Minimalist Monday: Failing Forward

I’ve fallen off the wagon. In the past 13 months I have been so strung out and exhausted from graduate school that I have lost touch with my minimalist side.

Our budget is out of control. Real talk: somehow 2 people have managed to spend around $4000 a month for a year. That’s way more than we have brought in, considering it’s been 13 months since I’ve gotten a paycheck. Our savings are in shambles. And my self esteem is in the toilet. How did I let this happen? Why did we just spend $120 at Target. Did I really need that moped? HOW DID WE SPEND OVER $1000 ON FOOD THIS MONTH!?

The clutter is piling up. I look at the mess in the kitchen and try to pretend it isn’t there. The “junk cabinet” is at a horrifying level. The fiance made a joke the other day that my “Chinese element is cardboard” as the Amazon purchases roll in. Stupid stress shopping.

As I beat myself up over how far I’ve drifted from my ideals, I remember the ideals that my new principal (I finished my master’s and got a teaching job by the way!) ingrained in us: “fail early and fail often.” My minimalist journey is still fairly young. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process. Fail forward. I can’t let the mistakes I’ve made paralyze me. Instead I will keep them in mind as I get myself back on track. Keep moving forward.

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WEDnesday: Why Marry?

Back from a brief hiatus (traveling, enjoying the downtime between the end of my job and the start of my classes) and sharing something I’ve had on my mind for a while. The question of why marry? Why not just be perpetual boyfriend/girlfriend? This has been on my mind from my interactions with two mindsets: the marriage-is-pointless camp and the OMG-must-get-married camp.

I know a lot of people who don’t believe in marriage. Heck with a national divorce rate around 50% it does seem a bit risky. The theme I’ve noticed in these exchanges is why bother, it’s so much easier to split when you’re not legally entangled. Breakups are easier than divorce. Marriage is just a title, you can be perfectly committed without it.

On the other hand are those desperate to get married, regardless of the partner. Friends that think 30 is the deadline for marriage. People that have comfortable but perhaps not spectacular relationships. You marry in your 20s because that’s simply how it’s done (totally not true BTW).

Deciding to marry is an enormous and very personal decision. Each couple has their own reasons for pursuing or not pursuing legal recognition of their relationship (local government permitting). Our decision was our own, but the basic reasoning was this: we love each other an awful lot. Marrying is our way of declaring that this person is so close to my heart that I want to recognize them legally, socially, and publicly as the most important person in my life. To create a bond equivalent to those created by the accident of birth: family. In making this leap we are recognizing that we will fight for this relationship because yes, divorce is harder than a breakup. And that’s why we marry.

After You’re Gone

After you’re gone no one talks about how nice your car was.

After you’re gone no one fawns over your house or your furniture.

After you’re gone no one discusses how much money you made.

They talk about who you were. What you did. How you touched people’s lives. What made you a great person. How you lived and how you loved.

Trist and I had the misfortune of burying one of his close friends last week, hence the lack of posts. It’s heartbreaking how a 22 year old could be ripped away so suddenly. But what was remarkable was how many people he had touched. How many young men and women came out to shovel dirt into his grave. The impression he made on the community, the shining aspects of his personality were remembered and celebrated. That is what we should live for. To devote our energy to being someone who is remembered for the love surrounding us.

WEDnesday: How do I love thee?

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The first question my dad asked me after we announced our engagement was, “Are you 100% sure about this? As long as you’re sure I’m fine with it.” I answered, “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.”

I’ve been in and around enough relationships to know that it’s not always the case, the kind of confidence I have in us. Sometimes we are caught up in the initial infatuation only to find that the person you are with annoys the shit out of you six months later. Sometimes we think we can shape the other person into exactly what we want. Sometimes we think we have a good relationship while simultaneously hiding part of our being from our partner because they wouldn’t approve. Sometimes we just don’t want to be alone. Sometimes we’ve been together so long it seems easier just to stick it out and hope for the best.

I love my sweetheart for all of the usual reasons: funny, cute, makes me laugh, shared interests. But the things that stand out for me aren’t even really about him. It’s about me. It’s how I’ve grown being with him. It’s how I’m my best from being with him. We met when I had just graduated from college. The whirlwind of working 3 jobs and doing research and taking classes left me with no time to even think. I could barely keep my head above water. Graduation brought me relief. Freedom. Time to actually explore the woman was becoming and decide how I was going to live my life. I was a little confused. Ideals were forming in my head but they were blurry and I couldn’t quite make them out.

