Good times with great people are a gift. When I reflect over the past year or so, my two favorite memories are of a Paul McCartney concert I attended with my son and running the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco with my love.
True bliss. Living and loving in the present moment. I felt free, strong and hopeful. I treasure those feelings and connections more than any physical possession.
Perhaps I feel young at 50 because I am a late bloomer. I did not learn to love and truly respect myself until I was in my forties. This journey took place as I was adjusting to life alone after divorce. I was also beginning to learn about and embrace minimalism, and had created a peaceful, soothing living space.
I was engaged in a process of self-discovery, identifying what I value and what I enjoy. I began to meet and reconnect with friends who shared my interests. I began to long for a healthy romantic relationship.
I met the love of my life at a time when I was whole and happy. I was comfortable being alone and was reaching out for a relationship as a way to enhance my life.
Our first meeting was at Starbucks. He ordered an iced mocha; I ordered a strawberry smoothie. We chatted for the hour we were able to arrange to be away from our respective children. We were mutually attracted to one another and experiencing that jittery start of a new romance. Shortly after, literally a few minutes, he invited me on a date.
Our first date was the best first date of all time. We had originally planned on dinner, and then he wrote and asked if I would like to go biking instead. Of course, I would rather go biking! It was awesome. We did a 40-mile rail trail, which gave us an opportunity to get to know each other in a beautiful setting while being real: out of breath, sweating, struggling, etc. After the ride we went for drinks (in our sweaty clothes), then to dinner; it was a 12-hour first date! Things have been magical ever since.
Minimalism and Relationships
Minimalism has helped me to release painful memories and replace that space with openness to new relationships and experiences. Here are a few minimalist lessons I have learned about relationships.
1. Let go.
Societal expectations about marriage and family can be overwhelming. Having struggled and failed in these endeavors, I have experienced feelings of heartbreak, loneliness, worthlessness and shame. The path to self-acceptance was challenging.
I had to learn to let go of the past. I acknowledged my poor choices and decisions. I moved forward with the insight those experiences had given me. I forgave. I recognize worry and do my best to release it. This is an ongoing process and requires awareness and effort.
Decluttering my belongings and releasing the attached memories helped me to declutter my mind and heal my heart.
2. Less is more.
I learned to stop surrounding myself with empty or superficial relationships in an effort to avoid loneliness. Those of us who have been divorced hold on to even fewer friends over the years due to awkwardness and social pressures. True friends, who were patient and loving, along with a good therapist were invaluable to me. I treasure the few friendships that have endured over time.
I eventually became more concerned about how I felt than how I appeared to others. Minimalism helped me to shed the layers, both physically in clothing and belongings, and emotionally in being stuck in the past and wrestling with guilt and painful memories.
3. Be real.
Minimalism means authenticity over image. I am happy to have reached a point in my life where I am being true to myself. I believe I have become a more genuine, confident and attractive person. I do not project an image, I show up.
My love and I share experiences of divorce and its aftermath. We began our relationship with our cards on the table. Having both been judged harshly, we refrained from judging one another. We accepted one another, including past behaviors and choices, and dealt with residual pain.
This unconditional love and understanding is what provides our strength as a couple. We had common ground and empathy for one another from day one. We help each other with parenting challenges and negotiations with exes. We do our best to avoid drama and games.
4. Live in the present.
Our relationship has deepened over time, and we recently moved in together and experienced the process of merging our belongings. We gave away or tossed items that do not serve a purpose in our life together. On more than one occasion, we encountered what seemed an innocuous item such as a mug or a book or a piece of art, and realized the memories attached from previous relationships can be damaging. We now are making new memories with our everyday items, like the fancy toaster we purchased together and use every weekend.
It was healing and cleansing to let go of items linked to past relationships in order to start fresh. We both work at releasing the past and focusing on the present. Connecting in meaningful ways is much easier when we have less belongings to weigh us down.
We continue to make choices based on relationships and experiences over things. We set goals around traveling to destinations we want to explore and athletic accomplishments we aim to achieve. We spend little time making purchases or organizing belongings because we have what we need. We enjoy our life together day by day.