Where We Are: Not Slow Living
We’ve all had them, a year like no other. It might have been a year filling with international tragedy, or personal triumph. Most of our years are a mix. There are hard times, minor wins, maybe great news, loss, joy, sorrow, struggle, and stress.
But too much of anything isn’t great and the older I get the more I feel that our regular merry-go-round life is just too much. At the end of 2017 I was ready for a change, I hadn’t heard of slow living yet, but I soon would. In those first months of a new year I found myself angry, frustrated, distracted, and just plain stressed. We lost count of the number of times my husband said I looked distracted, or absent. Falling asleep became a struggle for me. And for the first time ever I was diagnosed with chronic anxiety. I spent way too many days running around like a chicken with my head cut off (my Grandmother’s favorite phrase). Sleepy, stressed, distracted. Yup, that sums me up this year.
So at last I resolved that my life was going to be different. Not because the world is going to change, but because I am going to change. And so I embarked on an experiment: a year of slow living. I think we all know this, but let’s just say it out loud: being busy and stressed and constantly distracted, sucks. We’ve been convinced that working 24/7 is something we should be proud of, that not having a blessed second to ourselves means we’re dedicated. And somewhere along the way we became Pavlov’s dogs drooling after the next treat we can buy with the money we spent every waking minute working for.
I’m tired of it.
I suspect that 90% of the things I own I don’t actually need or care about.
I am damn certain that most of the work I do is busywork that doesn’t actually need to be done.
It feels to me that forces outside of myself have decided what I should do, and when I should do it.
My values hardly seem to matter, because I get told what matters and what doesn’t.
I for one am done with it.
Slow Living for Better Living
So here’s the thing. I have this radical notion that we can in fact chose our lives, order our lives, and find joy and purpose in our moments. Now, I don’t claim that this will be easy. After all there are a lot of people and organizations out there with lots of reasons to keep us overworked, unhappy, and exhausted. It’s great for their bottom line.
This idea has been a long time coming for me. I spent my 20s working for a company that consider 42.5 hours “full time” and anything less than that was slacking (I wish I was joking.) There was a constant push to do more, to prove our dedication by clocking 45, 50, 60 hours a week. We heard quite a bit about how our productivity (or lack of productivity) was stealing from our coworkers.
Oh, and in our “free time?” We obviously needed to be improving our work skills.
I doubt my experience is unique, because after changing careers I’ve found the same to be true. The constant push for more, it never ends.
It’s not just time of course (though I’ve written about reclaiming our time), it’s money too. It seems no matter what happens to our household income the bills just keep pace. There’s always more, and more, and more that we need to buy. Computers are out of date before you get them home, your phone starts to slow to a crawl after just a year. You know the drill.
Getting Off the Treadmill
But here’s the thing. My fancy whiz bang phone really doesn’t make me any happier than the one I had 10 years ago. My new Macbook did not in fact make my life easier. That’s not saying those devices aren’t useful, helpful, or something I’m glad to own but I’m more than tired of the constant push for the latest and greatest.
Fast technology, fast fashion, fast food, it seems that we’ve no sooner spent our money than we’re told we need to spend it again. And that means we need to spend more and more of our time making that money. So we’ve got the side hustle now if you want to be taken seriously, if you want to make it.
This Touches Everything
We get up earlier and earlier to hustle more and more, to buy things we don’t really need or want, and don’t ever use. But it’s got to be as cheap as possible, these things, so we can get a lot of them because it’s the buying that we’re addicted to. And that means slave wages in countries we’ve never seen. None of it makes us happy, but it does make us tired, and cranky. And to cheer ourselves up we go shopping. Or maybe we eat food we aren’t even hungry for, and then feel guilty and have to exercise in the time we don’t have and feel tired and grumpy and so we eat or shop and the whole thing keeps rolling.
And we’re so angry and tired that we’re yelling at each other on the highway, and viewing our neighbors as competition and if that doesn’t sound like a pretty good way to have a year like my 2017 happen I don’t know what is.
I’m Not Moving To The Woods
There’s a movement in our country of folks moving out into the woods like Grizzly Adams, that’s not me. I like my flush toilet and my air conditioning thank you very much. And, we don’t have to go off grid, or move into a tiny house, or do any number of other super drastic things in order to have a better, more intentional life. Rumi said that there are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground, I suspect it’s more like thousands.
I’m inviting you along on my journey to a slower, more intentional, more joy filled life. Slow living isn’t new, in some ways it’s very, very old. But it’s new to me, and I suspect to most modern people. Come along with me, find out what works, and what doesn’t. You’ll see my successes, my failures, and my hilarious moments (I walk into door-frames on a regular basis, hilarious stuff will happen.)
Obviously a slow life is a holistic term but there are specific areas of my life I feel ned to be addressed, and those will get the most focus. I fully expect something to jump up and surprise me along the way.
- Possessions – First and foremost I know I am more content when I’m not surrounded by tons of crap. I’m happier when I can find what I need. When, for example, my closet isn’t full of clothes that don’t fit, or make me feel super weird. I want to get intentional about what I own, and get rid of the stuff that doesn’t serve. (Last week I actually started this off with my Slow Fashion challenge.)
- Money – This goes hand in hand with the above. When I’m miserable I tend to buy stuff. Perfume, clothes, makeup. That little Pavlovian reward that comes with hitting the “buy” button is a powerful thing. But I just end up with tons of stuff I don’t really need or even like and I stay trapped in constantly needing more money!
- Time/Calendar – Y’all I had weeks this year where I wasn’t home for dinner for like 4 nights in a row. It was miserable. I want to get a handle on my calendar and set some reasonable boundaries around my time so I feel less stressed, less rushed, and have time for the stuff that matters.
- Digital Life – Like a lot of you (please tell me it’s not just me) I spend a lot of time scrolling through the same damn Facebook and Instagram feed. Is it habit, boredom? I don’t know. But the result is my husband going “Jo? Are you listening?” way too often, and huge amounts of time sort of flushed down the digital loo. I’m on to you Facebook.
- Daily Rhythm – If I see one more person talking about how my life would be 100% more productive if I’d just get up at 3am I’ll scream. It used to be 6am was the magic hour to be “productive,” then it was 5:30 and now I’m seeing folks talking about how to get up even earlier. Miracle my foot. That’s miserable is what that is. I want to be snuggled up in my nice warm bed at 5 in the morning, thank you very much. And I’m tired of feeling guilty about taking care of my body by doing something so basic as sleeping or eating a healthy meal, or not nearly passing out in a 120 degree yoga studio. So I’m taking back my morning, and my evening, and you all can do it with me. We’ll remake the phrase “miracle morning” into something that might be.
- Relationships – This might be my no 1 reason for doing this. I want to be more present for my wonderful spouse, my friends, myself, and the One I sometimes manage to connect with (when I’m not scrolling Facebook again). So I’ll be concentrating on strengthening my relationships this year, really being intentional about it.
How This Works
Basically you all get to ride along and watch me trying to figure this all out, while keeping the house moderately clean, ourselves fed, and launching into year two of a fledgling spirituality business. I’m crazy, but that’s OK we already knew that, I enjoy it.
I’m committing now to monthly updates so you know what’s working and what’s not. And, I’ll write in depth articles about the things I learn, expect at least one of those a month.
Ways to follow along: Join the Crazy Whole Life Facebook group for regular posts on my slow living experiment.
Join my email list for monthly newsletters which feature articles not seen anywhere else, and will include an inside view of my year of slow living.