A Subtle Shift

I know I go on and on about minimalism here, about how I want to embrace it but I struggle… about how I don’t think I’m doing as well as I could be.

I write about reading posts where they make it seem so easy and wondering why I can’t make the changes those people make, why I fail when they succeed. I don’t mean to compare myself to those people. It’s not that I think I need to achieve what they have achieved to feel like my pursuit of minimalism has been a success. It’s that I want to find the contentment that minimalism has given them. I want to find that deeper meaning in the chaos of life.

I keep reading the minimalism blogs, not to torture myself, or because I’m some kind of masochist. I’m not looking to feel bad about myself. The thing is I feel certain that I can learn something very valuable from the movement, that in simplifying my life I will reap great rewards. I don’t think minimalism is for everyone–it is certainly not some cure all for today’s society, as some claim–but for me, I truly do believe it holds the key.

Having said that, I read some of these posts and all I can think is, I’ll never be like that. I’ll never get there.

Today I read a post that was different. Or maybe the post wasn’t different, maybe it was just me that was different.

I almost didn’t read the post. It was about letting go of sentimental things and that hasn’t been a challenge for me. One of the great surprises in my quest to let go has been how little the sentimental things I thought I valued meant to me. It has been incredibly easy for me to jettison old journals, photos, letters from friends. Yes they meant something very special to me. Yes they were incredibly important treasures in my life. But as they years have passed and I have grown up and away from the person I once was, I’ve found those tokens to mean less and less. They belonged to a different person, and reading them sometimes feels like a betrayal of her confidence. I am not the girl my middle school friend wrote letters to. I am no longer the angst ridden teenager who filled journal after journal with her tortured words. I am not even the twenty-something how corresponded with her roommates back home when she lived abroad. I am none of those people, because I’m all of them. I don’t need to revisit every past incarnation of my being. I much rather dwell in the present.

At least that is what I thought.

Reading that post, I realized that there are parts of the past that I dwell in, pieces of myself I have never let go.

I wrote recently about spending some time every night picking up the house. I’ve been good about it, but I noticed pretty quickly that I wasn’t getting much accomplished in the areas that really vex me. Tidying up after the kids went to bed helped the living room stay neat and kept the bathroom more orderly, but whenever I stood in front of the über-cluttered top of my chest of drawers, I froze. The mess paralyzed me, and almost every time, I ended up walking away, defeated.

I told myself that I just couldn’t do it. That organization just isn’t my thing and that I’ll never be good at it, that a constant mess is just who I am. I was feeling like a failure all over again.

In that post I read the author says this about shifting perspective:

There’s a well-known adage that our perception becomes our reality. How we see something becomes our truth, which at times, can be self-limiting.

I don’t know when I started defining certain parts of myself by my ADD. I think at the time it was a coping mechanism that protected certain parts of me from the other parts that judged mercilessly. I needed to embrace that explanation to attempt self-acceptance.

I kept defining myself that way because otherwise I wasn’t quite able love myself when I wasn’t living up to my values. If I could blame my shortcoming on something “other,” on something out of my control, I could practice self-compassion.

I’ve written many times about not knowing where my ADD, depression and anxiety end and where I begin. The reality is I will never know. I need to stop defining myself in these ways, because they hold me down, they keep me back.

They are heavy. They are great weights that overwhelm me.

If I’m holding onto heavy things, I leave less room to grow. No matter where we’ve been or where we’re going, when we fixate on the past and the future, It’s at the expense of the present.

I am ready to grow. I am ready to become a different person. I’m tired of this story, the one where I can’t. I want a new story, a story in which I can change and grow. A story where I can.

At times, I’ve chosen the pain from letting go over the pain of staying where I’m at.

I am done with the pain of staying where I’m at. I know that pain. It’s familiar. It’s easy. It doesn’t challenge me. It doesn’t force me to change. It’s just a dull ache that I’ve learned to live with. It’s a weight that I’m ready to shed.

It’s not going to be easy. I’ve gotten comfortable defining myself in these ways. I’ve become complacent. If I stop telling myself that I can’t, I have to start assuring myself that I can. And that’s going to be scary. If I can do something, I have to face all the other reasons why I’m not doing it. What am I avoiding? Why am I avoiding it? It will be uncomfortable. It will be painful. But I have to face those feelings, otherwise I’ll never be free.

No doubt about it, letting go can be an incredibly emotional process—and vulnerability is scary. But it is also an authentic way to live.

I’m honestly not sure what all of this means. I don’t have some new game plan or a shiny set of new goals. It’s not external, it’s more a subtle, internal shift. It’s attitudinal. It’s profound. I feel different. And I really hope my actions will be different too.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


  1. Read this and about the Spanish at the same time. Lots of change and forward motion. Inspiring. Thank you for continuing to write. You have lots to share and you increase positivity while remaining human. Thank you.

  2. “I am ready to grow. I am ready to become a different person. I’m tired of this story, the one where I can’t. I want a new story, a story in which I can change and grow. A story where I can.”

    Thank you for writing this because it’s something I really really needed to read today. I see so many parallels with what you describe — defining myself by my anxiety disorder. Being paralyzed by things that I keep telling myself I cannot do. I want it to be different. I want to start living another story. Maybe I can approach my life from this mindset you’re describing too. So thank you.

  3. I admire that you are always striving to improve. I suffer from complacency in many areas, mainly because I feel so tired by the work day M-F and so challenged by parenting on S-S. I should change that. One of these days 😉

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