Playing the honesty card here… coming clean with an absolute mess I made for myself recently. If you walk past me at church on Sunday, this probably isn’t the conversation topic I am most excited to bring up.
I had a relatively simple problem to solve: I needed new walking sandals for our trip to Europe in June. Have I told you I’m going to Europe in June? (Insert excited squeal.) This should be easy. This should not rate on the ‘difficult decisions to make in life’ scale.
Well, here was my choice. Buy ‘walking sandals’ that are super comfortable and supportive, but ugly, make me look like a tourist, and that I would never wear again in ‘real life’. Or, buy some good quality ‘normal’ sandals that are comfortable enough for wearing every day and fit in with my everyday Brisbane wardrobe. Now, I’m a smart girl. I usually don’t find it difficult to make decisions. But, for some reason this one really got to me.
So, the shoe shopping began. I must have tried on 50 pairs of shoes over a 3 month period. Comfortable shoes, ugly shoes, expensive shoes, orthotic shoes, shoes on a really good special, shoes with brand names, good quality sensible shoes, cute fashionable shoes.
I bought one pair of sandals, and then another. They were sensible choices. They would go with a lot of different outfits, they weren’t too trendy, not to touristy looking, and they were both on special. One pair made funny noises when I walk. I didn’t notice that in the shop while I was striding around the aisle. The other pair made my feet hurt. I decided to suck it up and push through the pain. All shoes need some degree of wearing in, but the bruises started to form into nasty sores on the top of my feet. Not happy.
Back to the shops. Now, you’ve got to understand that this was all happening with my ‘simplify your life/minimalism’ hat on. I didn’t want three pairs of sandals! I didn’t want spare, extra pairs of sandals. I wanted less! Less stuff, less choice, less waste, less, less, less. My indecision and bad decisions were driving me crazy.
Back to the shops. I walked the entire length of the centre, top and bottom floor, and tried on another 10 pairs of sandals. Then, frustrated and annoyed, I sat myself down for a coffee and asked myself the question I probably should have started with, “What do you want?” I’d never thought about it. What did I actually want? Just for a moment I stopped thinking about all the complicating extra factors and simply thought about what shoes I wanted.
Want. We don’t like to think about what we want, at least I don’t. It feels selfish and wasteful and redundant. It’s my job to be selfless, to care for others and help them get what they want. The number of times I ask everyone in the family, “What do you want… for tea? … to do?… me to do for you?” It feels good and right to put others first. It is good and right to put others first. But, we can carry this miserable martyr complex around and make ourselves unhappy for no good reason. No one else cares what shoes I wear. It’s up to me.
When I asked the question it was surprisingly easy to answer. I wanted Birkenstock. I had been researching them online and had seen them on Pinterest. I started noticing other people wearing them, and asking my Birkenstock wearing friends what they liked about them. That’s what I wanted. So, I bought my first pair of Birkenstock, and I wore them home, smiling. Actually, really smiling. I don't think I've worn new shoes home from the shop since I was a little girl.
I have learned some simple lessons from my monumental, minimalism failure.
The point of having less stuff (minimalism) is having things that you love. If I’m truly only going to have one pair of sandals, I need sandals that make me smile when I wear them. It’s good to be sensible and save money, but if I don’t love what I have, it builds discontent and I keep my eyes on the look out for more. I have not looked in another shoe shop since I finally got my Birks, and that feels good.
Sometimes, it’s a good thing to ask myself, “What do you want?” I’m not going to become a self-centred person who disregards other’s needs and feelings by being happy in myself and enjoying what I have. I realise there is a continuum here, and there are lots of different factors to consider, but I think as good Christian women (and especially as mums), we can loose ourselves in the service of others, to the point that it can steal our own joy unnecessarily.
It a weird way, getting what I wanted has made me more grateful. I feel blessed. I am thankful for what I have and I am content. I don’t always get my own way, and I’m okay with that, but I appreciate the times that I can.
What do you want? What would make you smile today? Next time you’re at a restaurant, a cafe or a shoe shop, don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “What do you want?” Accept and enjoy the blessings in your life, and be content with that.