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.

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

__________________________________________________________________________

“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