Yep, I Kiss and Tell, Honey (Keeping It Sweet and Simple, I Mean). On Simplicity.

There are things you should know about me: I don’t have an Iphone or an Ipad; I don’t have a car anymore; I don’t have a credit card or a microwave oven either. In fact, I don’t own things most people around me have. Yet I’m fine with it. So fine with it.

My ex-husband once lamented on a former matinee idol here who had died with only his clothes as his remaining possessions. My only response then was “Oh…”  But a few days of ruminating on it made me wrap up with the question: What could be so wrong about dying without leaving a wealth of material things behind?

I started simplifying in my early 30s when I chanced upon the bestseller “Living A Simple Life” by Elaine St. James inside a bookstore. Hence, my journey to the wonderful land of simplicity commenced. Most of the books on the said virtue were written by people at least two decades older than me. I feel fortunate I’ve learned the lesson at an earlier stage. I can’t praise the worthiness of leading a simple life enough. Or is it the ascetic soul in me that makes it possible for me to have this kind of appreciation – despite lacking in the latest of worldly goods?

simple living

My main full-time job isn’t stressful; I hope to hold only a single job soon. Through the years, I’ve purged my stuff like the world has never seen, and I continue to declutter my living space every now and then. In my country, middle-class families normally hire housemaids or helpers. I don’t. Keeping a stranger in my house for the purpose of having somebody to clean and run errands has always been an uncomfortable set-up for me.

I’ve never been crazy about high-priced jewelry and accessories – so I’ve got none. Unwanted gifts given to me must go (Sorry to say). I don’t mind eating the same food repeatedly – and I ain’t a picky eater. I also choose carefully the people I spend time with now.

The most challenging of all is keeping an eye over my emotions – which I somehow have been able to manage. Thankfully. Nothing is more off-putting than witnessing people already in their forties still earnestly seeking validation from others. I hate complications of the heart…

At times I believe I may be overdoing things in my resolve to simplify my life. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is short. Besides, I’ve always lived by my rules.

woman on grass

Let me share to you a few of my most favorite simplicity tips. They may be extreme, yet highly effective:

1. Don’t organize the clutter, get rid of it. Elimination does its own reorganization; and by George, you gotta be ruthless. Don’t keep anything you don’t love or need. This is especially tough for me because I’m sentimental. Look above and you’ll even see the word sentiment up there as my blog title. But remember: Physical clutter generates emotional clutter. If neatness is your thing, giving and throwing away stuff help you achieve neatness more easily. Order cannot happen when you have too much of anything. In case you start regretting or missing something you’ve already discarded: Don’t despair – you will survive.

2. Cut down on TV. My mother was aghast upon learning I don’t watch TV anymore. “How boring your life must be these days!” Which made me nearly blurt out, “Spending your whole day in front of the boob tube watching stupid telenovelas, like what you do, is what’s really boring, mom.”  I was glad I held my tongue.

3. Get rid of impulse purchases. Think before you buy. Be discriminating as to what you welcome into your life. Every little thing that enters your house gets to be your responsibility – which you must either clean or dust. Please don’t spend your precious time cleaning and arranging clutter. Have second thoughts about making a collection of whatever.

4. Do one thing at a time. Multitasking was something I could be good at as a former pencil pusher. Until I was introduced to the richness of soaking pleasure from doing a single task at one time mindfully – with full attention and to the best of one’s ability.

5. We can all live on less. Really. We don’t need to camouflage our lives with so much. We could even enhance our existence if we had less. Some people might think I’m denying myself of the great stuff life offers. The way I see it,  I’m actually banishing what doesn’t give me authenticity and genuine joy.

simpleimage2

I have started an affair with the lovely concept of things that embody space not too long ago. Anything airy or spacious, anything open; matters that signify freedom appeal to me. Plus the sense of control over my life has become more definite as I aim to give my surroundings and the beauty of nature more than a passing glance.

It’s compelling to recognize as well that living with awareness is not about continuously judging the feelings our essence inevitably catches. It means it is only normal and even healthy to feel sadness at different points of our lives.

