(don’t forget to scroll down to view a video I chose to go with today’s blog)
When it all really comes down to it, we are simply animals that can reason and communicate in more complex ways. Many people in modern times use examples from far in the past to solve problems that plague us today. I have heard people talk about the “paleo” diet and workout routine that mimics the ways man (and woman) used to eat and exercise in prehistory. I like to use an example like this to describe how a person with a mental illness should look at stress and work. According to the ‘paleo’ system, we once foraged and sometimes hunted for food to sustain ourselves and our families. We were never hard-wired to sit at a computer terminal or a factory floor spending many hours a day inactive but producing what society deems to be a worthwhile contribution. What if we change the way we consume things and get a chance to step out of this rat-race? I think that our far off descendants didn’t try and hoard up all kinds of possessions, they didn’t assign permanent ownership over the caves or the other places they lived. They migrated with the flora and fauna that sustained them. I like the line from an 80’s movie (Crocodile Dundee I think) that said aboriginals think that to try and own a country is ridiculous, that it is like two flies arguing over who owns the dog they live on.
All this may seem like rambling, but I am getting somewhere with this. Recently, I watched a number of videos about these two men who call themselves minimalists. I had encountered a number of people who believed in this philosophy and it intrigues me because I have always admired monks, be they Buddhist or Catholic. I feel that if one is able to free themselves from the pursuit of vain possessions and live in the simplest way possible, it opens the mind to a type of understanding, knowledge, and spirituality that lifts them out of the world of stress and troubles that get in the way of these things.
This minimalism is fascinating. These men say you need to take a long, hard look at everything you own, everything you hold onto, and give away, sell or donate everything that doesn’t give you real pleasure. I went through something like this about 16 years ago when I left the hospital after a six-month stay. I had lost my apartment and all of my stuff was in storage. After a couple of years of paying for this storage, I realized that nothing I had accumulated over the years was in any way useful to me. If I wanted to read a book I could get any book I wanted from a library. There was no point in keeping all of those things, from old toys that gave me some nostalgic feelings but were essentially worthless to papers I had saved for years with horrible poetry on them I wanted to forget. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep up with that effort to get rid of everything I didn’t need and soon accumulated even more stuff. I’ve gone through a few binges and purges of accumulating and getting rid of things. But basically, it seems the way it works is to look at it like this: I am a person with a mental illness. I don’t cope well with stress. I get a lot of stress from working. I have to continue to work a difficult job to make more money to buy more things that I don’t really need. The solution? I have found part-time jobs that bring in just a little money, and I have decided to stop buying more things and set my schedule at a maximum of three hours a day of work, four days a week. I fill the extra time with exercise, swimming, long walks, trips to the park to take pictures of birds and my writing. I can’t say I have gotten rid of all the junk, but I am progressing. I can’t say I feel 100% better because I still have a mental illness that won’t go away. But I am finding that life is getting better for me, simplifying things has already begun to make me feel happier. I may never go back to full-time work. I may never own a big house or have a big bank account, but I just may achieve what those things are meant to give a person, satisfaction, and happiness. I will keep you updated!