When ‘Being’ Brings True Happiness
I conquered over 1 million steps in May 2018. After issuing myself with an even greater challenge, I ended up walking nearly 1.3 million steps the following month.
However, it all came to a sudden stop. On July 1st, I woke up and I could not walk. I had sprained my right foot.
I felt a sense of deflation, almost anger because I had been actively pushing myself to a place that was high on the ladder of ambition. What was I going to do now?
I then realised that whilst it was a great thing to have on my resume of life (to have walked 1,000km+ in 30 days) everything in life needed to be in moderation, even something as fulfilling as completing 7+hours of walking spread out though the day, resulting in around 30k+ steps every 24 hours.
Being able to accomplish something like this, came with a great sense of achievement. It was amazing, but it ended on that one Sunday morning when I woke up, and I couldn’t put my right foot flat on the ground.
I was not forced to stay at home, but I had made it a choice. Instead of spending so much time outdoors in the parks that I had grown to love, I was now mostly inside, choosing to be between the garden and the kitchen. And this prompted me to start looking closely into my living environment inside.
It’s the one place that I had not been taking notice of, for some time. I found how interesting it was, that I allowed myself to get used to the unconscious ways of the surroundings I had created, choosing to buy and have more of everything, as I fell back safely on cupboards and wardrobes as my ‘safe places’ to bury my life in.
A few months ago, I started to undo that cycle of clutter. It all stemmed from the first Audible audio-book I ever bought, ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo on February 2nd 2017. The British narrator brought to life in great, yet relatable details the KonMari method™ that Marie had developed.
I listened attentively and started to learn that, in the midsts of everything that I had collected and stored over many years, the majority of it did not have any meaning or purpose anymore. Their time had passed, so why was I still choosing to live in that time?
I could live without 95% of it, to be honest. As nothing lasts forever, no-one needs to keep everything forever. So, I bravely took the decision to re-start my de-cluttering and elimination exercise on a grand scale. I chose to be aware — of the need to clear up, and of my bad foot.
Anything that I made good use of or did not need anymore, needed to find a new home. Books I had read, clothes I had worn, gadgets I had used and stored away. They were either sold, or taken to the local charity shop. Letters and official papers from the past went straight into the shredder.
Over three days, I got back into the habit of seeing what else I had brought, and was hiding in my life over 6 months (more plastic, sadly). It was not just objects, I had hoarded food items that were supposed to bring me joy, health benefits and weight loss.
And then it dawned on me: the real joy and positivity lay in my own mind, thoughts and actions, not in these passive objects staring at me on a daily basis. How they took up all the space of such a small apartment as well, further set me on the path to deciding to take back control, and give space back to the place that deserved it the most: my mind.
By now, I accepted that I was feeling bad, for not moving as much as I did before. It got worse when my phone and watch constantly reminded me I was underperforming! In other unmeasured ways, I was making much more progress that I could have imagined possible.
Instead of ignoring what was in front of me, I tackled it head-on. The problem had always been ‘out of sight, out of mind’ — clearly I was out of my mind trying just to find more places to hide everything. Not anymore!
All of my own personal space in my apartment underwent radical change. My wardrobe was clearer, and I actively took time to open each part of my life that was hidden away. Storage is dangerous I learnt. The less you have hidden, the better it is. And, what was I trying to hide?
My cleansing ritual of visiting the charity shop every few days continued, and I do this on a regular basis. Brand new and used items, left to gather dust, would have a new life and give someone else the happiness they are looking for.
The sad realisation from this all, was that my happiness peaked when I had something new and shiny, that I truly thought would give me fulfilment, and it abruptly ended when it arrived at my front door, or showed up on my bank statement.
In swapped walking for a few hours in my garden each morning, I now make the most of the glorious mornings in the company of some good podcasts, books and hot coffee. I am still active, but in a new way. I can think much more clearly, and I have started to notice a lot of the smaller, more important things that were there all along.
The key thing that kept coming back to me is that being is happiness, not having. Being in the moment, being outdoors, being mentally stimulated are the true building blocks of long-lasting happiness and fulfilment.
Having, however satisfies a need that metabolises experiences rapidly, or fulfils our human nature to own things. That type of satiety wears off very quickly. It is an emptiness that only being can fill.
I still continue to up-cycle and re-cycle all the time, it’s one of my ways of giving back. My local charity shop supports those living with HIV, and I support them with all of my donations.
My heart swells when I walk past most days, and I see some of my items in their shop window one day, and the next it is gone — gone to a new home, to give joy to someone else who could not afford something, but also helping to support those who are trying to find the joys of life at a very difficult time.
As I write this, I am still clearing my life out, so I can let my real life back in. The food items go into recycling where possible, the items are stacked in the hallway ready to be taken out. I keep as little as I can, but of what truly matters to me. Marie Kondo’s aim is to organise the world through mindful organization — and it is a constant process to understand what you have, and why.
I look across my apartment now.
I see not much, but I see a lot more of what I want to see.
In having less, I have found so much more.