#ROW80 check-ins, creativity, simple living

Celebrating “Slow”

 

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

2018 is off to a bumpy start, with various ailments keeping me under the weather off and on for the past few weeks.

But what I’m learning is not just that slow is okay. Okay implies mediocre, acceptable, just getting by.

I’m learning that, perhaps, instead of just accepting slow, we should celebrate it.

Slow isn’t lazy. Slow isn’t a waste of time.

Slow is savoring.

Slow is honoring.

Slow is being present.

Slow is thoughtful, grateful, compassionate, and kind.

Without periods of slowness, I don’t know how we live creative, purposeful lives. We need periods of stillness, reflection, and introspection.

In our society, we’re taught to multitask, work efficiently, save time, do more, more, more. We’re obsessed with more. If I only had more stuff. If I only wrote more words today. If only I accomplished more. And this builds to the destructive phrase, “If only I were more.”

But the thing about slow is that it teaches us that we are enough, exactly as we are.

The obsession with more is the opposite of gratitude. We live in a fast culture of instant gratification, but slowness teaches us to savor a homecooked meal with family or friends. Slowness is sitting with your morning cup of coffee and, instead of browsing the web or checking email, taking time to be with your thoughts. Taking time to reflect.

Slowness is not laziness, but rather a way of adding depth and meaning to our lives.

There will always be deadlines and to-do lists, days where we’re in a frenzied hurry. But there must also be periods of slowness.

So, set goals. Make them SMART. Create deadlines and to-do lists.

But also make space for that which cannot be measured, for joy and delight. For a slow dinner with your significant other or children. For a long walk in the park listening to the birds sing. For stargazing on a clear night. For gazing up at the moon with wonder. For stopping to enjoy the view. For savoring a cup of coffee and daydreaming.

These moments are precious. These moments are magic. Cherish them, and know that much of what matters in life cannot be quantified.

Most of all, celebrate slow. Treasure the times you’re able to just slow down and savor the moment. Stop trying to cram the mystery of your one precious life into some random metric. Simply live. Slow is not lazy. It’s just choosing to focus on the journey instead of the destination. It’s merely shifting our metric from quantity to quality. It’s diving deep rather than skimming the surface.

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For ease of reading, I’m dividing my #ROW80 goals into three categories: creative living, healthy living, and simple living. Understand that there is a lot of overlap between these, and the three are interconnected and, in many ways, inseparable. But I’m going to try it.

CREATIVE LIVING

This week, as my body healed from whatever mysterious ailment I suffered from, I shook off the exhaustion and aches and continued my steady writing journey.

I began to work through my husband’s comments on Oak-Bound, a fantasy romance novella. The story is close and I hope to submit it by the end of the month. I’m also about a third of the way through the synopsis for this story.

I also responded to blog comments and made sure to visit other people’s blogs as well. I apologize if I missed anyone. I’m trying to get back into a regular habit of responding to comments and visiting others’ blogs.

HEALTHY LIVING

My goal is to ride the exercise bike daily, but this week was more about resting and healing than about exercise. I did succeed in cutting out a lot of the sugar in my diet, so I’m doing better on that front. Keeping less junk food in the house seems to be key.

SIMPLE LIVING

I took another pass at the guest room closet, tossing old crafting supplies and duplicate office supplies. I ended up with a large trash bag full of items I can now part with, and two boxes of stuff intended for Goodwill. I also organized the bookshelves—we’ve gone from five bookshelves at one point down to two, and I packed up two more boxes of books to go to the library. I organized my jewelry and am attempting an experiment with my clothing, outerwear, and shoes in which I try to only own 100 items of clothing. (I might write a post about that experiment later, if anyone is interested.)

I am not rushing, but taking slow, steady steps, letting my life unfold at its own pace. Leaning into simplicity. Gradually decluttering and tidying my home. Listening to my characters and their stories and drawing them into this world, out of the ether from which stories are born.