Life becomes eminently easier when we lighten up, too. There’s no need to embroil ourselves in unnecessary battles – within ourselves or with others. Because simplicity culminates in tolerance…allowing other people to be just the way they are.

flowers

My philosophy may not be ideal to a family with more than three kids. But at least they can try doing their best to prevent overwhelming themselves with unimportant matters. I remember how my mom and sister – who are so much into impressing people (people they don’t even like) with their belongings – have wrinkled their noses on my lifestyle choice. Not many people in my society could acknowledge or comprehend the value of living a simple life. The majority would always want the speediest, the biggest, the trendiest, the poshest of whatever. Yet the thrill of such remains evanescent. Go ahead. Ask the rich ones if that ain’t true.

You might wonder: If I’m not into stuff, then what makes me happy?

Please check out my new page here that speaks of things my spirit has raved about. In-love-with-life

The simpler my life gets, the happier I become. Try decluttering, downsizing, simplifying. It could be what your soul is aching for. Who knows, you might end up really really liking it.

simpleimage

Advertisements

April Babe Musings (Asking for A Little More from Life)

Results of the Social Weather Survey on Life Satisfaction were published in the newspaper Businessworld yesterday. It says 81% of Filipinos are satisfied with their lives. Of the 81%, 33% are “very satisfied” and 48% “fairly satisfied.” On the other hand, 14% said they were “not very satisfied” with their lives, while only 5% were not at all satisfied.

My students who come from a prosperous Asian nation, with high dissatisfaction quotient and alarming suicide rate, constantly marvel at how Filipinos can afford to be happy, satisfied, and kind despite our lack of material wealth. They subsequently ask me how we are able to arrive at such a degree of genial disposition in a bit of relaxed demeanor. Truthfully, even I get bemused as to the possible explanations available. So I’ve done a little reading for verification and ruminated on a few realities to be able to answer their question.

Money is essential to our well-being – we don’t deny that – although we can very well manage to be in good spirits without it. There’s this Filipino mentality: “As long as loved ones are together, it matters little what kind of food is served on the table.” Nothing could be truer than that. It’s just the way it is here. We learn to get by with unanswered prayers. We soldier on in the face of pain and poverty. Yes, slum areas proliferate in our every city but rarely will you notice scowls on faces among the residents there. Why? Acceptance is worth embracing for the majority of us. Flexibility is another prime element. Toss us in any part of the globe and you’d be amazed by how willing we are to endure anything for the sake of survival. It surprises me as well how psychotherapy is not that popular a remedy in our country because we simply turn to family and friends for the airing of our inner disturbances.

Make no mistake though: We surely are gonna be happier with enough money. Or more than enough of it (I guess). At least I am.

*****

My Life Satisfaction: Not easy to contemplate on after having gone through my most devastating loss early this year. But barring my recent circumstances, these questions must be answered honestly:

Q: Am I satisfied with my life?

A: Yes, contented (they’re similar I suppose?), too.

Q: Am I happy?

A: Most of the time, in fact.

Thinking carefully about it, what is there not to be pleased about?

My life is not without blemishes though. My son and I could highly sense that we disappoint each other from time to time. It’s a constant struggle the two of us face – just like in most parent-child relationships (if we all are going to be honest about it). He’s nevertheless aware he is my true reason for living.

These days, my son is glad to see me dancing and doing sit-ups again. He could only exhale in relief considering how two months ago he had voiced his concern to my mom and sister of my severe grief for the loss of my Dearest One. Maybe I owe him an apology for letting him see me feeling so helpless and in despair during those critical times. The despondence over my loss is something I now have to live with, which I try hard not to harbour – because every time I do, or for every moment that I remember my Dearest One, I still die a little. More than a little, to be precise.

photo6

I just had a haircut, by the way, which means I am currently sporting shorter hair. I had originally intended having a haircut last January. Love how I feel about my hair now since I’ve worn it long for several years.

