The books are starting to be packed. Well, I’m starting to pack them. Little by little I’m cleaning out my tiny studio and boxing things up. I only have about 3 and a half weeks left here in Milwaukee and only have about 4 and a half weeks before France (well it may be longer than that as I still have no word on my visa situation).
I just finished the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and as I’ve mentioned in a couple of other posts, this book has inspired me to seek happiness in my own life. One of her personal resolutions was to clear the clutter in her life. I was quite inspired by her and by this particular resolution because as I was starting to clear the clutter in my head of false lies that I trained my mind to believe that were causing my depression and my anxiety, I thought it only fitting that seeking happiness in my life should also be reflected in my physical life. After all, I realized that though in general I’m not a huge fan of cleaning up my own messes, I find that I do feel happier when I do. I feel happier when my house is in less of a mess and doesn’t look overbearing with stuff. I also feel happier with less stuff. I think that in my depression, in my anxiety, and with my sentimental habits, I tend to hold onto things that I don’t use, don’t need, or think that I might possibly use someday. So, I started de-cluttering my life, mentally, emotionally, and now physically.
Decluttering my life entailed getting rid of a variety of things. You name it: clothes, jewelry, nail polish, shoes, old and/or useless documents, candles, purses, photo albums, picture frames, perfumes, etc. etc. And even, dare I say it (and I think I might put my mother into shock with this one), books. I actually got rid of a good 20 or so books that I didn’t care to read again or that I never really had the passion or the interest to start. The only reason I kept them around was because I thought that I could, maybe, possibly like them and because one of my dreams in life is to have my own personal library, like the one that the Beast has in Beauty and the Beast. That library is what dreams are made of.
But yes, I got rid of books. It was actually kind of painful for my bookworm soul, but I realized that purging my mind meant that I needed to purge my physical life of the things that I really just needed to stop holding onto, and that included books that I knew that at the end of the day I probably really wouldn’t ever pick up again or wouldn’t pick up period.
Despite the pain of letting go of some stuff, to be honest, I actually feel really excellent.
I feel excellent because I feel that I have more room to breathe, both physically and mentally. Secondly, I feel that purging my life of all of these unimportant material things is mentally preparing me for my move to France.
Though I’ve lived in France twice already now, I feel like there is something different about this time. I’m going into it full throttle this time around. I really, really want to keep working on changing my life. I don’t want to move to France and pretend for 8 months that I’ve made changes like I did the last time. No, this time around, I want to really take everything that I’ve been learning and doing in and with my life this summer with me abroad so that I can continue to grow and to remind myself to stop pretending that I’m okay. I need to stop pretending that traveling and living as an expatriate, feeling captured by wanderlust and the excitement of another culture, are going to make all of my bad experiences, bad feelings, bad thoughts, and bad habits to go away. Because it won’t. It didn’t last time, and it won’t this time. This time will be different.
I’m leaving all of this semi-used or useless stuff behind me, including the mental and emotional stuff. I’m going to accept and to recognize that I will still struggle but that it’s okay. I’m going to revel in these days, especially because I finally feel like I have the proper tools to combat my negative feelings.
I used to always think that I would “be better” once I would never feel negative feelings. Boy was that ignorant of me, but now I’m learning that it’s more about accepting the negative feelings and developing the skills and the tools to properly cope with them in healthy, non-destructive ways.
So, yes, purge I will, and purge I continue to do as I continue to pack little by little.
However, you must also realize that I am still Lindsey at the end of the day, which means that despite the fact that I did get rid of some books, I still have around 200 or so. So, here comes the difficult part. What books do I take with me to Paris? ‘Cause obviously I can’t bring my entire collection (if only I could), and I’m firmly against kindles (I’m not against people who use kindles. I understand their practicality, especially when traveling, but I’m a traditionalist. What can I say?).
