I Drank The Self-Improvement Kool-Aid

Over the past two years, I read both of the Marie Kondo books, I listened to hours of The Dave Ramsey Show, and I followed every spoken/written word of The Minimalists. I even went to a Tiny House show at my local convention center.

The Minimalists

I found myself overwhelmed with “stuff” in 2014 when one of my grandmothers died and the other one left her house permanently to move into a nursing home.

After one garage sale and dozens of trips to the thrift store/Salvation Army to donate my “stuff”, I felt like I had more control over my household. My husband had already been a minimalist and his way had rubbed off on me. But I came from a hoarder mother, a lovely woman who is a packrat to the umpth degree.

I have been dissatisified with my career and place of work since 2014, and no amount of Dave Ramsey books read along with my husband or purging of my closet Kondo-style could spark the joy within me. Hell, even weekly weekend trips to the lake to camp in my parents’ RV was just a Band-Aid to the hurt within. While bawling at an Applebee’s one night into my merlot, my husband suggested I go back to school. I nearly cussed him out until he clarified what kind of school, law school.

I enrolled and was accepted in August of 2016 into my 1L year of law school. Three classes a week at night after work has become quite the balancing act. Lest we forget I have a kindergartener, two stepkids, and a household to run (I take care of all the pets, all the time).

But somehow, I’m surviving! It’s all about time management; carving out time for study, compartmentalizing time with friends & family too. I made the Dean’s List my first semester and was inducted into the law school’s Honor Society. All of my professors have told me they believe I have what it takes to pass the bar exam on the first try.

What law school has really taught me, so far, isn’t just torts, civil procedure, and legal writing. I’ve also learned how to improve my mind and my outlook on life. I’ve been a yogi since 1999, and I gave up teaching nighttime yoga classes at the local gym to start law school.

While I’ve been sitting on my ass studying, it makes me long for the rubbery smell of the yoga mat and the heart-pounding, adrenaline rush of a run on the track. I have not neglected these close friends because time management allows me to schedule it in using the appropriate discipline.

Exercise aside, the self-improvement aspect that law school has manifested within me is the ability to talk to people, to listen better, to have more confidence, and to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I will not always be doomed to walk down the halls of an asbestos-filled (I’m assuming) rickety government building to a career that has betrayed me while I’ve outgrown it.

Aside from studying daily for law school courses, I’ve also taken up reading again for pleasure, which was something I did not have time to do my first semester. I’ve gone through a bunch of John Grisham paperbacks and other books that have been collecting dust in my house. Since I’m a reformed hoarder myself (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree), I have looked at the myriad of books I’ve amassed from the thrift store and asked myself the qualifying question: “Does this book add value to my life?”-The Minimalists. Sometimes I ask it the Marie Kondo question: “Does this spark joy?”

I have purged so many books by leaving them at the RV Park’s revolving library and by trying to resell them at 2nd & Charles. There are some books I just ain’t gonna read. Mostly, I have a lot of reference books and nonfiction too, especially yoga-related ones. I have purged a third of my yoga books, kept my favorites on my nightstand, and the other 3rd are upstairs on the bookshelf still.

I did the unthinkable by befriending a law professor. We got to know each other so well in fact, that he gifted me all of his bar-prep books (a HUGE stack of them) and a bar-prep board game as well. I also inherited all of my husband’s old law books (he’s an attorney too), some of which are very outdated but how much does the law really change? I have just accepted the fact that my house will be overflowing with legal books and bar-prep manuals for the next 4 years. Le sigh!

Despite purging books, I have also accepted the fact that I am a DVD junkie. Heck, ya gotta collect something! We have a closet of DVDs, and we actually still watch 95% of them on rotation. They are not collecting dust or wasting space; my family loves movies. If I ever get a tiny house, I will have a storage shed just for movies (and some of my CDs too). And no, I don’t want to put them in the cloud. My son and I like to read the boxes and prioritize them in the order we are going to watch them. Plus I loan out movies to my family and friends.