Reading has been saving my life for as long as I could remember. Reading and music and nature. And more recently, writing. That is why blogging is one of the best things that ever happened to me. My work has given me structure and pleasure, too. I am an ESL instructor on weekdays and at the same time an online lottery agent who has to generate computer tickets for bettors every Sunday (my operator’s day-off). That has been basically my life for six long years. I must be thankful for having these jobs – considering the never-ending grim state of our economy and the high unemployment stats; not to mention job opportunities for someone at my age are getting more and more scarce. Yet there’s this undeniable truth I got trapped in this cycle for so long. As a result, my attention and energy had been snatched away, which I should have had in the first place bestowed upon the people I’ve treasured my whole life. The few people who truly matter to me.

However, it’s too late for regrets. The business of living is what all of us must get on.

14772_10200636670064057_310383308_n[2]Traveling is one my remaining aims in life. How I long to be able to see the wonderful sights in Italy, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S – so I’m gunning for sufficient funds for my probable trips to them in the near future. There’s also this wish that I’d somehow manage to find new friends who do share my interests and are on the same intellectual level with me. Friends who are not into any religious cult; are not into watching telenovelas; are not into the latest gadgets (Filipinos are crazy about the latest cellphones and texting, gotta admit that); most importantly, friends who don’t believe in, omg, ghosts and UFOs! I don’t want to sound smug or a snob but rarely can I find people here, er, cannier than me. And I’m not even smart or intelligent. Now how do I reconcile that? 🙂

I’ve been visiting You Tube recently. So delighted to have found this song which I haven’t heard for decades. When I was 10 years old, my favourite playmate and I would go over the many cassette tapes of his Dad -who happened to be an American- in their living room and we always ended up choosing this particular classic. He, with his light brown hair and skin fairer than mine, and I would sing our hearts out with this breezy song on our bright summer days. Definitely one of my unforgettable and charming memories.

Man, why don’t they make songs like this anymore.

********

Baby, baby, falling in love
I’ve fallen’ in love again
Baby, baby, falling in love
I’ve fallen’ in love again

You and me for eternity, in love, we’ll always be
Young and free and naturally the way it’s got to be

-Fallin In Love by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds 

Sensibility As A Culmination Of Simplicity

**Note : This blog post is a revision of the one I originally posted a year ago entitled “To Simplify A Life Like Mine.” **

—–

Juggling two jobs for the last six years, I might not be the perfect embodiment for this subject, although I seem to be the kind of person who naturally or effortlessly falls into an austere lifestyle – more often than other people. I don’t know the exact reason why.

 Last weekend, I browsed inside a bookstore for several hours and spent a whole day’s salary to buy a Jorge Luis Borges’ classic. Such indulgence has become one of my definitions of time and money well-spent.  I have learned to exercise my privilege to yield to activities and things that inspire me – as my wisdom nowadays gets dictated by the simple pleasures I seek and perceive. But I’m aware as well it’s not what “normal” people do here, especially on a weekend.

There always has existed an ascetic soul hiding beneath me. The soul who has imagined of a charming place where I could be in the company of bohemian artists roaming around…preferably of starving bohemians who possess the mark of natural simpleness that renders good art possible. Where there’s lovely, spacious room to create and flourish. With ample time to dream. By splendid fools forever eager of fresh beginnings.

In my past, I have inevitably walked through the valleys of cosmopolitan wants and delights. Forbearance on shopping and consumerism wasn’t one of my strong suits in my earlier years – notwithstanding my lack of funds. Alas, the stuff that piled up went on to clutter my already disorderly younger mind whilst gathering dust – which I’ve perpetually disliked – inside my residence. So my mantra, when tempted by mall or store sales these days is: Abstain from collecting stuff if you don’t want to accumulate dust.

We know excessive stuff leads to chaos, and chaos derails progress. Learning my lesson well, becoming a “minimalist” has become a highly appealing concept for me in my 30s. I have not since wanted to go back to my previous lifestyle – now that I’ve reached my 40s. Really, what a gift it is to have freedom from possessions and clutter to be able to focus on the things that really matter in our daily lives. I’ve never been comfortable dealing with any kind of complications in my life anyway. Never had a desire to impress people with worldly goods as well. I’m of the belief a simple life bears no relation to the richness of your mind or personality for as long as you don’t lose that appetite for the sublime things in life.

