“When was the last time you strolled in a forest or walked through woodland so beautiful that it made you marvel? When did you last notice the spring buds unfurling or look closely at the frost patterns on a winter leaf? I wonder, instead, how many hours you spent looking at a screen today, and how many times you checked your phone.” Qing Li
Hmmmm.... aaahhhh... I take a deep breath. The sun is shining, I am taking a moment to stand in it and breathe. Taking in the spring flowers; the primroses, the wood sorrel and anemones and listen to the birds singing away in a perfectly timed orchestra. Allowing a moment for reflection. The school holidays, always a tricky juggling time. I have just dropped my children back at school and I have a hundred and one things to do today. A long list of work I have not achieved whilst my children have been at home. For the most part I have embraced them being around, really found joy in those moments of connection and time spent together and have tried to work in those spare moments I have found...but still I have a long to do list now. I am aware that I could find this overwhelming and I'm also aware that my default mode is to go into hyperdrive to get everything done. I am also learning that instead of bringing me calmness, in the illusory satisfaction of ticking things off (there will always be more things moving up to fill the list) it would likely to lead me to feeling worse. My ongoing spinal pain means that I have to frequently rest and pace myself (one way of looking at this might be that maybe I still need this reminder to go carefully with myself!). I need to find a balance, a middle ground of doing and being. I am sure that not everything on my to do list is absolutely essential and if it doesn’t get done – yet, or indeed ever – the world will not cease to turn. But the world (my world) might cease to turn, at least for a bit, if I allow myself to overdo it. I don’t know who said it first, and it seems to be attributed to Anon, but “when things aren’t adding up in your life, start subtracting.” I’m taking a moment to work out what is really important; see what I can jettison.
What I know is I have high ideals and perfectionist tendencies. I am in the process of converting this to ‘good enough’. Perfect is virtually impossible to attain, and it is subjective anyway. Most things in life it is more than ok to be good enough. I found Brene Brown’s definition of perfectionism really helpful to me, she says that “perfectionism is not the same as striving to be your best” and that when we are in the perfectionist mindset we think that if we “live perfect, look perfect and act perfect we can minimise or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame. It’s a shield.” As well as “at its core...it is about trying to earn approval and acceptance.” In this way we can see that perfectionism is about external conditions, factors and other people, where as healthy striving is about how I can improve or do better and therefore it is internally driven. When I find myself striving or pushing myself, I check in with this now – who am I doing this for? And: can I lower the bar? The answer is almost always yes! First part of subtraction. Yes I can lay down this shield of perfectionism and in turn find more freedom for me, which also benefits all around me. For a deeper dive into this, I would thoroughly recommend the ‘Gifts of Imperfection’ by Brene Brown, this treasure trove was lent to me by a great friend. Brene demonstrates that by embracing our imperfections we can find the best and truest gifts of all, in living a richer and fuller life: courage, compassion and connection.
Our Friday night film night consisted of persuading my husband to watch the documentary ‘Minimalism’ – which had come with highly recommended - not our usual escapism at all! It weaved in environmental and sustainability themes as well as the emotional benefits of simplifying and decluttering our lives. To those of us extremely fortunate not to be living in poverty, this means living with less and finding a kind of sufficiency, but as a means rather than an end. Overconsumption just keeps exponentially rising in the West with Black Fridays and Blue Mondays, and after watching this film I’m advocating Satisfied and Sated Saturday. We need to establish a place where we realise we have enough. Maybe even recognising that we actually have an abundance in our lives already. I never thought we over buy as a family and yet our house is cluttered with things. We just seem to accumulate stuff. This film has inspired me, fortuitous really as it is the perfect time of year for a good spring clean. There is a Thoreau quote that I heard years ago and it goes along the lines of “the person with the fewest possessions is the freest” and I really deeply feel that this is true. Time to get on to this second part of subtraction, one item at least a day to find a new home for – that should be doable - and not creating heavy boxes that I can’t carry!
Standing outdoors at the end of the day, I breathe and take in this precious air. I mentally let go of this array of things, both physical and emotional, and I feel lighter. I disentangle and let them blow in the wind.
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