Category Archives: Experiencing Life

Celebrate the Little Wins

Celebrate the little wins

I’ve never really been one to celebrate my wins. Big or small, Sparky and I usually allow ourselves a moment or a smile, but we don’t really celebrate. It’s always seemed kind of… self-centred.

But recently I completed a 10-day workout challenge and at the end of every session, when I was out on my feet, I was told to dance a little celebratory dance. The instructor encouraged us to sing out loud, “I did it! I did it! Oh yeah, I did it,” while doing the running man. The sillier the better.

On Day 1, I ignored her. I didn’t win a marathon. I deserved no post-workout dancing.

On Day 2, however, her joy was enough to convince me. So I tried it out. I danced a little celebration. I shook my arms and hopped around like a idiot. I celebrated finishing my workout.

Do you know how good that felt? To celebrate that little win?

It didn’t cost me anything. It didn’t bother anyone else. It simply said to me, “You’ve done something today. You could have skipped your workout, you could have stopped before you finished, but you didn’t. And that’s awesome.”

It filled me up. And, yes, it was self-centred. But that’s the point of celebrating, isn’t it?

Celebrate your little wins

Did you get up early this morning? Dance a little celebration – a little booty shake is all you need.

Run to the top of the hill? Give yourself a Rocky moment up there – hands in the air.

Managed a discipline issue with grace and a level-head? High-five yourself in the mirror.

Sent an email you’d been putting off? Give it a little “whoop, whoop.”

Finished the pile of ironing that’s been sitting there for weeks? That’s worthy of a song. About yourself.

In fact, why not have a little win right now?

  • Pick up 5 things.
  • Meditate for 5 minutes.
  • Do 5 push-ups, 5 squats and 5 sit-ups.
  • Drink a glass of water. (Or 5.)
  • Write a list of 5 things to do this week. Go do one.

Then, celebrate.

Even if you’re not a celebrator, today – just for today – give it a shot. Try telling yourself that you are, in fact, pretty awesome. Because it’s true.

(This post was originally written in 2013, but I really needed to revisit it today. Thought it might help you too.)

A Vacuum-less Life

A Vacuum-less Life

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked about simplifying and slowing down is: “What if my husband/wife/kids/parents aren’t onboard with adopting this lifestyle? How can I convince them to join me?”

The short answer is: you can’t.

Unless you do it for them, which I don’t suggest as an option because A) that’s not really them joining you anyway and B) getting rid of stuff that doesn’t belong to you is a really great way of pissing people off.

The fact is, you can’t force someone to adopt a new way of living.

What you can do is start making changes to your own life. Declutter your belongings, start saying no, intentionally slow down, change the food you’re eating, start moving more.

You can make these changes, you can start to feel the benefits and maybe, just maybe, they will see those benefits and feel inspired to join you. But also, maybe not.

The key to moving forward with these changes and being content with the impact it makes on your life is to understand this: You don’t live in a vacuum.

Your decisions, your choices, your actions have implications on those around you. If you start simplifying, slowing down, eating different foods, the people closest to you will notice. They might join you, they might be happy for the change, but they might not.

Similarly, the decisions, choices and actions of those around you will have an effect on your life. They might pick up after themselves, they might honour your request to not buy toys for the kids, they might accept that you don’t want to go to the candle party, but they might not.

We don’t live in a vacuum. And yet, wouldn’t it be easier if we did?

We could say no and not care and toss that annoying trinketty crap that clutters our flat surfaces. We could get rid of the toys our kids love but that drive us mad. We could let go of the old, holey t-shirt that is special to our boyfriend, and the expensive yet ultimately unused crystal wine glasses we were given as a wedding gift from a great aunt who asks about them when she visits.

But that stuff is called life. Or, more specifically, it’s called being part of someone else’s life. There are thousands of ways our lives interlink with each others, some of which makes life easier, some make it more complex.

So understand that you do not live in a vacuum. You will meet resistance. There will be friction. You will face challenges. But ultimately you are in control of your own choices and reactions, not anyone else’s.

And in terms of how to deal with this resistance and this friction, my philosophy is quite simple:

Don’t be a jerk. But don’t be a doormat.

Remind yourself to be grateful, to understand that we each have different love languages, to recognise that the world does not revolve around you and your desire to simplify.

But also remind yourself that it’s OK for you to want different things in life. To crave different outcomes. To want a slower home or a decluttered bedroom or an empty space on the calendar. You’re allowed to want those things just as much as someone else is allowed to want their torn, holey t-shirt.

Also remind yourself that you are in control of the choices you make and the reactions you have. You get to choose how these frictions feel. And you get to tell yourself that your relationships with the people you love are not defined by stuff at all. 

So either they will get on board, or they will not. Allow your vacuum-less life to continue on regardless, and enjoy all the moments and the links and the relationships in spite of your differences.

Don’t get caught up on what you cannot change. After all, creating a slower life is about saying no to unnecessary stress, and there’s nothing more unnecessary than stressing about things you cannot change.

