I should tell you right now, at the beginning, that this isn’t the first version of my writing that I submitted to Minimalism Life. The first article was ok—it had a neat ending tied up with a self conscious bow, and it told a story of letting go of stuff and expectations. It tried on the idea of acceptance within myself and those around me. I heard back that it was actually going to be published on the website, and after an initial wave of pleasure that my words would fly out into the world, I felt flat. I mentally re-edited the piece. It was far too narrow and contained, and it was only written for one person—me. It was something that I needed to write, but it wasn’t something that I needed to be published. I had rushed to submit the piece in fear of missing out on an opportunity.
I need to add at this point that my autopilot switch has a tendency to flick back on without my knowledge. This is when I revert back to my life-long instincts of clinging to things and rushing from one thing to another and making decisions based on assumptions and fear. Often it happens when I’m getting complacent—It’s fine that I’m veering back into things I know cause me anxiety and chaos—it’ll be fine this time because I threw out loads of stuff and I’m embracing a minimal (ish) life now! Or when I’ve allowed myself to become overwhelmed and there just isn’t time for meditating or talking things through or taking a step back. Then I’m in that vicious cycle of trying to simplify and not finding the time to work out what should go and what should stay.
I’m getting better at spotting when something has triggered me to run on autopilot, but often I have to backtrack over things I’ve inadvertently done that add complexity and unrealistic expectations to my life. Let’s go back to that article I originally submitted. I couldn’t possibly email Shawn at Minimalism Life again and say that I wanted to withdraw my original piece and replace it, in time, with something I felt content with. What if he thought I was flakey? Incompetent? Or maybe he’d reread my article and realise it was utter rubbish and would ask me to never submit anything ever again? Surely I’d missed the window of opportunity and had wasted my one and only first impression?
Around the time this internal argument took place in my head, I realized my autopilot switch was back on. So I pushed it very firmly into the off position. Several weeks later, I was in full swing of taking back control of my decisions and putting myself and my family at the centre of them—rather than passively going with the expected flow—when I heard from Shawn again. He’d misplaced my article—could I resend it? And so this is how I found myself writing this new thing that felt organic and simple. I asked for this collection of words and thoughts to be considered for inclusion instead. "Sounds good—thanks!" He said. Oh. Ok, so it was that simple.
It got me thinking about these ingrained, negative approaches to processing and decision-making that many of us hold close and see as "normal." It is devastatingly difficult to break these habits; to craft a life that doesn’t distract from our natural human state of contentment. When I first emailed Minimalism Life with my submission, I joked in my bio that I had somehow found myself in a job that didn’t quite fit me (again). How many of us easily and readily walk into all sorts of situations without true intention? We can make the same "mistake" over and over, even when we think we’ve gotten good at prioritizing what’s important to us. I had tried with all my might to bend and stretch and contort myself to fit my life around a job—rather than putting that same amount of effort into creating an environment where work could flourish in the spaces I have available.
The most complex thing to get my head around was that admitting I needed to let go of something didn’t mean I was a failure or that me leaving something behind was "good" or bad"—it was just a turn of events that was happening and didn’t detract from all of the personal growth I’d experienced on that journey. I’m not sure why we’re so obsessed with things being long term, or lasting forever, with having things "set in stone." I can’t explain why we often stay in situations where we’re unhappy, ignoring that ache in our mind and our body telling us there is more to life if we’ll only just let go and trust ourselves a bit more.
I guess what I’m saying, in a somewhat roundabout way, is that having a tool to use when you’re living an intentional life can be a game-changer. For me, that tool is writing. Typing out my ideas and frustrations and retelling my own narrative with a pinch of hindsight, one word at a time, allows me to see things with a little more clarity. And writing purely for myself is a pleasure, not a waste of time. Just because I spent time on something, it doesn’t need to be published on a website to be valid. I just need to keep an eye on that autopilot switch. And when I hear that familiar snap of it clicking back on, I need to work out what’s triggered it before I sleepwalk into the same old trap again. Or at least use the experience to inspire another article.