The $64,000 Question


I haven’t written about it in a while, but I’m still embracing minimalism in my life. As I suspected, it’s becoming about much more than just a culling of my stuff. I want minimalism to seep into the very core of my being.

This is not just about simplifying the stuff that I own. It’s about simplifying my life.

Thanksgiving week was crazy, I had so many things to get done and absolutely no time to do any of them. At the end of the week I felt like I need a few days off just to recuperate. That is not how I want to live my life.

So I’m not going to.

My writing class wrapped up. I definitely won’t be signing up for another class any time soon.

Oh, and I quit the magazine.

I had been thinking about it for a long time. I realized that I didn’t even want to attend the meetings anymore. Everything about that commitment had become a chore. I was doing it just in case. Just in case a great writing assignment came up. Just in case I someday needed editing experience. Just in case a potential BFF were to join the staff. Just in case something happened that would make it worth my while.

But it wasn’t worth it and doing it just in case was about a poverty mentality. Doing something I don’t really want to do because it may be helpful some day is detrimental in the here and now. And who knows, maybe that commitment was keeping me from exploring something truly amazing, something that will bring me joy in the present moment.

So I quit the magazine. My writing class is over. 1st trimester grades have been turned in. My house is clean (seriously, it’s amazing, more on this later). In the evenings, I have some time.

And now I have to figure out what to do with it.

It’s not much mind you, just 30 minutes here, maybe 45 minutes there. But it’s my time and I have some say in how I want to spend it. Some nights I’m going to bed earlier. Some nights I’m indulging in some mindless TV. I have fiction books to read, and a couple of non-fiction. I have blogs to comment on.

I have a blog to write.

How do I want to spend my time?

It can be really hard for me to answer that question.

I remember when I was dealing with compulsive overeating and I read a book that changed my life. The main tenant of the book was to eat what you wanted. The central exercise was to determine exactly what it was you wanted to eat, and then to indulge that craving. I remember sitting in my kitchen, paralyzed by the thought that I could eat whatever I wanted, because I couldn’t for the life of my figure out what that might be. It took me months of trial and error to learn to decipher my cravings and determine what I actually wanted to eat.

That exercise set me on the path away from compulsive eating. It was truly life changing.

And now I have the same difficult task ahead. Once I’ve stripped my life of all the static and noise, what will I do in the silence? How do I actually want to spend my few precious moments of quiet time?

The truth is, right now I have no idea. But I’m kind of excited to find out.

I’m also kind of terrified. I recognize that all the stuff I piled into my life, it served one main purpose–to distract me. My whole life, and all the stuff in it, is basically one elaborate distraction. And now that I’m stripping it away, I’m going to have to face what I’ve been distracting myself from. Facing whatever is lurking underneath all the bells and whistles and bright lights is going to take a considerable amount of strength. It’s going to be difficult, but I think I can do it.

Beating compulsive overeating was the hardest thing I ever did. I was held hostage by food for years of my life. There were months when my entire future held only minute after minute–lined up neatly into eternity–of being completely obsessed by what I would eat. Compulsive eating was my whole world, I couldn’t see past it. But I fought my way out of that destructive relationship with food and I’ve managed to avoid it for ten years. If I could do that, I can do this, whatever this ends up being.

Do you struggle with knowing what you really want to do?


  1. Is “What do I want to do?” ever an issue ~
    Yes, I grapple with that. ME ~ WANT ~ TO DO? I get to want? Oh yeah, a tough one.
    What I can say is that it is OK to not know the answer at once. Or even a bit later. For the answer to take lots of time to show up.
    Among other things to remember: you may need lots of empty recovery time, just being quiet time, before you begin to have ideas or inklings of ideas of what you may ‘want’.
    Food is different in that in-taking calories is not something that delays for weeks. What to do with time for you can delay … you may need to fill your need for emptiness before any stuffed down want can emerge from the tangled underbrush of need for stillness and peace and the absence of pressures. The process of letting a want emerge is not an on/off switch like on a railroad track but a process.
    Grieving, habit changing, saying NO, priority changing, adjusting to a new phase of life less focused on resolving fertility…. all are HUGE all by themselves.
    Be kind and gentle with yourself. Being kind to you is one of the most important things to teach our young and something most of us are not familiar with so we don’t model it. We need to.
    Thank you again for your posts.

    1. I think you’re right that I will need to have a lot of quiet time before I’ start realizing what I really want to do. I think that quiet time is going to be hard too, especially as I’m fighting my urges to shop online. I’m going to write more about that later–everything is so interconnected but it’s too much to write about all of it at once!

      I also wanted to tell you that I’m reading the habit book (actually listening to it). It’s AMAZING. So interesting. I really love it and I want to thank you for recommending it. I’m telling everyone I know they have to read it. So great.

  2. There’s some good stuff in that post but all I can focus on is “My house is clean (seriously, it’s amazing…”

    What?!?! How did you do it that fast?! You amaze me.

  3. OMG. You might have written this post from inside my head.

    I was just talking with my therapist today about how my to-do list (aka: why I have a clean house) is a way to disconnect from being present. My issue? I have *too many* answers for what I want and should to do with my time. Which, I’m finding is just as indicative of not knowing what I want to do as not being able to do anything.

    By the way, I listened to Bene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” TED talk today. I’m not sure what took me so long to do so. Holy crap. Yes.


    1. The TED talk is a great place to start, and if you liked it I HIGHLY recommend listening to her Power of Vulnerability talk from SoundsTrue. It’s about six and a half hours long and it’s from a series of talks she did live (to the same audience). It’s amazing. I got it from audible and have listened to it three times now. If you liked the TED talk I HIGHLY recommend it. A great way to spend your commute. 😉

      I also have the problem of wanting to do too much, but now that I’m really sitting and trying to think of what I actually WANT to do it’s eluding me. It will be interesting to see what the next few months have in store.

  4. Hi. I’ve been reading all week and dying to get back to my computer to comment (we were traveling, and had no laptop). I’ll just summarize by saying that I’m really really proud of you for digging so deep. You are remarkably insightful and have done a wonderful job cutting through the crap to get to the heart of the matter. I think filling up time with busyness can definitely be a form of distraction, just like filling the house up with unnecessary stuff. I, too, find it really hard to know how I want to fill my free time. Like you, I usually choose between: early bed, reading fiction or TV. Then I feel like I’m “wasting” my time, even though I know that down time is necessary. I’m rambling, but basically reading your posts made me think a lot about my own issues and things I need to address. My house is clean, but I buy way too many clothes & use shopping as a distraction, I long for more close friends to talk to—really TALK to honestly, and I distract distract distract in a million different ways so I don’t have to really think about what is wrong or missing in my life.

  5. I am very good at today, tomorrow, even friday. Dinners are planned. Next week will come easily. Long term goals? Don’t have any, and dear god do I need to figure some out. *sigh* I thought by 35 I’d know what I wanted to be when I grow up.

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