It’s Friday morning and Lee’s shot off to London bright and early.
I’ve got an amazing day ahead of me. A nice, slow wake up, a walk in the snow to my favourite café, a small casual meeting for my Virtual Assistant business, an afternoon of blogging and knitting, and then a night out at E-Luminate Festival with my lovely husband.
Four months ago this would not have happened!
Four months ago the prospect of such an ’empty’ day would have filled me with anxiety;
What should I be doing instead? I can’t possibly have nothing to do. What will other people think if I just sit around at home all afternoon?
This week I came across The Slow Home Podcast and it’s creator, Brooke McAlary, and in three days I’ve listened to the first 29 episodes.
Lee thinks it’s hilarious that I started from episode one, from back in April 2015, rather than picking up a current or recent instalment… But he married me! You’d think he’d know me better than that!
Anyway, after only a couple of episodes I realised I was hooked. Every episode spoke to my ideals and goals for the life I want, and the life I’ve started living since leaving my full time job.
The Slow Home Podcast is a series of interviews and Q&A sessions about living a slow and intentional life. I know it sounds all mysterious and hippie-like… but don’t judge it until you’ve finished reading today’s post.
It’s about being present in every moment. It’s about being comfortable with the life you choose, not the life that’s expected of you. It’s about making conscious decisions that have an impact on your life or those around you. Yes, there’s the option to incorporate minimalism into your interpretation of Slow Life, but that’s just it – an option. Slow Life is not a prescriptive list of To Do’s and Should’s. Slow Life is about taking away the pressure of a society that thinks it knows what all lives should look like.
So why do I think Slow Life is for me?
I think the easiest way for me to explain why I’m drawn to the Slow Movement is to tell you my story in the most honest way I’ve done yet.
I had a full life growing up. A very full life. My parents really looked after our every interest. I took dance classes, did Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers, sailed, trained and competed all over the world, did well in school, performed on stage in musicals, learnt to play the piano, saxophone and flute, went to all the birthday parties and sleepovers I was invited to, had toys, climbing frames, zip wires, trampolines… the list goes on. I was a happy kid.
I was used to having lots going on and being rushed from place to place and activity to activity; and this carried on through my teenage years and into university. I would pride myself on the fact that I was getting good grades while working two part time jobs and a full time volunteer role.
But that’s where I started to lose myself.
After university I did exactly what was expected of me. I found myself a job, got a boyfriend, and moved in with him.
Of course, it turned out to be a crap job and a destructive relationship, so once I realised that, I was on to the next thing. A solid, full time job, the single life, travel and getting on the property ladder.
I worked hard, and I got all of the things I was striving for, and I’m proud of myself and grateful to everyone who supported me and helped me get there.
But then the constant need to live up to expectations started to get too much.
I would come home from work every day in tears; exhausted and overwhelmed, unable to get to the next ‘level’ in my life.
By now, Lee was in my life, and pretty much my keel. I was so lucky to have him and the stability he gave, and continues to give me. I realised I was doing things because that was what I ‘had’ to do. Going to work, coming home, crying, watching TV, and going to bed ready to do it all again tomorrow. Our weekends became just as busy as our weekdays because we were trying to fit in all the things we wanted to do that we didn’t have time to do during the week because of work.
After a lot of thought, internal debate, and discussion with Lee about the financial viability of it, I handed in my notice at work. I remember some of the things people said to me when they found out…
“Where’s your new job?” “Won’t you be bored at home?” “Are you up the duff then?” (That one was bloody rude actually!) “I bet you’ll go stir crazy at home” “You’re lucky you can live off Lee!” “You’re so brave to go self-employed” “I wish I had the guts to leave.”
Oh, the pressure.
Once I was out, I started being able to see how toxic the environment there was. The recording of time in 6 minute chunks, the expectation to work above and beyond your contracted hours, the incessant need to trample on other people to get noticed, and the never-quite-good-enough to be rewarded.
It just didn’t work for me.
I’m now working part time from home as a Virtual Assistant, running an Etsy shop, and writing this blog, and the most important common factor through all of this is that I am now living a life of my own choosing, not one that society expects me to have.
So how is Slow Living going to fit into my life now, with Lee, and hopefully one day, as a family?
Well, firstly it has already allowed me to reconnect with myself and figure out what’s important to me. I want to be a loving person. I want to be mindful in all areas of my life. I want to have good relationships with my family and friends. I want to grow flowers, look after my home, and cook nice meals for my hard working husband. I want to be aware enough of myself to know if / when my mental health is at risk again, and be strong enough to do what I need to do to fix it.
I can’t tell you how it’s going to work going forward – that’s something we’ll figure out as we go along, if you want to stick around for the journey.
In a practical sense, what the Slow Life means to me is learning to be present in each moment of my life. Taking an interaction or a task, or even a quiet moment alone, and actually being focused. Not thinking about the next thing, or the thing after it, or the thing coming after that. Not stressing myself out about what I have to achieve next, while forgetting to enjoy the very thing I’m doing now.
I’m going to be happy with what I’ve got now, and make conscious, intentional decisions about what we do with our life together, not just longer term, but on a daily basis as well.
Will we enjoy our time more if we work on our laptops / check Instagram / watch TV together, or go for a walk / talk to each other / have a bath together?
Yeah, we all do the first option most of the time – it’s easy. It’s comfortable. But when the relationship started, that’s not what you did together. We build our relationships on interactions and time together, so building the longevity of those relationships should work the same way.
Lee is my favourite person in the world. I choose him. I choose a life that lets me focus on him.
Maybe it’s not the life that society thinks I should be aiming for in this “be it all and have it all” era, but I’ve tried that, and it’s not fun. I like me. I like happiness. I like making my own decisions, not just going through the motions.
I like living my life without constantly feeling like I’m being judged, and the Slow Life is teaching me to let go of that.
I am a work in progress, but I’m enjoying what the Slow Movement is bringing to my life, and I think it’s going to be an increasingly prominent aspect of these blog posts!
Maybe I’ve not sold The Slow Life properly here… but if anything in what I’ve written here has appealed to you and you want to hear more from someone who’s been researching and living this life for over 5 years, listen to just one episode of The Slow Home Podcast.
I hope you like it!