A few years ago, I watched a TED talk about a guy who gave away all of his stuff, moved to Montana and got happy.
He felt rich and full and complete, and I just stared at the screen, at this man with his black tee and perfectly distressed jeans, with that full head of untamed hair, and I thought, hey, that’s it? That’s what I need to do? Sign me up.
So I tried, on a smaller scale. I gave away 80% of my wardrobe. I began removing the toxins from my home. I cut sugar and alcohol from my diet. I loaded bags and bags of stuff – beach sandals and spare sheets and that vase I couldn’t resist from the Target clearance aisle – and I hauled them in my minivan to the local thrift store.
My calendar, too, shifted to prioritize fewer things: family, service and love. I declined opportunities that didn’t align with my new goals. I said “No” when I used to say “Yes.”
It was a season of rich pruning, and with every pruning comes a fair bit of growth. But, unlike the Montana man, I did not get happy.
What I did get was a book deal.
The book I wanted to write is the Montana man’s story, of course. It’s a better story. There’s a clear beginning, middle and end, and who doesn’t love a protagonist that rises above a sea of stuff to frolic unchained in the middle of the Helena mountain range?
But that is not my story. My story is more than likely the same as your story: a clear beginning, and a murky middle, and then a new beginning again. A slow crawl back to the middle, a few inches closer to the goal, then another misstep right back to where I began.
It’s a story of relearning.
I’ll bet the Montana man didn’t slip up from a minimalist streak and impulse buy a steam cleaner from HSN (only $79.99!) just a few days before his manuscript was due.
(Really, though, you should see what this thing does to grease stains.)
This book is about slowing down, about stripping the excess, about refusing to amass in a world that shouts for more.
But it’s also about the inbetween. It’s about what it’s like to vacillate between different parts of yourself and not dizzy your mind from the whiplash. It’s about living in the tilt a whirl that is standing up for something, then losing focus and vomiting over the handrails. It’s about staking a claim into the ground, then tripping over it on your way into the house for dinner. It’s about what happens when you strive for excellence and fail, and when you allow grace to change your mind.
It’s a story of less, to be fair.
But it’s also a story of much, much more.
The Montana man’s story is a good one. He’s got great hair, and a tidy life, and you can’t beat a mountain view the opportunity to see the world from the peaks.
But me? Well, I suppose I’ve always been more of a valley girl.
p.s. I returned the steam cleaner. It didn’t do a thing for grease stains.