Speaking Shame

I’m sorry I left for two weeks without a word.

I never intended to be gone for so long. I faced a perfect storm of deadlines (my final Creative Nonfiction assignment, first trimester final grades and sale expirations for photo gifts) and family obligations (Turkey Day and Turkey Day Part Deux) and there was just never any time to write here.

Oh, and I was admitting to myself, and more painfully my husband, that I have a compulsive buying problem.

So yeah, there was that.

I have been trying to figure out how to say it. Or better said, I’ve been trying to avoid having to say it, let alone figuring out how. It’s a weird thing because on the one hand it seems kind of silly, and trite, like hey, I buy too much shit (but don’t we all, right?) And on the other hand it’s completely devastating and it sent me into a pit of shame so dark and so deep I’ve spent the last two weeks clawing my way out.

I think I’m finally at the surface, but I’m still mired in the muck of it. I will be for a long time.

I’ve always known that I bought too much stuff, but I never really thought of it as a true problem. Or I guess, I never considered the impulses uncontrollable. I guess I always just figured that if I really wanted to stop, I would find a way.

But as I’ve attempted to embrace minimalism, and drastically overhaul the way we consume, I’m finding it incredibly hard to curb my purchasing. Even when I really truly don’t want to be buying stuff, I still do.

So I started reading some books and checking off indicators, and while there were definitely statements that provoked a “holy shit, at least I’m not that bad” there were just as many that provoked an intensely shaming realization that I have a problem.

I walked around with it for a few days, mentioning it to no one. It was eating away at me, making me absolutely miserable. I felt small and unworthy and truly fucked up.

Then I read a book about overcoming compulsive buying and the very first step was to admit to others that you have a problem so that they can help you hold yourself accountable.

And that is when I totally lost my shit. I had convinced myself that I could manage this without confronting my husband, or anyone else. I felt so much shame that I couldn’t control my spending; I just wanted to make it all go away without him ever knowing about it.


And I knew that if I had to tell my husband about my problem, I’d also have to tell him that I had lied about my finances.

Yes. I have been lying to my husband about how quickly I’ve been paying off my credit card debt to help hide my compulsive shopping problem. My husband was actually taking over the payment to my parents every month so I could put that money toward my debt. And instead I was spending a portion (sometimes all of it) on frivolous, unnecessary purchases. And then I was lying to him about it. Eventually to the tune of a few thousand dollars.


I did that.

And I had to tell him. All of it.

Did I mention it’s been a hard week?

I have to admit, writing this is making my skin crawl. I don’t want to do it. It makes me feel vulnerable in ways I can’t articulate. I worry what you all must think of me. I imagine the collective gasp as you read it. I imagine your pity and your disdain. I imagine you judging me, harshly.

I imagine you doing to me what I’ve done to myself for the past two weeks.

But the truth is, you can’t possible think less of me than I have already thought of myself. I’ve already gasped and pitied and judged, so, so harshly. I’ve already determined that I’m a worthless excuse for a human being. Anything you’re thinking about me, I’ve thought worse. So really, what do I have to lose?


And by telling you, I have everything to gain.

Keeping this problem secret doesn’t help me. It only makes it worse. I’ve tried to control it by myself and I’ve failed–to varying degrees–since I started earning real money at 14. I can’t make it better until I admit it. All of it. Even the parts that make me hate myself. Even the parts that steep me in shame.

Oh the shame. It’s overwhelming.

I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” again. This is my third time hearing it, but my first time listening to it with shame. I mean, I always have shame in my life, but it’s never before been a constant companion. Engaging with the talk this time has been truly life changing. I’m so thankful for her work and the incredible way she shares it. I shudder to think where I’d be right now if I didn’t have her to guide me through shame, to help me understand what it is and why it’s so hurtful. To remind me that secrecy and judgement make it grow exponentially, and to assure me that speaking shame–and responding to it with empathy–are the first steps in overcoming it.

So here I am, speaking my shame. I’ve already told my husband–I had to sit with him and try to explain, through my tears, why I lied to him–and now I’m telling you. I’m working hard on my compulsive buying problem, and I’m making small gains. It’s going to take a lot of work, but for the first time in my life I have a sliver of hope that I might get ultimately overcome this issue.

Again, I apologize for falling silent for two weeks and then returning with this.

And I thank you for being gentle as you share your thoughts.


Thank you for your comments on my last post. Quite a few of them suggested that I didn’t make myself clear and I want to revisit the issue again, after I’ve had some time to process. I did appreciate responding to all the comments. It quickly became clear that I wasn’t quite sure what exactly I was trying to communicate with that post, but the more I responded to comments the more developed the idea became. The post also inspired a couple of email/text/message exchanges that enlightened me. I hope to write a follow up post soon.

In the meantime, I want to write a little about maintenance.

