Simple Things

As I start the transition to a vastly simplified life I’ve made some rather interesting discoveries about the whole thing. The biggest change is that I feel more connected with processes and cycles, in obvious ways that really never before impinged on my awareness.

For instance, like most people I buy my clothes instead of making them. And for me the material – and hence the origin of the fabric used to make a garment – never really mattered. I checked for color, fit, and a texture I liked, made sure it was machine-washable, and made sure it fit my budget. End of.

Now I do my laundry by hand. This is forcing me to really learn about the fabrics, and that’s led to all sorts of other things. Such as, did you know that clothes don’t come from stores? They come from fields, from silkworms, from animals. The store is simply the last stop before it gets to me. I somehow lost conscious awareness of that because I was so distant from the process. I knew it, but I didn’t know  it. Working it with my hands connects me to the whole cycle of the items I handle in a way I hadn’t expected.

Spending so much time with my clothing has also made me more conscious of quality – if I’m going to spend this kind of effort to maintain something, it needs to be something worth the bother. That reasoning has moved mending and alterations much higher on my to-do list. I’ve got set time between each “load” when doing laundry, and it’s nothing to quickly stitch on a button or take up a hem by hand while doing everything else.  I’m actively considering making at least some of my clothing by hand in the future, just to better grasp the process.

Transportation is another huge change. I take the bus everywhere. I find myself really studying my neighborhood, learning how it feels and meeting my neighbors. My apartment isn’t its own little island – it’s a part of something larger. Walking it on foot spotlights that in a way driving doesn’t. This is something hardcore urbanites and rural folks both know, but that those in suburban areas often forget.

I’m also much more conscious of transportation logistics. For instance, moving a gallon of milk from the shopping cart to a car isn’t a big deal. Lugging it to the bus stop, managing it on the bus, and then lugging it the ½ mile from the bus stop to my home? While trying to make sure it stays cool for the trip, and juggling anything else I’m carrying? Milk is a pain in the ass. So I have to think – how much milk do we transport by truck all across the country? How heavy is that, and how much energy is used to transport it and keep it cool? I take the issues I have with my short trip and my one gallon and multiply it, and it’s suddenly a problem of which I’m consciously aware. Supporting local agriculture is no longer some abstract ideal for me. I understand the logic more with every step I carry groceries home.

That brings me neatly to another focus. I’m also going for simplicity in my food. I want to totally ditch pre-packaged foods and make everything from scratch. My ideal is to have shopping trips be strictly for staples – flours, beans, etc – and spices. Oh, and to do this with as few specialty tools as possible. *laugh* Because why not aim high, right?

This one is hard. I’m not a great cook to begin with, and growing up Hamburger Helper was high cuisine. I also work a full-time job that’s pushing into massive overtime, and the free time I have is also spent doing the other things I’m doing for simplicity’s sake. So, since all this kicks in for real in December, I’ve decided to take the food transition in steps. A gradual adjustment should be easier to incorporate than changing direction midstream.

I decided to start with anything flour-based, since that’s the most processed thing I generally deal with. I now bake all my own bread. Over the next week or two I’ll be experimenting with making my own noodles and crackers, and eventually with grinding my own flours. Just the bread thing has been a challenge! But, somewhat to my own surprise, it’s been totally worth it. I used to pick up whatever was cheapest. Now I’m much more conscious of what goes into what I eat, how nutritious it is, and how my body feels after I eat it. I find that I’m more consciously aware of the fact that bread is not really created in a vat in the back of the grocery store. I actually stop to consider the various elements individually and how they work together to make the bread I use for my sandwich. And I’m just getting started with this whole thing!

So far this process has been as illuminating as celibacy was. I’ve discovered that – for me, at least – the dependence on automation has really distanced me from the things that make up my world. It has also showcased how far apart an abstract understanding is from practical reality. The more automation I ditch the more I realize how dependent on the earth and other people I am, and how important it is to support both. I’m really looking forward to the perspective changes waiting for me down the line as I continue this path.

