Smaller house

You know when you downsize to a new house that is a little sketchy because of your finances, and you have too much furniture, or if they look too big for the new place? Everything is cramped, there is not enough closet space for all your clothes, and your cat (or dog) cannot stand how little room they have to play? You keep running into each other in the halls because the place is overflowing with your stuff, and complain about the tiny size of the backyard. The neighbors are weird. When it rains it leaks, and the dishwasher breaks often.

Moving into a smaller house is like getting diagnosed with [fill in the blank with your illness here]. For me it’s my bipolar diagnosis.

Think of all the stuff (furniture, clothes, knickknacks etc.) in the house as all your hopes, dreams, identity and whatever else that made you you in the past. The house is your body- the body lets you do everything- achieve goals, chase after dreams, and fulfill responsibilities. But when you change houses against your wishes, you are stuck with all the stuff.┬áThe stuff that doesn’t fit. The stuff doesn’t fit with what you are capable of.

You can choose to not accept that you are living in a smaller house and keep all your furniture and your clothes. You’re still going to have to face the ugly mountains of stuff every morning, and run into each other in the halls because of too much stuff. Life will be miserable.

Another option is to accept that you are living in a smaller space, and get rid of some non-essentials. You have to donate some old books, throw out old clothes, and maybe get rid of that extra chair that gets in the way that you never really bonded with. Bring cookies to your weird neighbors, after all, we’re all a little strange anyway. This life is slightly more tolerable.

You didn’t have a lot of choice because of financial constraints, and if you could, you would chose not to live in the house, but here you are. When you accept, you can be happ(ier) in the new house.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic illness- I live in this small house now and probably will for the rest of my life (unless there are miraculous medical advances, which would be nice). So I’ve thrown out some things I don’t need so that I can live in my new house without getting frustrated: some grandiose dreams, goals, responsibilities that I had when I was healthier. The things that made me who I was- and there is no denying it, those things, like my career, how much I worked, and where I wanted to get to, defined me. I could have achieved all that with my healthy body/mental state. But this is the body that I have now and I choose to be happy rather than keep all my stuff from before.




How I accept my life (situation)

I’m not really about cults, or organized religion. One of my parents had a lot of traumas based around religion growing up, so my family always lived in a religion-free environment. We had our morals and values and believed in doing good deeds, but because of how I was raised, and some of my distasteful (somewhat traumatic) experiences with the people outside of my family who were trying to proselytize me, I never had a chance to become a spiritual person, unfortunately. In retrospect, I think I would have been a much more peaceful person. Instead, I read a ton of self help books.

But as they say, it’s never too late.

It’s taken me some time to process the writings of Eckhart Tolle, the spiritual guide. He wrote The Power of Now almost two decades ago, and more recently, New Earth. His work falls under therapeutic category of Acceptance and Commitment therapy, and uses mindfulness throughout the book as a grounding mechanism to ward off the unnecessary “egoic” thoughts away. His theory is that as a compulsively thinking society, we’ve become split selves – one based on our mind (egoic-self) which is constantly running, separate from our Self (our true inner self), and that’s problematic. His theory is that once we stop feeding the thought-based self, and start focusing on our real Self through what he calls the portal of Now (aka. mindfulness), then there will be more joy in our lives.

I’m not sure why I was so drawn to his work- for one thing, he is a depression survivor. Another is the fact that he draws wisdom from not just one religion, but most of the predominant world religions, namely Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism, and finds things he sees in common in all of them. This helped me put my guard down a little bit as a skeptic.

All this backstory is to bring up one thing: how it’s helping me. It’s helping me to accept that I’m in a tough place (says my therapist). It’s helped me to see how my over-thinking (negative, not very self-compassionate, and destructive thinking) is sabotaging living, because living doesn’t happen once I get to a better place; once I get the job/promotion; or once I move to a better house; once I have more friends; once I make it. But life is happening right now. And it will always happen right now, not in the future or the past. And more importantly, what is happening in my life isn’t my real Self, or my self worth. Same with what I achieve. My inner real self is timeless, and not defined by a label like a job, or a role. What is happening isn’t my “life”, it’s my “life situation,” which is temporary.