January 14, 2018

One step at a time: on making change and simple living

As I sit here for the first time in a long time not being able to sleep, I’m embracing the early morning. Something I haven’t done (quite this early) in a long time – maybe since I was pregnant with Agatha. I just crept downstairs at my parents house, boiled some water, poured milk in a cup and warmed it up with some simple spices my mum has (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom). One of their two cats crept into my room sometime around 3am and I haven’t been able to sleep since, he’s so tiny so I was welcoming the company but once he started biting at my feet under the covers I knew I had to just wake up and start fresh.

I started writing something yesterday as I was delayed at the airport flying back to Toronto for the first and last time for a long long time. As most of you know I’ve spent the better part of the past two years on airplanes, living out of bags and shuffling from Toronto to Minneapolis. My body, my heart and my inner rhythm are so tired from shifting and being transitional. When I think about it really, it almost feels like there has been some kind of transition happening in my life for the better part of of fifteen years. Instead of diving into that, what I wanted to dive into was how these periods make me feel.

I often find myself coming out of the holidays, or visiting from family / friends, or just travel in general with this sense of time. And with that time, the question of what do I fill it with. In balanced moments, it might look like cooking, baking, breathing, walking, exploring, reading, bathing, sleeping and loving. In the unbalanced moments it might look like an hour scrolling on social media, buying things we don’t need, doing too many things at one time and just a general state of unsure-ness. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. In my opinion, it’s my body’s way of trying to figure out what’s up and what’s down. Right now, as I prepare to welcome the third trimester, I can’t help but to have that creeping feeling of nesting – the one where you feel like the baby might just come at any moment so you better have as much prepared as you possibly can. Yesterday, that looked like a small dresser and a large-ish hutch arriving from an antique store around the corner. Necessary? Nope. Felt good? Yup.


For the first week back after Christmas I started to meal plan for us again and we did so great. Then Jeff was traveling and I was flying solo with Agatha and I found myself back at the grocery store buying more than we needed and filling these gaps in how I was feeling. Almost as though on a certain level part of me was trying to replenish what I think I’ve lost. When I look at it all and spend the money, there is part of me that feels this amazing sense of accomplishment, like I am filling myself up from the outside in. But there is also another equally important part that recognizes that I don’t need anything to make me better, other than me.

Quite simply, it can be just that simple.

There is no reason why we can’t simplify, and save, and nourish and grow without adding a ton of other things into our lives. I’ve always struggled with this playing out in my reality but I’ve always strived for it, and admired it immensely when I come across it in strangers or close friends. If you’re anything like me, when you are feeling imbalanced your head is going a million miles a minute – try to sit and close your eyes. Try to pin point all of the floating thoughts. At first you’ll be able to create lists, general easy day to day to do type things that will be easy-ish to cross off. But then you’ll start to see bigger things float by, harder conversations to have, reflections on yourself, new ideas streaming in. It can be a lot to digest. Take a deep breath. It’s all there and it’s not going anywhere. You’ve got time.

I often find the biggest struggle with change is “what will other people think?”. This is the moment where we can learn to let that go and instead ask ourselves “what do I think?”.

Figure out what feels important. What feels like it would fill you up. What feels like it would help you to feel juicy and calm and nourished. What do you want to cultivate and what do you want to let go of?

Simple.

Go easy on yourself.

Remember that you’re in control. Know that you have a choice.

De-clutter and clean up your space. Let go of things that aren’t serving you right n o w.

Go through your pantry and make a list of recipes you could make on any given weeknight.

Each night before bed write a list of the essential things that need to happen for tomorrow.

Create a daily rhythm. A way to welcome the morning, wind down the night or eat family meals.

Think of things to do outside in nature, write them down and then get out and do them. Want to have a winter picnic? Feel like seeing a lake? You can do it.

Be mindful of your time. Respect it and love it. Don’t answer phone calls, text messages or emails right away if you don’t feel ready to. People can wait, we’re just not accustom to it anymore.

Encourage and embrace loving the whole you. The parts that make you feel guilty, the parts that make you smile, the parts that make you feel not enough. Close your eyes and let that dark sludge fall over you like a cleansing shower and then surround yourself with your bubble so that you know (and remember) that you are exactly enough and exactly where you should be.

I think the biggest thing is recognizing that we are able and capable and maybe even more so allowed to change. I find it so easy to fall into the patterns that we grew up with, or the quick simple justifications that it’s easier. Most of the time, there can always be an ‘easier’ way to do something.

What happens if we simplify, and slow our heads down? What if we give ourselves the gift of time to think through what our options are, or another route to take? I often find that when I come back to Toronto I am immediately launched into rushing and breathing shallow and feeling like there isn’t enough time. Since moving to Minnesota I’ve realized that it’s a part of the city (that I know a lot of people love) and when I recognized that it wasn’t a part of the city that I loved or that worked for me, I changed the way I interacted with it. I didn’t make as many plans, or rush around to different neighborhoods getting caught in traffic. I minimized what I needed to do, I closed in on the space I needed to move around in and I grounded my feet into the earth to the place I was right in that moment. It felt so good for the first time in so long.

What do I have around me right now that I can change, alter, adjust in order to make it work?

It’s a question I’m more and more excited about asking myself regularly. To me it’s like this simple calling of awareness around what I want to be doing and then actually doing it. It’s embracing the gray space of discomfort, of desire to change, of willingness to change and opening myself up to the fact that not only can I absolutely follow through – that I am the only one capable of doing it for myself.

So – what is simple living? As Jodi from Practicing Simplicity says, it’s a way of living that celebrates resourcefulness and mindfulness – rarely easy but often satisfying.

“One of the principal tenets of mindfulness is that it’s important not to be attached to life unfolding in a certain way. Most of our suffering occurs when we want things to be different or when life doesn’t go to plan. At a practical level, we know that everything will unfold as it unfolds, but it’s still tempting to want to control what we can.”

Kate James – be mindful & simplify your life

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