Stripping down.


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It’s Friday night and I’ve been curled up on my countertop for the last four hours researching minimalist blogs.

Minimalists fascinate me and my roommate is out on a date. My best friend and I sat on the couch and waited for her to be picked up just a few hours ago. We watched the guy show up at the front door. I definitely creeped him out when I told my roommate I would be spooning my boyfriend, Jesus, when she got home tonight. Because that’s the advice people give you after a breakup: date Jesus.

I just want to be completely honest and say that I have never understood that sentiment. I’ve really tried to be on board with the idea of dating the elusive savior but I don’t know how you a) date someone you can’t touch b) date someone who has a Holy Spirit sidekick/counterpart and c) ever get over the fact that your boyfriend took away the sins of the world. You’re never going to be the impressive one in that relationship. You’ll always be dating up. Out of your league. Maybe that’s the point?

Either way, I’ve never been able to tell someone I was just taking the time to date Jesus. To this day, Jesus and I have not dated. Not yet.
All that was really to say this: I told my roommate that by the time she came home tonight I would officially be a minimalist blogger.

As she got ready for her date I’d rattled on to her about how I was going to create an anonymous blog on minimalism so I could write mysteriously like Gossip Girl about the need to clear excess out of my life. For approximately two hours I had plans to pour myself into this new blog for the rest of my career and go by name of “Mini.” I was pretty certain this was my calling– the reason God put me on this good, green earth. I would eventually sell all my belongings and move to a tiny house in the middle of New Mexico. A rugged man would show up at my door and he would, appropriately, also be a minimalist. Forever we would live off the land and blog on occasion about our 16 minimalist children. We would eventually start our own society. There would even be a mayor to make it all legit.

I should comment that, more than being a minimalist, I am a bit of an extremist. My closest friends would tell you that I preach baby steps but I don’t know how to follow them all that well. I am an all-or-nothing sort of girl.

I always want to create something new. I always want to wipe the slate clean. I always want a fresh start. I never thought that could actually harm me more than it helped me.
“Why do you want to be a minimalist?” my best friend asks me. She sits on the couch beside me ordering a Dominoes pizza for herself.

I tell her the truth I know so far. All my life I grew up with a father who never knew how to let things go. He is a hoarder. We make jokes about it but there is a full attic, basement, garage, an old van, two sheds, and a storage unit to prove that he doesn’t really like to let things go. Each is full to the brim with items, I imagine, he thinks he might need to use one day. His mother is also a hoarder. I’ve never once stepped inside of my grandmother’s home but I know it is covered in newspapers, coupon cut-outs, and packets of Saltine crackers.

I’ve never dug deeper with my father on why he chooses to keep everything (absolutely everything) that comes into his orbit but I imagine, if he is anything like his daughter, then he is scared to be left wanting. He is scared to be left needing. He is scared of the moment when he no longer controls the circumstances and so he makes it his agenda to surround himself with things he never has to let go of, at least not on his watch.

 

“I want to be a minimalist because I am so tired of how I have manage to live,” I tell her. “I always say I’m going to change something and go back to the same habits a week later, whether it’s food or fitness or boundaries. Minimalism is about getting rid of enough things, just enough for you to realize that things were never really the point to begin with.”

For me, it is not even an excess of things. It’s an excess of people. Emotional baggage. I like to be a collector of scars and bruises. I like to be fully stocked with all the ammo I need to always tell a good story. I like to be busy. I love distractions because they keep me from getting too close to myself. I am a hoarder when it comes to fear. My dad might have spaces full of lamps and old coffee tables but I have a heart that is stacked with layers of anxiety that God will give up on me.

I’ve hung around with humans enough to know that we all carry the DNA of control freaks and it just manifests in different ways. For you, it might be things. It might be relationships. It might be a place on the map you’ve worshipped for a little too long. Whatever it is, you’re probably capable of investing your hope in things that don’t hold. I guess you don’t ever think a star on the map or a wardrobe can break your heart the way a human can. Isn’t that what we are all aiming for deep down? A little less heartbreak? A little more safety?

 

In the last two weeks I have pulled away from social media a lot. I’ve been hyper-sensitive to it. I got my heart broken. I’ve cried a lot. Over the Duggars. And Jared the Subway guy. And Ashley Madison.

But there have been victories too. More victories than heartbreak, I would argue:

I began a Whole30 challenge seven days ago and I am seven days separated from all grains, processed foods, sugars, and alcohol. I feel amazing. I have so much more energy.

