Voluntary Simplicity Not Always Voluntary

Initially Voluntary Simplicity appealed to me out of desperation. I was searching for something to alleviate the deep feelings of resentment and anger I was feeling at the time – feelings that will still bubble up from time to time if I don’t remind myself to keep things in perspective – for being on one of the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. Fortunately I did not begin to feel these feelings at any great length until I entered the “real world” and took a 9-5 office job just before I turned 34 years old. Before that I enjoyed enough freedom and peace having 3 plus days off per week and living within walking distance from home and having fun most days at my job that my lower economic status did not make me feel uncomfortable. Although looking back I see that I was making up that disparity with the use of credit cards from the age of 18 until the age of 33 when I filed for personal bankruptcy because I was no longer able to pay the minimum payments on the 60K I had racked up in debt. Sadly too many Americans have had to use their credit cards to make up for economic disparity and for many to “keep up with the Joneses” and though that was not my intention I did indulge in too many vacations to exotic locations. I no longer indulge this desire.

I did not begin to feel resentment and envy of those in better economic situations until I began working the 9-5 soul sucking job. It wasn’t long after that this awareness became an obsession and I was soon living in a torturous nightmare of the cruel reality of inequity and discrimination. I found the disparity in pay, benefits and treatment galling. Unfortunately my ingrained feelings of entitlement made this realization extraordinarily painful. Thankfully I no longer have this sense of entitlement that my father hammered into my head from the time I can remember that if I educated myself I would find myself at the top, in terms of economic terms and on the so called “corporate ladder”. Of course he meant well but it was a rude awakening to learn that this assumption was completely incorrect, therefore destroying the belief system that had been instilled in me my entire life. I spent over 7 years in college working on 3.5 degrees that included an MBA and at age 47 I have yet to make more than a middle income or get above the glass ceiling. I had initially wanted to be a psychologist but my dad insisted I needed the MBA to be successful. I forfeited my dream and as a result have only been able to keep my head above water during my adult life, and just barely at times.

However, even though the education did not provide me what was promised – financial success and recognition – I gained something even better; awareness, which led to understanding and then to enormous compassion and empathy for the inequities and injustices that the majority of people in the world, especially women, are subjected to for their entire lives with no escape. I learned what it felt like to be discriminated against both due to gender and economic status and that changed my perspective on many things and ultimately has made me a better person. Plus, all of the uncomfortable and at times painful and humiliating circumstances led me to discover the Voluntary Simplicity, Minimalism and Tiny House movements and the value that those life philosophies have added to my life thus far is immeasurable and I want nothing more than to introduce others to the value of these quality of life philosophies and therefore I am grateful for my past and future struggles which inspire me to continue to simplify my life and to help others see the benefit of simplifying theirs.

Thanks for reading!

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How I Discovered the Voluntary Simplicity Movement

In the early 2000’s I found myself working for a company that was owned by one filthy rich family. I had been exposed to very wealthy people before but not on a daily basis & this began to have a negative impact on me. I began to feel envious which soon turned to disdain. I had of course experienced moments of envy before but it was never so intense. I had never been treated so differently due to my “class” or “title”. It was shocking and it felt awful. I was not prepared or equipped to handle it.

It was a serious wake up call. As one of the “lowly workers” we were treated as such. We had our own parking lot, which of course was much further from the building then was the executives lot. We also had our designated “lunch area” while the execs dined in a fancy formal dining room with Chef’s preparing their lunch many days. Some days there were some cold scraps leftover that us lowly “workers” were permitted to eat. It was very surreal to be part of that and it made me very uncomfortable, more so as the years passed.

Before living that experience I never gave social justice much thought but I found it so degrading and insulting that I began to notice all of the injustices of the world. It was the first time I had direct experience with inequity and discrimination and I found it intolerable. I apparently was living a very sheltered existence beforehand. I had heard of disparities in wealth and discrimination but that is all it was here-say, until I actually experienced it firsthand. It changed me forever. I was not and am not the same person I was before experiencing such humiliating treatment. As horrible as experience as it was I will say that it turned me into an extraordinarily compassionate and empathetic person which is one of the positives that I was able to take from that horrendous experience.

I could go on and on with the particular disparities and discrimination that I encountered during that decade plus of degradation working for that despicable company, but I think I made my point. The reason for telling about this at all is to explain how I found my way to the Voluntary Simplicity Movement and eventually the Tiny House Movement. I became extremely depressed, barely able to make ends meet; barely able to drag myself out of bed each morning. I had to go into debt just to pay my bills and at the same time having to see daily the appalling wealth of this family and the top execs who were paid 6 -10 times what I was paid was infuriating. I was absolutely miserable and desperate for relief from the pain I was feeling that was only getting worse as the days, weeks, months and years passed.

