Why do humans need so much to live? I've learnt that we really don't need a lot to be happy. However, most of are continually searching for new things to fill this purpose.
We are of the animal species, and most animals really only need three things: food, water, and shelter to live. However, as humans we have grown to love and feel as if we need so much more. The latest best thing of anything we desire, new and better is always top of mind. Fixing and reusing however, may not be. Why buy an old house to fix up and love all the hard work you put into it, when you can build a new one with everything you want? Why buy an old car when newer ones have all the cool gadgets that can take our attention away from safe driving? Why buy used clothes, when you can buy new ones for the same price that are usually of much cheaper quality? So many questions, but all we are doing by adding new things to our life is complicating it in so many other ways.
After losing Isabel, I started finding it really hard to purchase things, I tried hard to find a valid reason to add more to my already complete house. It was a difficult but good experience for me. A really silly example I clearly remember: I wanted to replace my old ratty dollar store paper towel holder that we inherited from Beilal's single years with a much nicer one, but I thought over and over about this silly little thing and found it hard to justify. The old one will just end up in the garbage I thought, and that's not helpful to the landfills. And although it is no excuse, in my time of grief I was trying to find more beauty to add to my home, and as silly as a paper towel holder is, it actually did add more beauty, but I put a lot of thought into it, as you can see. I purchased a beautiful brushed nickel metal holder with a bird on top, a symbol very close to my heart.
Grief makes you do funny things and second guess everything all at the same time, but now that my mind is a little more clear, I would like to try and reduce my accumulation of unnecessary items and really purchase or add things to my home that add value and meaning in some way and that I won't need to throw out someday. Around the same time as purchasing the paper towel holder, I also put up a photo wall, and started an indoor plant collection, both things that I feel a strong connection to and that bring more love into my home than what was there before.
Living in Toronto for a few weeks in a small space with a lot less has taught me some important things. It is much easier to tidy and clean a smaller place. You have less, therefore you spend less time doing things you would typically do in a larger home with more stuff. I have less dishes, less clothes and less toys here. The machines are smaller, so laundry loads are smaller, done quicker and we just keep wearing our clothes over but in different ways. We are washing dishes by hand because there are so few and we need to use them again, and less toys around means getting more creative with different ways of playing. This week Ethan helped me peel carrots and loved playing with the peelings, he filled a cup with them and pretended he was making something for dinner too.
Having less to me means living more. More time for everything else, more time for life, more time for what actually matters.
Becoming vegan strangely has taught me so much about living differently, and not just in how it relates to food and animals, but in all aspects of my life. And losing Isabel opened all these doors for me. I miss her dearly and would give anything to watch her grow up with me today, but what her loss brought me is unique and extraordinary beyond explanation.
Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist and author wrote in her book "When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times", that when things fall apart we begin to develop true compassion for ourselves and everyone else and that this is how seemingly ugly, problematic and unwanted things actually become our teachers. She says that pain and pleasure are inseparable. They can be celebrated. They are ordinary. Birth is painful and delightful. Death is painful and delightful. Both of which I have experienced. "Everything that ends is the beginning of something else", and for me that something else is this new life, and understanding that, "Pain is not a punishment, and pleasure is not a reward." She talks about death and says that we are raised in a culture that fears death and hides it from us, but yet it's happening everyday, everywhere. Getting old, getting sick, losing what we love - we don't see these as natural occurrences, but they are. Life is always changing. And things are always in a state of death, but as a society people always want to ward off death, no matter what. When we have reminders of death we panic, she says. But relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, and that everything changes, is the basic message of life. No one will ever get to a point in their life where they have it all together, that is unrealistic she points out. We may have periods or moments in our lives where we feel this way, but we shouldn't strive to maintain this, but instead go with the waves of life to wherever they take us naturally.
I could quote her entire book, that is how beautiful the messages are. And so, just like this post began as a post about minimalism, but morphed into something completely different, let life morph into what it naturally wants to. Let go of control and let life happen to you. And lose the stuff, it will help this process.
Peace & love.