I meal-planned the entire week and actually stuck with it.

I handed over the passwords for my social media accounts to my best friends so they could monitor them while I took a step back.

I’ve gotten to step back and ask myself what I feel like doing. The result of that was watching every morbid and crazy documentary that I’ve been wanting to see on Netflix.

I made muffins for people I loved, while frying bacon and eating kale. It was the most “adult” I’ve ever felt to this day.

I used said-muffins to lure a grocery store clerk into the aisle with me and give him a mini lesson on the unnecessary ingredients we are consuming through processed foods (which I learned from a documentary on childhood obesity). I think he was a little terrified of me and told me politely how he didn’t want to know what was in his hotdogs, he just wanted to keep eating them. I have high hopes he will be an advocate one day soon though and he will probably save the food industry.

I am in the thick of a bible study on Daniel and I feel God standing with me in it. Daniel and I have a lot in common– we are both on some ridiculous diet that only lets us eat veggies and we both think the world is pretty jacked-up.
I started a workout group with seven other girls in my neighborhood. We’ve managed to meet six times in the last 10 days.

I filled three bags of clothes to the brim and took them to Goodwill.

I am doing everything and anything I can to wipe out the excess. The baby steps are adding up.

“What should I name my minimalist blog?” I ask her.

“Can’t you just blog about it where you are?”

“No,” I said abruptly. “It can’t bleed into this blog.”

“Why not?” she asked. “It’s you, isn’t it?”

I don’t have an explanation for why I felt like I’ve only been half of myself on this blog lately. I haven’t even written in a few weeks because I have nothing perfect to offer you. You can’t wait on perfection to arrive before you start offering what you’ve got to the world.

So here’s the truth of me for this moment: I am making my life better. I would like to write about it more. I am surrounded by so many amazing people and I am figuring out how to actually kill the rulebook that lived inside of me like a compass for so long. I am trying to really dance it out with God instead of some rigid slow dance where I pretend that everything feels intimate to anyone who asks me. I think you need my honesty, and I need yours, more than we need a perfectly polished blog post on grace or whatever.

Grace, I am learning, is seeing whatever mess I am standing in right now and then forgiving myself for not being perfect within it. It’s figuring out how to be okay with mess. How to clean up the mess so it doesn’t come right back. How to break habits. How to actually, really, finally build that life I want.

This world is full of so much “fake” and “getting by”- I want to be real and okay. Real and way better than okay.

“I don’t think you need to create another blog. You have a place to write already,” my best friend says to me. “It’s easier to start something new, to start all over again.

It’s harder, but better, to redefine what is already there.”

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21 thoughts on “Stripping down.

  1. God has a huge agenda for you and this little post that you may not have wanted to write is being used by him. Sharing it with a couple of women who needs these words more than you might realize. Thanks for your vulnerability. Keep on keepin’ on.

  2. Oh, hb. I should be surprised you’d lecture a grocery store clerk on processed foods, but somehow it seems apropos. I know you want to make this the best you can, want every word exactly what it needs to be, but you know it doesn’t have to be. It’s never had to be. This is so much more than perfectionism, though. I’ve always wondered at the faith of Daniel. He always comes across so perfectly confident. We never see the sleepless nights and the doubts, but I’m willing to bet he had them, and they made him better.
    It’s beyond cliche to say these things, heartbreak for instance, make us better people. It’s the last thing I’ve ever wanted to hear, but I learn everyday the truth of it.
    You are good, hb, and you are getting so much better. It is a privilege even to watch. Don’t stop bleeding into every line.

    And, P.S. “It might be a place on the map you’ve worshipped for a little too long.” Oh, H, why you got to hit me where I live? Literally.

  3. I smiled big, dear Hannah! Real is so much more wonderful than “fake perfect.” And extending grace to ourselves makes it possible for us to join other human beings as an equally needy person and become comfortable in our own sagging skin. 💖👏💖

  4. Holy banana, Hannah. Exactly what my brain (not my heart, yet) needed to hear. 

    Sent from Samsung Mobile

  5. i truly enjoyed reading this. Idk, you made me want to study Daniel. and I’m just like you, I commit to do something (going to the gym, limiting my time on social media, eating well, etc…,) and then I never follow through..I really need to work on it. I am glad you got through the 7 days…much more to come.

