An Overdue Update

Apologies! I’ve been tardy again with my blog updates. It’s been a mad, mad, mad, mad world over here in Melanie-Land lately. But lots of good is growing, and progress is being made. I have made some new decisions, put some plans in action and am feeling really happy about where I’m heading. In fact, as is my wont, it’s a challenge to temper my impatience, and to enjoy the journey of the process of making these new dreams happen. More on the bigger news later in this post. For now, let’s do a check-in with the annual experiments (resolutions), shall we?

So, I’ve managed to make a dent in the creativity department (Experiment no. 9). A friend asked me to help do the costuming for a short film she’s directing. I was tempted to say no, as I wasn’t sure how much time I had to offer, and the thought filled me with a fearful resistance. It was that resistance that motivated me to say yes. And I am so glad I did. So far, it’s been a fun ride. Thankfully my friend is very flexible with how much time I need to offer to the project. And it turns out I’ve been able to do a little more than I expected. The most fun part has been coming up with some headpieces for a fancy dress sequence in which several characters dress up as playing deck face cards. I’ve cajoled my imagination to come up with the construction of a crown for the King of Diamonds, a crown for the Queen of Hearts, and a fascinator hat for the Queen of Clubs. (The latter two finding completion thanks to some much-appreciated collaboration with my friend. Thanks, M!) This is a very low budget kind of gig, and I am pretty proud of the work we’ve managed to pull together. Here’s to doing things that scare me, and having an awesome time!  (Photos will be posted once the pieces are finished and are all in one place.)

Since my last entry, I’ve celebrated another holiday on the Wheel of the Year (Experiment no. 1). Ostara, or the Vernal Equinox, took place on 21 March. I fell short in that I didn’t get around to writing about it, but I’m most concerned with the actual celebration itself, so I don’t feel too badly about that fail.

I’ve been doing a ton of work on Experiment no. 12: Find ways to reduce consumption, and, therefore, cost of living. I’ve been reading hundreds of articles on the subject, and gleaning lots of great information and good tips. I’ve already whittled my budget down by $63/month. (I hope to write more about that process in an upcoming post.) And soon, I’ll be moving into a new home which will save me $300/month. (Added bonus: I’ll have pool access. Yeah!) I’m going to keep making cuts where I can. I am still trying to whittle my grocery budget. It’s getting there, but still wants some improving. I’ve been putting $40/month into savings via automatic draft, which I plan to increase to $80/month as soon as I’m over my big tax payment hurdle this month. Then, it’s all about paying off debts as I continue to implement frugality practices.

In a similar vein, I’m really making strides towards full-on minimalism. I’ve been purging my belongings and selling what I can, then donating the rest. I’m on Purge Round 3 right now, which consists of some of my larger furniture pieces. This will be followed by Purge Round 4 which will have me closely analyzing how much I actually need to hold on to a lot of the baubles and trinkets I inherited from my grandparents. I imagine that round will be met with much internal debate and a great deal of emotion, but I think I am finally ready to let go of a lot of that stuff. I have to remind myself that it’s my memories of my grandparents that connect me with their spirit, not the stuff they left behind.

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So, that’s the resolution progress report. But … speaking of minimalism brings me to those new dreams that I mentioned earlier. Let’s talk about the new stuff now.

Part of this new stuff is a reclaiming of my inner athlete. I’m finally getting of my arse and working my body seriously. Three days a week I’m attending Mysore Ashtanga practice.

photo courtesy of Steve Clarke
photo courtesy of Steve Clarke

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with Asthanga Yoga, it is a very physically demanding practice. It’s another of those things that I had been irrationally resistant to for quite a while, but finally forced myself to get over it and show up for class.) As I become more comfortable with the work, I intend to practice on my own on the mornings I’m not in the studio. In addition to the yoga, two days a week I am getting into the woods for a hike. I try to choose fairly challenging hikes and really push myself as I’m moving. Then once or twice a week I’ll slip to the gym in my building for 45 minutes of walk/jogging on the treadmill. Eventually, I’m hoping this will be jogging outside, but I’ve had some running injuries in the past, so I’m trying to really take my time and be careful building my endurance slowly. I’ve also started a 100 squats a day 30-day challenge. I started it yesterday. It’s harder than it seems. Try it! Let’s commiserate! It’s my hope that by the time I’m in the new home I’ll be practicing Ashtanga every morning and then doing an afternoon activity (jogging/hiking/biking) plus squatting every day. I may choose to take one day off a week for a rest day, but we’ll see how it plays out, and make that decision later. Right now, it’s all about just getting my body moving and sweating!

The bigger piece of the new dream is a bit more dramatic. Though, if you’ve known me for any length of time, you will likely not find it too shocking. I’m really feeling drawn to the van dwelling lifestyle. Yep. It’s what it sounds like: Van dwelling is living in a van full-time. It seems I’ve been working up to this for years. When I was a kid, my dad owned a Chevy van. It was awesome, and we took fun trips in it. In my 20s, I drove a vintage VW campervan for several years. Sadly, I never took full advantage of the awesomeness of the Dreamsicle, but she was a fun ride, nonetheless. In my 30s, I sold my house and most of my belongings, bought an Airstream Argosy travel trailer and lived in it for the better part of a year. (While I loved the camper, I didn’t have a vehicle to tow it, and I decided I wanted to travel internationally rather than continue living in a rootbound camper.) So, now it’s time to refine this dream of combining my continual wanderlust with my growing attraction to minimalism. Van dwelling seems the natural progression. I cannot even begin to convey how excited I am to make this dream a reality. I know that it will be challenging in many ways, but ultimately, I believe that I will gain so much in the way of joy and authentic living, and that those challenges will only add to the seasoning of my life’s experience. I’m not sure when it will all go down. It’s my priority to get myself out of debt again before jumping into the additional debt that will likely be born with such a project. But I’m also hoping to keep it as simple and inexpensive as possible so that I can make this dream a reality sooner than later. In a perfect world, I will have already purchased a van and tricked it out enough to live in it – even if in the simplest of fashions – by the end of November. But, this world is not always perfect, so we’ll just have to wait and see. As I mentioned earlier, I am trying to really take things moment by moment and to do some practical planning to make this a lasting investment. I don’t want to rush in like I usually do and not get what I really want because I’m too impatient to wait for the right circumstances to come about. Practicality can be sexy sometimes. And this is one of those times.

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So, that’s my update. It feels somehow oddly appropriate that I’m writing this on my birthday. At the beach. I took a little solo mini holiday just so I could celebrate my Self and recharge in the salty sea air. I’ve had a pretty challenging couple of weeks in which I have been really chasing the dragon of food cravings, coming face to face with some very uncomfortable truths about my relationships with food, consolation and will power. I figured Sister Sea would help to get me find my way back to my Self. Here’s hoping. I was going to make this my solo camping trip (Experiment no. 2), but the campground was booked up for the holiday weekend by the time I got around to calling. That’s okay, though. That just means I’ll have to plan another camping trip, and I’m more than okay with that.

sunrise on the beach
a beautiful sunrise at Kure Beach, North Carolina (2015)

Have you been making any progress (or regress) with your annual experiments? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me your updates in the comments section below! Until next time, beautiful people…