The Joy of Simply Waking Up.

Via on Jan 26, 2014

From Gucci to Gap to Goodwill and Grateful.

The other day I’m on my way to a vintage clothing shop, and I see two fellows on the bus bench in front of the shop.

They’re obviously homeless as evidenced by their grubby, layered frocks; mangy, matted hair; shopping cart of filthy blankets and extra, oversized army jackets; and the two liter bottle of cheap chardonnay they are sharing at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.

The fellow facing me has brown hair and glaucoma. He asks, “Can you spare some change?”

I say, “Just a minute,” and go into the store, not wanting them to filch my cash, feeling paranoid they’ll steal my wallet, and somehow out-shuffle me down the street. I enter the store, search my purse and find two dollars. I go back outside—the other man has removed his jacket revealing a body riddled with scabs. As I approach the men, I smell stale urine. (I must note that I have chatted with a few home-lacking people, and they do not all smell foul. I ride my bicycle on the boardwalk and see plenty out of doors dwellers at the free public showers soaping up. The water isn’t heated. But I digress.)

I walk over to the men and hand them each a dollar. The fellow who didn’t ask for money and isn’t facing me, immediately hands his dollar to his friend, and I feel chastened having made the assumption.

I ask his friend, “What’s your name?”

“Jules.”

I stick my hand out to shake his: “Anna.” His smile reveals heavy plaque and bad teeth.

His friend hasn’t turned to greet me, so I touch a clear patch of skin on his arm, “And you?”

He turns, “Wolf.” He shakes my hand, and I resist the urge to rub my hand on my jeans.

Jules says, “Did you hear about Joe?”

I reply, “No, sorry, I don’t know him, what happened?”

Jules says, “He died last night in the park.”

Wolf adds, “They found him with his dog, Wolf.”

Though I’m now confused about whether this man and the dog are both named Wolf, I say, “Oh, I’m sorry for your loss.”

Wolf has turned back facing the road and says, “Wolf stayed by his side until they found him.”

I say, “Well, he’s not homeless anymore, now he’s home free.”

They ponder this in a moment of silence, then Jules lifts a dirty shirt off the bottle of Chardonnay they’re discreetly hiding and offers, “You want some chardonnay?”

His graciousness catches me by surprise, and my throat tightens, “No, but thank you.”

“It’s good stuff. You don’t drink?”

“Not really, but I appreciate the offer.”

“You want a coat?” He points to his buggy, and I have to blink several more times to disperse excess eye moisture.

When I take my leave, I can’t help but think about my own habitation: I’m spending the winter in a cozy attic, and I’m happy about it to be sure, but it’s a long way from the old, comparatively luxurious home I sold back in Canada, not that there’s anything wrong with that either.

In a text conversation with a friend from home, my friend tells me: I admire what you’ve done, choosing the simple life.

I reply: I made compromises to have this freedom. No room for kids in the budget, not that I need that anymore, but you know what I mean. I made a choice. I’m happy I did.

I tell him about my experience with Jules and Wolf and how Joe died in the park with only his faithful dog trying to nudge him back to life and finish with: Don’t die alone in the park.

Years ago, after my divorce, but still in the snowball of an early mid-life crisis, I read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, a story about a psychiatrist finding moments of joy living in a Nazi concentration camp. It changed my perspective or at least tickled the notion of changing my perspective.

I realized a couple things: I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do professionally, and I wasn’t happy.

At the time I didn’t have the awareness to understand what I was doing ‘wrong,’ but I knew I’d have to make some major changes in my life. I started evaluating what was making me happy and what wasn’t.

Change is scary, but it’s the only constant, and we’re either taking charge of changes or following the stream of them. I decided to be proactive about my future happiness. I stopped doing the things in my work that I no longer enjoyed. I gave up a large portion of my income to do this; my reward was time.

Yes, you can buy time.

Cut to today: I’m living in a shared home in Venice Beach, California, working from one of three offices, namely the local area coffee shops with free Wi-Fi. I must now live within a relatively tight budget. I have enough Air Miles to get anywhere (thanks to my past career’s mega marketing expenses), the residual I receive from a modest investment property pays for food, clothing and attic.

A bonus of being an environmentalist is minimization; I’m content with what I have, plus I’d rather not add to landfills by purchasing anything new. I’m joyful (most of the time). My take on happy/joy is thus…

Happiness is situation based: event + perspective = reaction; joy is internally based: perspective = perspective.

