How do you feel today, Miss Katherine?
It’s a question I feel compelled to ask myself. Taking my pulse. Checking on my vitals.
I ask the question because I know that right now, I need an honest answer to it.
I feel water logged. I feel shell shocked. I am dizzy from being blasted with too many canned marketing strategies and threats to my future if I don’t comply with the dictum. Yes. Overwhelmed and unsure.
I just attended a mandatory Certified Sandals Specialist Workshop. The pony show comes around each year and travel agencies that want to remain in good standing send off their agents to the training to ensure promotional benefits for the coming year.
It’s a power packed half day intensive product training that gets us up to speed on all of their resorts throughout the Caribbean. By itself, that sounds fine, right? After all, it’s important to know that whether this resort just had a full renovation of several lodging buildings and that this other resort now come with the plunge pools within the suites and that they have added privacy curtains so that other guests walking by the unit do not get a full frontal of the couple enjoying themselves on their balcony sans clothing. Sandals is not a nudist resort and not much in the Hedonism category so while it’s all about the romance, it is also all about elegance and decorum.
The reason I am vibrating at full decibel from the training is that the intensity of the message and how to grow our business, how to be successful, how to not fall behind, how to ensure optimum sales, is to dial into the Millennium Market. They are tech savvy and are not slowing down. The video they showed to illustrate who the Millennial Generation is- had me wanting to run for the hills. Why? Because all of this contradicts with a brand new door that I am considering opening which could lead me to a more peaceful existence – quite possibly for the rest of my life. Simplicity. Minimalists. Leading a more meaningful life with less.
I ask myself: Is this a big conflict of interest?
Last week, I had the great pleasure of being invited to see The Minimalists Movie by a cherished friend. A kindred spirit. We watched this documentary which was produced by two gentlemen and their team: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. They have been promoting their Minimalist lifestyle for several years now- they have written a few books, gone on some tour. It all started with one of them uncovering this lifestyle and finding happiness might very well be attainable within its principles. It talks about the fact that the recipe for Minimalists can vary by person- not everyone lives by the same recipe. Different strategies work best for different people. But, it’s about finding the right ingredients for oneself. And, ditching the rat race in time (because, even if you win the rat race, in the end you are still just a rat) and in its place, seeking to find a much simpler way to make ends meet. Instead of chasing the American Dream (which boils down to chasing ways to acquire more stuff and with stuff, more status), they have opted to live a life of passions. And, knowing that each person has many passions. Not just one. We are not born an accountant. We are not born a sales person. We are not born a lawyer. These are things that comprise a more complex being that within him or herself contains many valuable attributes. Our society does not seem to get that as it pushes each one of us into a box of one thing. So we must fight this bent and instead, we must find a focus- for a time, focus on one of our passions. And, give everything we have to that one passion – all of it, all your energy. Nurture it. Developed it. And, then, maybe- just maybe.. the passion will grow and flourish and one day, you mightfind an opportunity to make a living with the success of that passion.
In response to the oft asked question: “What Do You Do?” these guys offer that we all individually do lots of things: we brush our teeth, we take showers, we enjoy walks, we engage in hobbies perhaps- the “Do” in the question does not need to be answered in a way that seeks to fulfill the questioners real goal which is to figure out where you fit in within the construct of society: “How do you measure up against where I am- what do you do? How much do you make? What kind of car do you drive? What is your zip code? And thus, what is your value to society?” The goal behind the question feels a bit disgusting when it is spelled out. After all, we are worth more than what we make, right? We are worth more than the physical stuff we acquire, or how our homes look, or what kind of wheels take us from point A to point B, right?
For the past week, most waking moments that are not occupied with my work tasks, have been spent thinking about the concepts of The Minimalists. This past weekend, I gathered up two big trash bags of clothes from my closet and I donated them. It’s a start. I am intrigued by the idea of reducing my stuff, of reducing my debt, or reducing the required resources that only serve to rob me of my time and energy and focus on the things that I wish I had more time to focus on the most. Things like: Writing, Knitting, Reading, Walking my Dog, Sitting on a bench by the lake and feeling the wind on my face, enjoying my aging parents while they are still around.
I spend so much time commuting and working, as do most people. And I do this because it is expected and because I have to because I have filled my life with stuff that costs money and I am chasing that American Dream. Because after all, the American Dream is meant to make me happy. Right? I mean, right????
