I'm in complete overwhelm at this moment. I don't know why exactly. I look around at all my "stuff" and I just don't know what I'm going to do with it all. It's really freaking me out. There's so much! I'm planning on taking before and after videos and pics to show everyone via YouTube but even that feels like a really big task right now. On top of feeling overwhelmed I threw my back out again. I'm an insomniac normally but sleeping with back spasms is, of course, worse.
I know some days/weeks/months will just be hard. That's the way life is. I can always count on change and difficulty. Not in a bad way, just in a practical way.
I edited and posted my latest podcast today and interviewed another amazing person yesterday. I made a quick one-off sans interview about my love for circus, to hopefully inspire others.
I feel it's important to blog even when things are hard and they suck.
I have made lists about what items I wanted to keep in each part of my van but there's just too much and the thought of that overwhelms me too. There's not enough space in my van "garage" for everything I want to bring. There's much less space in my living area. Because of the fridge I chose and the small size of the van I am getting, there's not even enough space for more than one smallish ground level cabinet. This has me worried about where I'll put pots and pans and heavier items that I don't want to stuff overhead. I know that in the end, it's all going to work out, it has to, but right now I'm worrying.
Logically I get this is counter-productive and so I've decided not to think about what box I'm going to put where and figure the logistics out when I've packed up and am in the converted van.
I also had to rethink some important things like the fact that I should use glass in the van and need to find a way to lock up my knives—both in case of an accident.
Thanks to Jeff Wagg's Podcast, Built to Go, I watched the video of a camper van crashing at 35mph and it was not pretty. Drawers were torn open, and all the glass went flying up front and shattered. There were "crash-test dummy" kids in the seats behind the driver and they were pummeled with debris. I'm glad I watched it though. I already planned to keep my dog fastened in place in his dog bed* which I purchased after watching crash test videos with (stuffed toy) dogs! The one I bought fares really well but here are harness options for your pup.
But what about flying glass shards and pointy knives turned missiles!!?? YIKES!!! Yes my brain never stops! No wonder I'm an insomniac! I fear the off switch may be the long sleep and I don't like that option so I'm embracing my overthinking instead.
Regarding my overwhelm, today I thought it would be great to get my storage unit NOW and start piling items in it but I can't afford to pay for the space for 6 months. Should I pack things in boxes and pile them in the corner of my living room? No, I should figure out what I want to give away, which is what I've been doing, and keep parting with it. Back to the drawing board...
* I have one affiliate link above for the car (crash safe) doggie bed I use but you are not required to use my link. I appreciate it, if you choose to, I will earn a few cents :)
I hope my story will inspire you. I am in my fifties and have a myriad of injuries and body challenges but I still work out consistently. It took me forty years to discover something that lights my fire, something I am passionate about and, because it’s never too late, I use circus workouts to keep my body pain free!
My background is; I was a gymnast when I was young. From 2nd grade through 6th grade. It was my #1 passion at that time and it brought me tremendous joy. Plus, I was good at it. I excelled in tumbling but the uneven bars were my second favorite. I was good enough to be considered for the team that trains for the team that trains for the olympics. In 6th grade I was encouraged to start this extensive training and I jumped in quickly and happily.
Unfortunately, my parents were not on board and pulled me out of gymnastics to send me to a private school, complete with uniforms, where I knew no one. All my friends went to a public school for junior high (7th grade here in California) and I did not. This moment in my life crippled me. I was torn from my #1 passion, all my friends and those two things, coupled with my troubled and dysfunctional home life threw me into a self-destructive cycle of cutting, drug and alcohol abuse that I wasn't able to get out of until I was in my early forties. I don’t “blame” my parents. I made the bad decisions, which were the coping skills I learned and relied on. They were negative coping skills that had severely negative life impacts, but I learned from them and I became a stronger person.
In 2003/ish one of my friends introduced me to indoor rock climbing and I fell madly in love with it. This was the first “sport/workout” I’d ever liked since I had been pulled out of gymnastics. And I continued to do it for a little over five years. But the biggest problem with rock climbing is you need a partner, and those were difficult to find. In the end I had two people who would meet me and climb with me regularly, but then the gym in my area closed.
Fast forward to my recovery (from drugs and alcohol) in 2008, where I became awe stricken by the people I saw doing aerial silks. I used to go to burning man. I went for 7 years, not in a row, beginning in 1996. My last year, 2010, I volunteered as a ranger and was up in the early hours to cover my shifts. It was during one of these shifts that I met a silk aerial artist and stood in front of her with my jaw on the dusty playa floor.