With simplicity, you step into calm and beauty. You get to treat lonesome quiet as a friend, not as an enemy. It’s a ray of truth in my life; for my kind who guards space and privacy with relish and delight. With only one child to raise, it could have afforded me better chances to rediscover wonder in a different light. 

Most people would take a long while to come to this notion. After all, what’s thrilling about simplicity, structure and the ordinary? Or maybe it comes with maturity, even though I keep on witnessing how some “matured” people have remained trapped in their ethos of materialism. It’s true, simplifying or downsizing is still considered off the wall within the parameters of my society. We all know it is plain pointless to ram a lifestyle down anyone’s throat. And I’m saying this out of my apprehension that I might be accused of promoting a run-of-the-mill existence to anyone who’s capable of comprehending my way of life.

house photo

Try not to wince as I describe the present interiors of my tiny apartment – where you can find only the bare necessities of standard living: a refrigerator, a washing machine, two beds (I live with my son), a couple of medium-sized cabinets, a dresser, and an oven. My dining table and chairs are even foldable so they won’t take considerable space (Can’t risk taking on a single sofa. I’ve a cat. Visitors also sit on chairs). A television set? Sure I’ve got one (a very old model by the way). But it rarely gets turned on – and I’m not blowing smoke up anyone’s ass by saying that – because my son and I are truly non-TV citizens around here. Ditto for owning expensive jewelry, clothes, accessories and whatnot which never was my style. Admittedly though, my battle remains with the plentiful of outgrown reading materials that I need to discard.

Travelling with heavy luggage is a no-no for me. And do hold your breath for this: I haven’t had a car for years now. I gave my last vehicle – which by the way had given me supreme hassles – to my sister in exchange for the rent-free abode she has let me enjoyed for so long (Yes, she owns my current digs. And of course she sold the car). Which means I’ve no problem being a jeepney rider all the time.  

Indeed I walk my talk – for the single reason that I am contented despite the dearth of luxuries in my present existence. I ain’t complaining at all.

Sensibility is the culmination of simplicity in the art of daily living. How I believe that.

Great people can alter their lives at will so they can better make clear and rational choices about the substance and direction of their lives. It’s not like I’m a great person – albeit I wish I were. So perhaps I’ll try to be one?

Or maybe I just was really a monk in a previous life.

Not that bad an idea.

——

                                            

Solitude On My Own Terms

Warm on the heels of famous women and their recent breakdowns, Demi  and Heather were the “It” girls of my generation who were both destined to become eternally cute and popular. Having been casualties of humiliating divorces, they’re also now both enduring the ruthless passage of time. Recently pegged as poor little rich women who’ve somehow lost their way, many have slammed them for being spoiled by their wealth and fame that they couldn’t deal with their current mid-life crisis like the rest of us.

How good can people get sometimes at creating a smokescreen that obscures their true feelings and plights?

The inclination of these hapless celebrities to succumb to drugs and alcohol has puzzled me for too long. What really drives them to give in to such pernicious temptations? Has their pain become unbearable, resulting to their inevitable free fall into the abyss that culminated in their self-destruction?

I’m in no position to cast stones at anyone this time as I have a gentle understanding of what these people have gone through. Melodramatic as it may sound, I too know what real pain feels like. The sickening ache that I’m sure can overwhelm even the strongest of hearts. How many times have I skirted on the very edges of despair when this soul of mine felt like crying out loud in the rain?

More than I’m willing to admit, I guess.

I don’t remember ever inviting drama into my life and yet it has come like a cat that has sprung unbidden onto my lap. Then there had been moments when certain kinds of melancholy or some sense of emptiness would creep in like a mysterious stranger in the middle of the night, and the only sensible way out was for me to relearn how to sail through the rough seas.

Growing up and even now that I’m an adult, I’ve always felt like an outcast. Exactly much the same as the eternal wallflower that prides itself on contemplating the paradigms of its existence, while possessing a pleasant awareness of an alternative route to an imagined realm at liberty from all things mundane.

Music, movies, literature, art, nature… They’re the outlines that characterize the wonderful breadth of my solitary world. The best friends I’ve had for so long. Even the stark beauty I find in the heart of loneliness has not shown any signs of fading.