Marie Kondo

Next, I have pared down my closet so much in the past two years, it’s like I am finally starting to get a capsule wardrobe. I stick with classic pieces in black, gray, navy, white, and occasionally red. I am loyal to brands that fit well and last for decades like LL Bean, Lululemon (more on them later), and Lilly Pullitzer. My law school classmates and I once discussed how we have culled a “uniform” to one day wear once we practice law. I’m trying to evolve my uniform now to wear to the job that I’m hanging onto as sort of a paid internship (it sounds better in my head). If something is ugly, I purge it. If it’s too boob-tight, it gets tossed too. My household has a rotating purge box designated for charity donation.

My mom has gotten better lately and is no longer a hoarder; I’d like to think some of my minimalism has rubbed off on her. My dad has never struck me as a pack-rat, which raises the question, Are men just natural-born minimalists? My son deviates from that mold because his room is a constant wreck, overflowing with plastic toys, books, mismatched socks, and costumes. But I learned from The Minimalists that you cannot convert someone to the lifestyle, nor can you purge his/her possessions because that is just plain immoral.

I am praying my dream comes true soon, which is that my husband gets a better paying attorney job that would enable me to quit my day job. Then I can focus on running my household into minimalist shape while being the mom I want to be, and picking up an extra law class. I realize that I cannot will this dream to happen, but the hope of it is keeping my motivation running. I no longer want to be another faceless cog in the wheel of a machine that has destroyed the very kefi (Greek word for joy) of my soul. I long for a simpler life, a life focused on family, academia, and friends.

LULU-Logo-1

Along my intellectual journey,I heard about one of my favorite brands, Lululemon, and what they do to their employees. My first experience with Lululemon was being in Yoga Teacher Training in 2012 wondering why all the rich students were wearing nice clothes and using pretty yoga mats with the Omega Ω symbol on them. By the time I could actually afford to shop there, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the staff was and that I got a Yoga-Teacher discount! Even on clearance! Years later, I’m still using their invincible mats and wearing the same pieces of clothing I bought on day 1. My husband last week read me a Facebook article about Lululemon, which explained how the staff is encouraged to “clear” out negative emotions (much like Scientologists are audited). Lululemoners are required to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” for the pseudo-libertarian philosophies therein on self-improvement. They have sweat-dates where they get to attend workout classes with their coworkers, and their ambitions are fostered, not shut down (like when you work for the government—me).

Last week alone, two of my good friends moved away; one got a job at a prestigious law firm two hours south, and the other was a coworker who was promoted across the state. This left a hole which I soon healed with detachment. I have moved on using the Lululemon method: I talked about my feelings, I worked out, and I started reading “Atlas Shrugged.” Seriously, I bought it yesterday.

So in tying this article together, the point is that I am constantly in a state of self-improvement. I drank the Kool-Aid and am invested in myself. My dreams aren’t met yet, but I’m working on them as a work in progress. My social life is pretty great, hanging out with like-minded law students/people in the legal profession. I still get to see my sorority sisters from college, and I have a cool role in my church. I’m the greeter at the door, but it feels like I’m a bouncer so it’s fun.

If you need anything from me, I will be memorizing laws, reading Randian philosophies and working on my Warrior 2 out in the woods of the RV park. Who is John Galt?

Ayn Rand lululemon bag

__________________________________________________________________The Minimalists

“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time…A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will. Solitude is not measured by the miles of space that intervene between a man and his fellows.”—Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”

 

Catch me on Instagram @yogalawgothygram and Tweet me @marissamacabre

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Tiny House Road Show- Pictures!

On July 23rd, my family attended the Tiny House Road Show at our local civic center. Not all tiny houses are built as equals. Some were just *presh/gorge*, while others were severely lacking…

Instead of making this an article, I’m going to just post all the pictures of us. Some of them contain *rando humanoids* who happened to photo-bomb us!

