31 Days of Black Minimalism

My friend Ari is so much smarter than me. 

I've been asking myself lately why I shop so frequently--by no means a problem, I'm not carrying mounds of debt, but we are living paycheck to paycheck, and I routinely buy more than I need--and I've come up with, I want to feel pretty. Shopping makes me feel pretty, in a way that dressing or adorning does not. Note: it's not actually the act of wearing the dress/scarf/lipstick/shoes/sweater/ring/eyeliner I've purchased, nor is it even putting it on (and heaven forbid it be taking it off and just existing in the body I was born into, naked, proud, beautiful, though maybe some days a bit chilly); it is the act of purchasing the item that actually makes me feel pretty. It's the promise of beauty, delight, magic, that is made when I hold the object in my (sometimes digital, sometimes flesh-and-bone) hand and give over some semblance of legal tender, and then it's mine. And the half-life of how pretty I might be in/with the object has instantly passed, because time is like this.

I tell her this, and I don't assume anything is off about this. I don't assume that I'm pretty with or without the dress/scarf/shoes etc., or that I'm being manipulated, or anything other than pretty really is out there and not in here, and that I don't see my own Pretty independent of the object. And Ari nods at me, and she says,

"Capitalism wants us to feel so bad about ourselves."

And my mind is blown for the rest of the day.

*

Growing up, my mother told me I was lazy. And messy.

Among other things I am releasing, I am practicing letting go of the lies that I believed about myself that I learned from my mother. Well-meaning, logical, evocative, but dishonest nonetheless. 

I weary easily. I have values that are different from the values my mother holds. And I believe my whole life, I have had more than I needed. I have had too much, and no place to put it all.

*

I'm not sure where it started, but I find myself in the grip of a major episode of purging. Of letting go. The word episode feels wrong, because it connotes a temporary quality of the experience I'm having or the story I'm telling. This doesn't feel temporary. This doesn't feel like a phase or an episode; this feels like a pivot. My Mister says the kids are using the phrase "Inflection point", borrowed from mathematics and applied to all kinds of things, to describe a sharp turn in a different direction. It feels like that. 

Maybe it started in India. Maybe it started with veganism, in my silver Hyundai on I-65, or later in my small apartment in Dearborn Park. Maybe it started when I read Marie Kondo, which was two years after everyone else read her. Maybe it started with the Sri Sukta. I don't know, and there will be time to consider all this and more. But for now, let me say this:

whenever I travel, I return home and feel tight and uncomfortable about how much I feel I have changed, relative the inflexibility of my space, my world. It is one of the most difficult sensations for me to navigate. I struggle with it. I came home from the Indian subcontinent this spring, and felt the change in seasons (coming closer, despite the Chicago weather telling me otherwise), and the inflexibility of my home, and the need for detoxification, and for purge, release. And then, as I started to consider What It Really Is to live an intentional life, a life where how I invest my time, money, energy, skill set, is something I actually think about, I started looking around and noticed that the corner of conversation around... sigh, pardon me, minimalism*, is largely occupied by white cis men. 

Listen, I have no problem with white cis men. Some of my best friends are white cis men. I also find that right now, I'm less interested in their narrative of history, of past or future, than perhaps I ever have been.

The narrative of minimalism, so far as I've read it, (which is not much, I claim no scholarly knowledge of this subject/movement/insert noun here) seems dominated by dudes from the dominant culture who made buckets of money by their 30th birthday, and then realized happiness wasn't to be found at the bottom of another bottle/gaming system/line of blow/anonymous hookup/joy ride/done deal/expensive suit. This is not my narrative. I don't know shit about that story. And I knew that I was in this story somewhere.

So I kept digging, and I found some minimalists of color. Folks who are exploring what it is to make intentional choices about spending, consuming, choosing, and releasing, with a knowledge of the history of oppression in America, equity and income disparity, in short who talk about minimalism with an understanding of privilege, personal and systemic. 

And I decided that because the corner is small, I want to be a part of the conversation.

So:

#31DaysofBlackMinimalism

I'm not about absenting or excluding, myself or others. I'm not about judging the choices of others. But I am about interrogating this urge within myself deeply, and exploring what it is to live with less, and what it brings up for me, and what it has to teach me. 

  • Starting today, I'll post a photo on my Instagram account daily, sharing a little image around what's on my mind.
  • Starting today, I'll post once a week (?!) here and write a little more deeply about some of what's coming up.

I'm excited to see where this is going. This isn't a blog about minimalism. This is a blog about where yoga intersects race, culture, and identity, and how I engage with that. I'm hopeful that I'll keep digging into that over the next four weeks. 

Join me. 

 I recently took a tea and meditation workshop, and now the practice of brewing tea is blowing my mind.

I recently took a tea and meditation workshop, and now the practice of brewing tea is blowing my mind.

* I’m not in love with this word. It feels like such a label, and I can’t use it freely yet. Maybe part of this time will be me reclaiming it.