Then along came this guy, this guru with a confidence in himself and a totally empowering worldview. We spent so many late nights discussing life, the universe, and everything. Culture, consumption, the lack of spiritual nourishment in our society, the busy trap. His words were the lens that brought those blurry ideals into focus. He encouraged me to live how I wanted to, with intangible experiences at the forefront and affection for people. The whole world opened up to me. I could see everything for what it was, without the illusions and facades we place on ourselves and our surroundings. We don’t worry much (only about our loved ones) and we play a lot. He was the sunshine that helped me grow and I have never been more at peace. The lessons he taught me and those we have learned together are what makes me proud of the person I am. And that makes me sure.

The Proposal

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So I’m taking a break from Minimalist Monday this week in favor of a rather exciting development. Tristan and I are now OFFICIALLY engaged (following like, 11 months of “we’re totally getting married but we’re not quite engaged”) and since people can’t help but love a good proposal story, here’s mine.

We took a lazy morning, I made breakfast for us, then we headed over to a winery for a glass of wine and a walk around the cute little winery village. After, we picked up some shrimp cocktail, cheese, and crackers and headed over to a park for a romantic picnic. We rode the antique steam engine around the park then found a secluded spot to enjoy our picnic. We spent 10 minutes trying to open the shrimp cocktail packaging, only to discover they were completely frozen. Fail. We snacked on our cheese and crackers and laid out on the picnic blanket listening to the band that was playing in the park. Tristan started talking to me about how I was his best friend and inquiring if I felt the same way. Of course I did! Then, as the music swelled to a fanfare he whispered, “I have one more question, will you be my wife?”

It was sweet, peaceful, and understated.

The thing that surprised me the most was how not different I feel. We are exactly the same people, although now Tristan insists that I refer to him as Beyoncé since he feels fiancé is way too fancy for us (too true). Actually the biggest difference is now that it’s official I have no desire to wedding plan. I just want to float around in the contentment of being engaged.

Letting Go

Tristan always tells me that everything in life is just a state of mind. If we are stressed over something, it’s because we are allowing stress to take over.Worrying is in your head, stress is in your head, unhappiness is in your head, happiness, contentment, all of it is in your head.

With all of the pressure and expectations surrounding weddings, this mental battle is acutely present. Trying to deal with the opinions and criticisms of family and friends, sifting through all the bullshit the Wedding Industrial Complex tells you you *must* have or your wedding will be a failure. Trying not to lose sight of the your identity when everyone else wants you to to it their way. Sometimes you just need to get out of your head.

In preparation for the inevitable stress wedding planning will undoubtedly bring, I’ve amassed a few resources and techniques for dealing with the stress and drama:

First, initial reactions and coping.

Then, Zen Mind for letting go of the stress.

Letting your detractors know what’s up.

And finally, revisiting my favorite book…

I kind of want to live in the Hundred Acre Wood…

The Engagement vs. The Proposal

A year ago, Tristan made it clear he was going to marry me. We had both decided that was a step we wanted to take with each other, however it was not an official proposal. Over the course of 2012, he gave me a ring, not THE ring, but a beautiful simple ring to show his commitment. Then last November, his grandmother offered her engagement ring. And we are still not engaged.

At this point I began to unravel. I questioned why, if Tristan really wanted to marry me, he hadn’t proposed. Why it felt taboo to have an open and honest discussion about my anxieties. If I brought up getting engaged, that made me either the “nagging girlfriend” or that I was ruining the surprise. I resented the patriarchal society that didn’t allow me to be a part of this decision that affected me so profoundly.

Finally I exploded. Of course I know Tristan wants to be the one to propose, and that moment belongs to him. I never wanted to take that away from him. But what about my feelings? Maybe my timeline? How can one half of a partnership get no voice in this huge decision?

That’s all it took to restore my sanity. Openness with one another, honesty. Yes, he is just as excited as I am. Yes, my thoughts on engagement count. The Proposal is still his to plan, but The Engagement is for both of us. Making that distinction, involving both parties, that is important. Engagement is a new chapter of a relationship, not just a placeholder for marriage, and it’s a leap that should be taken together.