Minimalism Murdered the Mall

The mall is dead to me. Well, maybe not dead, but it’s not nearly as important or fun as it used to be. It’s all minimalism’s doing; and honestly, I’m pretty happy about it.

I used to love the mall. Looking at clothes, housewares and home decor was the best. Dreaming of what I would look like in that dress and those shoes. Imagining that lovely centerpiece on my dining room table or those Egyptian cotton sheets on my bed. *Sigh* it was heavenly;or so I thought. Now I’m seeing how all of that marketplace dreaming was making me dissatisfied, unhappy and discontent. Hours of window shopping made me think my clothes were old and outdated. My linens seemed shabby and my house certainly didn’t look anything like those homes in magazines.

The mall lied to me, I know that now. I don’t need all of the shiny, pretty things it offers in order to be happy. My clothes are fine. They are clean, they are flattering and most of them are treasures found at the thrift shop or on a clearance rack. Now, I don’t buy clothes just because they are pretty or fun. I buy them because the are well made, fit my body type and they work as part of an interchangeable wardrobe. (I no longer purchase items that don’t match several other pieces in my closet.) My home is lovely. It is an old farmhouse full of character and charm. All of the beds have sheets, pillows and blankets. There are plenty of towels in the bathrooms and they even match the bathmats. The hurricane lamp on my dining room table is simple and pretty. A lit candle on a fall evening makes the whole room glow with a soothing, flickering light. Embracing minimalism has taught me this and I no longer believe the lies.

I still shop at the mall and I still like it. I just enjoy it in a different way now. My shopping is purposeful. I go to the mall when there is something I need. And I try to only go in the stores where I might find that particular “something”. When I’m shopping with other people, I may window shop, but now it’s more about the experience and the company, not the stuff. We talk and laugh. We go get a good cup of coffee or one of those fantastic giant pretzels, then we sit down to relax, people watch or have a conversation. It still serves a purpose for me; a better purpose. Now, I use the mall instead of it using me.

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The Creative Lie

I am a creative person. I love to write, paint, build things, and make music. Some of these things I definitely do better than others, but I love all of them. I don’t think I’m special or unique because of this; we are all creative. It always strikes me as odd when someone says, “You are so creative, I’m not creative at all.” or “You are so talented, I could never do that.” These are lies that have been told to people by themselves or others. And it makes me sad.

When people believe they are not creative, they are denying a truth that is hard wired into every human beings DNA. They may not be creative in an “artsy” way, but that does not mean they are not an artist. Some people take flour, sugar and eggs  and turn them into delicious breads, cookies and cakes. Some people take wood, glue and nails and build functional and beautiful furniture or structures. Others start with an idea, skills and determination and create a new business, product or invention. My mom can take a few skeins of yarn and turn them into a blanket. All of this is art. All of it is creative.

"The Universe At Your Fingertips" By Catherine Underwood

“The Universe At Your Fingertips” By Catherine Underwood

When someone buys the lie, that person and the world are robbed of the beauty that he or she has to offer. We all have wonderful, beautiful and unique “creations” to share; and we should share them. The world needs it. Other people need it. When we “create” it offers hope and adds value to the world. Sometimes it inspires others, and can even move them to action. If we all stopped offering our artistry to the world, none of us would be able to bear it. Life would be nothing more than existing, surviving. So, share your creativity; bring your talent to the table. The fate of the world just might depend on it.

Meeting Mr. Berry

I went to a writer’s conference last weekend (I’ll share more on that later.) , and I met a new friend. I didn’t shake his hand, we didn’t speak and I have no idea what he looks like, because he wasn’t actually at the conference. He wasn’t there, but his imagination was.

One of the sessions I attended was about Wendell Berry’s literary works. I chose to attend this particular workshop because the theme of his writing fascinates me. Most of his books and short stories, and there are many, center around one small, rural Kentucky town. And while the stories contain many colorful people, the main character is Port William and the surrounding countryside.

I suppose the reason it spoke to me is the fact that it is so simple, almost minimalist; it’s less but it’s also more. The stories don’t stray too far from home, Wendell does not cast a wide net, he digs deep. The stories have layers, each one revealing something new about the town, it’s inhabitants, it’s history. His writing shares the joy, pain, hardship, humor and love of the people for each other and for the place.

I am currently reading his novel Jayber Crow, I’m only a few chapters into the story and I’ve already been swept away to a place I’ve never been and that does not actually exist. In the simplicity of his writing and the slow pace of rural America, Mr. Berry’s characters reveal deep thought’s about life, time and the world around us.

And so I came along in time to know the end of the age of steamboating. I would learn later that there had been other ages of the river that I had arrived to late to know but that I could read about and learn to imagine. There was at first the age when no people were here, and I have sometimes felt at night that absence grow present to my mind, that long silence in which no human name was spoken or given and the nameless river made no sound of any human tongue. And then there was the Indian age when names were called here that have never been spoken in the present language of Port William. Then came the short ages of us white people, the ages of the dugout, the flatboat, the keelboat, the log raft, the steam boat. And I have lived on now into the age of the diesel towboat and recreational boating and water-skiing. And yet it is hard to look at the river in its calm, just after daylight or just before dark, and believe that history has happened to it. The river, the river itself leaves marks but bears none. It is only water flowing in a path that other water has worn. –Jayber Crow

I love this quote. How often do we pause from running to and fro, living our too busy lives, doing our important things, to ponder what’s come before us and what will be when we are gone? Sometimes I feel like a car on the freeway, flying past everything to get to my chosen destination. If I want to live a deep life instead of a wide one, what I really need is, to be like a car on a winding back road. I need to take my time, notice what’s on my left, my right, before and behind me. I am so glad I met Mr. Berry and some of his friends. I can hardly wait to meet the rest of them.

Together

Dear Younger Self,

I hope this letter finds you well; settled in and enjoying the view to from the past. I hope you aren’t back there, still stewing about the things that concerned you when you were the oldest version of us. If you are, I have some words of wisdom to impart to you. (after all I am supposed to be older and wiser)

You do not have to have it all “together”. You don’t have to know everything, be able to do everything or even be able to cope with it all. Because honestly, pretty much everything changes and just when you think you have it all contained, something slips through your fingers and is lost forever. If we aren’t losing something, we are finding it. Something new is added to the top of the pile and keeps trying to roll off; each time you go to catch that “new” thing as it rolls away, you risk dropping something else. This makes having it together an insurmountable task.

My advice for you would be: don’t sweat it. Because honestly, no one has it all together; even those people who work really hard at convincing the world that they do. Everyone screws up, misses opportunities; fails. And it’s okay. The world will keep spinning, life will keep moving forward and so will you. I’m not suggesting that you shrug your shoulders and give up, just relax a little. Embrace the truth that you are imperfect and grow and learn each time “together” manages to elude you. Keep your sense of humor. Put your effort into the things that really matter; the things that you love. And remember, when something slips through your fingers, maybe it’s because it was supposed to.

The view from up here is grand and we keep pressing on.

Sincerely,

Current Self