I’m getting pretty burned out on my Jillian Michaels DVDs and started abandoning that extra 30 minutes on my thrice weekly workout. Most of the time I just hit the elliptical for 30-45 minutes and leave it at that. At first I was feeling really upset and disappointed in myself about it, but as I sailed through the increased candy consumption of Halloween without my pants getting tighter (I never get on the scale anymore and just gauge where my body is by how my clothes fit) I realized I don’t have to commit to the duration and intensity of exercise that I had before. I have arrived at my ideal weight. I feel really good about the way I look, the way I feel and the way my clothes fit. I am where I want to be, and it doesn’t take as much effort to stay here as it did to get here in the first place.

I still need to exercise–for me it’s more about mental than physical health at this point–but in the absence of my former regimen I’m unsure how to maintain strength and endurance without burning out.

I want to add in a once weekly yoga session of some kind because I definitely need to make stretching a priority again, and yoga does wonders for my piece of mind. I have one audio track I can follow, but I know I’ll get bored of that quickly so I should find some DVDs or apps that can help me get on my mat once a week.

I know I’ll keep up the elliptical because aerobic exercise is what calms my thoughts and releases the endorphins that make me feel good. I doubt I’ll tire of that 30 minutes because it provides one of my only retreats to read blogs or a good book.

The strength component is what I’m least sure of. I downloaded the 7 minute workout app and really like the free full-body workout. There are other, more targeted workouts for your upper body, core and lower body and each one only costs $1.99. I think I’ll try one and see if I like it and if I do, I’ll invest in the others. Maybe doing a circuit of those throughout the week will be enough for me to maintain my strength and form without burning out.

It struck me as I’ve been trying to develop a workout regimen that I can stick to for the long haul that I haven’t made exercise a priority in my life for a long time. It used to be something I always made time for, but when I met my husband I set it aside to spend more time with him (sadly exercise is not a priority in his life at all). I am thankful that the stalled weight loss after my second pregnancy inspired me to return to exercise again–it really is a positive addition to my weekly routine.

I am also using this realization to inspire me on the minimalism front. Right now the work I am doing is hard and time consuming and exhausting (and emotionally fraught), but if I keep it up, and get where I want to be, maintaining those changes will require a lot less effort. I’m lucky that this initial push is producing results that inspire me to keep going, despite the ambivalence I sometimes feel (much like my initial workouts changed my body in ways that compelled me to keep putting on a sports bra even when I just wanted to watch TV). If I can get to a place of maintenance in this aspect of my life, my day to day experiences will be much improved.

How do you maintain the routines that work for you? Do you have to change things up sometimes to stay motivated or interested?

{Oh, and any suggestions for yoga or strength DVDs/apps/audio tracks would be most appreciated!}

Desperately Seeking an Honest Dialogue

A couple of days ago I put up the following on FB:

My son is wonderful and amazing and I’m thankful for him every single day, but holy $#!^ he’s exhausting. Seriously, the next few years are going to be loooooong.

I got a few, “the next FEW years?! comments, which I appreciate because I know it’s going to be crazy until… well… forever?, but most of the responses were sacchariney sweet platitudes about how fast this time flies and how soon I won’t be cool so I better savor it and how cute he is (“but he’s always smiling!”).

What I was looking for was a little recognition and validation, for someone to say, “these years are going to be long, and it might really suck, but you’ll make it through.” What I got instead was an admonishment to cherish this time and a reminder of how cute my kid is.

I get it. I really do. Time does fly and someday I won’t be cool and truly, my son really is cute. (And he is always smiling, as far as FB is concerned.) All of this is true. But right now shit is hard. I am exhausted. And sometimes I wonder why it’s so hard and why I’m so exhausted. Sometimes I spend all day asking myself: Am I doing it wrong? Is it harder for us than it is for others? Why am I drowning even though nothing specific is wrong? Is it ever going to get better?

As far as I know, everyone else with two kids is having a great time of it. It’s all laughter and hugs and siblings interacting in adorable ways. That is what I see on social media. That is what I hear about at whatever birthday party we’re attending this weekend. It’s always the same… and it’s always positive.

I’m guilty of it myself. My whole FB wall is a parade of cute pictures of my adorable kids. I recite the same spiel at birthday parties and other events. As far as anyone knows, we’re having a fabulous time as a family of four.

The thing is, I feel like I have to put that kind of stuff up. It’s expected of me. It’s the only thing anyone wants to see.

No one wants to hear that it’s hard. No one wants me to share that most days I go to bed wondering how I’m going to get through the next day. No one wants me to post the truth (unless of course the truth is all unicorn farts and fairy queefs).

If I were to post an unhappy picture of my kids, I would be accused of over-sharing, or disrespecting their future selves. (Ironical unhappy pictures are fine, of course, but those don’t inspire any kind of honest dialogue.) No one wants to see pictures of the truth.