I will say this one thing: one day I hope to downsize to a tiny house by a body of water and live as Thoreau did, but of course with WiFi flowing through my devices and Kat Von D makeup on my face. I’ve got a long way to go on purging/paring down the bare necessities…I only buy what I absolutely have to now and donate the rest. With the exception of school textbooks (1,000+ pages), my “biggest” purchase items are DVD’s. Keepin’ it tiny…

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And to end on a note with a compostable toilet, from me to you, enjoy.

When Emergency Strikes, Don’t Have Too Much Baggage

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Whew! My heart-rate is just coming back to normal. I had a near-death experience this evening.

On a dark and stormy afternoon, I was in my work vehicle driving away to leave my day job and heading to my night job at the gym to teach a yoga class. My iPhone siren blared that the weather was threatening impending doom of flash floods and we were all in danger in the metropolitan area! I ignored it and kept on trucking, lest I be late for job #2.

Going up the hill to get onto the freeway, several cars ahead of me were stalled. My usual route was completely submerged in rainwater. I applied my foot to the gas pedal when suddenly an 18 wheeler came flying down the hill towards me, sending a rivulet towards my work car. An eddy whirled around and my car (which was already on the fritz and was deemed “totalled” last month) suddenly broke down. Water flooded the engine and an “!” red light lit up a warning.

It all came down to panic and drown, or swim out and survive. I tried to open my driver’s door of the Taurus, but water flooded into my seat. I opened the passenger side and lost all of my books and  notes. I barely recovered my lunchbox, purse and empty bookbag. I managed to close the door, thus sweeping in more water. The windows were cracked because the A/C had gone out months ago. I’m sure rain flooded in the windows by now.

The inner mermaid of my soul arose and I swam to the sidewalk, thighs deep in black urban city water. At that moment, I dropped my iPhone underwater on the street. I took a deep breath and fished for it. (Hours later, it started working again, thanks to Mr. Otterbox!).

With my purse, lunchbox, and empty bookbag, I waded waistdeep to the nearest parking lot, full of public transportation buses. It was still pouring down torentially as I made this bold attempt to safety. Meanwhile, I was flailing my arms in the SOS position above my head, begging anyone to help. No boats were nearby, and that’s precisely what was needed. I tried not to blink too hard because my contacts were getting soaked and I almost lost them. I’m pretty blind as a bat without glasses or contacts.

Lightning flashed nearby and I thought, “Oh, my God! This is the end! I’m going to drown, get struck by lightning, or get hit by a truck.”

I started to climb into the abandoned public safety bus to wait out the storm. Just then, a man and his little daughter barely drove up to my rescue! I hitchhiked a ride with them back to my parents’ house nearby by way of the interstate. I prayed to God he wasn’t a serial killer or anything. I had my loaded gun just in case, but really he ended up being such a Good Samaritan! I even tried to pay him all the cash in my wallet, but he didn’t take it.

Once I made it to my parents’ house, I dried off, peeling off the wet clothes and putting on spares my mom keeps for me. They fed me and my family. My husband and son greeted me with open arms, and considering I was so shaken, I fell into them.

If I could’ve been a turtle, I would have taken the car with me, putting it on my back. But all I could muster were three measly bags of possessions. Even that was too much! I lost my journal in the flood and several notebooks full of important information. The trunk had popped open so I’m sure someone got all of my clothes and my 2 yoga mats out of the back.

I called a supervisor from my parents’ house and explained the emergency. He was still stuck downtown and drove up to the street nearby with two other stragglers from the office. They saw the Taurus and said it was still very much under water and unable to be towed. I begged the supervisor to salvage my journal and notebooks if he could.

This whole experience taught me a few valuable lessons. For one, don’t have too much to carry, especially in a crisis situation. Two, possessions aren’t people and can be replaced. Three, listen to your dreams. More on that in a sec. And four, it’s ok to rely on strangers for help. And don’t forget to pay it forward yourself!

I awoke from a lucid, horrible nightmare at 4 AM this morning. I had escaped two violent tornadoes and was hiding from both of them in different places. Maybe my dream was a psychic intuitive premonition that something weather-related and awful was about to occur today. I left a cryptic message on my gym’s Facebook page about why yoga was cancelled tonight.