  6. I loved this post, Hannah, in part because I connected with it so much! I am also currently trying to minimize my life and get back to the “real” stuff. Thanks for the encouragement.

  7. You make me cry every time with how much this hits home. I know I barely know you (an email and a letter don’t count for knowing someone) but I’m so grateful to be sharing this journey with you. Thank you for being real.

  8. This. This is exactly where I’ve been too, lately. Thank you for your words on grace, hb. I needed to hear that more than you know. And thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. We love you for you (I say this as though we’ve all met you) I’m so sorry for your heartbreak. Praying for you for sweet sister.

  9. Thanks so much, love bug. Your words are amazing as always. I feel like rebuilding, restarting too. I made it through the first three days of my junior year, and today I woke up at 7 to run and then volunteered at a friend’s Girl Scout gold project. It’s a beautiful day here in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m so grateful for God’s nature and this weather, and I feel that the Lord is entirely this wonderful day. Sending love and prayers, HB. Keep on keeping on. We are right by your side.

    Love, Ellie

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  10. Thank you for sharing this! I battle with perfectionism every day. It steals away the things I love . If I don’t have the “perfect” time/place/vibe/whatever to write…I don’t write. If I can’t do a “perfect” job cleaning, I let things slide until they’re unmanageable tasks. I don’t know why I do this to myself, why I sabotage my own success, but it’s a problem that’s more common than most people seem to realize. Take it one day at a time, and good luck to you in your endeavor. 🙂

  11. It was so weirdly wonderful, to see the things I have struggled with my whole life, written on the page by someone else, both in your book and on this blog. Sometimes your words take my breath away, they are so honest and raw and real. I want to find your phone number, call you and say “me too”.

    So, thank you, please don’t stop, and I wish you peace and rest for your soul. I know it gets awfully tiring, sometimes. There are times when an encourager needs encouraging. Your words have done that for me. I hope that in some small way, this helps to fill up your tank, just a little bit.

  12. I understand – I tried to start another blog, to talk about different things, only to be left feeling fractured. I felt I lacked integrity in the process. So now I’m back on one blag and I think your friend is right – do it where you are. We’re all on the road together… thanks for letting us be part of your journey.

  13. “Minimalism is about getting rid of enough things, just enough for you to realize that things were never really the point to begin with.”

    So perfectly said (yet again). I have been an aspiring minimalist for years, focusing on the items in my house, believing if I slim down those belongings the rest of my life will also become less cluttered. Sure, my wardrobe is uncluttered, but I consistently have 20+ tabs open on my browser. If you could see inside my head it would be even more telling – racing thoughts, jumping from past to future, rarely sitting still and taking things in for what they are. Instead of only focusing on the things, it’s also about having fewer distractions, meddled thoughts, and detractive memories of the past. And I hear you on putting that social media away. It feels like a constant nudge telling me to be more, do more, be better. It never helps me be where I am and enjoy it.

    Thank you for sharing, excited to read more on this part of your life.

  14. Today I read the November 2015 Readers Digest article about “More Love Letters”. I think my brother is the Matt you talked about at the end of the article. It is a long story, but I have been searching for him and I miss him.

    Could you tell me the name of the city he posted in his e-mail. He is ashamed of sexually abusing me as a child, but I want to tell him I have forgiven him, life is short and I only have one brother. Years of therapy and mindful reflect ton has given me the ability to understand many of the whys and forgive.

    My mother and sister will probably continue to cut ties to him, but my heart is filled to overflowing with compassion, awareness, thoughtfulness, understanding, love and forgiveness.

  15. I read your article on “More Love Letters” in the November 2015 Reader’s Digest today. I think my brother is the “Matt” at the end of your article. This was the last state I know he resided in. The last time I saw him was in 1997.

    It’s a long story, but I’ve been searching for him to tell him that I forgive him. If you could tell me the name of the city, I would tell him, after years of therapy and mindful reflection, I understand many of the whys and I’m not angry anymore.

    He is ashamed of sexually abusing me and my family found out and disowned my much older brother. I want to tell him:” My older, much wiser heart is filled with compassion, understanding, thoughtfulness, love and forgiveness. I have only one brother. Life is short. Let there be healing. Let there be peace.

    I hope I hear back from tou, Hannah.

    Thank you for giving me hope that maybe my brother is still alive and I still have a chance to bring peace to his heart.

    Sincerely,

    Deborah Coles

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