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How to Spring Clean Your Second Wave Shit

Posted Mar 27 2012 4:18pm

Everyone has experienced Second Wave Shit. Here is the official scholarly definition from a very reliable source:

Runners know all about Second Wave Shit. It can hit at any time.

You get up early for a race, take your dump, and wouldn’t you know it—at the start line you feel the urge to shit again. This is Second Wave Shit. It sucks.

You thought you got it all. You crossed it off your list. You’ve moved on. But dammit that shit is still in there.

Similarly, this is the time of year when thousands of people immerse themselves in spring cleaning. They do some organizing, throw out some clutter, and maybe get a haircut. Then they sit back and feel good about themselves for improving their lives.

But there’s still a lot of Second Wave Shit lying around. They didn’t get it all. Life still stinks.

As the years go by, our Second Wave Shit just sits there. Festering and poisoning us from the inside.

Every year, I’ve tried to tackle my own Second Wave Shit a little more aggressively. This year, I’ve gone all out and declared war on that crap.

If you’re serious about making a fresh start this spring and you don’t mind getting a little dirty, join me and tackle the Second Wave Shit in your life.

Here’s how:

3 Second Wave Shits to Ditch Immediately

1. 10-Year Success Plans

Also trash those five-year plans, 20-year plans, or three-year plans. Although this sounds like the opposite of what you should be doing to move ahead, plans like these have held me back.

My parents were big on five-year plans. I made my first five-year plan when I was 16 years old. “What’s on your five-year plan?” my dad would ask. And I’d recite the perfect life.

Do you know what a 16-year-old knows about their next five years? A big fat nada.

I would go on to make 10-year plans, 20-year plans, even one-year plans. In my head, I had it all planned out. I’d have all my babies before age 30, I’d be happily married, and in my plan I was never a runner.

Then life happened.

I got divorced. I realized I didn’t want kids. I learned that I loved running. I wanted new friends. A change of scenery. I wanted to move. I wanted to travel. I couldn’t find a job. None of these things fit into my plan.

Year-by-year plans have limited me in three major ways:

a. Yearly plans make it easy to postpone what you really want.

You really want to travel, so you put it on your 10-year plan, along with a few other things:

  • SOMEDAY I’ll write a book.
  • SOMEDAY I’ll hike the Appalachian.
  • SOMEDAY I’ll train for an ultra marathon.
  • SOMEDAY I’ll start my own business.

You feel good about yourself because you put it on the plan. That means something, right? Then 10 years down the road you’re still living the same shit-ass life, working at the same shit-ass job. Fuck that.

How about:

  • Rip up your 10-year plan and use it as toilet paper.
  • Then make a To Do List.

Not for ten years. Not for five years. Not for one year. For today. For right now. For immediately.

b. Yearly plans give you a false sense of control.

You think you can control what happens in your life? You’re lucky you didn’t get hit by a car this morning. You know nothing and you control nothing.

Maybe you’ll have a kid with special needs. Not in the plan? Maybe you’ll lose your job or the market will  crash. Not in the plan?

Life happens and will continue to happen. Instead of learning joy, contentment, and most importantly—flexibility, yearly plans drive you to force something that might not be in the cards for you. Everything happens for a reason. So roll with it.

c. Yearly plans give you a false sense of guilt and failure.

When your plan doesn’t go perfectly (and it won’t), it opens the door to feelings of guilt, or worse—failure. Even though you never had control, you feel as though you fucked up. Why couldn’t you find a partner in time? Why didn’t you have kids fast enough? Why aren’t in that house? In that car? At that job?

You wonder if it’s because you suck. You’re not good enough. You didn’t deserve it. You’re lazy. You didn’t work hard. You made stupid decisions. But these are all ideas that exist only in your head. They should never taint your self-esteem or your future decisions.

You may be on a different path, and that’s OK. Maybe you’re on a better path. Maybe… you’re exactly where you need to be.

What’s on your 10-year plan? That’s Second Wave Shit.

2. Paralyzing Fears

These are fears so big that you don’t even realize you have them. You don’t talk about them, because they’re not even real to you. Basically, these are the things that you KNOW you could never do. There’s no chance in hell.

And you’re right—because your fear has paralyzed the possibility.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I could never run 100 miles.” And just like that, your fate is sealed. Paralyzed. That’s now something you will never do.

Or it could be other things:

  • “I will never be happy in my marriage.”
  • “I will never fit in.”
  • “I will never see the world.”

But… what if you stopped believing you couldn’t? What if you MIGHT? What if… you could?

What’s your paralyzing fear? That’s Second Wave Shit.

3. Unused Possessions

Skip the pathetic spring cleaning of organizing cupboards and donating a single box of clothes. Walk through your house and take out EVERYTHING you have not used in the past 12 months.

