Chasing simplicity. Thoughts on life and money.

Powered by Blogger.

Golden light, August.

My third flight in August took me to Hong Kong airport. Beyond the large windows, the sight was nothing short of magnificent. Walls and walls of lush green mountains rise up steep, and when they plateau out they form undulations and cradles, highlighted by sunlight, contoured by shadows.

Hong Kong wasn’t my final destination. Not that it mattered. I find that the things forever seared into my memories are just a string of random events that happened while I was waiting for something else better to happen. That time I sat on the kerb in Fitzroy eating potato calzones with my husband. My baby son trying to floss. Op-shopping with my friend when I was jobless. Yes, those moments heavy with quiet joy.

Anyway, this flight, a middle aged Jewish man sat a few rows in front of me, across from the aisle. I noticed him taking his seat, wearing a black suit and a black broad brim hat. He started reading. All his meals arrived wrapped in an unbelievable amount of cling wrap, clearly labelled. Later, I noticed the Jewish man falling asleep. The sky was no longer teeming with clouds; instead, warm golden sunlight saturated the atmosphere. The light weaved its way inside the giant metallic flying machine, landed on the man’s tray table, illuminating the aged grains of the black leather book, and its tattered paper edges. Worn. Beloved. Reread countless times.  In the golden light, the book looked magical.

On living imperfectly



I like the French cafe I frequent. 

I mean, I don’t love everything about the cafe, but overall I like it. The baguettes don’t always come out toasted to the degree of my liking. I can’t use my card to pay, they recently switched to cash only.

Still, the faces are friendly, the soy lattes are great- they don’t turn sour when I let them sit for ten minutes while I devour my baguettes. The place is warm, inviting, decorated  with French knickknacks. French penmanship spells out the baguette menu.  It’s the furtherest thing from a commercial coffee chain. 

I know why they got rid of EFTPOS (cards) payments. The bank fees are insane. My business is card-based and we pay over 2K in fees per month. It is a necessary cost for the convenience of customers, as long as the sales figures justify it. Many of my favourite restaurants have closed, I do hope the French cafe stays.

I often journal in this cafe. The place offers an atmosphere laid-back enough for muscles to relax and thoughts to unravel. It is the opposite of rush when I am here, perhaps something others find in a church, or a good glass of red wine.

Reflections are great because the help me grow. I realised I am always rushing. I am constantly rehearsing how to deal with the troubles ahead. I live for the future, when I can tick items off that impossible to-do list. I plan and worry. I worry and plan. The present slips by quietly, like water running through uncupped hands.

I want TO BE HERE more. I read a book called HOW TO BE HERE, but I’ve forgotten most if not all of it. I suppose to learn certain things you gotta live, fumbling your way through the darkness and depths of your battles, and emerge with the truth etched into every fibre of your being. That truth needs to come from a place deep inside you. 

So today on my day off I’m switching off. Still doing it awkwardly, but I’m getting there. Bring on the beasts of the work week tomorrow, when I get back to work.

Goodbye, Apollo.



After I found out my friend committed suicide, my world went on. I’d eat my breakfast and go to work. I’d drive with the music on. I’d slammed my brakes too hard. My clothes looked perfect. I looked normal.

Inside me, joy vanished under a thick cloud of despair.

Amanda was tough. Smart. Driven.

But why?

The days that followed the news were completely forgettable, but for the restlessness that was at the helm of my ship. The seas were calm, but the tempest inside never subsided.

I looked for an easy way out. I kept busy. I worked and worked. I shopped. I disappeared down the Facebook vortex. I emerged and shopped some more.

Why?

Ten years ago, Amanda and I took trip together down the Great Ocean Road, staying in a cheap backpackers’ full of tanned carefree-looking young people. Through our bedroom window at night the stars shone brightly against the dark sky, not a single strand of stray urban light detracting from the stars’ beauty. The waves broke constantly, soothingly. We talked for hours about our life plans. We were excited. I felt hope growing inside me, the way a little seed extending its tiny roots through the dark earth.



Amanda was training to be a surgeon when she took her life.

At the very same time, I was deeply bogged down in the minutiae of my life. The business. The household. Paying off debts. Being a responsible adult.



In the morning when I meditated, thoughts arrived in droves, one as unsettled as the next.

I had the sudden urge to be in nature. Weekends after weekends I walked the local trails, my hiking boots struggled for footing against the rocks. The trees were bare in winter. The mud was deep. The Australian natives were yet to bloom.  Crisp cold air filled my lungs. Sadness lingered.


Weeks later, the feeling of numbness lifted. It left behind an imprint, the way heavy furnitures mark the carpet . It begs quietly- What is the best way to live one’s life?

HEAD OR HEART.






I haven’t been able to put this vague notion into words, until now. As I become more aware of my emotions, it’s easier to identify the distinctive spheres in which these emotions exist.

The heart space is a lovely place to be in, where I am happy with the status quo. I see things through the filter of contentment, and everything is often fantastic . Even when things don’t go well, a dose of gratitude is often all that’s needed to transform an undesirable circumstance into something a lot more bearable. The heart place is a place to rest. My family, my son, and my treasured friends all belong to the heart space.  Also found here are my spiritual beliefs, yoga, creative pursuits. There are simply no goals, no destination, no itineraries, just the calm moments suspended in time and space, the way the fog hangs over a sleepy winter forest, the way the sun melts into an mirror of sea at sunset.

The head space is a space for striving, achieving, and achingly yearning for MORE. It’s about noticing where you are and then desperately trying to pursue the next goal post, the next achievement, the next mountain to climb. It’s about putting on a brave fight in the arena. It’s a heady mix of mountain top highs and crushing lows.The head space is where I am in when I am in business mode, where profit matters, numbers need to be closely watched, and ever expanding to do lists gotta be conquered.