So I participate in all the same ways everyone else does. I put up exactly the kinds of pictures that proliferate the suggestion that “everything is always great” and I probably make other people feel alone in their struggles, just like I feel alone in mine.

I understand why we act this way on social media. I recognize that a place like FB–where hundreds of people you don’t really know have access to your information–is not the appropriate venue for meaningful interactions. But if more and more of our personal exchanges are taking place on social media, and we are forced to present only certain aspects of our experience in those venues, when are we supposed to speak–and hear–the truth?

Maybe this is only a problem for people like me, who don’t have many friend in the area to sit down and really talk to. I don’t have anyone that I see on a regular enough basis to really confide in, so I’m left with FB and this blog. I guess I just don’t know where I’m supposed to work through the complicated feelings. Or at least have them acknowledged.

And I think it really does benefit people to know that others are struggling, that two kids or being a SAHM or working outside the home or maintaining a marriage is really kicking their ass. And they don’t know if they can do it at all, let alone do it well. Maybe these feelings wouldn’t be so hard to process if we knew other people were processing them too.

The day after I put up that status update my husband thanked me for sharing it. “It’s exactly how I feel,” he said. But I know that is how he feels, and he knows that I know–we talk about it all the time–and yet it still meant so much to him that I put it out there. It still took a weight off his shoulders, just the slightest public acknowledgement of our struggle.

In the end I’m not sure what the answer is. I understand why social media isn’t an appropriate place to unload our burdens, but I also know that some of us don’t have anywhere else to unload. And I think we could all benefit from a little more truth and a little less filter. I just wish it were all easier to navigate, because I think we could all benefit from more authentic support and less glossy perfection.

Do you think social media can be a place to give and receive authentic support? Where do you go to feel acknowledged and understood?

Losing Steam

Thank you for your supportive words on my post about the state of my house. It wasn’t easy to write (or publish), but it was important to put out there. I really do believe that admitting to a problem in a brutally honest way is the first (and a very necessary) step to affecting change.

I continue to trudge forward on my initial sweep of the house, but I have to admit, I’m losing steam. I’m trying to remember that I have plenty of time (my whole life!) to par down my belongings, but there is a part of me that is impatient to see dramatic results and I’m starting to feel frustrated by how much work is required.

I’m also struggling with making choices that are in line with my new philosophy. Turns out three decades of intense consumerism are hard to turn off! I’m making mistakes, but I’m cognizant of them and I’ve had the will power to stop myself from making some clearly irresponsible calls (the DVD of a show I can have my kids watch for free on YouTube? NOT NECESSARY!) I’m continuing to put things on my list instead of buying them but some purchases slip past my defenses, cloaked in elaborate (and ultimately bullshit) excuses. Of course I’m going to struggle right now, I’ve only just begun, but still, everything feels hard and the majority of the time I feel like I’m failing.

But I keep moving forward. Every day I try to tackle on more problem area. Tonight I want to go through my make up and jewelery because they require little effort (I almost never wear either), but will produce dramatic results (the make-up/jewelry section of my room is always a total shit show).

I’m thinking more and more about what minimalism means to me and how I’m going to manifest its principals in my life. This first pass will get us to a place where everything we own fits easily into the space that we have. Will that be enough for us? Or will I want to par down our belongings even more? And will my husband be on board? I’m actually running into more resistance with him than I expected, but I think he’ll come around as the house transforms.

Already the house feels more manageable, even with all the work I still have to do. Each room is still messy, but I know where the individual items go so I don’t feel overwhelmed. I find myself quickly picking up my son’s floor before putting him to bed, just because I can. I haven’t even really cleaned my room out yet but there is already a nice path around my bed an the piles are smaller and less dense.

The hardest thing right now is getting rid of the stuff we no longer need. I’ve had to haul three huge bags to the dumpster at my work because we don’t have space for them in our garbage. I was lucky that my mom’s work was collecting women and children’s clothes last week so I gave five huge bags to her. I’ve sold about $100 worth of stuff on Craigslist and dropped a bunch of toys and some clothes off at our local consignment shop. I put two big bags of books in the donation bin at the library near my work today and I have a bag of baby gear that I plan on dropping by the Young Families Resource Center early next week. I’m still not sure where to drop off our big box of broken/obsolete technology and I’d like to give the blankets and bedding to a shelter where they’ll be put to good use. I have no idea what to do with the huge bag of DVDs. Our hall way is lined with giant IKEA bags full of stuff that I’m waiting to get rid of. Purging your home of access crap is hard work.

My god we have so much stuff. I just don’t understand why I didn’t get rid of most of it ages ago (like when we moved!). Why did I need to embrace an extreme idea like minimalism just to par down our belongings to a reasonable amount? It’s like I had to aim for a really drastic reduction of stuff just to get rid of what I should have been getting rid of anyway. I’m not quite sure what that is about, but I’m hoping I’ll figure it out at some point.

And with that I’m going to go clean out my jewelry and make up. Wish me luck.