I’m making peace with the fact that my clothes in the trunk, yoga mats, and notebooks (including my sacred journal) are now gone with the flood! I’m also making peace with not having a work-assigned take-home vehicle. I guess I’ll be shelling out my own gas money four days a week for a while.

Moreover, I made peace with God during the emergency. Somewhere between swimming on the streets, avoiding lightning striking nearby, and hitchhiking, my adrenaline skyrocketed! God protected me after all.

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“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”- Henry David Thorough, Walden

Ease On Down the Road…with Detachment and Tranquility

To say I’ve been stressed out lately is an understatement. I know that everyone stresses out some, whether in traffic, or over money, or in social situations. Mine has been work and hobby-related as of late.

This week in particular, I’ve been suffering with anxiety, trying to cope holistically without anything to numb the neuroses. I’ve been implementing yoga, deep breathing, meditation, long walks outside, and adult coloring with markers. It seems we are all faced with demanding minutiae each day that pull at our beings like annoyances, but how we react to the external stimuli determines how much stress we swallow down when it’s all said and done.

I took a break from working this morning to leave my desk. As I let my iPod go on shuffle mode, a long time song popped up to play. It was one I learned in summer theatre camp half my life ago. The song was “Ease On Down The Road” by Michael Jackson and Diana Ross from The Wiz.

ease on down the road

There’s nothing like a little MJ to soothe this very own MJ (my initials too).

I started listening to the lyrics while shaking my booty and it hit me! The song is about detachment from materialism and focusing on mindfulness. It may have been great disco years ago, but there’s a deeper level of advice given by the Prince of Pop and the Queen of Disco.

“Ease on down the road, don’t you carry nothing that might be a load…

Let’s keep moving on the road that you choose don’t you lose no ground…

‘Cause there may be times when you think you’ve lost your mind and the steps you’re taking might be 3 or 4 steps behind but the road you’re walking might be long sometimes. You just keep on stepping and you’ll be just fine…

There may be times when you wish you wasn’t born and you wake one morning just to find that you’re alone. You know that feeling only lasts a while. You just stick with us and we’ll show you how to smile.”

Do we feel entitled to a better life? Being raised in the US, I feel like the American Dream is something we all strive for, like better living, more belongings, fame, fortune, beauty and popularity. But this is all a societal illusion, propagated by the man, big greedy corporations, the media, puppet-masters, and probably the Illuminati. JK

I just realized that I’m not getting any thinner or younger. I recently had a mental meltdown about failures in my career such as the crippling feeling of the glass ceiling. I will never get promoted, never get transferred to a different office, never get a better work vehicle, and never get a better job. Is the grass always greener? I think what the song is telling us is that Dorothy is trying to make her way to Emerald City (greener grass) but she is not focusing on having fun along the journey down the Yellow Brick Road.

The Yellow Brick Road for me has been bumpy these past few years. If I follow the advice of the song, I will implement mindfulness, simplicity, minimalism, and non-hoarding. Does each yellow brick I step on Spark Joy? Am I finding relaxation along the way with the poppy fields of life?

Maybe “Ease On Down The Road” should be my new mantra. It might cure my stress-related IBS-D and help me to lose weight. A laissez faire attitude, a.k.a. sprezzatura helps insulate the anxious ones among us from sweating the small things.

I’ve been a Madonna fan since early childhood. The old brood isn’t making wonderful new tunes all the time these days, but every once in a while, she will pop out a gem.

madonna superbowl

The 2012 song “I Don’t Give A” featuring Nicki Minaj has become one of my other shake-it-off type angry cheers.