Sometimes we speed along toward a destination, but I’m trying to embrace the journey, to find beauty in each word, each scene, each moment. If I am to lead a life that blends simplicity and creativity, I cannot neglect the beauty of the present.

What about you? Do you find yourself racing through life and checking off an endless to-do list? How have you embraced slowness in your life—or how would you like to?

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frugal friday, personal finance, simple living

4 Common Factors in Simple Living

In many ways, simple living is about mindset more than anything else. For one person, simple living might mean minimalism in a 300-square-foot studio in Brooklyn, from which she bikes everywhere she needs to go. For another, it might mean a renovated farmhouse in the country, where he grows tomatoes, cans tomato sauce, and raises chickens.

What simple living has in common in every case, though, is intentionality. It’s a life where the excess is constantly pared away, like dead branches pruned from a tree, to allow the more meaningful parts of our lives to flourish. Only when we know what’s important to us can we begin to work our way toward simple living. Generally, it doesn’t happen overnight. Simple living is more often a gradual process of moving toward a life where the focus is our values.

Regardless of the shape the “simple life” takes, I believe we can find some common factors:

1.) Simplicity and debt don’t mix. Often, a huge chunk of the excess that needs to be pared away is in the form of debt. This can be personal loans, car loans, student loans, home equity lines of credit, credit cards, you name it. Debt comes in many forms, some better or worse than others, but it puts a constant pressure on us. Debt creates inflexibility. We might want to spend more time with our children, but we’re forced to work more to pay the mortgage, the car loans, the credit card payment. Being debt free might allow us to move to a home more in line with the lifestyle we want to lead, to save up for a vacation that helps us expand our horizons, to fully fund our children’s college fund, to freelance and work for ourselves. For my husband and me, becoming debt-free is the first step in our journey toward simple living. If you’re struggling with debt, I recommend Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover or Financial Peace University. His debt snowball is hands-down the best way to beat debt.

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2.) We have to know who we are–and be okay with that. When we’re not okay with ourselves, we start searching for something to fill that void. That “something” often comes in the form of excess stuff. We might buy expensive clothes to shore up our self esteem, or treat friends to expensive meals because we’re afraid they won’t stick around if we don’t constantly impress them. Excess stuff often comes from trying to be something that we’re not. We might not really know who we are and what we stand for, so we buy a little bit of everything, trying to keep up with the status quo. We might be afraid of being who we really are, so we hide our truth with stuff. To simplify your life, you have to know what you value. What are your core values? What defines you? (Hint: If it’s stuff, you’re on the wrong track.) What are the most important things in your life? It could be family, friendship, art, teaching, activism, faith, community. When you know who you are, you can ensure that your life revolves around what you value–not things.

3.) For the sake of simplicity, something is sacrificed. Simple living always means sacrificing something. It could be that we love to eat out, but to simplify, we scale back our spending on restaurants and take-out. It could mean giving up that fancy car or the big house. It could mean that you attend a state university instead of a private college in order to remain debt free. Simplifying means we don’t get everything that we want. Because of that, we often find a greater sense of gratitude for the things we do have, a higher sense of purpose in our lives, and a stronger sense of appreciation for each purchase.

4.) Simple living is value-based. As we simplify, gratitude steps in to fill the void left by excess stuff. Since it’s November, this month is a perfect time to think about what we value and what we are most grateful for. To truly be happy with our newfound simple life, we’ll have to wake as often as possible with a sense of gratitude. We’re grateful that because we’re debt free, know ourselves, and have made sacrifices, we can live a life in line with our values. This might mean having more money to travel or donate to a worthy cause. It might mean having the ability to take a year off work to backpack Europe. It might mean being able to start our own business or strike out as a freelancer. It’s not until we truly know who we are and what our values are that we can align our time, energy, efforts, goals, and money with our dreams. It might take time to get there, but even the small victories are worth celebrating when we know we’re on the right track.

What about you? Where are you on your journey toward simple living? What factors would you add to this list? What would simple living allow you to accomplish in your life? As we enter the season of giving thanks, what are you most grateful for?