NOTE: This post was originally published on my last blog, Recovering Shopaholic.
I’m long overdue to share an update on what I’ve termed my “2014 Full Life Project,” as the last time I wrote about this at any length was back in April. Today’s update is going to be a bit different from the last one I gave. Instead of going through each of the goals I made and reporting on the current status, I’ll be doing more of a “stream of consciousness” update. I’ll write about how my life is going today – what is working and what is not working, as well as highlight the areas in which I’ve made progress since the beginning of the year.
Increased Focus on the “Full Life Project”
A wonderful reader recently made a suggestion to me privately that I’ve decided to implement. She recommended that instead of writing periodic, lengthy updates about my “Full Life Project,” I might instead share tidbits about my life and how it’s going within standard blog posts. I think this is an excellent idea, especially in light of what I wrote in the conclusion of my July accountability update:
In some respects, the way we do one part of our lives is the way we do all portions of our lives, so I’m guessing many of you have struggles in other areas as well. I find that when I feel better about myself and my life as a whole, I am less compelled to overshop, but I feel a lot more exploration of that subject is needed as I continue my recovering shopaholic journey.”
I do feel that more exploration is needed in other areas of my life besides my wardrobe, personal style, and shopping behavior. While those topics are definitely important, I realize I sometimes stick to those areas because it’s easier and less threatening for me. Although I often feel stuck and lost about what to do with my wardrobe, I feel a lot more confused about other areas of my life.
As I’ve stated before, I think a big part of my overshopping was an effort to distract myself from more troubling aspects of life and to deal with difficult emotional states. At long last, I’m ready to face that which was so terribly scary for me to look at before, and why not do that here on the blog so that others can learn from this part of my journey as well?
About that Simplicity and Joy…
So that’s a bit of a foreshadowing of things to come on “Recovering Shopaholic.” You’ll see more focus on other parts of life and recovery beyond the closet and shopping, even if it’s just a short section at the end of other posts on my standard topics. But today’s post is a full-fledged life update from yours truly. Let’s first dive in to my theme for 2014, “simplicity and joy.”
For a while, I wasn’t placing a whole lot of attention on simplifying my life and making it more joyous. To be honest, I got caught up in my day-to-day tasks and my lengthy to-do list and just plain forgot that my main objective for the year was to cultivate more joy in the simple aspects of life. Perhaps I had to reach a sort of “rock bottom” in certain areas in order to regain my focus on what I believed mattered most as 2014 started out.
Breaking Free from Information Overload
I reached that sort of down place with information overload and fear of missing out (FOMO) back in July. Although both of those issues had long been major obstacles in the way of my happiness, I didn’t truly “get” that in my bones until last month. I had a huge pile of magazines taking over my bedroom, hundreds of articles in multiple “to read” folders (both physical and virtual), and a definite lack of inner peace as a result. I got to the point where I was “mad as hell and couldn’t take it anymore!” I was finally ready to do something about it – and I did!
Since the time when I wrote my post on information overload, I have cancelled all of my magazine subscriptions and eliminated almost all of my information backlogs (mostly through deleting articles or throwing them away). I still have a small folder of article clippings which I’m now using as bedtime reading material, and a handful of online articles I plan to finish reading this week, but that’s it. As a result of this pare-down, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel a burst of joy and peace when I consider that I have released myself from such a tremendous burden.
I still find myself spending too much time online and not enough time reading books, so this is something I still need to work on. FOMO still has me reading style blogs and visiting fashion forums, but I plan to cut back on both of these activities, especially since they lead me to want to shop more. Fortunately, however, I’ve been spending far less time browsing online shopping sites in recent weeks. The feverish attempt to fill in all of the gaps in my wardrobe has abated following my July compulsive shopping relapse.
Embracing Joy in the “Little Things”
I truly believe that joy is possible for all of us and that it is more present in the “little things” in life than in those earthshattering events that occur only once in a great while. While I’m good at delighting in some of life’s small joys, such as my evening walks with my husband, my daily smoothies (more on that below), and petting my two adorable cats, I would like to cultivate a deeper appreciation of the beauty and magic that is always there for the taking. You see, sometimes when I’m on one of those long walks, I am so wrapped up in thinking about my problems that the beauty of the water and the night sky escapes my notice.