{I just found this while sorting through the books on my husband’s side of the bed (we have built-in bookshelves on both sides of our room). Bwahahaha! The fact that I just found this workbook–totally untouched–while purging my belongings in an attempt to live more simply, is hilarious to me.}


Busted Lady Business

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program to talk about… my busted lady business!

Oh yes, you read that, right. This is a post about my vag.

I don’t know how common vaginal or uterine complications are after vaginal delivers but my guess is I’m not the only one who has been dealing with busted lady business after pushing a couple of human beings out of her lady bits. Unfortunately, most women aren’t talking much about this stuff because, well VAGINAS, but I think prolonged vaginal/uterine issues should be a part of the vaginal births dialogue. Maybe if women knew the potential consequences they would be better prepared to manage them.

My daughter was big (nine pounds) and I received a third degree tear when she was born. The resulting scar tissue made sex uncomfortable and sometimes painful. I went to five pelvic floor therapy appointments–and did some work at home–that were somewhat helpful but the discomfort continued.

My son was also big but I guess I was stretched out because I only received a one degree tear despite the fact that he emerged with his elbow up by his head. When we finally resumed sex after my son’s birth, the pain seemed to be gone. I was thrilled! I assumed that the second birth had stretched the scar tissue enough to alleviate the discomfort I was feeling.

Then we started using condoms and the pain came back. I assumed the latex was irritating my scar tissue (despite the mountains of lube I use every time we get busy) and that once we settled on a more permanent form of birth control (and could ditch the condoms) the pain would subside. Unfortunately that was not the case, and eventually I realized that I had developed a fissure (read: open wound) on my perineum, right where my scar tissue had been.

My OB-GYN suggested the fissure was yeast-related and it made sense since it got really bad when we were battling thrush. I took yet another round of Diflucan (my third at that point) and treated it topically, but it never really went away. Around this time I met with my pelvic floor therapist again and she told me I should stop using Al.ways In.finity pads–which I LOVE because I can’t use tampons (more on this later)–because they irritate some women’s skin and might be causing, or at the very least exacerbating, the issue.

I was really bummed to abandon my Al.ways In.finity pads even before I tried the alternative–pure cotton pads the size of pillows. The minute I pulled out one of those gigantic cotton pads I knew I needed another way to manage my periods–I couldn’t wear some pants with these pads, they were so bulky! Tampons hadn’t been very comfortable (the pressed against my perineum) ever since I had my birth (foreshadowing here) so I ordered a Lunette Cup (think Diva Cup, but another brand) with a coupon I had from BlogHer.

It came and I tried it out and was disheartened to find that it fell out pretty much immediately, no matter how many different ways I inserted it. In my obsession to make the menstrual cup work, I fell down the rabbit hole of reviews, discussion threads and posts offering advice. I ended up in an email exchange with a Lunette customer service representative (who was amazing and responded to my emails at all hours of the weekend, despite my assurance that she could wait until Monday to respond). At the end of our exchange she asked if I had a low cervix. I wasn’t sure what was considered “low” and she said if your cervix is only a finger’s length from your vaginal opening during menstruation (it lowers when you have your period), it’s considered low.

Well, that explained why my menstrual cup was falling out: My cervix was less than a knuckle’s length away from my vaginal opening! When I told her this she promptly suggested I contact my OB.

I did and just recently had my appointment, where I was not surprised to be diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse. It seems I have a combination of two situations, my bladder is falling down onto the vaginal wall  (cystocele) and my cervix is somewhat prolapsed. Of course I had been consulting Dr. Google about how to treat a low cervix and the most common treatment of a prolapsed uterus is a hysterectomy. Obviously I wasn’t going to do that, and I was expecting my OB to tell me I was just shit out of luck, and that I just couldn’t wear a tampon or menstrual cup and that sex and some exercises would sometimes be uncomfortable because of the prolapse. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a relatively simple surgery available to “repair the structural integrity” of my vagina (my phrasing). Evidently they build a “hammock” (my doctor’s phrasing) to hold up the ceiling of the vagina and that should help with many of the issues I’m having.

I’m seeing an OB that specializes in this sort of thing on Wednesday. I hope we’re on the same page about surgery because I’d really like to be able to wear tampons or a menstrual cup now that I have to wear pure cotton pads and I believe some of the discomfort I feel when I have sex and do vigorous exercise is also related to my pelvic organ prolapse. I also wonder if my constant low-level hemorrhoids could also be related.

So that is the saga of my busted vag. Obviously it’s not severely damaged, but it is has been an ongoing issue that I would love to resolve so I can move on with my life. I spend one week a month having my period and am trying to have sex once a week, plus I work out 2-3 times a week, so I am dealing with some version of this busted vag business on a pretty regular basis.

