Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Symphony of Contentment

One of my favorite blogs is Postive Provocations; I love when a new post pops up in my RSS feed. This week's post focused on contentment, particularly in a material sense, and a poem Zeenat referenced really touched me:

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury;
and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable;
and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly,
talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds,
to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
await occasion, hurry never; in a word,
to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.” ~ William Ellery Channing

I've been reading blogs about minimalism for a few years, and have taken little steps in my own life to embrace the idea. I've gotten rid of a ton of things by throwing a couple of yard sales, donating several boxes to a local charity, and pulling more than half my clothes that aren't worn off the hangers and out of the drawers. Okay, so, those clothes are all in a giant pile in the corner of my closet because I intend to use the fabric for sewing projects in the future... but still.

One of my favorite ideas for finding financial freedom is to live as a one-income household even while two incomes are being earned. This would allow us to save nearly half our income (or put it towards our debt snowball, which we're pretty much doing already, just not through my budgeting or planning), embrace more frugal living tips, and be prepared if one of us were to need to go without an income for a period of time. It would be pretty challenging though, especially with the amount we spend on gas and vehicle maintenance for our lengthy commutes, my cigarette habit, and our tendency to enjoy a meal out more often than we really need to. I like to think that I have the words "need" and "want" defined pretty well in my life, but truthfully, I don't. I've never known the experience of truly needing something that I can't get or don't already have.

I take pride in the fact that neither of us spend much on material goods simply for the sake of having them. I bought a pair of black heels on clearance for $7 last week and realized it was the first time I'd bought shoes in more than three years. I ask for a new pair of workout shoes each year for my birthday and wear the previous year's as work shoes. Jeff goes through work shirts a little more often, but he picks new ones up cheap since he's resigned to the fact that gravity and mustard just really hate him. We stick to the same, inexpensive shower products and enjoy all our home decor and furniture, even though at least three-quarters of it is secondhand.

But I get extremely uneasy when I think about a potential decrease in income. Things work so well right now. We find small ways to cut back nearly every month, whether it be on the grocery bill or less trips to the Mexican restaurant (I'm going to make some homemade quesadillas tonight) or me finding ways to cut back on the amount of cigarettes I smoke each day (I know... JUST QUIT LISA). There's still a nagging, an anxiety that there's not enough. It makes no sense. When I track our spending almost daily, I see it on the screen: we are blessed. But rarely do I truly feel the sense of contentment that I seek.

So I continue to find it in all the other small blessing in my life that are so easy to ignore. The sounds of the wind blowing outside while the weather is perfect to keep our windows open at home. The creaminess a half a too-ripe banana adds to my morning smoothie because we didn't eat them all last week, and I don't want to throw them out. The comfort of being able to take a break at work while my boss is here, and the strength of my leg muscles that allow a quick walk outside during that break. The pleasure found in losing hours while buried in a good book from the library, or stitching little X's into a crisp sheet of Aida cloth mom found at a thrift store in South Dakota and shipped to me to make me smile. There's a symphony found in contentment, and I'm glad to be alive to explore that more each day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This Post Has Pictures!

I'm in the middle of yoga-only week, and feeling fantastic! I did a DVD on Monday, two of the old DVRed shows from FitTv (I refuse to upgrade to an HD receiver because I don't want to lose all my old taped workout shows!) on Tuesday, my own flow yesterday, and an old podcast I found on the husband's computer this morning. It's been challenging physically and mentally, and also extremely relaxing. I've made time for meditation each morning as well, so the days have been starting off calm and easy. More spiritual food has included some new dharma talk podcasts, and focusing my studies on one aspect of the Eightfold Path each week - this is week two, right intention.

It's interesting to take a step back and observe that while I hope to always have the best of intentions in my action with the world, it's not always the case. Sometimes my intentions are to get what I want from someone, to force someone to have a positive opinion of me or the same opinions regarding my views, to validate my need to feel loved, and other unnecessary or unskillful things that pop up here and there. I tend to just float through these interactions. So taking some time to try to be mindful of what lies beneath some of my habits while remaining nonjudgmental has been tough. It's a struggle to face certain things in myself. But it's rewarding in so many ways, and I know that I want to continue my practice.

Craftiness! Here's a picture of the finished cross-stitch I worked for my Ma!

I framed it and mailed it off to her. The original kit called for stitching, "I don't do mornings!" at the bottom, but she's always been such a good Kitty (and Doggy) Mama that I decided to freestyle this in for her. She loved it! Then she went to one of her local thrift stores and bought like fifty sampler books, tons of fabric, and a few other awesome cross-stitch supplies and shipped them my way. It was better than Christmas!

The husband and I visited James River State Park near Amherst, VA this past weekend. It's always been one of my favorite parks. I've tubed from Canoe Landing to Dixon Landing a few times, but this time we decided to participate in a guided canoe trip instead. It was super cheap and made a lot more sense than the other options we were considering. Plus, we'd never canoed together before and it'd been a while since either of us were in Scouts or 4H camp, so we are taking baby steps. The guide, Courtney, was a great leader and led our group underneath the railroad tracks through an old aqueduct. Super spooky and gorgeous. We spent the rest of our time at the park cooking up tasty campfire food (I freaking love breakfast quesadillas!), fishing a little bit (I caught a teeny fish!), reading, and I worked more on a Christmas cross-stitch gift. This was the view from the door of our tent:

It was a gorgeous site in the primitive Canoe Landing area. The only thing primitive about this section is that there's only a privy close by, and you have to drive to a bathhouse for running water or hot showers. Which isn't primitive; it's awesome.

Also, I set that tent up all by myself! Jeff had to work a full day, but I took leave and enjoyed a peaceful, gorgeous, slightly adventurous drive out there in the early afternoon. I did have some help from a really cool camp neighbor to get the rainfly over the top, which was great because I got a little stuck there haha.

Not much else is going on. Evenings have consisted of getting some dinner prepared, trying to do a chore or two, and then watching our favorite TV shows on our favorite couch. We're huge on Big Brother and are watching Under the Dome because Jeff read the book, though he insists it's nothing like the book. There's also been a lot of this happening in the evenings: