It’s been a few weeks since my last talk at the Mindful Living Show in London, my first time at this event. I expected to meet positive people looking for ways to enhance their well-being in a more intentional way and I was not disappointed. I arrived a little early so I could take the opportunity to attend other talks and explore the stalls providing advice, remedies and mindful experiences. Everyone was there to help each other in some way and I could feel it. A few minutes before my session, I took the time to grab a drink and go over the amended content I put together for this specific show. There would be less time for questions and audience participation so I had to pick only the most powerful slides and deliver quicker than I had done in the past.
My preference is always smaller crowds as people can connect better with the material and more importantly, each other. Before I start, I quickly scan the room to see how people settle in, some take out notebooks, others chat between themselves, some sit quietly looking at me and the screen patiently waiting for the show to begin, it’s this quick analysis of human behaviour and strangers together that allows me to choose how to begin. Throughout the session, I notice people nodding along who are resonating with the message, I look for smiles and wide eyed offerings like I am speaking to them directly. The more outgoing and braver individuals are quick to share their own clutter examples and advice and the space provides them safety to do that. What tends to happen now as the talk comes to an end is people will come up to me afterwards and let me know their specific minimalism challenge or success. I love the talks but this additional one on one time is like an encore. One specific lady caught my eye in the crowd and she slowly made her way over to me as I was saying goodbye to someone else. She shook my hand and introduced herself to me;
‘My friends call me The Bag Lady', she proudly announces.
She explained to me that people in her local community had given her that label due to always carrying multiple bags of stuff around with her. It’s something I had noticed as she made her way into the room and found her seat. The bag lady is slight in frame but comes across strong and confident. Her short haircut indicates a sense of precision and authority. I glance quickly down at her side to count the three large bags, two on her right shoulder and one on her left. Her default demeanor is to hold them tightly and close to her body like a safety blanket or something of high value.
Within a matter of minutes, The Bag Lady has become a focus of people's interest. We exchange pleasantries and although it is very much a conversation between the two of us, I am aware that a handful of people are starting to gather and listen intently as she shares her backstory. She aludes to almost feeling the responsibility of living up to the new label that has been attached. Her focus is on me but we all hear the justifications for carrying the contents around every day shuffling to work, the shops and to her friends house. In a way for me to experience her discomfort, she hands me the bags so I can feel the weight that is being carried around. I let out a cockney ‘blimey!’ as I lift them onto my shoulders for a brief moment before gratefully handing them back.
She explains that her back and shoulders are always hurting but it doesnt register that she has probably caused this pain herself.
Cosmetics, snacks, bottles, books, magazines, spare clothing and purses are just some of the items she retrieves and shows me. The purses, both slightly discoloured, are bursting at the seams with receipts and heavy with coins. Bottles of water are unfinished.
The bystanders shuffle in closer, unconsciously checking the weight of their own bags, awaiting the outcome of this conversation, expecting a magical piece of advice but none is required. This highly intelligent lady just talks to me and I see her going on her own journey, exploring how she arrived into this situation to discover that there was more long term detriment that she had been blind to all along. The stuff that follows her around everyday forged a new identity that was created for her. It costs her time (walked around slower), energy (used up quicker) and money (cloakroom, pain killers and the sense to fill the bags) and all these costs were invisible until today.
Within this short window is an opportunity for her to reflect. A moment in time to just stop and see where the dots start to connect. It's not long before she starts to question everything that masquerades as important on her person, a mindset shift from a mere thirty minutes ago.
'I don't want to be the bag lady anymore' she whispers to me as we embrace before she walks away back down the hall with a smile on her face. back straighter, chin higher.
As I shake the hand of the next person wanting to share, I feel obliged to just turn my head to see her one last time and catch a glimpse of her walking towards a nearby bin, she pauses for a moment and then starts to empty some of the bag’s contents. A now empty bag gets folded up and placed into another.
Her bottles once half empty, potentially now seem half full.