Learning to Relax After Jettisoning A House & Most of My Belongings.

I awoke this morning at 4:30AM, as the sun started to peek into our just moved into, adorably efficient studio apartment, which is considerably smaller than the beautiful 4 bedroom home we rented to shelter us through the winter. The belongings I brought to this transitional residence include the laptop on which I am typing this article, two drawers and 1/3 of a closest worth of clothes, a box of financial records, a bike, and a set of golf clubs. In 3 months, we will be living in an even smaller space while retreating to Costa Rica to focus on writing, and then we will be living on the Big Island in Hawaii, in an even smaller space, through the Winter. Hawaii is a story in itself since we will be managing a small, family owned hotel, nestled against the lava formed edge of the ocean.

As I write this article, my wife is heading west with her youngest son and the remaining dog and cat, who are best buds, so that her son can move in with his brother.

A year ago, we had 3 dogs and 5 cats. Honestly, having no pets is the biggest adjustment for me in our downsizing effort. Simply put, I was the main dog walker, dog poop patrol agent, and kitty litter scooper. I am still on edge. Every time I hear a dog bark, I think it’s mine and I should go let it out. Or, instead of taking time to write this article this morning, I should already be on the first of three walks I was taking most days with the dogs.

Yesterday was my first full day without pet responsibility in many years. I was lost. I didn’t have to hurry my bike ride or my errands. I stopped on my way home from those errands to hit golf balls at the practice range. Being spontaneous is something I will have to relearn.

I was definitely programmed to be responsible as I grew up, by leaving home at 15 for a boarding school, and then heading 3000 miles away to attend college and graduate school. This morning is no different than yesterday, as I wondered what chores I should complete today, but we intentionally sold our home and most of our belongings to create this lifestyle that is free of financial obligation, and, yes, even most chores. This studio apartment is beautiful and it has a majestic view of the ocean, but it is affordable, and it comes free of chores, except for keeping it clean and doing laundry. My schedule today includes a bike ride, teaching an international colleague to hit a golf ball for the first time, a birthday party for my niece, a visit with my oldest daughter and her beau, lots of time for writing and meditation, probably a nap, and then adoring another sunset.

It almost feels like I am describing a vacation day to you, but I am not. I (We) intentionally let go of a lot to allow for more days like yesterday and today. We actually have jobs; however, we work less because we don’t have as much to pay for in terms of living expenses. By this Fall, we will have only two monthly bills: our cell phone bill (which is way too high so I can’t wait to get out of that two year commitment) and health insurance (another topic for another day, but rates are going even higher in Maine next year). So, as we work our way down to one bill, this creates a question in my mind.

Are we, as a Western Culture, programming ourselves into anxiety, financial burden, and unhappiness. President Trump’s recent decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord was all about the money, particularly the bottom line of US businesses. If we are making decisions based on money, then I have to wonder, where are we heading culturally? Emotionally? Physically? Environmentally?

Learning to Allow the Time & Space to Experience As Many Sunsets as Possible (Photo by M Barbato, ME)

What is driving my decision to downsize and detach from materialism is my own wellness and desire to walk in a very different way on this earth, and in some ways, to not let financial commitments drive my lifestyle. I believe in my core that I will be healthier, calmer, more fit, and more connected to the pulse of the earth and her inhabitants. I am hoping that whatever positive difference downsizing makes for me will create a ripple effect for others and for our communities.

Downsizing and detaching been a long process for me. It was probably 20 years ago when the detachment seed began to sprout, as I argued, unsuccessfully, that we could sell our home and move to a more affordable region of the country and not have to pay a mortgage. I am excited to finally try detachment, but it has not been easy getting to this point, and it’s still evolving.

Day two into this next phase of downsizing is hard. I am finding it hard to be still. I am finding it hard to do what I want to do. I am finding it hard to leave my apartment because I feel like I should be doing something here. I am finding it hard to give myself permission to visit with friends. I am just realizing that maybe I had fallen back into the martyr role I thought I had grown out of years ago, you know, the belief that you aren’t entitled to take care of your self until you take care of everyone else.

I feel I should be doing more. I should be working more. I should be giving more. I should be loving more. I should be earning more. I should have a big house for my children to visit. I should have a nice car. I can feel all the ‘shoulds’ that still energetically reside in my body.

These are my ‘shoulds.’ I accepted them as my rules somewhere on my journey. But I am changing the game and I am making new rules. I have come to believe that if I lead a more simple life, I can do what I feel called to do, and that is to inspire others through writing and speaking.

These words are a huge reason for me wanting to slow down and detach from materialistic items. I wanted the time and space to write. So, here I am, struggling to decompress, but believing that by sharing these words, I will begin to let go of attachment and sink more into being detached.

Breathe and be. My motto for today.

I am very grateful that you have taken a few minutes to walk with me on this journey, even though I am not sure where this path is heading. I appreciate the company. It gets lonely sometimes.

Originally published at medium.com