Looking back now I see that I should have left that job. I will never know for sure what compelled me to stay in a position I despised working for a company I despised for 10 plus years. It was masochistic and to quell those feelings of inequity and anger during the early years I looked to books. Books have always been where I go when feeling unhappy or any negative feelings. They truly are my savior. I first came across “How to Want What You Have” by Timothy Miller, which I chose specifically because of the title thinking it might help to alleviate the feelings of envy and inequity I felt and although it was a good book it made me feel more like I had to settle to feel better about my lot in life as opposed to actually changing my life philosophy. I was still hanging onto the so called “American Dream” at this time. What I took from it was this was my lot in life, just shut up and accept it. Needless to say this sentiment did not sit well with me.

It was when I fortunately discovered “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominquez that I began to wake up and my philosophy of life began to change. Soon after I came across “Voluntary Simplicity” by Duane Elgin and I began to want a different life, but it would be 10 more years of struggling and with coming to terms with the fact that the so called “American Dream” is a lie and before I would begin taking drastic steps to change my life.

Blogging Anonymously, Good Idea or Not?

I recently took a blog writing course and enjoyed it very much. However, when I asked the facilitator what she thought about blogging anonymously she didn’t hesitate to say that she thought it was a bad idea. Her reasoning is that readers want to know the identity of the blogger and even want to see a photo of the blogger’s face so that what the blogger writes resonates with the reader. Considering that I don’t have a choice but to blog anonymously if I want to share my experiences with others I was extremely discouraged by this response.

For 17 years I have been itching to share my experiences with substance abuse, my prison marriage, my brother choking to death, being stalked for 4.5 years, child abuse, discrimination in the workplace, suicidal thoughts and ultimately overcoming most of these challenges. I am still working on overcoming some of these challenges, but I am always making progress and I am hoping by sharing I might inspire someone or at least show that there is always hope no matter what circumstances you may be facing.

I do have another anonymous blog but it is pretty much dormant these days. It was more of a rant against corporate America when I was at a job where I was subjected to gender discrimination. I recently changed jobs so the anger has dissipated and I no longer feel the need to write in the format, thankfully! It wasn’t pleasant to write and it is even more difficult to read. I am glad that part of my life is in the past.

I have been contemplating whether or not to write anonymously and have decided to give it a go. I know there are people out there who will identify with me and my life experiences and will understand why I am unable to identify myself. I have been living with secrets for decades, almost my entire life actually and it does take an emotional and physical toll. I am hoping that by sharing my secrets, albeit anonymously, it will encourage others to do so as well. It is cathartic to share ones deepest secrets with others who can empathize.

I believe there is a community of online people who also want to share their secrets knowing that they can’t and won’t be used against them. Unfortunately a large segment of society is quick to judge and condemn anything out of the mainstream, such as a prison marriage. It is a cruel fact of life that the family members and loved ones of those doing time automatically are stigmatized and treated with disrespect, contempt and at times even hate.

Being married to a man in prison is the main reason I will be writing anonymously for now which I hope will not be a determining factor on whether or not you choose to read. Please know that although my identity will be anonymous my experiences are authentic and I will write about them honestly. I would like this blog to be a conversation with others who have experienced pain and tribulations.

Thank you for reading and please add to the conversation by commenting. The photo is of a painting my husband painted in prison.

Exciting First Blog Post for Living with Secrets!

I have been considering writing a blog for years and have dabbled a bit with a couple of other topics. However, this is the first time I actually purchased a domain. The domain LivingWithSecrets.com. I recently took a blog writing course and discussed the possibility of writing a blog anonymously with the course facilitator and she said she did not recommend it if I want to have a successful blog. The thing is though, I am a 46 year old Professional Woman. I have both a career and own a business and if I am going to write honestly about my life there is no way I can do it publicly without possibly ruining both. I wish I could say that because my values matter more than peoples opinions, which they do, I will write publicly, however I do still have to make a living and therefore unfortunately at this time if I am going to write honestly about my life, which I am hoping others living with secrets will identify with and hopefully find solace in the fact that they are not the only one, I am going to have to do it anonymously, at least for now. I hope this will not impact the purpose of this blog which is to reach and touch other people that may be living with secrets as I believe many people are and the daily obstacles and difficulties that living with secrets presents and how to overcome them. I would love to overcome them together.