for wealth to come into my life.

My revelation, while working on this chapter and with my own internal struggles with not having a regular job and hence, a regular paycheck for some time now, was that I needed to change how I viewed money.  Money is not a bad thing.  It is not “evil” or a vice.  It is the means to an end.  I can squash the spiritual guilt with the knowledge that if I was awash in abundance, I could truly focus on “higher level” growth (see “The Manifesto” about my history with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).  The physical plane is not “worse” or “less than” – it is its own perfectly valid and here-for-a-reason experience.  It is not something to be suffered through on our way to a spiritual afterlife.  We are not supposed to suffer.  We are to overcome suffering.  We are here to learn things that we couldn’t learn without taking physical form.  Being in a physical body is not a punishment.  It’s OK to be taken care of here in physical form.  We don’t need to be poor and struggle to be holy.  We are holy, by default.  If you believe in creation, God created all that is, right?  That means all of us are “of God”.  Do you think God would create not holy things?  Knowing that we’re safe and secure and will continue to have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies does not make us not holy.  Now I’m not saying that materialism is holy – but things are tools that we use to achieve other things.  I’m using my computer right now to communicate.  You might use your car to run errands and go volunteer.  A computer or a car, or possessing them, is not “unholy”.  It’s simply having the tools to accomplish goals.

I’m writing this entry after having just had a wonderful meditation session, so I hope it’s not as rambly as I fear it might be.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  Have you struggled with accepting abundance in your life?  Have you overcome this struggle?  Share your stories!  It is my hope that this blog can become a forum for everyone to find happiness together as a community.

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