I took a class about two years that is called: Financial Peace University. It’s offered through churches, and the goal is to put side-by-side the concepts of money, of understanding that it’s not my money but that I am meant to be the keeper and manager of that money for God. It’s about values and understanding how an off-kilter value system creates chaos. The class was meant to whip me into financial shape and instill upon me some good values and reminders so that moving forward I would not make the same mistakes as previous years. Well, I still churn the debt merry-go-round. I have not really gotten off yet. Oh sure, I pay cash more than before. I have paid off some plastic. But occasionally, I pull out the plastic once again – even though I know it is insane behavior and I contribute once again to a necessary rat race craziness to pay that off once again.
It needs to stop. I need to stop.
At fifty, I feel as though I have little time before the ride is over. It’s an overstatement, but feels real. And then, I recall finding a picture of Dad at his fiftieth birthday party thrown by Mom in our Barrington, IL lower level. A big group gathered around tables with a larger than life picture of Dad behind him – a black and white that someone snapped at a previous party when he had just a few too many. He looked bloated and drunk in that picture. It was meant to be funny. I digress. It’s looking at his face on that October in 1979 that I realize that this party was 37 years ago!! He has had life for 37 more years from that time. And he has experienced so much. I can too. It’s not over. I may not be blessed to live the same 37+ years that Dad has, but hopefully, at least ten or twenty more. I hope. Barring disease and other catastrophic fates. And so, today is the day to start living those years well.
This afternoon, I am taking time for me after the morning blast of marketing campaigns aimed at getting me to energize and sell beach resort all inclusive vacations. Ringing in my ears are the words from our Business Development Manager at Sandals, urging me to give him 5 room bookings in the coming 30 days – if I do so, he will reward me with a $100 booking bonus and more! I look back over my shoulder at that memory from about four hours ago and I nod to it and say, ok- I will see what I can do. But not now.
I found myself two hours ago in a section of Barnes and Noble, browsing through the Arts & Crafts section of books. Within that shelf, I found a journal concept with a whole series of books designed to prompt the diary keeper. A journal that has headers at the top of each page that prods the writer to fill the page with ideas. I don’t need that kind of journal, I think to myself. No. I pass those up. And, then- I find a different kind of journal written by Keri Smith, author of Wreck This Journal. In this book that I found, the title jumps out at me: The Wander Society. I open to the introduction. And there, I find her reference to Walt Whitman and how his book: Leaves of Grass “the Deathbed Edition” moved and shook her. And I am curious. Why? What was it about Walt Whitman’s book that created such a stir? I continue through the introduction to learn that the Wandering Society is basically fueled by WW (Walt Whitman) – Wanderer Extraordinaire. Now that is something I can sink my teeth into. I am pulled into the fray. I must learn more. Keri shares that only a few times in her lifetime has she been so moved by a book than the afternoon she spent with Leaves of Grass. Her description of her reaction to his words are encapsulated with expressions like: “my chest ached, my breath quickened, and my face flushed”. Sounds like a passionate problem of sorts. And I admit, I want some of that. So, I grab Keri’s book because as I thumb through it, I see it is not a journal after all but a book filled with ideas on wandering. And I oh so want to wander. I want to find my path down uncharted weed growing brambles where my foot finds purchase on a rock as it moves from the woods to the shore and helps me make my way so that I can sit on a large boulder overlooking the ocean and watch the gulls plunge into the wild foam and spray. This perch helps me to hear the shrieks of other distant gulls as they move inland to find rest. Oh my – where did that even come from? I press on.
The first few pages of Keri’s book has now fully grabbed my attention, I dare to surmise that Keri and I will likely get along very well together, and I somewhere down in the midst of this moment – thank her for writing this volume. I make my way to the Poetry Wall within Barnes and Noble, for now I must find Walt Whitman and his Leaves of Grass. And I find several versions. The first edition version, a small pocket book. And then, larger versions that contain the many editions. And then, the version that contains the first and deathbed version. I pull that one. And I sit to read the introduction. And once again, I am drawn into the mystery of poetry and of the voices of old that somehow captured a time that in many ways has been reimagined today. The same quandaries and burdens. It reminds of the timelessness of the Bible. Many discard the Bible – push it aside. It is not relevant. But how wrong they are. Principles for humanity do not change. We are basically the same as when man first began. We carry the same desperate wants and needs and passions and fears.
I decide I am satisfied with my selections and decide to add Walt to my pile. I consider one final idea, and that is to move to the writing wall. The “how to write” section, I call it. The reference wall. I want something that will give me knowledge on the basics of poetry writing. Unsuccessful in that quest. I proceed to the check-out counter and I figure that I can look up Poetry Writing and theory … on-line. For now, I have plenty to keep me busy. And I feel satisfied, truly satisfied. I am investing time in my passion. I plan to sit and write and read and revel in the words of old. And dream big dreams …of a new reality and a new plan. One step at a time. One poem at a time. One word at a time. I find my rest in this.