I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u

Wake up ex-wife
This is your life
Children on your own
Turning on the telephone
Messengers, manager
No time for a manicure
Working out, shake my ass
I know how to multi-task
Connecting to the Wi-Fi
Went from nerd to superb
Have you seen the new guy
I forgot the password
Gotta call the babysitter
Tweetin’ on the elevator
I could take a helicopter
I don’t even feel the pressure

I’m gonna be OK
I don’t care what the people say
I’m gonna be alright
Gonna live fast and I’m gonna live right

I’m moving fast, can you follow my track
I’m moving fast and I like it like that
I do ten things all at once
And if you have a problem
I don’t give a

You were so mad at me
Who’s got custody
Lawyers suck it up
Didn’t have a pre-nup
Make a film, write a song
Gotta get my stockings on
Meet the press, buy the dress
All of this to impress
Ride my horse, break some bones
Take it down a semitone
I forgot to say my prayers
Baby Jesus on the stairs
Gotta sign a contract
Gotta get my money back
All the biters have to go
Standing in the front row

I’m gonna be OK
I don’t care what the people say
I’m gonna be alright
Gonna live fast and I’m gonna live right

I’m moving fast, can you follow my track
I’m moving fast and I like it like that
I do ten things all at once
And if you have a problem
I don’t give a

I tried to be a good girl
I tried to be your wife
Diminished myself
And I swallowed my light
I tried to become all
That you expect of me
And if it was a failure
I don’t give a

I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u

Shots fire
Anything you hear Nicki on: that’s fire
You don’t hear them bums on nothing, that’s fire
Tell ’em catch buyer
In the Bugatti, 10 grand, one tire
Ayo Madonna (Yes, Nicki), maybe I say you original, don dada
In that, yeah Gabbana, and the, yeah Prada
We Material Girls, ain’t nobody hotter
Pops collar!
See I really can’t relate to your Volvo
And you can’t get these shoes at the Aldo
When I let a dude go, that’s his loss
I was cutting them checks, I was his boss!
Yo, I don’t give a f-u
Curse nor bless you, never let them stress you
Yo, I ain’t a businesswoman, I’m a business, woman!
And I’m known for giving bitches the business, woman

I’m gonna be OK
I don’t care what the people say
I’m gonna be alright
Gonna live fast and I’m gonna live right

I’m moving fast, can you follow my track
I’m moving fast and I like it like that
I do ten things all at once
And if you have a problem
I don’t give a

There’s only one queen, and that’s Madonna
Bitch!

I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u
I don’t give a fu-u-u-u”

I apologize for profanity but I love the song! I reiterate it to myself when I get snagged on a pesky problem at work or in other areas of my life without an immediate fix. It forces me to live in the present and not to give a f*ck about worries I can’t control.

So let’s take a page out of Madonna and Michael Jackson’s lyric books and practice detachment, tranquility, contentment, mindfulness, sparking joy, and whatever other New Age concept you want to throw at the wall and hope it sticks like al dente spaghetti.

MJ and Madonna

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“In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to improve the nick of time, and notch it on my stick too; to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment; to toe that line.”- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Next Stop, Greenwich Village!…In My Dreams

I’ve been mildly obsessed with Tiny Houses since December, but today during lunch I stumbled upon…TINY APARTMENTS in NY, NY!

manhattan-greenwich-village_a_540x340_20130424

I was eating lunch and reading my guilty pleasure, The Daily Mail, when I clicked on a story about actress Parker Posey selling her Greenwich Village apartment for 1.45 million. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3608848/An-indie-dream-home-Parker-Posey-lists-Greenwich-Village-apartment-1-45million.html

I further researched the 30 5th Avenue, NY, NY 10011 property on Trulia.com, my best friend for real estate intel online. Of course it didn’t share exactly the square feet of the tiny apartment, but it did spark my interest in looking at similar availabilities in Greenwich Village, Upper East Side Manhattan, Brooklyn, and even Harlem.

Let me get this straight for you. I live in the Deep South and have no foreseeable future of myself and my family moving to the Big Apple, although I have spent a few days there and much prefer NY to CA any day of the week. I’m just incredibly nosy!

Do you know how much you can ascertain about how a class of people from a certain area live? Most of the real estate postings featured pictures of seller’s apartments, as they were. Not many had staged furniture and art décor. While surfing, you can see how the NY bunch lives. I must give them a hand….many of them survive in tiny spaces with highly organized lifestyles and utilitarian furniture.

