— Jill Hardy (Farr) (@JillocityTweets) April 30, 2016
This is the first in a blog post series titled, “Live Small, Stand Tall: You Don’t Have to Be Flush to Live Free”.
The idea is to share ideas–not tips for those looking to “live small”, in that cute Real Simple magazine way, where you buy two or three pricey doodads to “simplify” your life, but practical suggestions for those who are living small because they have no choice…but would still would like to get some of the good out of life.
Don’t get me wrong; I applaud any and all efforts to downsize and refocus, and I totally get the “Mo Money Mo Problems” angst that the upper middle class faces about consumerism and getting caught in the material stuff trap. I think that expensive gadgets that streamline household tasks are great! Taking time to smell the heritage roses you’ve composted with the used straw from your artisan chicken coop is important!
But here’s the thing…folks who can afford things to help them simplify have a sh*t ton of resources at their fingertips. Those who are already…downsized…due to forces beyond their control might not be able to download back issues of Real Simple (I promise, I’m not picking on them, their name just lends itself to this dialogue in a seriously poetic way) or hire a professional organizer to tell them to get rid of everything that doesn’t speak to them when they hold it in their hand.
These are the ideas for you, my humble friends. (My not-so-humble friends and readers are welcome to take whatever bits of encouragement from these posts that they can, as well.)
Here’s the first bit of “encouragement” (I hope you all realize that this is going to be somewhat practical, but also farcical. There’s only so much I can do for you if you’re poor, you know that, right?)
You’re Helping the Immediate Economy When You Shop Local. Even If You Have No Choice.
There are a plethora of other things I would rather be doing. Say…well, really, anything.
I’d love to be out eating dinner at a lovely restaurant, paddleboarding around Lake Hefner (or in the Pacific Ocean, if we’re dreaming big), or even just sitting on my apartment floor watching back episodes of The Good Wife on my laptop. (I swore I was done with them when they killed off Will, but…they brought in Matthew Goode. It’s almost like they hired a consultant, to see what on earth would get me to watch it again. Because I know that was heavy on their hearts.)
But laundry needs doing, and the washer and dryer in my complex is reliably unreliable. So, more often that I’d like, the kids and I load up and head over to the local laundry. It’s just across a couple of streets, we could walk if we had to, and it’s reasonably priced. (I had a…misunderstanding…with the elderly Vietnamese owner once upon a time, over drying prices, but it’s worked out now. What a great feeling, to resolve issues with your neighbors!)
Celebrating diversity is one of the blessings of having a relationship with your community. (If…your community is diverse, that is. It’s nice to celebrate your neighbors even if you all look the same, too, though, I guess. Let’s celebrate everyone!)
Also, you build bonds with community merchants, when you shop local. Unless…
But if you don’t need change or to use the restroom, you can just sit, relax, and listen to the birds.
It’s probably all sterile and organized, too. Poor you. (I want you to notice the sign that says, “Free Clothes”. You sure as hell better get your sh*t out of these machines when your time is up, or you’re going to see that old Foghat t-shirt you love so much on the lady who works at the car wash one of these days.)
Yes, I’m being a little wry. No, it wasn’t my first choice to spend my Saturday night doing laundry (not to mention transporting that laundry back and forth, in Wuthering Heights level wind), but something happened as I watched my clothes get agitated.
I got less so.
In fact, watching clothes wash through a window is pretty zen. So is looking at the place you’re forced to be as the place you get to be.
Wendell Berry says that without prosperous local economies, the people have no voice. I would love to have a washer and dryer. And, very soon, I will. (From my mouth to God’s ears.) And I won’t take it for granted again.
But for people in this area who don’t have that luxury, or the folks who find themselves temporarily in need of a dryer when theirs takes a hit, this place provides a valuable service. And a calming atmosphere. (Talking about the birds. The clutter makes me blink, but it can double as immersion therapy for my OCD, so…win win.)
They may not be excited about serving us. We may not be thrilled to be there.
But we can find the beauty in it, because it’s definitely there.
And we need each other.
So, if you find yourself shopping local because you have no choice, take heart…you’re still doing a good thing, and you’re engaged in a paradigm that keeps us all going. Just savor the moment you’re in, and appreciate what is.
“If we spend all our time just thinking about our future successes, we completely miss out on life, because life can only be found in the present moment.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh, “Peace Is Every Breath“
When I’m teaching my kids life skills, I might use it. “You need to know how to do a load of laundry. What if I get hit by a bus?”
I’ve used it at work. “I wrote down everything I’m doing in this project in a document, so that someone else can know what to do if I get hit by a bus.”
It’s a vivid illustration of a simple concept; sh*t happens that knocks us down for the count sometimes. It might be a kid getting the flu. It might be YOU getting the flu. Or losing a loved one. It’s my way of applying one term to the overarching knowledge that stuff occurs that upends plans and schedules, and those things happen to all of us at some point in our lives.
In Carissa Johnson’s case, however, what plowed her down actually was a vehicle.