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Taking It On Faith

When I took oath to my Lady She gave me a few simple rules to follow. I was no longer allowed to smoke. I was no longer allowed to consume beef in any way, shape, or form unless literal starvation was my only other option. I was not allowed to work with any male deities at all (although gender-queer is fine). I had to work on taking better care of myself health-wise. Etc. All simple, relatively easy to follow rules.

I also knew at the time that there were other rules that would get added later, all revolving around me vastly simplifying my life. She didn’t explain the reasons why these things would be required, just that they would be. I took it on faith that everything would be explained at a later time, made a mental note to start transitioning that way as early as possible, and went about my day.

Which was a good move on my part. Because I’m finally beginning to understand, and I am blessed.

Over the last few weeks my life has been rather tumultuous. As of last month I am living alone for the first time in over 10 years (I’ve been in co-housing situations for all but 5 months of my adult life). I got about a week’s notice that I had to relocate, had to scramble to find a place, and ended up moving the weekend a hurricane hit. I moved by myself, in the dark, and the power was out at my new place for days after I arrived (meaning no A/C during a Southern summer). I also had weeks of coping with a lack of, well, everything. As a minimalist who’s been traveling and co-housing for years, all I owned was some clothing, a netbook and phone, and some toiletries. I didn’t have any of the standard house stuff (a bed, cooking supplies, a laundry hamper, forks) and had to do without all of it for weeks. My car lasted long enough to move me and help me settle, but died soon after. I had to resign from my second job due to transportation issues. With no support system here everything I had to do became much harder. And on, and on, and on.

I couldn’t understand why all of this was happening at first – I was too busy putting out fires and coping with a seemingly endless list of disasters to see the bigger picture. Six weeks later my life has completely changed, and I get it.

All of that tumult and all the uncertainty I just pushed through? Looking back I can see Her hand through all of it.

I am now a pedestrian again, with no car and surprisingly no real need for one. The place I moved to? The first (and only) place I had time to look at? Happens to be in one of the very few areas in this town with any public transit options at all. I had to resign from my second job, but my first one is also reachable by bus. Even more interesting is that after I moved I discovered that my work is relocating closer to my new apartment in December. I’ll be able to walk there. How often does that happen? My job is even casual dress, so piercings and tattoos aren’t an issue and I can wear whatever I like. I am making enough money to live on, but only if I’m frugal and keep things to the basics. I’m in the midst of transitioning completely to green toiletries and cleaning supplies I make myself. I do my laundry by hand, find myself strangely looking forward to it, and have found that natural materials are much easier to handle that way than synthetics. Aside from a few kitchen gizmos my electronics are limited to a netbook, a cellphone, and an e-reader – I don’t own a TV and have no desire to do so. I have an expected period of not working (this is a contract job), so I’ve started a food storage system to help prepare for that. As a bonus that system will also work as basic disaster prep, which is something I appreciate after Katrina.

My life is now meeting all the requirements I was warned about years ago when I dedicated myself to Her service.

My life is slower now. I go to work, I come home. I experiment in my kitchen as money allows, making my own detergent and baking my own bread. I feel so much more centered! Every task I do with my hands forces me to be more aware of the day-to-day, anchors me in the here-and-now, which is making my life loads easier to manage. I’m also gaining a more seasonal appreciation of time, as well as its cyclical nature. I have a set routine – and I thrive on a consistent routine. My stress level has plummeted so much that I generally sleep through the night. My creativity and patience with people have both spiked, and I’m more willing to reach out to others than I was before. And my spiritual practice is flourishing. Every day I am gaining a deeper understanding of what She wants from me and for me. This is the most content I have ever been in my adult life.

There are still adjustments to be made, of course. The learning curve is fairly steep. Luckily I have the next few weeks to make necessary adjustments – all the requirements I learned about during my dedication Ordeal officially go into effect on Origination. My Lady is patient with mistakes as long as I’m really trying, but I have to really try. I am eager to embrace the challenge.

As someone claimed by a deity I take a lot on faith. It’s fundamental. This whole experience has almost rewarded me for that. It’s not just understanding some of the reasons behind all those requirements I learned about years ago, either. I now know, beyond any doubt at all, that my Lady is looking out for me in Her big picture way even when if feels like my life is imploding. With that kind of rock-solid certainty, who even needs faith?