On a related note, my OB stressed that I shouldn’t consider the surgery if I might have another child and I was surprised by the conviction (and relief) in my voice when I assured her we were done having children. I’m so ready to get the inside of my body back in shape so that I can leave the negative physical effects of having children behind me.

Have you dealt with any lingering physical issues after having babies? Have they gotten better over time?

A League of its Own

I get the feeling sometimes that when I write about how messy my house is, the people reading nod their heads and think, yeah, my house is messy too.

They think they get it. They think they understand.

Except they don’t.

No really. They don’t really understand. The messy they visualize and the messy I’m talking about… they are completely different. The messy I’m talking about is in a league of its own.

Sure, I’m not a hoarder. Sure, there people with dirtier, messier houses than mine. But honestly, I doubt that anyone reading this blog really understands how gross my house gets. How gross my house is 99% of the time.

When I say that you can’t see the floor in the master bedroom, I mean, quite literally that YOU CANNOT SEE THE FLOOR. Not one part of it. Anywhere. It is covered in shit: clothes, boxes, paper, receipts, more clothes, clean clothes, dirty clothes, more clothes, socks, underwear, random articles that don’t have a home, books, pictures, hangers, the list goes on, maybe forever. That is how much shit there is on my bedroom floor. And under that shit is dust and sand and cat hair and layers of sediment. It has probably been swept three times in the last two years. Okay, maybe five. But honestly, it could be three. When I get into bed I have to clean my feet because they are black from walking around my house, and covered in sand and other debris from walking around my room.

When I say that my bathroom is disgusting I mean just that. It’s dirty to the point of unsanitary. You would be appalled to know that all four of us use it on a daily basis. And yes, we only have one bathroom, so we’re all using it all the time.

The shower gets so gross that recently it took FOUR Mr. Clean magic erasers just to get the scum off. I didn’t realize that my shower doors weren’t actually frosted, it was just a uniform layer of filth caking the glass. There is mold permanently growing around and in our sink basin. The toilet wreaks.

My car recently started smelling so bad that I was finally forced to clean it out. In excavating through the junk I found an entire lunch that my MIL had given to us to feed to Isa just rotting under the seat. Who knows how long it had been there. I drove it with the smell for over a week before I finally broke down and looked for what was so rank. An entire week of driving a car that smelled like a dozen shitty diapers.

So when I write a post like yesterday’s and say that I think the way my house looks says something about who I am, I’m not talking about what it means if my toilet isn’t sparkling or if there are a few books and toys and shoes in the back seat. I’m talking about living with a level of mess and filth that the people reading this probably can’t actually fathom. I’m talking about grossness on an incomprehensible scale.

When I say that I NEED to this, to life a minimalist life, I’m not being facetious. I really do NEED this. We can’t continue to live this way.

And when I say I’m ashamed of the what I’ve let my house become, it’s not about a few dishes in the sink or missing a weekly toilet scrubbing, it’s about actually wondering if CPS could take my kids based on how messy our house sometimes gets.

That is the kind of disorder I am talking about.

You may wonder why I am writing this. Why would I share this with the world?

I need to be honest about this. I need to put my truth out into the world or I will never own it, and things will never change. In AA the first step is to admit that you have a problem and are powerless to stop it. This is my admission: I can’t manage my life. Eventually, my stuff will consume me. I need to admit that to myself more than to anyone else, but I can’t know and accept it as truth, not really, if I don’t put it out there.

I would also love to think that, in admitting this terrible secret, I’m letting someone else know that they are not alone. That when I say my house looks like a disaster area it actually does, and I’m not referring to a few toys are strewn about an otherwise pristine living space. That I get it, and I don’t judge. But honestly, I don’t really believe that anyone reading this is living in a home that resembles my own. I don’t believe that anyone reading this could stand to live in the conditions I endure.

This thing I’m doing, this attempting to live a minimalist life, it’s not about cleaning my bathroom more. It’s about having a bathroom that I might actually be able to clean. It’s not about vacuuming my car’s interior once a month, but getting the level of crap down to a point where my daughter’s legs can hang in front of her car seat. I have so much work to do, but I really hope to get it all done.

Because when I say that my house is dirty, and someone nods their head in understanding, I want to think that we’re imaging the same level of disarray, instead of accepting that what she considers messy I would probably consider clean. I want to think that I’m more like everyone else.

“The way you do anything is the way you do everything”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s only been a week since I decided to change the way I live and already I feel a weight has been lifted.

I’ve been moving through my house, getting rid of stuff. This preliminary run-through is the easiest–there is a huge amount of stuff in my house that so obviously needs to go. I’m not quite sure why I needed to commit to getting rid of a significant portion of what I own to dump these first things–it’s so clear that they are simply not needed. It’s almost like I required permission to give them away. My old mindset required I keep them–they are functional and I might need them some day… But now that I know I’ll be getting rid of a huge portion of my current belongings, these things seem glaringly unnecessary.

It’s amazing what a change of perspective can do.