So, as I was packing up my 200 or so books, I really was having trouble deciding what to bring. Telling a bookworm that she can only bring a few books is like telling a mother than she can only bring some of her children on a really fun adventure….or something like that. haha Or alright, it’s nothing like being a mother, but I must admit that I am severely attached to my books.
So, anyways, I was really, really struggling with this, more than any person probably should. So, I had a thought. Why don’t I bring books that will only bring me closer to my goal of helping me on my happiness journey and battling the demons that I’ve been fighting against and am determined to destroy? I want to keep the positive vibes going, especially because I know the culture shock and homesickness will come. It’s invegetable as a good friend of mine would say (inside joke. anyone ever seen idiots of the internet? Joe Santagato anyone? No? Maybe? you should watch his youtube videos if you haven’t heard of him. Hilarious.) Anyways, back to the point. It’s inevitable. So, why not read those books which I feel will only help me in continuing to improve my mental and emotional life? Exactly.
So, as I prepare for Paris, here are the books that I have decided on:
1. Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin
As I just finished The Happiness Project by her and as I felt extremely inspired by her, I thought I would continue with this book of hers that’s all about breaking bad habits in our lives. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I have never really been one to read so-called “self-help” books, but part of getting over my anxiety and my depression means admitting and accepting that I do need help. In fact, my counselor inspired me by saying that part of being resilient is not only recognizing but also being willing to ask for and to accept help from others. So, yes, I will continue to seek help from others. Whether that is from actually speaking with physical humans or reading a self-help book by an author that has already inspired me, I will feel no shame.
2. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
Teaching language, traveling the world, and reading books are some of my top passions, but my next top passion is writing. Sometimes I find that writing can be frustrating, draining, and flat-out discouraging. Something that I really want for my life is to be able to make writing, aside from teaching, of course, into a mode of making a living, because I want to share my story and because, honestly, I want it to be something that helps support the teaching and the traveling and the reading books thing. I really want to understand how to break through my writing insecurities better. So, why not? Especially because I’m on this kind of “self-help” kind of streak.
3. The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner
Because why wouldn’t I want to combine my search of happiness with my wanderlust?
4. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Because even though this book has now become one of those cliché finding yourself while traveling books, I must admit that after seeing parts of the movie, I am intrigued, and you know what? Things are cliché for a reason, and if reading her story helps me to develop my own, then why the hell not?
5. This Incredible Need to Believe by Julia Kristeva
As part of my personal journey and as part of my own sort-of happiness project, my search for my ultimate understanding of faith and where I personally stand with it is ever present. This is something that I’m still struggling with on a daily basis. I’m still searching to understand what kind of faith I have. This book is described as first delving into why we, as humans, have an incredible need to believe in something, and that after that, she talks about how culture, world religions (and their wars), and the human condition play into all of this. I feel like it’s right up my alley.
6. The Bible in French
Because I’m still trying to figure it out y’all. (Also, I don’t really use y’all all that often. I felt it suited the situation though). And, in French, because you know, France and stuff.
7. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Because nothing else inspires me more than to look at the world the way that Juster describes the world in my favorite children’s book of all time. Plus, I’m thinking it might come to be useful for a really creative and fun lesson plan.
So, I was originally only going to bring 5 including my Bible, but I really feel like these 7 are my best choices, plus they are all rather thin books, so why not?
Also, most of my books are in English because the amount of books for school that I’ll be reading in addition to the books that I know I will be buying will be in French. So, I need some English refuge every once in awhile.
This journey that I’m on is long and complicated, especially because I’m being uprooted in the middle of it, but books always make me feel at home, no matter where I am. I can get lost in a book anywhere. Books make me feel love, inspiration, adventure, excitement, and, to be honest, enlightenment. So, it is highly important to me that I bring some with me on this journey.
So, yes, these 7 will be my companions as I live across the pond, and I couldn’t be happier in my choices.
If you could only pack a handful of books with you to live for a year in another country, which ones would you choose and why?