——

In other news, I was recently interviewed by Joey over at Fearlessly Questioning. We spoke about slowing down, making room and how  video games or Walking Dead comics fit into a simpler, slower life. (Hint: they totally do.) Head over here to see the video or check it out on iTunes.

Finally, I’m interviewing Carl Honore this week for my upcoming podcast. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask him let me know in the comments.

Enjoy your week!

 

 

6 Simple Living Lessons Learnt at… Disneyland?

6 Simple Living Lessons Learnt at... Disneyland?

Wait. What?

Simple living and Disneyland… Really?

Surely what I actually mean is that it’s simple to:

  • spend a lot of money at Disneyland
  • come home with a suitcase full of plastic souvenirs and mouse ears after a few days at Disneyland
  • have an emotional meltdown before breakfast at Disneyland

But no. Last month we visited Disneyland for the first time as a family and it was magical. It was tiring and occasionally overwhelming for all of us, but magical. And what I found most interesting was how much I learned about life while we were there.

Seriously.

Yes, I learnt how to avoid patented Disney Store meltdowns. Yes, I learnt that the mint juleps at the French Market Restaurant are exceptional, and only made better by the beignets also sold there. Yes, I also learnt that Martin Luther King holiday weekend was not a wise time to visit.

But the biggest lessons? Well, they were somewhat more surprising and apply to a great deal more of life than five days in Anaheim.

1. Slow down to enjoy the details

One of the things I loved about Disneyland was the depth of detail. Lining up for rides never felt boring because there was always a hidden Mickey to find or a tiny, delightful detail created simply to capture the imagination. If we charged through the park, never taking the time to look closer, we would have missed so many of these tiny, delightful details. A lot like life really.

2. Explore and go deeper

Take a different route, go against the crowd, ignore the guidebooks, toss the maps and see what you stumble upon. Some of the best experiences in life come when we don’t take things at face value. That applies to people, places, thoughts and assumptions. And Disneyland.

3. Embrace your inner child 

Skip, run, jump in puddles, ride the rollercoaster, laugh loudly, get lost in the fantasy. Those experiences that seem so vibrant as a child are available to adults too, you just need to embrace it.

4. Be content in the moment

It’s easy to fall into FOMO – that constant fear that whatever is happening over there is better than what you’re experiencing. That line is shorter, that parade is more exciting, that food looks tastier, those seats have a better view, they’re having more fun. Let it go and look a little closer at what you’re doing. Really put yourself in the moment, soak it up and be content.

5. It’s OK to check out when you’re not feeling it

We all get tired. We all have low-energy moments. We all think maybe we will lose our minds if we have to hear that freaking song from Frozen one more time. It’s OK. Take a moment, take an hour, have a rest, opt out. We’re not designed to go and go and go forever, and it’s perfectly wonderful to check out sometimes. I may or may not have rested my eyes on a bench on Tom Sawyer’s Island when I really wasn’t feeling it.

6. Look after your spine

Slightly more practical in nature, but this lesson is vital to your enjoyment of both Disneyland and life in general. Particularly if you find yourself carrying a lethargic 4-year-old around for great lengths of time. So, look after your spine! Future You will thank you for it.

 

Happy Monday, friends.

6 Reasons to Try Slow Travel

Last week, my family and I headed off to Canada for a long-awaited and much needed holiday.

Truth is, the last few months of 2014 have been intense and I’m feeling more than a little burnt out. I had great intentions of pre-scheduling posts over the Christmas period, but at some point I had to decide between sleep and work, and sleep won. Besides, running myself in to the ground is pretty much the opposite of slow living isn’t it? So I thought I’d better walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

After over a week offline and without so much as a word written, I’m feeling good. In fact I’m feeling more positive than I have in months – the passion, the excitement and the drive are back and I’m excited to see what the New Year brings. I guess sometimes all we need is to take a few steps back in order to see the bigger picture.

So while my family and I are still on holidays and will be until late January (and I will be mostly offline for that time – checking in very sporadically) I have some new posts scheduled between now and January 1. After that I have a 26-part series due to go out once a day until I return on January 28.

I hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful Christmas, and enjoy a safe and happy New Year.

For us, this trip is all about slow.

Slow travel – to us, at least – is simply saying no. No to rushing. No to cramming. No to endless touring. No to nameless museums and galleries that are simply an item on a to-do list, a photo on a memory card, a thing we can say, “Yep, did that. What’s next?”

We’ve been looking forward to this trip for over a year, and will be away from home for just over a month. And what’s been interesting is the number of people who have asked if we’ll be touring around a lot, considering the length of our holiday. Aside from a detour to Disneyland on the way home (I know, I know, it’s the antithesis of simple living, but our kids are 4 and 5 – what are you gonna do?) we’re staying in one place the entire time.

And while it’s occasionally tempting to try and cram as many destinations, tours, sights, museums and galleries into our time, it’s really not appealing to us. Instead, we prefer to view our holidays through the lens of slow: quality over quantity and depth over breadth.