After only the first few days of this first phase of simplifying my life (the “Culling of the Crap,” as I call it) my house–and my mind–feel different: Lighter. Calmer. I am more committed than ever to drastically overhauling my home, my attitude, and my life.

I read an article not long ago that really stuck with me. It began with the phrase: The way we do anything is the way we do everything. Basically the idea is, “the habits we practice in one area of life, become our life.” You can’t let you house fall into disarray and have the rest of your life together.

At first I bristled at this idea. My house may be a shambles but my life certainly isn’t. But the more I read, the more I realized that she was right. My house is a disaster area, and my life kind of is too. This part of the article really spoke to me:

Perhaps take a peek at the area behind your car seat. Is it filled with mail, receipts and left over lunch bags? When we drive around with a bunch of stuff that we know needs to be dealt with, it drains our energy. When we open the car door and immediately groan, it’s going to affect our mood. You see, if you’re not dealing with little things—opening mail, filing receipts, or even throwing away daily garbage, chances are you’re not dealing with other little things in your life like returning calls promptly, volleying back emails, and following up on your to-do lists.

Yes, as I kept reading, I recognized myself, and the truth in the author’s words. It made me feel ashamed, but it also planted the seed that brought about this drastic change. I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to live my life this way.

I want to change. Desperately.

It’s going to be hard. So, so hard. I’m going to back slide. I’m going to make mistakes. But I will continue moving forward and one day, when I read an article about how the state of my bathroom reflects who I am, I’ll be proud instead of ashamed.

So I’m moving forward and every day I get rid of something else. These are still the easy decisions, and basically if I even consider getting rid of something right now I just do it, because this is the first pass and if I think it might need to go now, it will definitely be going later.

I just need to keep reminding myself that this is about simplifying MY LIFE, not just my possessions. This change is going to affect every aspect of my daily existence. It’s going to be such a positive change. So when I start to feel panicky about how I’m going to decide what should stay and what should go, I remind myself that I’ll figure it out.

And it will be so, so worth it.

Why I’m Here

Why am I here? In this space? Writing under this name?

{And where did I get that name anyhow?}

It seems I didn’t make these things clear. And I want to, as much for myself as for anybody else.

I’m sure I didn’t explain it very well, because I didn’t really know myself. I might not know even now, but the more I try to write about it, the clearer it will become.

Even now as I try to pin it down, the shape of it alludes me. I see glimpses flashing in and out of my periphery, the shadows of a caged bird in attempted flight. It’s all quick movements and bright colors, disconnected ideas that fail to create a cohesive whole.

I guess I’ll describe what I can and hopefully, the picture will present itself.

At some point along the way–probably when I was officially done having children–my old space started to represent the past. Those years of TTC and pregnancy loss and family building were a bridge between the young woman I was before and the person I am now. As I journeyed away from that transition, I realized how long and far it took me from my old self.

I hardly recognize the woman who wrote the first posts on my original blog. I have changed so much, not just in the conceiving of my children but in the conception of myself as their mother. The years after my daughter was born were just as transformative–maybe even more so–than the struggle to have her. Trying to conceive, pregnancy loss, prenatal anxiety, and the struggles of new motherhood broke me down to my foundation. And then they built me back up.

I did a lot of growing in that space, and I made a fair number of mistakes. Some of them considerable. I exposed myself there in ways I wouldn’t be comfortable with today. While I recognize and understand the motivations of my past self, they don’t apply to the woman I am now.

It felt right to step away from that space–and my old self–and start fresh somewhere else. I needed a definitive action that symbolized a new beginning. Starting this space was a promise to myself to honor all the sacrifices my past self made so I could be the person I am today.

My old space was the past. This space is the present. And the future.

This space is the declaration of a new intention: to live more mindfully of myself and others, to approach my decisions with a clearer purpose, and to recognize the motivation behind each and every action.

This space is my promise to myself, to live with integrity and intention.

I want my writing here to reflect that. I want to understand the purpose of a post before I begin writing it. I want a clear vision of what I’m trying to accomplish so I can better recognize if I succeeded in the attempt. I want my writing to benefit others, and not just myself.

Those ranty, venty posts? They are for me to blow off steam. And they affect others, but not in positive ways. When I use this blog to regulate the pressure building inside me, I release my negativity into the world. I don’t want to do that. I want my contribution to be positive. I want my words to meaningful.

That doesn’t mean I only want to share the good stuff. I personally believe there is a lot more value in sharing the difficult, challenging aspects of life. But I think sharing our struggles can be valuable or not so valuable, depending on how it’s executed. I can share that I feel overwhelmed in a way that is productive for both myself and others, it’s just a lot harder to do than to write a stress-vent about how hard things feel right now.

Writing with a clear intention is challenging. It requires a lot more thought beforehand and considerably more editing afterward. It requires I know what I want to say before I say it. You’d be surprised how frequently I used to write without even knowing what I wanted to say. Now I do that writing in a personal space, not in public for everyone to see. I come here when I’m sure of my message, and how I want to convey it.

