We build our life by creating our experiences. We craft circumstances then acquire things we hope will make them comfortable and enjoyable. But we never quite settle into them, do we?
Picture, for example, peeling a potato. Does your vegetable peeler feel good in your hand or would you prefer a different one? Do you enjoy the activity or are you bored? What are you thinking about? What’s happening in the background? (If you don’t eat potatoes, or cook, substitute a different mental image.)
Each moment competes with infinite alternative experiences to crave, making us feel like we are never experiencing the right things. It’s no wonder we struggle to know what is “enough”.
I don’t know how to limit this immense field of options. And, I would argue, neither does anyone else. We can seek outside expertise like minimalism or Kondo Joy Sparking. That’s a good start but borrowing someone else’s framework is not a long-term solution.
We can get woke, eschewing “commercialism” and advertising that dictates what we should buy, want, be, need, value, think and do. But we are semipermeable membranes. We will take in the world around us. And it will unsettle us.
Perhaps you hide behind uncertainty, believing you don’t know what you want so aren’t really choosing? Hogwashbucket. Unless you are in a coma, you are always choosing. So you may as well own it. Alternatively, perhaps you do what I do and avoid uncertainty by shrinking experiences that suit you. Do them “on the side”. I feel confused when others disregard experiences I value. Am I deluded? Weird? Does this actually matter? My inner compass may point true north but I go west instead, pulled by other people’s gravity. Then lamenting that I never “get time” to experience what I value most.
Today, rather than asking “what is enough”, I explored “enough of what?” Here is the exercise I used. Maybe you grab a pen or open a writing app and try it? Before reading the rest of this post?
Imagine a bare room without furnishings or decoration. There is a window, a big closet and a bathroom. You will be spending the next three months here (by choice). What do you put in this room?
**** pauses while you write ******
I put a comfortable mattress on a simple wooden frame in the corner. Then, cover the bed with soft thick sheets, my pillow, a reading pillow with a back rest, a fluffy down comforter and a linen duvet cover. Sherpa-lined slipper socks and a nightdress go under the pillow and a bathrobe draped over the end, where a faux fur lap blanket is folded. (Important note: it’s currently winter.)
In the closet, I install a hook for my raincoat, down coat and sweater (layers!). There’s a walking stick with a small flashlight on a caribeener, hiking shoes and a small backpack. Hat, gloves, scarf, handkerchief and two pair of hiking socks go in a basket on the bookshelf. Stacked next to the basket are two sets of bottom layers, four pair of leggings (one fleece lined) and two supportive tops. (Note: anything from REI or LLBeans will work.)
On a small rod in the closet, I hang four comfortable dresses (frocks, really), two cardigans and a warmer cloak (aka blanket you wear). A pair of Birkenstocks is on the floor beneath. I realize this choice marks me as a Type of Person but honestly? They are super easy and comfortable shoes when worn with thick snuggly socks.
I unpack three more essentials from my “purple rolly cart” , a small Samsonite spinner I take on every trip:
- My journal bag, current notebook journal and pen (see above), tarot cards, a second fountain pen in its case and a stash of replacement ink.
- Four empty journals, three different-sized notebooks two more fountain pens with more ink, and my Kobo loaded with everything I currently have on my Kindle.
- A laptop and my iPad with external keyboard. (Not my phone? Right now I am off for holiday vacation and, like most weekends, I don’t know where my phone is. Voicemails reach me via hangouts. I don’t call people, I Slack or email them.)
I hang a giant whiteboard on the wall.
I feel ambivalent about whether or not to include “wifi”. I think: perhaps wifi for two to three hours a day? As soon as I type that, I feel anxious. Will I plan my whole day around the extraverted “distract me, save me from myself!” experiences that become available? Perhaps wifi but not in the room. (What would you do?)
Lastly, I move in a comfortable wooden desk, a reading chair with a foot rest and power cords for my three machines. I stack ten books on the shelf and will order ten more weekly, like groceries, trading out whichever I no longer want to keep. (Grubhub for books.?!)
I worry that I should add more. Will I be bored and feel impoverished and and … but you know what? That room sounds perfect to me. I don’t need any more. There are nice to haves I could add like a tea pot and some tea, bath supplies because of course there is a bathtub, duh. Perhaps a lamp with a warm-colored bulb in it, a deck of cards and a crafting project like needlework or knitting (neither of which I currently do.)
Confession: I cheated. I added a few things outside of my room. Undeveloped land to hike. A staffed kitchen serving meals of roasted vegetables, nuts, broths, healthy oils, some local meat. Nothing processed. Coffee arrives at 4:30 in a carafe, ready for when I wake up to journal. There’s a big reading and writing room with oversized chairs, sconces and tapestries on the wall, a fireplace, and complex yet soothing music in the background for when I want to “socialize”. Imagine the Rose Reading Room got hygge. And there’s a daily yoga class in a room with big windows, to guide me back into my physical body and release the stress of thinking.
**** end of exercise ******
Here, I pause. I don’t want to tell you this! I feel like I’m exposing myself waaaay too much. Everyone now knows what I most love. Worse, maybe you think less of me for not being vegan enough, for spending too much money on one thing or another, for not listing serious technology projects. What does it mean that I worry about those things? I don’t know; I just know that the imaginary room feels like “home”.
What did you put in your room? What do you feel when you read your list? Does some of it feel shameful, like “I shouldn’t have a tv in there!”? (Nothing we choose is bad (or good)).
Was there a point when you felt like you’d put enough in there?