I could have changed my perspective toward how I managed my business, but sometimes the little voice inside us (our intuition) says it’s time to move on. Don’t be afraid to listen to it. Or if you are afraid, listen and then dare greatly, anyway.

My friend from home tells me he’s taking a month off from work. Testing the cost of freedom. (Good for him, whatever he ultimately decides!)

I live a simple life now. I don’t have lofty goals or a major life purpose that drives me. I try to enjoy each moment. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to set up my life this way, though it was more by lucky default than strategic planning. And I’m grateful to wake up in a comfortable room with a space heater and not in a park with a bottle of Chardonnay, because there are many here who are just happy to wake up. Period. I’m glad I woke up.

RIP Joe.

What have I (re)learned?

1. Life is simple if not always easy.

2. The ease of life depends on our perspective of it.

3. We can change our perspective, and we can also change our circumstances.

 

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

 

Photo: Grant Baldwin Photography

About Anna Jorgensen

Anna Jorgensen  I'm a logging truck driver's daughter and an ex-realtor-turned-redneck-roots-love-is-the-answer-female-empowerment woman. My blog is unfiltered, uncut, politically incorrect, sardonic, sometimes swear-containing, often offensive, off-side, funny as hell and always real. (Warning: Blog/memoir contain inappropriate TMI.) I'm making a new career out of a mid life crisis living part time on Vancouver Island, Canada and wintering in California and Gypsyland. My purpose: Entertain! Inspire! Be happy, damn it... Free hugs! Find my blog and memoir, Me: A Rewrite, here: link to laughs.

Connect with Anna's real, unfiltered Facebook page here and find her on Twitter.(Save the bees!)

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8 Responses to “The Joy of Simply Waking Up.”

  1. Tom says:

    beautiful story. I engaged it with full interest and can relate to a lot of it. Thanks

    • Thank you, Tom! It has been quite a journey for me and I am still constantly catching myself in judgment, both of myself and others – preconceived ideas and perceptions. But I am human, after all, and we are all inherently and perfectly flawed. That's what makes our interactions and connections so interesting and alluring, I think. Some days I 'covet' and other days my heart overflows with gratitude and contentment. I choose to look at (perceive) this pendulum of emotion as a positive that allows one to elevate the other! Thank you for reading and sharing your comment :) xo Anna

  2. sabine says:

    What a great story and thank you for sharing something so personal. Lots of people probably told you you were crazy to change your life like this, but I think you are very courageous and I applaud you. I'm trying very hard to simplify my life and for me that means I work from home making less money than I used to, but I have more choice. I'm trying to not shop at all, therefore reducing my consumption and waste (other than food and necessities of course) and buying myself freedom from debt and guilt instead.
    Sometimes it's not easy, but I'm learning.
    I wish for you peace and happiness!

    • Sabine, thank you so much for reaching out! And yes, I've had people tell me I'm crazy and others say courageous, they're probably both right! lol But I am more content so I say it's worth it and I encourage you to do what your heart pulls you to… while being responsible, of course! It isn't always easy no matter what path we choose, but some paths do give us more peace and authenticity. Best of luck and love to you! On those tougher days, remember: this too shall pass. :) Anna

  3. Shirley0401 says:

    Helpful post. I'm in the cautious-consideration phase of thinking about downshifting to a more minimal lifestyle, and reading about people who are finding their own balance is inspiring.

    • Thanks for the feedback Shirley! It's definitely about balance and if you have the time and emotional wherewithal, planning! Though, I'm thrilled to have found contentment in the simplistic, I do wish I'd (financially) planned better instead of burning out first! Nonetheless, I'm happier regardless! All the best to you :))

  4. Deborah says:

    At 61 years of age now (birthday just passed, March 22nd) I find myself still struggling with what will I be when I grow up question. I enjoy your writings very much. Your genetic makeup I can relate to, hence, redneck offspring and fashionista. I however didn’t avoid the mid life crisis. A born in the 50′s crazy in the 70′s girl, it took awhile for me to settle down. I enjoyed your story regarding the appreciation of having a decent roof over my head. I’ve been considering subscribing to EJ, based on your blog and stories, I think I’ll take the plunge. Keep it up girl, there really are people out here that need your input. We’re all lost just a little and need a steady voice to guide us. Even if others do see us as crazy. Lol.

    • Deborah. Thank you SO much. Boy, your words here really touched me! I write because I love it and what I write I write because I want to help others, so knowing I've made a small difference in someone's world, well, it means the world to me! I keep saying we're all just perfectly flawed and trying our best–art in progress, even if a little crazy. I'm okay with that! xo big hug!

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