I’m hard-wired for slow and simple.
Partly by nature, partly for self-protection – this is how I’ve known to survive with a highly sensitive spirit and a tendency toward anxiety – I’ve made conscious decisions from childhood to guard white space in my life and keep things simple. I’ve chosen a slow path.
This is not to say that I’ve never fallen into the trap of perfectionism, performance or people-pleasing, nor that my life has been without seasons of struggle where I felt so far beyond overwhelmed that I couldn’t see my way back.
Slow is not synonymous with easy. Unbusy does not mean stagnant. Simple can feel rather complicated at times.
And deliberately choosing slow and simple has meant staying off the well-beaten path – the well-lit path – to forge my own way. It has meant loosening my grip on 5 and 10-year plans, on a particular outcome; it has meant breaking “rules” and reframing what success looks and feels like. Trusting that as long as I live aligned to my highest values I will end up somewhere good. It means choosing to enjoy each step of an unpredictable journey.
Life surprises us if we let it.
Joseph Campbell wrote “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
It’s easy to get caught up in watching what others are doing – aligning with their vision, living their dream, following in their brave footsteps. We need to be careful. Each of us is gifted uniquely for a reason, called to something new. And if we heed the call, we will be required to break new dirt, pull up the roots and stumps that trip us up, prune and chop away everything that distracts from our mission. We will have to get our hands dirty and put our backs into it. It might feel like hard work.
Today, 46 years in, I hold the gift of perspective. I can look back and see how this slow and simple, sometimes challenging life of mine turned out unexpectedly beautiful. How daily, deliberate choices have added up to a life well-lived.
Life unfolded as I ambled along.
But I clearly see some junctures in my life where a deliberate decision to let go of preconceived plans and ideas, to follow my gut onto a less-trod, meandering path, has led to some of the most incredible gifts of my life.
SOME OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE GIFTS OF MY LIFE
1. I knew within two weeks of meeting my husband, when I wasn’t looking for a relationship, that we would build a life together. It didn’t make sense. He was 10 years older than I, we didn’t speak each other’s mother tongue, and at 30 years old he had recently arrived in Canada from West Africa on a student visa so there were some immigration and cultural challenges ahead. But I could see something in him – a steadiness and gentleness to build a marriage upon. Despite some concern from family, 23 years ago we merged our lives and birthed a home and family.
What looked so different on the outside was similar at the core. We both wanted slow and calm and believed in attachment parenting; we prioritized family and connection above possessions. We’re in it for the long haul.
2. After years in university training to teach other people’s kids, we decided to homeschool our own. I released my plans of teaching full time and turned my heart toward home. Money was tight as we lived on one income and repaid student loans and as an introverted mama, there were days I desperately longed for solitude. Instead of new furniture or nice cars, we invested in art supplies, music lessons, and basketball shoes. I became a student of my children and as I taught them French and fractions and learned to parent, I also learned to grow up.
Homeschooling is not all nature walks and cuddles on the couch; there is hard work involved. But this choice also meant deep connection, freedom from arbitrary schedules, and flexibility to be with family when they were dying.
3. During one of the most painful seasons of my life, I felt a call to return to school. At 40 years old, I was homeschooling and my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I was in horrible pain as I awaited then recovered from a hip replacement and was struggling with a multitude of symptoms from an autoimmune disease that was yet undiagnosed. We were paying for braces and feeding teens so nothing about my decision to study again made sense on a logical level – it appeared neither slow nor simple. Yet I knew it was right.
Immersing myself in the world of mind-body health ended up being a lifeline for me in a season of despair. It reminded me to fight for mental and physical wholeness, to advocate for myself when I was drowning. And out of this dark and painful season emerged a clear vision for the work I do today.
4. And now in this new season as I slowly build a business, and my kids fly the nest, I am being challenged to growth like never before. I loosen my grip on what feels safe and familiar so that I can step into the unknown. I make peace with uncertainty, learn new skills, and sit with anxiety as I put words to paper and hit send. I ignore the call to hurry and make the choice to be present to each ordinary day. Each purposeful step of the way.
Though I only have light for the few steps in front of me I am convinced there is a way to walk out my mission over the next 20 years without sacrificing slow and simple or authenticity. I will carve out a new path and see where it leads.
I will live slow and simple on a meandering path.
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