“I’ve always wanted to do that,” I said.
“You can,” she said. “I was just like you a year ago.”
She encouraged me to call my local circus school when I returned home to San Francisco. She told me to start with a class called aerial conditioning. I did what she said and was delighted to find that classes had just begun. I enrolled and went to work with gusto. I had rediscovered my gymnast passion. I was 44 years old. I’m proud to say that I’ve been going to circus school regularly for the past 10 years. I started with conditioning and then took a class where you get to try all the apparatuses. I’ve now tried Chinese pole, aerial silks, hoop/lyra, straps, sling, and trapeze. I fell in love with the latter, trapeze. It was mainly because of the passion of my trapeze teacher who used to be a professional artist, and a gold medalist. I went from one class a week to three. There’s something completely zen about being suspended 30 feet in the air, and having to balance on a bar. When I’m up there, I feel completely in my body. I am focused. It’s important to say that I have always been afraid of heights, always. But I also love to push myself, past my fear, past my comfort zones. And eventually I became less afraid. Did the fear vanish completely? No, but it was no longer debilitating. If I look out, instead of straight down, it’s easier. And yes, I got to the point where I was able to do complicated and difficult tricks, high up in the air.
At one point, several years in, I was so comfortable that I was showing off and I hurt myself. The injury took me off the trapeze for a year. It was a hand injury (I tore the tendons in 2 fingers) and it was severe enough that those two fingers will never be the same, ever. But I can use them, they just don’t look pretty and my grip has been compromised. And… I did it to myself by not paying attention. Another learning experience. When I finally got past the beating myself up part, I went in another direction and began seriously studying handstands. I took handstand classes and threw myself into that discipline with the same gusto I’d thrown myself into trapeze. I even hurt myself in handstand class by staying in a handstand so long that my elbows collapsed and my chin met the floor. That was a fun bruise! Training on the floor was amazing. We trained all parts of our bodies. And the best part was that I had so much bonding time with one of my best friends, the phenomenal Karina - who you can learn about in podcast #9.
After a year of handstanding, I went back to trapeze and continued to do both. Once Covid hit, I had to quit going to the circus and for the first few months I was devastated. Training had become a huge part of my life. But not just any kind of training, EXTREME circus training.
I have to explain that I have no intention of ever performing, and I didn’t go into the circus with that intent. I started circus because of my gymnastic past. I was used to extreme training. I was used to pushing my body and testing my limits. I was used to teachers saying “there is no such word as can’t.” I was used to a certain level of pain and adrenaline and the intoxication that goes with it. I’ve tried many other disciplines over the years and none of them worked for me. I found yoga boring, I found running annoying, I don’t play sports because I’ve never been good at them and I’m not very competitive. That said, I do push myself to run several times a week because my dog loves it and I know it’s good for me but only once have I ever experienced that “runner’s high” people talk about. When I do circus though, I ALWAYS experience it!
It took a few months for my circus school to get on zoom and when they did, a teacher that an aerial artist friend of mine always talked about, had openings. This particular friend of mine is now in her 60’s but she spins and contorts and looks like someone in their 30’s! She is truly an inspiration. The teacher she spoke of is one of the top contortion teachers at the school and used to be a performer. Now, while in circus school, I sustained quite a few injuries. Most of them were negligence on my part, but one in particular happened from a teacher pushing me too hard. In both hips. In his defense, I let him. It happened about eight years ago and I am still suffering from it and perhaps always will. There are a lot of things I cannot do, stretching wise, because of the injuries. There is the herniated disk I got in graduate school, which hanging upside down on a trapeze “cured”. I also had two frozen shoulders, not one, but TWO and was able to get past those with EFT (emotional freedom technique/tapping, acupuncture and the most effective way, walking my hand up a wall while screaming in pain but not stopping!)
And those injuries, coupled with a pretty severe shoulder injury thanks to my father and a ganglion cyst in my wrist which means, no more handstands for me, and I’m bodily challenged to say the least. I’m also the kind of person who does what people say I can’t do. So when my trapeze teacher said, “you’ll never get your splits after you turn 50” I was like “challenge accepted”!