I think I need more quiet and contemplation in my life. I have long known of the benefits of slowing down and meditation, but I have stubbornly resisted including these activities in my life. However, as I release myself from the bondage of information overload and FOMO, I feel a small space opening up in my mind and in my life for silence. Even if I spend a few moments a day just “being,” I think that could make a difference in my experience of joy. I have a mind that virtually never stops, so much so that I have difficulty sleeping and never really get enough rest. Slowing down and embracing calm would probably do a lot for both my emotional and physical health.
On the Topic of Health
Speaking of health, my primary goal for the year is to improve the state of my physical well-being. I have a laundry list of health complaints that adversely impact the quality of my life, including migraines – and migraine vertigo, joint issues, and multiple digestive maladies. I may not be able to eliminate all of these issues, but I want to do whatever is in my power to improve the state of my body, as I know good health is critical to having a happy and joyous life.
To that end, I have continued to explore treatment options and lifestyle changes that could help me to live a higher quality life. I prefer to pursue holistic alternatives, as many of the pharmaceutical options I’ve tried in the past have either not worked or have been accompanied by severe side effects. As such, I have made numerous changes to my diet over the past year, with varying success. I am still a work in progress in this respect, but I have experienced some relief as a result of my dietary exploration.
I have never really liked cooking, mostly because I struggled with eating disorders for many years. I didn’t want to focus too much of my time and attention on food after years of it being a major preoccupation. Because of this, I used to eat far too many processed and “convenience” foods, many of which could lead to adverse health consequences I was unaware of until recently. I am pleased to report that I now eat almost no processed foods and have discovered a love of cooking that I never thought would be possible for me.
One thing that has made a big difference for me in recent months was the purchase of a refurbished Vitamix blender which we were able to buy at a great discount over the versions sold in stores. It still has a 5-year warranty and has been a real workhorse in the kitchen. I’ve started making daily green smoothies for my husband and me, using excellent recipes found on this site and this site. We also eat a big salad every day for lunch and have been integrating a lot more fruits and vegetables into our diet. My husband is lucky to be “as healthy as a horse,” but even he feels better as a result of our dietary changes.
I recently went gluten-free and it seems to be helping my migraines, but it’s still a bit too early to tell (I’m doing a 4-6 week trial). Unfortunately, however, I’ve had a flare-up in some of my digestive complaints, so I’m struggling to manage that at present. Sadly, it seems like when I do something that helps one of my physical complaints, it often leads to a flare-up in one of the others. But I’m trying to stay positive and keep trying new things until I find something that will alleviate my pain and discomfort.
Some Other Positives in Brief
So I’m happy to be making some progress with my primary goal for the year of improving my health. There have been some other positives, too.
I published my first e-book, which is steadily selling and has received some good reviews thus far (thanks to all those who have purchased and reviewed “UnShopping”!). My second e-book is under way and I plan to finish it this month. It may not be available until sometime in September, however, as it will still need to be formatted for e-readers.
A few people have asked if my books will ever be available in paperback format. At this point, I’m unsure if that would be cost-effective for me, but I will revisit that issue later in the year based upon how well the e-books sell in the interim. The whole publishing process is very new to me and I still have a lot to learn! I’m very pleased to now be a published author, but I want to be careful not to pour more money into the process than I am earning. That has been a bad habit of mine in the past and I want to avoid such mistakes today.
Real Simple Article
My story was also featured in a major national magazine. While I didn’t seek this out, I’m very happy to have been able to reach a wider audience through the Real Simple article. I have received mostly very positive feedback on the piece and have attracted a number of new readers to this blog. It remains to be seen whether or not the article will lead to other opportunities for me, but I’m doing my best to just be grateful for what it is instead of holding additional expectations about the future.
New Hobbies, Growth, and Learning
I wanted to cultivate two new hobbies this year. So far, I have one new hobby that I enjoy, cooking. I’ve been trying out a number of new recipes and embracing an activity that I used to view as a chore. Thus far, it’s only been something I’ve shared with my husband, but I’d like to venture out and take a few cooking classes at some point as well.
