My brother Jer has always been like this, as has my cousin who I had dinner with last night. Peaceful with themselves, with creating and listening and being. Without that need to always fill the space of each day. I gravitate towards this way of being even as I know I will never be that way, not completely. But I can work towards that peace that only simplicity gives.
For the past ten years, I’ve been on a constant roller coaster of go, go, go…get up, move forward, crash, regroup, and go again. When I carved out time for myself one morning a week, Wednesdays, away from work and kids, I would always think of that few hour window in terms of "what can I get done?" Between seeing kids onto the bus and rushing the clock home to greet them on early release day, at 1245, how much could I fit in? I would come home not feeling refreshed at all, after getting a facial, working out, going for a run, rushing to a doctor's appointment, squeezing in a hair appt., knocking off a few errands, etc. In various combinations of that list.
A few weeks ago I had nothing - nothing - on the calendar for Wednesday am, and it left me feeling a little lost. Then I looked around and felt relieved for time to be silent without any pressure (from myself) of being somewhere or doing something. It took me half the morning to stop feeling strange. By the time I relaxed into the simplicity of it, my kids were home. But it got me thinking.
On this last day of August, I've been contemplating the times in my life when I feel most content, centered and fulfilled. In searching for a vocation, finding a purpose, making my mark on the world, where have I felt the most content. Why have I always had this drive to "do something" of consequence beyond the consequential things I am already doing every day: raising children, supporting our business, helping with homework, brightening someone's day through teaching yoga. When I think about it, that small kernel of meaning in these simple moments could be all the contentment I ever need. Mind: blown.
Because my desire has always been to do something beyond the "simple" and share my skill set with the world to fulfill some higher calling. Scrambling for this "aha" moment has created a perfect storm of over-busyness, over-extension, and over-exhaustion. And then what good am I?
Memories this year when I've felt the most happy, the most purposeful, have been times of doing nothing. The simple, soulful moments of stilling my thoughts and reconnecting with that quiet part of myself that's always been there. Without homework sheets to help with or laundry to fold or appointments to make or emails to send, toys to sort through or meals to plan. I have found the most meaningful moments have one thing in common: they are simple. Powerfully, movingly simple.
I drove into work, remembering. Dreaming a little bit. Found myself again walking on the beach in Florida, just in front of a tropical storm, with no plans or agenda for the day. In going to a local hotel pool with my husband on our anniversary, no place to be besides exactly where we were together. In taking a yin yoga class and slowing my mind down enough to feel that deep spot high in my hip finally release once I stopped trying to control it. In hiking up Pyramid Trail behind my house, in the sunrise, with no music. Doing yoga at the top, closing my eyes and breathing.
In sitting at the river in Washington with my niece and sister, on my mom’s property, watching my kids swim, transported back thirty years ago when our lives were simple and untouched by the every day stress of missing a Google calendar event accompanied by that familiar panic deep in your chest when you are late, again, for an appointment.
I am simplifying (trying to) as I let go of the control of "finding" myself through this mid - life vocation crisis. My aha moment appeared the minute I envisioned myself attending nutrition school and then signing up for IIN. Class starts in two weeks and I don't feel ready until I start to not only recognize the need to declutter, but to practice simplifying every part of my life.
I will simplify my eating habits, good and bad, by finally and seriously starting a food journal. I will simplify my skin care routine to fit the puzzle pieces together of why my skin reacts to what it does, to what I put on it, and simplify from there. I will not pace around on a Friday night like I did last week, when Brendan was out of town, wondering what I needed to do. I fussed around, cleaning, folding, keeping busy, before I stopped in my tracks and realized that I didn't have to do a anything “productive.” I could sit down with a mask on my face and a mug of tea (because I was coming down with something) and a cocktail (because it was Friday night and I am, after all, me: always with more than one drink close by).
I can tell Audrey on a Saturday morning "I don't know what our plan is, honey" when she asks "what are we doing today?" I can release any shred of guilt that we didn't try to see the kid movie that just came out last weekend, and instead stayed home literally all day, regrouping, cooking, resetting. When my neighbor asked us to come over for a swim, I didn't have to try to finish my organization process first and then watch the day get away from me, and then feel bad about not “fitting it in.” I could have stopped my project and gone over there for some fun, to come back to finish up later.
I need to go to visit my family more often, schedule more non-agenda, non-work time with Brendan , with the kids, without the drive to "fill the space" of each day. Things can get done organically, simply, as I get into the practice of quieting my mind. Carrying around a good old fashioned notebook to today - not tomorrow, not next week - be honest with myself and journal what I'm eating. Become my own medical detective while relinquishing control for a busy-for-the-sake-of-being-busy life.
I give myself permission to let go and let my calling come as it will, to feel more connected to my inner stillness. I know it's there, waiting. The part that loves the quietness of the early morning, much as I also hate getting up early. There’s something so simple and beautiful about the sunrise when nothing has happened, not yet, and you give yourself a moment to soak it all in. I open myself up the part of me that can sit all day at my mom's house, or in my sister's backyard, finding contentment in the simple joy of bonding with someone you love, being in their space and nurturing your own.
Fumbling towards simplicity will be my mantra until it becomes too busy to “find,’ or too much of a thing in itself. When meditation becomes meditation on its own, without trying to “practice meditation’ - then you know you have arrived. Until then, I will do my best to shut up, let go, and enjoy it.