The road goes ever on…

Minimalism is a journey. Like a road or a river, it can sweep you off your feet and carry you away with the changes it makes in your life.

I became a minimalist four years ago. Since then, I’ve been blogging here at Simple Living…With Kids. I’ve learned so much. My life has completely transformed.

In those four years, I’ve sold a farm, ended a marriage, found a new partner, and sold approximately 90% of my belongings.

I dared to ask: What makes me truly happy?

The answers I found surprised me. Nothing that makes me happy comes from stuff, from owning, or from status.

All the answers that consumerism typically gives us didn’t – don’t – work for me.

For me, happiness comes from doing my own life well.
Using my own skills well.
Being a great mother, partner and friend.
Being a truthful, diligent writer.
Being responsible, honest and caring.
Having integrity.
Being accountable for my own actions and words.
Being the best person I can be.

These are old-fashioned concepts, and I believe there’s a resurgence happening all around us just beginning.

This gives me hope.

Minimalism is a doorway

We begin with minimalism, with simple living. What then?

Once we lose the clutter, clarity begins.

I’m beginning to understand that I am just a small part of this amazing world. Life is about so much more than buying stuff and blending in to the crowd with the right fashions and a big mortgage.

Minimalism is leading me to a powerful love for the world around me, particularly the oceans. It leads me to a strong desire to protect them.

I’m developing an interest in Zero Waste living, and I’m pushing myself to reduce my footprint live sustainably.

My family are right there with me, guiding me, sharing these concerns.

I pick up plastic rubbish with my partner’s twelve year old daughter.
I watch videos on sustainability with my thirteen year old son.
I assist my partner as he sells plastic-free products at local markets, and I watch my daughter as she learns about sea animals.
Together, as a family, we’re learning to shop at the bulk store and reduce our rubbish that we put out on the kerb each week.

We’re taking small steps, but together our journey continues.

Minimalism – simple living – are first steps.

Together we’re ready to take the next ones.

The road goes ever on...

Runaway teens…and how to cope

My partner is dealing with a very hard time at the moment. His son has run away from home, back to the ex-wife’s, and we’ve received nothing but hurtful, nasty texts from the boy since he left two weeks ago.

I’ve found it hard to deal with my anger at the situation. I’ve tried to stay calm, but seeing my partner and his daughter in such grief and loss is hard-going for me. It hurts, more than if I were hurt myself, to see the man I love struggling with this.

Neither of us know what to do or how to cope, so instead he’s been saying little in response to the vitriol coming over the phone, hoping that his son will calm down and return to his normal, kind, cheerful self. The boy we know and love.

When this sort of thing happens, the grief can be overwhelming. We’re struggling to stay afloat. It probably comes across to the boy as gruff and silent, but it’s grief and misery. My partner has been hurt. He feels like he’s losing his son. He’s wondering if the loss will be forever.

So last night, when my partner and I were lying in bed, holding each other, and his face was so blank because he couldn’t even feel any more over all this, I suggested something to help us cope.

How to cope with runaway teens.

Find a clean, empty jar. Then, when you’re ready, write down something wonderful about the person you’re missing.

Maybe it’s a memory of a great day you had together. Or something kind they did for someone. Maybe a bad joke that made you all laugh. Or a time you were proud of them.

Maybe it’s the fact that they care for their younger sister. Or that they make great gourmet noodles, with an egg on top and Moroccan seasoning. Maybe it’s that horrible hair style that you don’t understand but you love them for anyway.

Write each thought down on a separate, small piece of paper. Fold it, and put it in the jar.

Write about the fact that you’re the stepmum, and you had such worries that they’d hate you when you came into their life. Write about the first time they hugged you and it was uncomfortable as hell.

Write about being their dad, and how you do everything you can to care for them. How sometimes that means making decisions that don’t make them happy, but that are for their well-being anyway. How being a parent means sometimes saying no, and teaching right from wrong. Write about how you have tried to do that. Write about how you care.

Write about how honoured you felt when they shared a secret with you, When they trusted you. Write about how you love having them in your family. Write about how you miss them. Write about how you worry about them.

Put each and every thought in the jar. You don’t have to do it all at once. Just one thought a day or so, whenever you remember something, when you think of something you miss, and the gap in your family that is empty because they’re not there right now.

Try to add a new thought, or memory, or feeling, every day. Just keep adding. In doing so, you honour the love between you and the bond you share. You help keep it whole. You heal what is damaged.

Ask every family member to do the same. Put their thoughts in the jar. All the things that make the runaway special and loved and wanted. All the reasons the runaway probably doesn’t understand. All the things they’re probably not aware of, or that you haven’t ever mentioned or talked about.

All the family members, all writing thoughts, adding to the jar.

Keep the jar in the runaway’s room. If they ever come back for their belongings, give them the jar along with everything else.

Don’t say anything about it. Just give them the jar.

Healing

I’m not saying this will do anything to heal the relationship. But sometimes relationships get broken not just for the things that were said, but because of the things that should have been said, and weren’t.

It could be that the runaway will ignore the jar. Or throw it away. Or laugh at it. Or get angry and abusive. They might mock it. But they need to know how you feel. That’s what the jar is for.