Tim-Seggerman-NYC-Apartment_1Just playing pretend here, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine my current furnishings and possessions from my 5 & 3 crammed into a chic NY apartment. Saying it would be a challenge is definitely an understatement. I would have to PURGE, PURGE, PURGE, to DOWNSIZE, DOWNSIZE, DOWNSIZE. A majority of suburbanite Americans from the middle class would share the difficulties in this feat. If we all packed up and moved to the city that never sleeps, a massive group of people would have to adopt a minimalist lifestyle to survive.

Most descriptions of these Tiny Apartments come with laundry, gym, terrace, basement storage (with a waiting list), and a bike room in each building structure. That means, adios to all of our cars! This is the land where he who owns a bike/a subway pass is king.

Just about any New Yorker you talk to would rather give up unnecessary clutter and space in exchange to live in their fair city in the Empire State. Opportunity trumps possessions. What if we lived like this no matter where we reside? Big city, or big farm, could Americans pare down their material objects enough to where they could pack up and move in small living quarters at any time?

The more I purge unwanted possessions at home (one in, two out rule), I begin to see myself packing it all up one day and downsizing. Most ladies (and some fellas) get their jollies from buying a bunch of new clothes and trendy cars. I like to buy organizational equipment to hang up on the walls, to declutter my closets with the KonMari Method, and to square off my drawers of trinkets. The less I have, the richer I feel. Frankly, this translates into the less junk you buy regularly, the more money you have in the bank. Frugaling and minimalism go hand in hand.

In this new day in age, I’m going to be more mindful of not being wasteful of my space. Wouldn’t it be neat if we all lived like these compact New Yorkers?! [Cue Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York, It’s been waiting for you…” playing in the background]

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Me in NYC 2014 (Midtown, Manhattan)_______________________________________________________________

“My dwelling was small, and I could hardly entertain an echo in it; but it seemed larger for being a single apartment and remote from neighbors.”–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

Detachment Can Hurt, But Hanging On Smarts Worse

imageI love my baby toe’s toenail. But I believe we are going to have to depart from each other soon. Parting is such sweet sorrow. AND IT HURTS LIKE A MOTHERCLUCKER.

Last night while teaching yoga, my toenail got caught on the edge of my yoga mat during an intense pose. The snagging pulled off most of my toenail except for where it’s still attached at the quick. I slapped a bandage on there and prayed I won’t get an infection. The gel nail polish craze has really toughed up the nail bed by drying it out, which also makes it easier to detach from the tiny toe.

For the past few months, I have been going through some spiritual turmoil in a few areas of my life. Not with my marriage or health, but another aspect. After trying hard and throwing everything at the wall, hoping it sticks like al dente spaghetti, my efforts were failing me. I have had to GIVE. UP. ON. MY. GOAL. I did so kicking and screaming, especially coming to a head around my 33rd birthday last week.

I’ve detached, knowing that the change I sought after wasn’t meant to be. (My body accepted the resignation of what I failed to achieve, and I caught strep throat.)

This notion isn’t defeatist or depressing, just realistic. If you make a good effort to change something in your life and you could not achieve, hang up your hat. Tuck your boots under the bed. You gave it your best effort. Detach from the pain and suffering of change, even if it was all in your head. Just let it go. Make the best of the current situation. Be consciously mindful living in the moment without worry.

One of my clients has tried very hard to keep her marriage afloat, after months of counseling and negotiating with her agrieved husband. She has finally decided to throw in the towel and file for divorce. Honey, I’ve been there. Sometimes that’s all you can do. We have to detach from the romantic idealist hope to being in a marriage that is not working. It’s best to just end it, get closure, and form a new dream.

I find solace in prayer, talking to friends, throwing myself into work, yoga and exercise. I am finally okay to move on now. Because when God closes a door, He opens a window. I’m sick of keeping that window latch locked! It’s time to cut my losses and to move on. Let’s do this. PEACE.

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“Pursue some path, however narrow or crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”-Henry David Thoreau