the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life

Desire, the Devil on my Shoulder

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I’m really feeling the vibe on the reflective posts: here’s one discussing how I use mindfulness to handle a busy schedule, and here’s another lamenting picking one life goal over another. Today I’m going to reflect on my tendency to go too big too fast. I promise, eventually I will get back to more DIY posts and money talk. Right now I’m focusing a lot of my mental energy on transitioning into my new job, so it’s nice to come home and wax poetic about other parts of my life :

Lately, I’ve noticed I’ve been spending a lot of time reading other homesteading blogs – flipping through pictures of other people’s lush gardens and livestock herds, reading about DIY projects, and trying to pick up tips where I can. I love being connected to other people who are living similar lifestyles, especially since I’m so young and green. The beauty of embracing the internet is connecting to these communities and learning from others who have much more experience than me. All well and good, right? Except … I’ve been noticing myself wishing I was somewhere other than where I am right now. I’m talking about jealousy and desire.

It’s so easy to look at what other people have and want it – I mean deeply want it, in a way that makes you feel currently insufficient. My problem isn’t so much with wanting the stuff of others – their homes or gardens – it’s with wanting the path of others – their lifestyle. Everyday I find out about another badass thing someone else is doing, particularly in the field of sustainability. Instead of admiring their work, and hoping to learn from it, my gut reaction is, “golly, I wish that were me. I wish I was doing something like that with my life.” This feeling is inevitably followed by discouragment. I am quick to become disappointed in myself, and feel like I’m not making an impact nor doing enough to better my purpose.

Mindfulness teaches us that wanting to change your current situation – wanting things to somehow be different for you – is the ultimate form of aggression against yourself. Instead of accepting yourself as you are and where you are, you’ve let desire take over and become your measurement of worth. As we all know, the problem with desire is that nothing is ever enough. You attain one of your desireables and your mind is immeadiately onto wanting the next. I really struggle with this, and through practice have observed just how negative an impact this has on my moods and sense of worth.

I am quick to feel inadequate. My mind does not want to stay in one place and enjoy what I currently have – it wants to daydream about what could be if only I had more time/ money/ skills. Throughout my adult life I let this daydreaming ravage me. If I couldn’t have what I wanted, it seemed like the next best thing was to daydream about it. I’m talking, hours of walks in the woods and nights laying in bed lost in intricate daydreams. The daydreaming seemed innocent enough, but after taking up mindfulness I realized just how destructive these thought loops were.

I try not to daydream anymore, but it’s hard. I’m poised to buy a house next summer, and my mind can go wild thinking about the perfect house. When I catch myself, I practice the mantra:

accept. release. let go.

Accept where you are, without being hard on yourself. Release the strong hold of the thinking mind. Let go of it all with a deep sigh. The emphasis is on being non-judgmental. Easier said than done, right?

Back to everyone else’s wonderful homesteads. Yes, my imagination loses it when I peruse posts about raising chickens and building zero waste homes … but there’s also another effect I’ve been noticing, that goes hand and hand with the desire. It’s the inclination to go too big, too fast. This is another “personality quirk” I’ve had for quite some time.

The other day, Andrew and I were chatting about how different we are. He is very cautious – he thinks situations through before acting. He’s also very meticulous, always making sure to do things exactly the right way. Andrew’s timeline of “work” is thus quite slow, because he pays great attention to detail and makes sure all his steps are well thought out. Me, on the other hand? Total opposite. I’m careless, reckless, think on my feet, and functionally operate as a big ball of chaos. I see something, and I want it – now. I dive head first into situations without the slightest thought of what could go wrong. Andrew (kindly) pointed out that you need a little of both. Without him always double checking my work, projects could easily go awry. But, without me always wanting to jump the gun, we wouldn’t be able to get projects off the ground.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m young and inexperienced. This, combined with jump-the-gun tendancies, often leads to me biting off way more than I can chew – both at home and at work. When you throw in the ease of access to information via the internet, I can barely help myself in wanting to try everything RIGHT NOW. In this way, the cannon of homesteading knowledge, personal antecdotes, and tutorials found on the internet is both a blessing and a curse.

I need to learn to exercise self control, or I’m going to keep ending up in situations like this: after a grueling week at work, all day Saturday I’m tied up gardening, working from home, and scouring real estate listings. Sunday rolls around and I’m simultaneously trying to help Andrew brew beer, deep clean the house, make veggie stock, bake bread, cut my hair, and oh year, find time for my meditation, yoga, and fitness practices. I lost it.

In the end, after my two days off (from paid employment) I feel frustrated and exhausted instead of rewarded and refreshed. I’m not complaining about hard work – I’m game for that. I do have A LOT of trouble repsecting my limits though. In tandem with the non-stop stream of desire pushing me to do do do, I end up burnt out. Then, I don’t even have the mental energy to devote to my projects, so things end up half-assed, decreasing cost efficiency, quality, and sustainability. Green Christine, lusting after everyone else’s homesteads and ending up in over her head.

This autumn, I want to practice relishing where I am right now. Enjoying all these beginning stages of homesteading. Being present for all my mistakes and successes. I know someday I’ll have farm animals and land, but that’s not a reality for me right now. I’m wasting a lot of mental energy longing after what I don’t have – I want to channel that into my current projects, so I can learn to do things right the first time around. I think there’s a big difference between desiring and aspiring, and I want to get to where my work comes from a place of aspiration – not just a desire to be bigger and better.

7 thoughts on “Desire, the Devil on my Shoulder

  1. I totally get where you are coming from on this… I have trouble with the same feelings… Like when I look at all the wonderful veggies you are harvesting… I want my garden to be like that… 😉
    But I am also working on just enjoying my beginnings of a garden.

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  2. Love, love this post. I feel so much the same about my art and how I view other artists. I’ll admire them and their work online, and then immediately get that desirous feeling of I WANT that, I want what they have. And the only thing that gets in the way is ME! I’m currently in the process of learning to FOCUS. Stop starting a ton of projects at a time. Stop constantly jumping from one idea to the next. Pick an idea. Finish it, Stick with it. Move to the next one. I feel like picking a direction and sticking with it, in any aspect of life, can be so much tougher than it sounds! I feel like I’m a lot like you in terms of just diving in head first and seeing what happens. While I like to have a plan, I also like to constantly be doing new things, and that makes it tough to stick to a long term plan!

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    • YES!! I am a chronic “start too many projects at once and do them all half way” woman. Exactly like you said – the want takes over and I try to dip my toes in everything. For some silly reason I just expect I will automatically be good at everything I try? Hah!

      I try to keep in mind when I start feeling desirous of others that I’m picking and choosing aspects of many people’s lives and idealizing them into “the perfect lifestyle.” The problem, nobody can be good at as many things as I want to be good at!! THAT’s th challenge of picking one thing and sticking with. I totally agree, it’s so hard though!

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  3. I have missed your blog! I’m way behind on reading, so you will probably now get a flurry of comments. Apologies in advance!

    Envy is completely normal. But I bet you — as a 30-something person myself — that all the folks you envy would also envy YOU. Your young age, your energy and enthusiasm, your insatiable thirst for information. You only get that once, and I predict I’ll spend the rest of my life envying everyone still in their 20s. 🙂 Also, like you said, you know you have a tendency to take on too much too fast, so it’s probably a blessing that you have time now to hone your skill at gardening, preserving and other DIY while the stakes are low. Imagine if you had a big homestead now, and suddenly had all the pressure of making everything grow and function perfectly, but without having had some years of “training wheels.”

    As usual, I love how grounded you seem about all of it, and think your plan to relish where you are in life now is perfect. Good luck!

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