This is an updated repost of my blog from four years ago, published right around this time of year. I always need a reminder myself and maybe you do too.
After many decades of living, I now aim to reclaim the spirit of “no rushing.” To become more like my Grandmother who worked hard every day but seemed like the one who was not busy. How did she do that, I wondered. She, who had no modern conveniences, prepared all of her own food, after planting, weeding, harvesting, and canning the fruits of her labour, still had time to entertain her grandchildren with rollicking stories of the “olden days,” as she finished knitting another pair of socks or crocheting a new runner for the hall table.
I don’t believe in unnecessary comparisons. Times are different now, and I get that. We don’t organize our lives by the seasons or the setting sun anymore. However, I do believe there is wisdom to be learned, through the experience of those who have gone before us. And I now believe that my Grandmother gave herself wholeheartedly to whatever she was doing, in the circumstances in which she found herself, and as simple as those tasks may seem, her life had meaning.
In other words, when she was picking wild strawberries, she wasn’t wishing to be doing something else. She didn’t expend energy wishing things were different than they were. She had no notion that life should be easier or that it should be designed to make her happy. It seems to me in retrospect her main purpose, beyond providing the basics, was to make sure she was adding to the joy, beauty, and happiness of those who were in her circle of influence. And lending a hand whenever she could.
I am a busy person, with many things I want to finish while I can, and I have a wealth of interests. All the books I want to read will not get read. Nor, will I finish all of my tasks. We don’t know how long we will be around. When my expiry date arrives, I will leave unfinished business behind. What I know is that I want to do what I can do now, without being frantic and without demanding the impossible of myself in the way I use to do. I want the people in my life to know that I have time for them in the here and now. I want to have time to moodle.
I am experimenting, especially, as my own energy is at a lower ebb and December is coming, along with deadlines. Maybe you want to consider designing your own experiment.
- What are the three important things that need doing today? Do them.
- Write my blog
- Strength training program
- New Nature Journaling four-week program started this evening (the theme is water and watercolours)
- Lower my standards in two ways:
- Perfection is an idea and a myth and can keep us from doing something we would love to do, for fear that we can’t measure up. In order to take the Nature Journaling course I have to let go of perfection and show up not knowing what to do.
- Do less of everything. Let go of FOMO. We all miss out on all kinds of things, and that’s life.
Lowering your standards isn’t about sloughing off. It is about being realistic. You don’t have to do it all. You can’t do it all. It is about picking and choosing what is important and/or meaningful to you.
- Instead of the gourmet meal for 20, do a simple delicious meal for X. (unless the feast is what you love doing)
- Ask for help. We all like to help. You are not alone.
- My daughter likes to, or, is willing to iron the tablecloths and wrap gifts as long as I give them to her early. And so I do.
- Can’t face cooking the big dinner. Order the entire meal from a hotel or grocery store that specializes in creating these delicious dinners. We did this one Thanksgiving and everyone was happy. We shared the cost there were leftovers for everyone to take home.
- Gift-giving is a wonderful tradition if you keep it simple and feasible. I sometimes give away a possession that I own and love, to someone else, whom I love. It is a lovely way to continue to enjoy something precious when you view it from a different angle.
- Writing a few cards: it is evident to me that we all love getting especially chosen and handwritten cards, from people we care about. The gift of expressing our admiration and affection while we are alive is not to be underestimated. These gifts are treasures.
- Start early. Everything takes longer than it seems. Avoid the last minute whenever possible.
- Take time to dream. Allow the mind to wonder. Moodle. Every 60 seconds does not need to be filled with productive activity.
Freedom from Ourselves
In the meantime, when we can start letting go of our own self-imposed constraints and open up to the wonder that is this moment and can still do something for others and for ourselves, we are free. We are free to love and laugh and wholeheartedly engage with life on our terms and in the manner within which we find ourselves now: free to make mistakes and start over. Time to learn new dance steps.
Fighting with what we cannot have and regretting what we cannot change adds to our suffering and angst. Living, fully living, and giving our time to what we can do now, gives us unparalleled freedom to flourish in this moment. And guess what, when we stop doing so many things out of habit and custom, we are free to do more of the things we love without rushing. Freedom indeed.
Note 1:)We are now in the latter part of November. The last two months of the year are busy. And why I suggest that we “lower our standards,” is because I don’t want you or me to be criticizing ourselves and beating ourselves up for all that we couldn’t do. “No throwing sticks at your heart,” as the poet Hafiz writes. Make time for joyful moments.
Note 2:) This is American Thanksgiving week and from what I understand it is the most important and busiest holiday of the year. I recommend that you take a pause and read this beautiful letter that 95-year-old, Brother David Steindl Rast, composed for this year’s celebration. For those who are interested here is the 2022 letter.
Note 3:) Thanks to Patricia Ryan Madson for her watercolour postcard called Just Show up. I appreciate the access she has given me to her delightful small paintings. Likewise to Gottfried whose photography I frequently use and don’t always give him credit. (Although not today):-))
Note 4:) As I write these posts, I am always aware that I don’t know the circumstances of each reader. I do know that the world is trustworthy, even when it seems like it is falling apart. Any suggestions I ever make or imply are done with the complete understanding that you know best what you need to do. Take what you want and discard the rest. My very best wishes to everyone celebrating American Thanksgiving, and, equally, I send best wishes to the rest of us. Thanks for reading these musings. See you next week, Trudy