Lately, I’ve been thick in the business of elimination. Yanking dresses off of racks, shoving cashmere sweaters into paper bags and making piles of unread books, I’m ridding myself of all that is unnecessary. It used to be that I would accumulate and hoard because it filled an emptiness that was seemingly bottomless. An emptiness that gnawed at me and ghosted my waking hours. My sleep wasn’t the one of children. So instead of pausing and acknowledging the fact that I’d built a life that focused on soulless material pursuits and lived in a home that served only as a storage bin for a mounting sadness, I acquired. I swiped, I charged, I entered my pin, and carted dozens of bags home. Watched the stockpile of pretty things from the confines of my bed. Once the ground gives way, there is only the tumble and the endless fall.
Ever notice how excess gives you anxiety? Makes you feel boxed in, trapped? My home had devolved into a mausoleum, a tomb for a heart and a mind that was once awake. Someone who could live off less. When I was a child, my mother fried up a dizzying amount of chicken cutlets, pork chops and steak. Served towering mashed potatoes in enormous bowls. I remember thinking that there was just so much food for three people, and whenever I asked her about it, she shook a little, and it occurred to me then that she felt comforted by the act of having more, even if she didn’t need it. Even if the sight of it makes her sick.
This year I left a job, a life, that was making me sick. I boarded a plane that took me to another country where I lost my luggage, and, after several theatrical rage blackouts, I found a secret comfort in living off 2 pairs of pants, two shirts, underthings and a small bag of toiletries. It was only when my luggage found its way back to me that I experienced a sadness that I didn’t understand. Until now.
Last week, an old friend and business partner sent me a text that read: Are you sure you want to give away your Louboutins? A few hours earlier, I’d tossed large shopping bags of clothes and shoes in her trunk, determined to create some space in my home. In response, I laughed and told her to enjoy the shoes. I rationed that if my buying something caused me pain but somehow gave joy to someone else, then that purchase was worth it.
This isn’t just a routine seasonal cleaning, but a more mindful way that I want to live my life.
Call it serendipity, but I just finished Karen Wheeler’s honest and compulsively readable memoir, Tout Sweet, and there’s a scene in the book where she realizes that no one in rural France cares about the ubiquitous “it” bag or silver buckled shoes. As a result, Wheeler rids herself of the sartorial shackles of a former life, and it liberates her, allows her to make space for a whole new life hurtling in.
I don’t know where the days will take me, what the shape of my next act will look like, but I know that I have all that I want and need right in my home. A house that is now a home. A home where I can feast on yummy quinoa and read good books into the evening.
INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup pistachios
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 small green onion, thinly sliced
3/4 cup seeded diced cucumber
1 cup diced green apple
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced celery
1/2 red serrano chile, seeded and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
Maldon or other flaky salt
Prepare the quinoa according to the package directions. Put the drained quinoa back into the pot and stir it over low heat to remove some of the moisture.
In a small dry skillet, toast the pistachios over medium-low heat until evenly browned, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often to keep them from burning. Crush the nuts lightly with a knife.
In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, pistachios, and the remaining ingredients. Toss and check for seasoning; add more lemon juice and salt if necessary.