Alone with my thoughts, I could conjure up happiness every now and then, muse on some lonesome episodes from my past, and in all its glory bring back the dead and gone..

Worlds might have come crashing down and prayers remained unanswered. I, who have gone off the deep end in certain unrelenting personal winters of my life, am still determined to tough it out.

As we’ve no choice but to soldier on.

I remember how my father, who had sensed my predicaments in his earlier ailing years, had told me these exact words with a smile, “Even if I want to, I can’t get too worried about you. You’re the true-blooded daughter of mine who can easily discern the correct path and decide on the right thing to do. You’ve always been strong.”

Oh dear father… if you only knew…

To Simplify A Life Like Mine

Long long ago, like any other twenty-something, I was trapped in the ethos of materialism. Accumulating unnecessary stuff which I had mistaken as a prerequisite for my own supposed state of euphoria got a little out of control. And even if I was already aware of my corporeal inclinations, I couldn’t stop collecting anything that caught my fancy at stores or from my relatives’ hand-me -downs. Notwithstanding my lack of funds, forbearance on shopping wasn’t one of my strong suits either. Eventually, all the stuff that piled up went on to clutter my already disorderly younger mind whilst gathering dust inside my house.

Learning my lesson well, becoming a dyed-in-the-wool minimalist has become a top priority for me which makes a whole world of difference now. The realization that I can be contented even without a car or a big home with fancy furnishings is quite liberating. I don’t know. If I were rich, would I be singing a different tune? One thing you should know about me, I’m not sure if I can handle the trappings of material wealth. I’ve never been comfortable dealing with any kind of complications in my life anyway.

A simple life isn’t for everyone. Most people might take a long while to come to the idea and it’s especially considered off the wall within the parameters of my society. Whenever I pass on this particular wisdom to people of this gen Y and even to some older folks here, they look at me as though I’ve just arrived from another dimension. I guess it is always pointless ramming a lifestyle down anyone’s throat.

Walk my talk. So if you peek inside my tiny apartment, you can find only the bare necessities. A refrigerator, a washing machine, two beds (I live with my son), a couple of cabinets and an oven. My dining table and chairs are even foldable so they won’t take considerable space. A television set? Sure I’ve got one (a very old model by the way). But it never gets turned on. And I’m not blowing smoke up anyone’s ass by saying that because my son and I are truly non-TV citizens around here. Owning expensive jewelry, clothes, accessories and whatnot was never my style. I’d rather spend my money inside a bookstore on reading materials that interest me. One thing I can’t live without though in these times is my netbook. Yep, I don’t wish for an Ipad or the latest in cell phones. What I simply need is just a portable computer for perusing internet materials, storing information and of course, writing (I could only work with the traditional keyboard, not the touchscreen kind).

I’m of the belief a Spartan life bears no relation to the richness of your mind or personality as long as you don’t lose that appetite for the sublime things in life. I say this out of my apprehension that I just might be accused of promoting a run of the mill existence. Guilty or not, rest assured, the greatest reward of downsizing is the liberty it will bestow upon you. Freedom from possessions and clutter to be able to focus on the things that really matter to you. Now if you’re gonna tell me that owning a lot of fancy things is your cup of tea, I can’t help you much and you should stop reading this at once.

When it comes to becoming an emotional minimalist, umm, that is another story. I’m at an age where melancholy and rapture can coexist peacefully inside of me. I may be a tough nut to crack and yet I’d be the first to run for cover when confronted with strong messy feelings. Attachment can likewise be my downfall anytime of the day. But as I told you, I’m a never ending work-in-progress so maybe there’s still hope for this old soul of mine.

This is gonna be controversial, but barring people from my life who make me miserable helps immensely. Sometimes, I’m left with no other choice. Sure I get lonely for doing that, although the painful process has somehow given me more clarity and purity on who I am and what I really want out of my existence.

Great people can change their lives at will so they can better make clear and rational choices about the substance and direction of their lives. It’s not like I’m a great person albeit I wish I were. So perhaps I’ll try to be one.

And you know what? Simplifying my life actually makes me feel like I’m bound for the stars. Can there be anything more awesome than that?