When I was in graduate school, I used to sit and study for ten hours at a time. It was during those five years that I developed sciatica down both my legs. I am also a person who pushes through and/or ignores my pain. So after a while I didn’t really notice it. Yes, it hurt 24/7 but honestly, I just learned to ignore it. Bored with being grounded and indoors, I decided to give contortion class a try and it was the best decision I’ve made, all of lockdown!
After the first class, my sciatica disappeared. I recently spoke to another one of my contortion teachers and she said the same thing happened to her!
If I skip a week, the sciatica returns. So of course, being a good addict, I’m not doing contortion classes three days a week for two hours at a time. Am I good? NO F-ing way! I’m the worst student in all my classes, by far. They can lift their legs (while standing) straight up over their heads. I can’t even lift mine half way up. Have I gotten my splits yet? Nope, I have not. But I am closer than I’ve ever been and I believe that with practice and discipline, I will get there.
I had also lost my backbends and can now do them again! Can I do complicated contortion routines? No, I cannot. But that doesn’t stop me from trying :)
When I developed the ganglion cyst and was no longer able to do handstands, yes I was upset but then I turned it around and began to work on my forearm stands instead.
I give myself daily challenges too. Right now I’m working on 10 assisted pull ups and 10 push-ups, 6 days a week. I do believe that giving my body one day off is important for recovery.
The bottom line is for you to find what you love and do that. If you love yoga, yes! Do it! If you love spinning or riding your bike outside, do it! If you love dancing, do it! There are so many options! And I’ve tried them all. I wanted to love yoga and hooping and cycling and spinning, but I just didn’t. When you find something that lights you up, you will push yourself to do it and maybe it’s something unconventional and different like circus.
When I move into my van, I’m having a pull-up bar installed because, personally, I love doing pull-ups. I’m also having a roof rack that will have a pull out bar in the back from which I will hang my sling. I do have my own trapeze, but using it while in the van may not be practical, though I may try! Therefore, I’m now taking sling classes because whatever I do and wherever I go, I am clear that circus will need to stay a part of my life. I am also designing the van to have enough floor space to continue doing contortion, or my version anyway, which is extreme stretching :)
Just because I won’t be stationary, that doesn’t mean I have to give up doing anything that lights me up! My passions are a part of me
~ Kimberly Anne ©
I also recorded a podcast about my aerial journey :) Listen HERE!
The pics below are all from the past few months of contortion training!
While the idea of minimalism is something that’s fascinated me for years, I also find it terrifying.
First a little backstory. I have, in reality, started over with almost nothing three times in my life. When I moved from my parent’s house to a college dorm to an apartment but at that age I didn’t own much and was less “set in my ways.”
My biggest re-start was at age thirty-six. I was with my ex-husband for seventeen years and had amassed a one-bedroom apartment full of belongings. I also had most of the items I coveted from my parent’s home by that time. Old journals, photos, sentimental clothing that belonged to my mother when she was young, all my writing from elementary school through high school and college.
But I was in a severely abusive marriage, and leaving was difficult on many levels. My ex-husband was violent, an addict and volatile. When I told him I was leaving, he threatened to kill me. There’s a lot of drama and another story in all of this that I don’t need or want to unpack here, so the bottom line is that when I left, all I could take was a blow up mattress and a small suitcase. When I returned to the apartment, a couple of months later (supervised) he’d put a lock on the bedroom door, given most of my belongings to his mistress and thrown away everything else that was important to me. I “lost” almost everything that held sentimental value, including all my writing from childhood as well as photos and the clothes that had belonged to my mother. On top of that, he took my car (yes, I’d paid $10,000 for it), my pets and all the furniture… everything. But I was fine with it because I realized I’d escaped with my life, which is the one thing that was irreplaceable (other than my pets, which of course were the hardest to lose).
And so I began again. With virtually nothing. I didn’t have a bed, a dresser, pots or pans, dishes, TV, gaming systems (we had 5), etc. I did eventually get my computer back (an ancient desktop, this was a long time ago LOL) because he had his own, but he had still stuffed mine full of porn LMAO.
I moved in with a close friend and she had an apartment full of stuff. She had couches, a TV, kitchen items and basically all I “needed”. I had the blow up mattress, which I slept on for over a year, until I could afford a futon. I rode the bus 2 hours each way to work until I scraped up $250 to buy a very used car. I was thirty-six years old, and starting over at that age was not as easy as it had been at eighteen. But I managed. I learned a lot, and I was fine. At my core, I’m a survivor.