That is my final reason for opening my new space: I want a place where this kind of intentional writing–and only this kind of intentional writing–can be found. I want this space to be a collection of posts that I’m proud of, posts that I’m willing and eager to share. I may not use my real name, but I want to feel secure in the knowledge that someone I know may someday read my writing. If I ever contribute to other sites I want to feel confident listing this URL for readers to click back to. This space is my attempt at creating a more professional writing identity. I may not be there yet, but I hope to some day.

This space is a promise to myself, a commitment to my dream of becoming a better writer.

Why then am I not writing under my real name? One of my prerequisites for posting here is that I’d be comfortable with any adult I know reading my work. Comfortable might not be the most accurate word… there are things I write about here that would be awkward for colleagues or acquaintances to read, but I want to be okay with awkward, if the subject matter is compelling enough. What I’m absolutely not comfortable with is my students reading in this space. I just don’t trust middle school students with this kind of personal information, and the reality is, if I write under my real name, sooner or later my students will find it.

So I write under a pseudonym. It’s not ideal but it’s necessary and it’s a decision I considered for a considerable amount of time.

The name I chose is special to me. Noemi and James are the names I had decided on for our hypothetical third child. James was my grandfather’s name and it would have been my name if I were a boy. It has a lot of significance in my family. Noemi is a name I fell in love with when we were trying to name our second child, who was a boy. The K is for my actual first name, a little piece of reality at the center of my fabricated identity. I have fallen in love with this name, though I understand it’s hard for others to embrace it.

So that is why I am writing here, and what I’m trying to accomplish. I hope this post makes it more clear, because I do want people to understand my intention. After all, that is the whole point.

Why do you write in your space? Do you better understand now why I’m writing in mine?

The Making of an Amateur Minimalist


So that post I wrote last week? That was my rock bottom, at least as far as the state of my house is concerned. I just can’t handle it anymore. Something needs to change. Something big.

Little changes aren’t going to work. These issues are entrenched. They are symptoms of much larger issues in my life, of my ways of coping and my habits of consumption. No mere system of staying organized is going to help me; change needs to happen at my very core.

I started reading a book about becoming a minimalist. That word wasn’t in the title–in fact it seemed like a simple little book that I didn’t really expect would offer any new or helpful ideas–so I was surprised to find it was almost entirely about living a minimalist life. At first I didn’t think much of it–how could I ever become a minimalist?–but the more I read the more I realized that all the reasons I thought I couldn’t make these changes were the exact reasons why I had to.

I need to own less stuff–significantly less stuff.  I need to fundamentally change the way I buy things. I need to alter my understanding of what is necessary. I need to drastically simplify my life.

So I’m changing my attitude, and in time I will change my actions. I know this is going to be hard–sometimes it will feel impossible–but I also know that I have to do this. If I don’t there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY anything will change. I will continue buying too much stuff. I will continue spending too much money. I will continue owning more than I need and more than I can manage.

The amazing thing is, adopting this attitude will address two of my biggest issues: money and clutter. If I can do this, my life will be 100 times better. I’m sure of that.

It’s going to take a long time to get there, but I truly believe that I’ll arrive at my destination because I know, deep in my soul, that I have to. Every time I have to make a difficult decision about what to keep and what to get rid of, I will remind myself of what keeping stuff ultimately does. Every time I think not buying something will make me unhappy, I will remind myself of how unhappy buying stuff eventually makes me.

Of course I’m starting small. A major overhaul like this is going to take a looooong time. It will most likely take years for me to completely change my habits. But I need to start somewhere, and I have a plan for my first steps. For the next six months I will do the following:

1) Plan my consumption. I will not buy anything at all during the month (except consumables that are REPLACING something we already have and use and have run out of). I will write everything I want to buy down, along with its price and where I can buy it. I will rank prospective purchases in order of importance/desire and at the end of the month, I’ll go over them all with my husband. He is already a minimalist at heart (I didn’t realize this until now!) and he will help me decide what we really need. He will also help me determine what will go out if a new item comes in. (See below.)

2) One in, one out. I will be instituting a one in, one out policy. This applies to ALL THE THINGS. It’s straight forward enough when it comes to clothes (if you buy a shirt, you get rid of a shirt) but I’m hoping to do it for other stuff as well, like kitchen utensils and furniture.

3) Culling the crap. For the next six to twelve months we’re going to need to seriously reduce the stuff we already own. We’ll be getting rid of WAY MORE than the stuff that is leaving to make room for something new. We need to bring our total number of belongs down considerably, in ways that it makes me uncomfortable to think about. Already I’ve marked a LOT of my kids toys for donation, stuff I never would have considered letting go of before I made the decision to change our lifestyle. It’s going to be hard to get rid of some of this stuff, but I know I have to. Keeping it around is making me way more unhappy than saying goodbye to it will.

