When I first considered minimalism, I thought exclusively about stuff.
The stuff I wanted to get rid off. The stuff I didn’t want to get rid of. The stuff that was cluttering up my home. The stuff that I didn’t need, didn’t want, didn’t like.
Minimalism and stuff – as in getting rid of – became synonymous in my mind. That’s funny because when I think of minimalism now, I don’t usually think about stuff.
Instead, when I think of minimalism, I think about it like a tool or a strategy. A life-coping strategy. A life-living strategy. And for sure a life-simplification strategy. Minimalism helps me mindfully evaluate, accept, let go of, and act. Over and over and over again. Minimalism is how I function.
Minimalism helps me parent better.
Minimalism helps me age better.
Minimalism helps me deal with my father’s death.
Minimalism helps me deal with shifting identities.
Minimalism helps me deal with a chronic illness/disease.
Fear and Questions
When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) at 41, I was scared out of my mind. This was after years of other health struggles and surgeries. I was worn out, angry, and anxious. Oh, so anxious. What if questions flooded my mind:
- What if I can’t use my hands?
- What if I end up in a wheelchair?
- What if end up dependent on someone?
- What if the RA affects my heart?
- What if I die at an early age?
It’s a blessing that humans adjust so quickly. Because, essentially, without realizing it, that’s exactly what I did. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I shifted my expectations and routines. I slowly got used to taking medicine. I slowly got used to regular visits with my rheumatologist and frequent blood work. I got used to packing wraps and steroids for just-in-case situations on vacations.
Laying it all on the line and reading it now, it sounds like a downgrade. I mean, who wants to deal with health issues or body parts not working? But life often deals up less-than-ideal or downright tragic situations. In fact, over half of Americans – 60% -live with a chronic illness according to the CDC.
But of course, the ultimate questions is: how do we handle our personal difficulties?
Why Minimalism Helps me Deal with Chronic Illness
Through my minimalism practice, I am used to the cycle of evaluate, release, and move on.
The cute stuffed animal my daughter loved when she was 5 but now doesn’t even glance at? Release. And move on.
My identity as a mother with young children? I’m not that anymore; I’ve got a teen and tween in my house. Release. And move on.
That doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t feel heavy at the thought or that there isn’t any sadness. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t any pain. There is. But my job is to acknowledge it so I can move on and move forward.
With the RA, this mindset allows me to thrive, not just survive.
My left hand doesn’t work this morning? Accept. Release. Move on.
I can’t work in the yard for 3 hours today? Accept. Release. Move on.
My body needs to sleep even though I have things to do and a life to live? Accept. Release. Move on.
Minimalism, along with mindfulness and yoga, helps me mindfully evaluate, accept, let go of, and act. Over and over and over again. Minimalism is how I function. It helps me manage my illness and my life (more) gracefully and (more) optimistically.
It can do the same for you, too. Chronic illness or not.
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