Unfortunately, I did not learn my lesson and picked another abuser. This one was even worse. He did attempt and almost killed me. It involved the police. It was an ugly mess of domestic violence with bruises and blood.
He “wouldn’t let me leave” so I had to plan in secret for months and eventually moved out while he was at work. I found a great, fully furnished, sublet and left everything except my cat. Eventually he calmed down enough for me to get a few more items than my ex-husband had allowed, but I still had little.
I had some clothes and a newer computer that I built myself. No furniture and no kitchen items. Those were all his. I was forty years old. That was when I made the firm decision to live alone. No more roommates who I’d be beholden to and no more live-in lovers.
A few months later, I moved again, from the sublet to my own one-bedroom apartment. I had nothing. No furniture, not even a single kitchen plate. I lived in that apartment for seven years and during that time I completely filled it. From a couch to a bed to kitchen items to a dresser and more…
When I moved to the apartment, I live in now; I had to hire movers and a truck. But I look around and everything I have here now is different. I ended up replacing every piece of furniture, including my couch. My last couch died a sad and scary death of horror. I changed my esthetics from dark wood to light wood. From heavy, black everything to bright, colorful and mostly blue. I bought used items on Craigslist. I painted things. I bought artwork and plants. I made a really beautiful and very comfortable home.
But about five years ago, I began obsessing on the idea of a tiny home. I knew then that I’d never be able to afford a house. Where I live in Northern California near San Francisco, the cost of living has increased exponentially and continues to do so. When I moved into my neighborhood ten years ago, two-bedroom houses were selling for $300,000. They now sell for over a million. Ten years ago, $300,000 was not in my budget. My last apartment was amazing (rats in the walls and black mold notwithstanding) but when my landlord died, they gave me sixty days to vacate. There is no rent control in my county and prices just keep going up.
At the time of this blog post, a one bedroom in my town rents for $3,200 a month. When I moved here, a one bedroom rented for $1,200 a month, which is currently less than the price of renting a single bedroom in a shared rental. Those go for $1500 and up per month.
In another 10 years, with the rate of inflation here, a one bedroom will probably rent for over $6,000 a month and a share will be $3,000 for a single bedroom. Not only is that absolutely ridiculous, it’s unsustainable. Especially since income has not increased to match the rate of inflation. In a decade this will be the land for the rich only. :(
I’ve talked previously about my options and how I decided on tiny living in a van. What I haven’t touched on in depth is the fear that goes with giving up all my “stuff” again. I know I can do it. I want to do it. But society tells me that unless I have a four-bedroom house and a Mercedes, Tesla or BMW, and designer clothes, I’m a nobody. If I don’t have a husband and 2.5 children, I’m a nobody. I’m less than worthless. It’s a weird societal norm, and it’s an ugly and untrue bias.
When you’re twenty something, you’re allowed to explore and try new things. Your family and friends can label you as “experimenting” and say “they’ll grow out of it”. You can be a nomad or a minimalist, it’s more acceptable. But when you get older, it’s much less so.
I’ve always been one to buck the system, always. I went my own way and forged my path. I constantly and supremely disappointed my father to the point of being “disowned”. People in my life may look at me and think that it was easy, it’s who I am, to go against the grain. But when they don’t know is that I tried to go with it for most of my life, in my own way. I tried to fit in. I tried to do what they expected of me. I tried to be happy with other people’s constraints or the ideals they placed on me. But when I did that, I was miserable, and I didn’t like who I was. When I kept my mouth shut at restaurants as my father abused the waitstaff, I hated myself. When I strived to earn more money than I needed to survive, to the point of working seven days a week and not taking any time for myself, I was miserable. When I bent over backwards to please him and failed repeatedly, I had to give up.
So, does moving into a van scare the shit out of me? YES, it does! Am I doing it anyway? YES, I am. Does it also excite me? HELL YES! I don’t know what the future holds, none of us do. But I can try this. If I hate it, I can start over yet again. I’m resilient. I’m adaptable. And I’m willing to take risks.
I’d like to take you along on my process because when I watch YouTube videos about minimalists and vanlifers or read books written by them—they’re already there, doing it. And that’s amazing and inspirational, but I didn’t get to see the struggle. And we all know the struggle is real! I want to document that. The REAL struggle. In its ugliness, vulnerability and bravery. I hope you’ll join me in that, and I hope you’ll reach out and tell me your stories and share your own struggles.
Hi, I'm Kimberly Anne! (aka K.A.)
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