{One concept in the book is the Power of One, the idea being you don’t need more than one of any specific thing. The author suggests trying to live with just one sweatshirt for a week to see if you can get rid of all your other sweatshirts. I thought he was fucking crazy. I have something like seven sweatshirts and I will be hard pressed to get rid of all but one of them–at least right now–but I know I can start small. When I talked to my husband he suggested maybe just one sweatshirt for each of the hooks on the sweatshirt rack (there are currently 2-3 sweatshirts on each hook). That seems doable and I’ll be going through them tomorrow. I’m sure in a year I’ll be able to live with even fewer sweatshirts, and some day the idea of having two might be preposterous. But I’m certainly not there yet.}

4. Immerse myself in a minimalist lifestyle. I’m going to need to keep drinking the Kool Aid to stay on track with this stuff so I’m going to search out blogs and books about a minimalist lifestyle. If you have a recommendation, please let me know.

I’m sure there are those of you who think I’m crazy, or that this is just a fad I’ll eventually abandon. A small part of me worries about that too, but honestly, I really do think I am ready to make this change. I hit my rock bottom. I have come to understand, with absolutely clarity, that I have to change. I recognize that the way I’m living does not make me happy and I really believe that these changes will improve my quality of life. I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked. I have to do this.

I will do this.

{I plan on writing more about this journey as I hit pot holes and celebrate small victories. I’ll be using the badge above to mark these posts and curating them on a separate page. I hope in the end I’ll have a record of my transformation for others and for myself.}

Have you ever considered drastically reducing your stuff? What do you think would be most challenging about doing so?

Where I am

I have not been participating in this community in the ways that I want to. I want to be commenting more. I want my presence on friends’ blogs to be felt, and I know it’s not when my words are missing. The blog reader/commenter I am currently is not the blog reader/commenter I want to be, and I’m brainstorming ways to  make sure I comment every day–it’s a top priority for me right now.

I am sorry have been absent. I am still reading, and my words will return soon.

I was a little disappointed in myself for my last two posts. I have wanted to avoid that kind of ranty, venty type of writing in this space and I’m trying hard not to publish when I’m feeling that kind of overwhelmed desperation. I’m still let myself write about those kinds of things, but I’m convincing myself to do it in a journal, to keep my words away from this space until they can be more productive. I don’t know quite what came over me when I put up those posts.

Actually I do know. It was panic. The state of my house, and my life, has been weighing on me and I was struck but how I am perpetually in this place of frantically treading water in a terrifyingly strong current. It is no way to lives one’s life, and yet I’m not sure how to swim out of the current. I guess I keep expecting the water to slow, or even eddy in a quiet pool, but clearly that is never going to happen and I am recognizing that I have a responsibility to myself and my family to change directions and swim with all my might to the shore, or else I’ll eventually get pulled under.

So I sat down and I wrote. Like I used to. And the words came, fast and easy. And it felt good to get it out there.

But it didn’t necessarily feel good the next morning, when I realized my words were actually, out there.

Writing here has been hard–harder than I expected it to be. I struggle with what topics to tackle and how to approach them. I struggle with finding the right words.

I might not ever be the writer I want to become. I read articles that are so well written, that make me think and want to comment, that change my perspective or feel validate and understood and I think, I am not sure I could ever write that well. It’s an uncertainty I’m not accustomed to, not because I assume I can do whatever I want as well as I hope to do it, but because I have never pushed myself to achieve such a nebulous goal.

The big things I’ve tried to accomplish had definitive endings: I knew when I had arrived at my destination. I trained for a marathon and then I ran one. I applied for a graduate school program and earned my Masters in Spanish Language Education (while working full time, managing the emotional turmoil of TTC and an ectopic pregnancy and then having my first child). Those goals were clear and I had physical proof that I met them. But this goal of becoming a better writer, it’s ambiguous and undefined. It’s subjective.

It’s a matter of opinion.

And whose opinion matters most?

It probably should be mine, but human beings are social creatures and we all know it’s more complicated than that. I’m just not sure. I can’t really imagine that I’ll ever feel like I’m as good a writer as I want to be, or as a good a writer as I feel I need to be to start using my words in more ways than this one.

Moving to this blog and the personal change it represented for me has been so much more complicated than I expected. I don’t regret doing it, because I know something had to change, but I’m disappointed that it hasn’t been a more positive experience for me. (And please know this is all internal, and has nothing to do with anyone’s participation here. You have all been amazing and I am thankful that you read and comment each and every day).

I miss writing more. I miss the words flowing like they used to. I miss processing life through my words. I miss writing just to write.

I miss knowing who I am in my own space.

Heck, I miss knowing who I am, period.

Change is hard. It will get better. I’m try not to get disillusioned and most of the time I succeed.

Most of the time.