Holding stuff in storage? Clean it out. What if you need it someday? You won’t.

We are so attached to our possession. Too often, they own us. They add to our stress and drain our time. They also play on our fears and force us to think in “what ifs”:

  • What if this comes back in style?
  • What if my kids can use this in the future?
  • What if this becomes valuable?

(Hint: Your kids won’t want any of your old crap. It’s old people’s crap.)

If you are not using something in the moment, there is absolutely no reason to give it space in your home. No exceptions. Give it away to someone who will actually use it.

When we store things, they rot from misuse and we rot from hoarding them.

This is not thrifty. This is not frugal. This is not healthy. And guess what: This is not how happy people live. There’s a reason the most joyful people on Earth own nothing. It’s because they’re free.

Doing a hardcore cleanout is one of the most cathartic things I have ever experienced. It feels like you have a new life. New space. Room to breathe.

It also teaches you to let go. To live in the moment, and not worry about what might possibly happen under this obscure condition, or in case of that small chance. Remember, you control nothing. So you can’t prepare for it.

What possessions are collecting dust and space in your home? That’s Second Wave Shit.

How I’ve Spring Cleaned My Second Wave Shit and Started Living Life

I know it’s easy to say these things, but insanely hard to put them into practice. I get it. This is not a spring cleaning for everyone, and not everybody will be ready for it.

It’s scary as hell and it leaves you feeling helpless—like maybe you’ll end up homeless and on the street and nobody will love you. But change is possible. And BETTER. It’s not as devastating as you think.

Here are three things I’ve done in my life that scared me shitless. My intention is to show that:

a. Anyone can do it. I’m not a superhero; I’m a regular person. If I did it, so can you.

b. Sometimes people write off what I’ve accomplished and think, “Oh, it’s because she’s so brave and strong. Not like me.”

But I wasn’t always brave and strong. THESE are the things that made me that way.

You don’t make a change because you are brave. You make a change, and then you are braver. You take a risk, and then you are strong.

My three things to inspire you:

1. I got divorced.

Following my original 10-year plan, I got married early in my 20s and planned for kids. I immediately knew it was wrong for me. I lived with my ex for three months before I was completely broken. I had no future other than cleaning and cooking and scrubbing the shit stains off his underwear. I felt abused and unappreciated and starving for a better life.

I left.

My life was very different then, and divorce was simply not an option in my social group. I lost all my friends, my family, and my church. Everything I had ever known changed from one day to the next. It was hell on Earth.

I had the opportunity to go back. I could have said I made a mistake. Temporary insanity. A bad day. I was on my period. Whatever.

But I pushed ahead and believed that things would get better. And they did. Much better. I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had lived out my original 10-year plan.

2. I left the country.

After I worked my ass off to rebuild my life, got myself through school with no disposable income, and found a job in my field, I realized I wasn’t satisfied.

It didn’t make sense. I had worked within my new plan. I had made it happen. But my heart wasn’t right. I was living in a city where I didn’t belong.

I left.

I said goodbye to my family, my job, my home, and my partner. I moved to a place I had never even visited, without a suitcase. I had no place to live and no job. I knew one person—Shacky.

Shacky picked me up from the airport on my first day in San Diego, and as soon as I breathed the San Diego air, I knew I was home. I just knew it. I got the sensation that for my entire life, I had been homesick for a place I had never been. And it was here.

This city spoke to me, and although I didn’t know how, I knew I would be OK. Immediately after that, things started falling into my lap. Within a month, I had a work visa, I had a job, and I had a boyfriend.

3. I quit my job.

I currently have a great life with nothing to complain about. I have a great job. I run beautiful mountains. I’m in an awesome relationship.

But this week I gave notice to quit my job.

From the outside, this is a pretty stupid decision. I have no real viable sources of income outside of work. And my company is a fast-growing one with opportunities for advancement.

Earlier I said I was doing an aggressive Second Wave Spring Cleaning, and this is part of that.

Previously on my 10-year plan:

  • I want to write books. I have ideas for at least three books, but with my job I have no time to write them.
  • I want to run the Appalachian and other multi-day trails. I don’t have enough PTO.
  • I want to opt out of the 9 to 5 lifestyle.

Living for the weekends doesn’t feel right to me anymore. I want to be doing what I love at all hours of the day. I want to be active, and when I’m sitting down I want to be either writing or eating.

This is part of a greater retirement plan that I will divulge in the next few months. But it involves putting into motion all those things I’ve always wanted to do.

This is my way of living in the present, believing in myself enough to take risks, and going aggressively after the life I’ve always dreamed. Not in 10 years. Right now. This spring.

Will you spring clean your Second Wave Shit this year?

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