In 2011 the fitness model was struck by an SUV while working at an event in downtown Denver. Most fitness fanatics are familiar with the frustration of injuries…you pull a muscle and get sidelined from judo, or yoga, or a skiing accident takes you away from your regular runs for a period of time. It’s hard to explain, but especially for those of us who look to our exercise endeavors as a way to stay balanced, mentally, the sudden removal of that outlet can have deep effects.
And Carissa’s injuries were serious. She sustained bilateral tib/fib fractures and a compound left ankle fracture. The constant pain, multiple surgeries, and extensive physical rehabilitation were only part of the struggle, though.
“Not only were my legs destroyed,” Carissa says, “But my heart was broken.”
I love writing for GORGO Magazine for several reasons, but one of the biggest ones is this; hearing how regular women overcome challenges–all kinds of challenges–and continue seeking strength helps me keep chasing my own.
Carissa’s drive to get back on her feet (literally) and back in the gym is an amazing story. It represents disaster, the kind of event that someone like me uses as a piece of figurative language to illustrate a million ways life can go sideways…and it represents getting back up after it happens, and going forward.
We all have our battles to fight. If you work, have kids, or any responsibilities besides taking yourself to the gym, you’re going to face prioritization struggles. And you’ll lose sometimes.
You’ll get injured. You’ll have to change plans. You’ll fall behind.
But you’ll find a way around it.
If you’re a woman on a quest to get strong, subscribe to GORGO and get your dose of “GET UP!!” on the regular. It’s money well spent.
A friend recently shared an allegorical image with me, about how his life felt, at that moment.
He said it was like being in a burning building, wondering if you should just go ahead and jump, or wait and see if the firemen actually make it.
As dire as that sounds, I’m sure most of us (especially those who are trying to balance work and family) can relate, and have been there at some point. This friend carries a lot of responsibility at work, and has a (rather large) family, and like me, believes there is a God who has a plan for our lives…but sometimes that plan involves getting singed. Sometimes it’s painful.
I know I can relate. In fact, I found myself grasping for my own allegory a little later, when I was the one feeling overwhelmed, and it came to me pretty quickly…
The bus from the movie Speed.
Remember this gem? Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, fighting baddies from on board a bus that will EXPLODE if the speed drops below a certain point?
And I’m not kidding…life feels this way for me sometimes, as a single mom trying to homeschool and work full time. (And take showers, feed everyone, and call my grandmother on a regular basis.)
I’m driving, trying to keep an eye on the speedometer and navigate, while my gaggle of children bicker in the back, pausing only to ask me if eating lip gloss will kill a dog, or if we can pick up this or that friend, so that he or she can stay the night, or tell me that we’re out of toilet paper.
The bus also has to be fed quarters (doing laundry is a big struggle right now, so I have to fit digging for quarters into the narrative somehow), and it keeps making a grinding noise that no one else seems to hear, because every time I ask someone to listen, it stops, magically.
The “Check Engine” light keeps coming on, too, and the villain (who looks a lot like my ex) is laying tire popping, axle-breaking traps around every corner, twirling his mustache and cackling madly.
My mother calls periodically, and asks me how I am, and when I scream, “I’M TRYING TO KEEP THIS BUS FROM KILLING US!!” she sighs and says, “Been there, done that!” and then tells me how sick she’s been, or about some problem my brother is having.
Becky, a good friend who means well, also calls on the regular, to tell me that I need to put myself out there and suggest various dating websites. She also asks me, in a meaningful tone of voice, what I’m doing for myself these days and admonishes me to make time for self care.
And so on, and so forth.
Yes, it sounds crazy. Because it is.
But…(as the Artist Formerly Known as Pee Wee Herman once said, “There’s always a big but…”)
Something always happens to keep it all going.
Just when I’m about to just take my foot off the gas and let it all blow, out of sheer exhaustion and frustration, I see my mom standing on the corner up ahead with an enormous 24 pack of toilet paper, which she tosses into the door as we squeal by.
Becky calls, to tell me she knows a mechanic who likes a challenge, and is willing to hop on board in a block or two and check out the grinding noise, at his Damsel-in-Distress rate.
My oldest child convinces me that she can keep her foot on the gas just as well as I can, and tells me to take a nap.
I discover that you can do yoga on a bus rocketing through the city at 65 miles an hour. And it helps.
And we roll on.
It’s my hope that at some point, life will resemble a languorous drive in the countryside more than it does a high speed chase, but that may take a while.
In the meantime, I’m learning to appreciate those moments when help arrives, and allows me to re-calibrate for my own struggle, and maybe even look around, and see where others are in their own little dramatic scenarios, and figure out some small way that we can help them out, from our speeding bus that can’t stop. Because we have to do that…we have to figure out ways to help each other, even when we’re on the ragged edge ourselves. I believe that.
Because we’re all the stars of our own bizarre little action movies, in a way. Hopefully there’s an option up ahead to translate the high octane chase into a nice, calm, situational comedy, but more than likely, the answer is to embrace the speed and the fire, and find the peace and fun within the script we have at the moment.
We certainly won’t be bored…right?