And those of us left behind? We need to express how we feel too. We’re hurt, and we’re angry, and we’re confused, but we need to remember that we love those who have left us, despite everything, and that our love is not going to disappear even when our children do.

jar

Letting my wedding dress go

Today I finally decided it was time to let my wedding dress go.

I looked beautiful on my wedding day. To be honest, I think it was the first day in my life that I ever truly felt beautiful.

bridal

It’s been 18 years since I got married, and a lot of water has passed under that bridge – including a separation.

Don’t get me wrong. My ex-husband and I, unlike many, remain good friends, and we’re very much in agreement about caring for our kids. But we were two people heading in different directions in our lives, and we knew it was time to move on from one another.

So despite the fact that the marriage is over, I’d say it was a successful one, with lots of happy memories. I’m blessed and thankful for that, and don’t regret marrying him one bit.

So today I finally decided it was time to let my wedding dress go. I feel sad, and almost scared, to pass it on to charity, but I know that sometimes we need to prune the old stuff to let the new roses bloom.

It’s time to let the new roses bloom.

blankrose1

My story, OR: How I found my freedom

I’m Lee. This is my story.

When I was in my twenties, I lived in a big city.
I spent every lunch time shopping, and spent every cent I had.
My home was filled with all the stuff I’d bought, all the clothes I’d purchased, all the CDs I’d used my credit card on.
I thought all that stuff would make me happy.
It didn’t.

melbourne

So I became an environmentalist.
Went vegetarian, then vegan.
Had two kids because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
Became a stay-at-home mum because that’s what you’re supposed to be.
I moved to New Zealand, bought a farm.
Went organic.
Did everything I could to be as “green” as I could be.
I thought all that stuff would make me happy.
It didn’t.

I don’t know how my huge farmhouse in New Zealand became cluttered with stuff.
It just did.
Kid toys and clothes and artwork.
Gifts and furniture and makeup and games.
Electronics and gadgets I have no name for.
All the farm tools in the shed.
Clothes that might fit me one day when I lost weight.
Clothes that I hated but that at least fit me now.
Bone china I’d inherited and never used.
Jewelry I’d inherited and couldn’t sell, because if I did I’d feel guilty.

So much stuff.
All of it, weighing me down.
All of it, caging me, keeping my soul locked and trapped.
All of it, telling me what to do, who to be, what to buy, what to look like.

Until one day, when I was broken enough.
I stopped.
I just stopped.

I looked at the stuff.
I said to myself, and to the world:
I have enough.

And I began to let it all go.
I realised it was just stuff.
Not precious, not at all.
None of it.
None.
Not one bit.
Nothing.

Just stuff.

That was the day I set myself free.

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Don’t beat yourself up

This year I have put on a lot of weight. A LOT of weight. About 12 kilograms (26 lbs).

That’s what separation and divorce does to you.

Splitting a family up, selling a family home, working out who gets what – all of that is really stressful. In our case, we’re on fantastic terms and have remained close friends, but it has still been hard.

I’ve felt so guilty over it all.

How will our decision affect our kids?
Should we have stayed together for them?
Should we have remained unhappy?
Should I, as a mother, have sacrificed my happiness and my wellbeing for my children?

So I ate my way through my problems. A lot of people do that.

My weight is quickly coming back down to normal again now, but for a while I didn’t even want to be seen. I didn’t want to leave the house. I didn’t want my friends to see me. I especially didn’t want my trainer at the gym to see me, as I’d stopped going, because I was so depressed.

I think we women in particular have a habit of blaming ourselves when things fall apart. I blamed myself for absolutely everything. I was so unhappy. I was so lonely. I sat through three years of counselling sessions prior to deciding to end things, yet still I blamed myself, and believed that everything was my fault.

Maybe if I just changed a little more…? Maybe if I just gave a little more…? Maybe somehow we could make things work if I tried harder…?

Yet sometimes our relationships change. People change.

I blamed myself for not being the same person I was when I was in my twenties, when I got married. That’s crazy talk, I know, but it’s what I did.

I blamed myself completely for our marriage failure, when in truth we just moved apart, in different directions. We didn’t hate each other. We didn’t throw plates and yell and scream and hurl abuse. We just grew apart.

It wasn’t anyone’s fault.

We became more different. We moved in different directions. We developed different interests, different views.

Life is about change and growth. I sometimes feel that traditional marriage is something that doesn’t belong in this era. It doesn’t work any more for the majority of people. Marriage assumes that two people will remain the same as they did when they first fell in love, yet that often doesn’t happen. It assumes that people are static. We’re not.

We evolve. We grow.

I still like and respect my ex-husband. I always will, I think, because he truly is an awesome person. Through the most challenging aspects of our separation we have remained strong supports for each other. I firmly believe that he will remain one of my best friends, for life. But we both needed to be free from each other. We needed to move on.

So I did beat myself up, but no longer. I’m not at fault.

Life is change, and I changed. So did he.

It’s time for me to forgive myself. And I do.

I forgive myself. It’s time for me to be free.

fern