I know many people see that as a lost opportunity but we don’t see travel as a reason to be on the move constantly. Rather it’s an opportunity to reconnect, relax and spend time together as a family – time that doesn’t involve endless early mornings, transfers and airports. Neither Sparky nor I find that in the slightest bit relaxing, so it was a no-brainer to stay in the one place.

Besides, spending a month in the gorgeous Canadian Rockies is hardly a chore, you know?

I also think the desire to cram as much as possible in to a holiday has something to do with fear – fear that we will miss out on Something Amazing. Fear that we won’t get to see all the sights we want to see. Fear that we won’t get the chance to tick off every bucket list item. Fear that someone else’s experiences might be more impressive.

And I get that. I really do. But the reality is none of us will see every sight, every wonder, every monument, every ocean, every pyramid, every festival, every tribe, every mountain, every village, every church. Even if you started travelling now and didn’t stop until the day you died, you wouldn’t see it all.

So isn’t it better to see – and I mean really see – one or two places? To get amongst locals? To play where they play? To eat where they eat? To gain a better understanding of different people, places and cultures?

Slow travel helps us have:

  • deeper experiences
  • a better understanding of the places we visit
  • a less touristy experience
  • a more restful holiday
  • more time for experiences
  • less time travelling

Take today for example. I’ve spent the morning writing in the library and am about to walk in to town and have a coffee and some lunch. I might take the long way back, through the woods (although I might not, considering it’s -10C) and when I get back to our apartment we will probably watch a movie together.

 

To some this probably sounds like a wasted opportunity (think of the sights we could have been seeing! the tours we could have been doing!) but to us it’s what makes a trip worthwhile. I feel part of a community when we travel like this. I’m more prone to talking to strangers. More likely to discover a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. More inclined to have an afternoon nap and a glass of wine before dinner.

 

It’s more of the good stuff and less of the stress. Life, but simpler.

 

 

Instagram or it didn’t happen.

Instagram or it didn't happen

We’ve just come home from a quick, lovely weekend away.

Sparky and I are in the midst of a really busy period, the kids have just finished pre-school for the term, and life has been feeling very un-slow lately. Without sounding too much like the personification of a First World Problem, it was a break we were very grateful to have.

On Sunday morning we headed to the beach despite the fact that it was grey and cold and windy. Personally, I was keen to sit inside and drink coffee, but the kids have been itching to get their feet in the sand since winter began, so we walked down to the water anyway.

It was so beautiful. The ocean was all steel greys and navy blues, with crests of white and turquoise as the waves broke on the sandbars. The sky was gunmetal. The sand was a cold yellow. I sat up on the dunes and watched little flashes of red and pink as Sparky played with the kids on the waters edge. Yes, I’m waxing poetic, but damn it was gorgeous.

As I sat and watched them play and squeal and chase each other through the water, I was hit full-force by ALL THE EMOTIONS.

Love. Terror. Peace. Gratitude. Incompetence. Pride. Completion. Vulnerability. Sadness. Joy.

Bam! Right in the kisser.

—-

Did I mention it was beautiful?

It was an unrelentingly photographable moment. A moment you want to wrap up and preserve and revisit on those days when there’s chalk ground in to the carpet and the kids have taken more than you have to give and there’s nothing in the fridge apart from leftover Chinese from last Friday. And it’s Thursday.

But I didn’t have a camera. And I didn’t have a phone.

I had my eyes. I had my heart. I had my brain.

So instead of worrying about the angle, or trying to get the best capture of the moment, I simply sat and watched my heart run around outside my body and I soaked the moment up and tucked it all away in my temporal cortex.

I didn’t Instagram it, yet it still happened.

I guess the question is, had I taken a photo of this moment, would it have made such an impact? Would I have felt it so deeply?

I don’t think I could have. I felt all the feelings because I was completely present.

A photo would have been gorgeous, I have no doubt. I might have had other emotions and recollections when I went back and looked at the camera roll, but it wouldn’t have been the same.

The irony of writing about this moment on my blog is not lost on me. But now I’m going to level with you.

I love Instagram and I’m quite fond of most social media. (Except FourSquare. It’s creepy.) I regularly capture snippets of my day-to-day life, things like kids, pets, gardens, sunsets and coffees. I love documenting sweet moments in my day, and sometimes I love sharing them with others.

But not always.

I believe some photos just need to be for you. No sharing. No likes. No comments. Just documenting a little moment and revisiting it on those days that seem like too much hard work.

And even more importantly, I believe some moments just need to be revelled in. No camera. No agenda. Just eyes and heart and brain.

Trying to capture the essence of these moments in a photograph does a disservice to the people we share them with, and it does a disservice to our memories.

So this week I’m challenging myself, and you if you’re up for it, to go and make memories. Real, skin and dirt and laughter memories. Don’t be afraid that you won’t remember those moments without a photo. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. But in the doing, you will be living, not just observing.

For me, that’s real life. Right there.

 

(*And for anyone curious, the photo above was taken months ago. Same weather, different day.)

 

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