I recently had to make a decision in my business. It baffled me how polar opposites my decisions are depending on whether I’m functioning in head mode or heart mode.

And here lies the dilemma. When I’m stuck in my head mode I can’t rest. Stuck in my heart mode I can’t grow. I wish I knew what the perfect balance of the two are, is it 60:40, 50:50 or maybe  30:70? Does it have to be so black and white, so distinct? I have found that what utmostly shift the balance between head and heart are the circumstance, the matter involved, the people involved, and what’s at stake.


And much as I love comfort and contentment, I sometimes find that I can’t reside in the heart space forever. The waters there are just to still for my liking.



{Image link}

All the moons, stars , jeans and plain T-shirts.
























I don't go through life thinking about certain things on a daily basis, things such as auroras on Jupiter or the spherical and the odd-shaped moons of Saturn, how these moons named after the mighty Gaelic and Inuit gods and how they journey silently through space, unknown to most humans most of the time.

I approach my clothes in a similar way, with little attention paid and a high degree of automation. While I am a passionate admirer of the brand Gorman - how fantastically bold and colourful and centre-of-the-party the prints are, most of the time, I wear my dark coloured jeans with my plain T-shirts, mostly grey. The uniform simplifies life. It frees up energy wanting and shopping and entering these purchases into my YNAB (money-tracking program). It leaves plenty of room for admiring things from afar. All that little pockets of energy and time saved usually knit together into a sense of freedom and gratitude for the good things I have in my life.

The capricious Melbourne weather is actually kind to my wardrobe. Except for a few handfuls of hot days in summer, jeans and short-sleeved T-shirts are perfect for a base layer, before knits and jackets pile on top.

I am not saying I am dressing this way for the rest of my life. No. I know myself well enough to realise that I don't usually commit to a certain way of doing things forever. But now, I feel that I've truly stumbled upon something that both simplifies and transforms at the same time. And for that I am grateful.

I'm not my bag.








I call myself a minimalist, not because I have so few possessions that I can proudly do youtube video and show you everything I own in under two minutes. No. I am a minimalist because, for a few years now, one of my core beliefs and primary desires is this insatiable urge to contract rather than to expand the number of things I own.

I have one pair of black shoes that I wear ninety five percent of the time, one pair of heels, one pair of ballet flats, one pair of summer sandals, but that's not the point really. I spend money mostly on e-books, take-away coffees and colourful salads. My purchases often don't have a physical form, they don't add to the small number of things I have already own. What they do add to, what they grow exponentially in, is this incredible sense of freedom. Every morning, as I sit in my mostly empty room at home enjoying a cup of coffee, I feel as though I could easily PACK UP  and leave my life ANY TIME, even though the need for such a drastic act of abandonment has never arisen. I am telling you all this because I am about to tell you how I fell off the minimalist wagon.

A few months ago I caught up with a friend whom I  had not seen in a while. She works in the same industry as me. I had a good time, the meal was thoroughly enjoyable, until I noticed her bag. It was small, Chanel's, with a price tag of at least five thousand dollars. On that very day I had been walking around the city with my husband and son. At that very moment, my bag was a cheap vegan shoulder bag, wet from water spillage, bulging with my son's half-eaten package of rice crackers. Against a bag that was neat, elegant, and exquisite mine seemed unorganised, disheveled, cringe-worthy, and JUST-NOT-GOOD-ENOUGH.

Now, not-enough-ness is a peculiar thing. It compels people to do many strange things. So the next day after the bag incident I went shopping for a designer bag. I know. I know.

In the air-conditioned haven that's called Chadstone I agonised for hours. A few thousand dollars seem unreasonable given that those damn bags don't even suit my needs. They were either too heavy, too small, or too expensive. I wondered what the hell I was doing there. I wondered why I cared what people may think of my bag. I wondered if people even notice my bag at all. In the end, I settled on a large tote, light-weight, with a price tag of five hundred dollars. It it still slightly impractical for my everyday use, and until this moment it's still in its dust bag, waiting for the next occasion where I meet with same industry people with whom I think I SHOULD look successful.

{Image link}

How to cull your books


The hardest things about discarding books is I feel as though I’m letting go of parts of myself. It is as if I am throwing away the heartaches and joys  of the past, and as if I’m releasing all the hopes and dreams of the future.

The trouble is, books are not just books.

Books, the ones that have been read, are keepers of memories- memories woven into words and paper  and ticket stubs used as a bookmark. Those books are my former self reading and thinking and feeling and inhabiting  for the first time the amazing worlds that the writers create neatly between the covers.


The ones that are yet to be read often feel like a promise. They are us hoping and dreaming. They are the things we are yet to become. Often, they represent every aspect of our fantasy selves- I'm referring to my stacks of unread French novels, poetry, yoga, photography and cookbooks, the ones that occupy SO MUCH SPACE.


And that’s why it’s hard.


And here’s what I’ve found that has helped


  • Focus on the end results. Knowing that letting go of physical clutter opens up this space. It is vast and empty and spacious. It is calming like a freshly raked Japanese pebble garden. It is a zen space that truly restores.
  • It is quite easy to get rid of things that don’t spark joy.
  • It takes some practice, but you can also get rid of the books that do spark joy. Take photos of them,  keep the photos safe on your computer. If you do need to read them again get a kindle version, or borrow from the library.
  • Say “see you later” instead of “goodbye” to the books that you let go. If it is truly memorable, they are already in your heart.