She Kept Her Swimsuits

I write this post in honor of of one of my aunties. A caveat for my cousins reading this, I may not have all of the facts correct. My memory and my impressions of my auntie and how she lived her life may not have been based in fact at all. I saw her as someone who lived large and unapologetically and she inspired a lot of my downsizing. She got to a certain age and decided to take off for the states. In my memory of all of her belongings the only thing she kept were her swimsuits because even in her later years she made it a point to swim every day. She ended up finding a tiny furnished apartment on the Gulf of Mexico. She spent many of her last years enjoying time with family, swimming in the Gulf and being happy at the beach, until she returned to Canada for the last part of her life.

Auntie Lenore

Of course, as I shared earlier, my parents were also a significant influence on my life choices today. They showed me I could live in a tiny place in the first place. All of those years of visiting Canada and spending summers in our 100 square foot cabin that I shared with you earlier in this blog. The cousins would come for a visit and somehow magically we would fit everyone in and have a blast. I never thought of us as having a small place. We never owned our humble home in Chicago. It was a parsonage, something that has seem to gone by the wayside and made room for preacher’s mansions and BMW’s. For our family, we couldn’t have been happier growing up in a simpler way.

Nine Of My “Aha” Moments From Downsizing:

  1. Downsizing is a lifelong practice. This was my biggest surprise. I’m still downsizing! I thought that would be a decision, an action and then I’d be done. Nope. Downsizing, I’m learning, is a lifelong practice. So this Pandemic has been perfect as it has made me thouroughly comb through the entire contents of what I have been hauling around with me in my Airstream. I have had nothing but time to reflect on each thing and determine if it really brought me joy? Improving on one practice has me improve on all practices in my life. I am making healthier eating choices. I am hiking four miles every morning. I meditate more and have a stronger relationship with my creator. I am more careful who I let into my life and the quality of my relationships has drastically improved.
  2. It is ok to keep things I still use and slowly use them up. This includes things that I have more than one of like pens, shampoo and makeup products. I’m letting go of clothing that just doesn’t make me smile. And I’m accepting the fact that in the kitchen, I really only use a couple of cookware items for everything I make.
  3. It’s ok to acknowledge my fears but then it’s important to let them go and see what happens. I was hanging on to a bunch of “what ifs?” Somewhere in the back of my mind, having come from a well paying job, a big house and a lot of stuff, I kept the thought, what if I want to go back? What if this is not enough? How could I make some side money if I needed too? I held on to my cosmetics business. I had a full inventory stuffed in the storage compartments in the bedroom. I hung on to some of my favorite teaching items in case I went back to the classroom as a sub, or started my own tutoring business. I had fun with the bartending job and started to hang on to thinking I needed that. But all of these things were actually keeping me from focusing on my version of my auntie’s swimsuits, so, I let go. I feel a lighter each day.
  4. I realized creative outlets were a must. Painting and photography supplies as well as my keyboard were my top things to keep. Nothing else mattered. I can have fun with all of that. People have shown me that I can make a difference with these items both by celebrating the beauty of the world around us, and by challenging thinking on the events of the day. I love making money with my art and realized when I started valuing it myself, I have gotten out of my own way so others can value it too. I am an Artist. Also, even with the Pandemic I have knocked out debt and accumulated savings allowing me to keep pursuing what gives me joy. I’m thrilled to be really in it and excited to see what comes of it all.
  5. I have learned to live with less. Originally I got rid of I would guess 80% of my belongings…. and I don’t miss a single thing. Along the way, as life has changed so has what I keep and what. I continue to downsize. For example I am currently working on photo albums, sending them all to virtual land. I no longer need to lug those around as nobody looks at or shares ones photos that way anymore. Possibly my album that I treasure the most I’ll hang onto a little longer.
  6. It’s ok to bring back things I miss. In my case it was plants and beautiful pots. I know I love them but they don’t travel across borders well, so I have determined I will have them where I base camp, and if I can’t keep them alive, I will gift them and start new each time. Funny thing is I’m right now plant sitting for two different sets of fulltimers who summer up north. I have also gone back to paper books… I love them too much. Both of these give me the perfect gifts to share, and keep me focused on having community in my life.
  7. Beware of “To Do” lists, they are no different than things. Even in traveling it is easy to replace things with things I need to do. I quickly got swamped in making my annual plans, figuring out how to budget as a fulltimer, and technical care of my rigs. So being grounded right now due to the virus has taken all of that away. As soon as I got past the anxiety of all of that time in isolation I realized I was getting another gift, more time to focus on what was really important and question was I headed in the right direction.
  8. My job and other things (including my fancy trailer) are not my identity. I think everyone during this pandemic is learning to appreciate the unappreciated workers who we could not live without, and to care for them as fellow humans. I think on top of that having taken up a few side gigs just to see if I could, a kind of mental financial security that many fulltimers go through, gave me the opportunity to go back to my roots in experiencing work for work sake and how much of a difference we can make in people’s lives just by how we interact with them, no matter what the job title is. All of our jobs are just that, a job. Even in a career where one is passionate about what they are doing, this is such a freeing thing to acknowledge. Traveling in an Airstream, reminded me how quickly we can slip back into labels and titles identifying us.
  9. I downsized my use of time. In my new place of quarrentine, I quickly blew through the internet data available and realized how much time I spend online. Sure I could have bought more usage but I paused to think about it. I took an inventory of how I actually spend my time, and more importantly why. I learned that so much time can be spent doing things to simply not feel what one is in the middle of. Allowing myself to feel the anxiety of an unkown future, the sadness of the deaths of friends from Covid and the loneliness of not being with loved ones, allows me to move past that and get to the here and now.

What if this is the new normal? What if I do have to spend all of my time with myself? I guess its pretty important to maximize loving the time I spend with myself and minimize how much I’m simply checking out or numbing from reality around me. I guess it’s important to feel my feelings and then move on towards joy. And it’s also important to continue being real about what I value in my life. After all, shouldn’t we all be our own best company?

Oh and I, like my aunty, believe keeping a nice collection of swimsuits is pretty valuable too, even if for now I can only use them in my doggie pool. Thanks for following!

2 thoughts on “She Kept Her Swimsuits”

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