I’m definitely continuing to learn and grow in many respects of life. Much of my reading has been confined to the topics of health, style, and personal development, but I enjoy learning about other subjects as well. I haven’t taken any classes this year as of yet, but as I continue to simplify my life, I believe I’ll feel less tired and overwhelmed and more open to new pursuits. I didn’t realize how much all of the information overload was draining me, but I’m glad I finally saw the light and turned things around.
Now for the Downside
Instead of itemizing the goals have yet to accomplish, I’ll write instead about what I feel is still missing in my life. Other than the vibrant good health that I have yet to attain, I’m also really feeling my lack of close personal relationships. It’s not that I don’t have any friendships or family connections (I’m very blessed to have my wonderful husband); it’s that many of them feel superficial or one-sided. Oftentimes, it feels as if my interactions with others are all or mostly about them – and my needs aren’t really being met.
I realize I need to take responsibility for this. I know we teach people how to treat us and I must have taught others not to really be interested in me and my life. For so long, I felt that what I was up to didn’t really matter because I didn’t have children or a “real job.” I got really good at asking other people a lot of questions and keeping the focus on them, and that is how all future interactions progressed. I felt ashamed about my lack of income and the fact that I changed jobs/careers so often, so I did everything I could to take the focus off of myself. I’m now feeling the effects of not being okay with who I was and where I was in life.
I don’t want to give up hope about turning my existing relationships around, but I’d also like to meet new people. I know I will need to put myself out there in order to do that, but I haven’t had the physical or emotional energy to do so. I’ve very much enjoyed the interactions I’ve had through this blog and those have fulfilled much of my need for connection in recent months. But while online connections are fulfilling in many ways, they can’t take the place of face-to-face contact. I would love to be able to grab a meal or a cup of coffee with some of you, but the likelihood of this taking place is fairly remote. So I need to get out into the world more so I can potentially meet people with whom I can spend a few hours every now and then.
I could write an entire post on the topic of adult friendships and how hard they can be to cultivate, and I likely will explore that topic in greater depth at some point. But for now, I’ll just say that I really miss having more friends, especially those who will be there for me as much as I am there for them.
I think I often “settled” for the level of connection I found while shopping because that was all I really had. I headed out to the mall to feel closer to other people, but the interactions never truly fulfilled my needs, as they were mostly one-sided and lacked depth. Such exchanges involved very little risk, but also led to very few rewards.
I have come to grips with the fact that I have to risk being hurt or rejected in order to have the opportunity to experience deep friendships. I’m afraid, but my loneliness is pushing me to put my fear aside, push through my introversion, and take some chances that could lead to my making meaningful connections with other people.
I know I used shopping to take the focus off of other areas of my life, but shopping doesn’t numb my pain the way it used to. I’ve become too conscious of what I’m doing that I no longer gain that anesthetizing effect. I tried to use shopping as an escape during July and part of August, but I still felt hurt, scared, and lonely. I have to find other, more productive and effective ways of dealing with my difficult emotions.
I believe the only way I will ever have a full life is to stop hiding, quit being afraid, and take some risks. While I acknowledge that every blog post I publish involves my taking a risk, I need to extend this courage into other areas of life. I need to find new ways of cultivating joy, dealing with pain, and connecting with other people. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do. I’ve received many suggestions before from readers and through my own searching, but I have to find the path that’s right for me. What’s worked for you might not work for me, and vice versa. We all have to forge our own paths, and we all need to course-correct along the way.
My “Full Life Project” is ongoing and will likely continue for the remainder of my life. I never want to stop learning and growing and becoming even more of the person I can be. When we stop growing, we start dying, and although I know I will die one day, I want to squeeze as much life out of my time on earth as I can. I no longer want to waste the precious time I’ve been given on shopping, obsessing about clothing and my appearance, and feeling like I’m not good enough to claim my happiness and joy in this world. I deserve to be here, I deserve to be happy, and I’m ready to stop hiding and start living more deliberately and more fully – today and from here on forth.
I know many of you are also on a path to create a fuller and more rewarding life. What successes have you achieved this year in living a happier, more passionate, and more peaceful life? Where are you still feeling challenged? I’d love for you to share your thoughts, experiences, questions, and quandaries. Perhaps we can help each other with the journey to that fuller life for which we’re looking to exchange our full closets. If nothing else, we can help each other to feel less alone. This blog has definitely done that for me – and I’m incredibly grateful to all of you for this!