Our Theme of the Year is “Slow down, Step Up.” Earlier themes have been: Light and Air, Focus and Progress, An Exciting Year (we are never doing that again), and Surplus and Abundance. I honestly can´t remember them all; we do not have these themes to remember the names. Instead, we use the themes to develop ourselves. The idea is that the theme integrates into our lives, not that it leaves as the year changes.
When things happen backward
Now it is September, and last week I suddenly realized we had forgotten the first part of the theme. The theme was thought of as an integrated project: with Step up to symbolize the focus of moving forward, being present, whole, and fantastic. We have lived up to the ‘Step Up’ part, but, in one way or another, we reached September before Slow Down became a thing for us.
It appears to me mystical, maybe magical. But it is undoubtedly as it should be: things happen just fine and as they should in the order and sequence that works and makes sense, but rarely in the way, I had imagined when I got things going.
From the minimalism project, over chaos, to slow.
Minimalism has filled a whole lot in recent months – with the attention to let what is most essential fill even more and to get rid of what is of less importance. This is true both in the calendar, on the to-do list, in the daily chores and in the physical items we own and surround ourselves with, and the way we choose to handle them.
In the wake of this project, the practical level raises to chaos. Our home becomes simply a mess, like the mess when you are moving home, at things become crazy difficult. Our time becomes filled with decisions, packing boxes and back and sacks, and energy is directed at this. Our conversations are about choosing: both what we will do and what we will keep, where we will take things, and why.
But Slow is a more subtle companion. My new best friends, Slow. The exact reason I can now experience the fullness as ‘slowness creates space,’ is because I have chosen to step into character (Step Up) with more focused efforts and follow the large amount of (actually, an enormous amount of) inner work ahead.
Stepping Up – The story of a transformation
Right now, I can remember to big projects that have filled this year. Of course, the big “Everyday-routine Establishment,” and close behind the reopening of my blog). There are actually more milestones, but let´s start with these two in the link.
In June, I began to teach the kids to participate in basic household tasks in a far more focused and consistent way than I have before. We are, of course, so free here, and think that self-directed is the only valuable truth – BUT. I actually don´t want to be a maid, cook, housekeeper, economist, cleaner, and dishwasher for my children. We have established the fundamental and practical things which are a part of this lifestyle we have chosen (which took a lot of time) and subsequently had a thousand discussions, as well as a row of conflicts, about them.
Throughout the duration of a few months we have finally managed to reach a place where daily teamwork in laundry, the kitchen (to keep it in order and clean, I am fine with making the majority of food myself), clean the table and floors once per day, and make the bed in the morning.
This equates to the necessary, personal upkeep which was established as a good and thorough habit.
The basic order that follows this is so sincerely freeing for me, and I must underline, we don’t in any way reach the goals every single day. We are too spontaneous, and we travel too much to complete this every day.
When everyone thrives and cooperates.
Now we know we all together can overcome the practical things on a basic level so I can be here, this is the change. We can do it very fast, and we can work as a team. When I know this, I can deal with the chaos for one or two days, but as a general rule, I cannot function in chaos.
I am simply unable to hold off chaos, and definitely not the kind of a mess when things are postponed until they become more difficult. I also need to be here, I actually live here, and the new thing is (inside me it is new), it is totally fine that I am just the way I am. I need for things to happen the way they do to thrive. My wellbeing is worth just as much work as all the other family members, and at our place, wellbeing always comes first.
The fact that anyone else really likes it is another story. My process, my “Step Up”, has been about daring to stand up for this reality; and it must spread to be a joint reality so we all can be here, including me.
Sharing is caring – about opening the blog again.
During our winter trip to La Palma (a canary island) over December and January, I became confident it was time to blog again. Still, it became summer before I conquered it and set the wheels in motion. It is emotional to blog about our lives – to open up. Many conversations and considerations were needed, plus a trip around to my good friend MajMy, who also blogs, before I was ready to begin to write seriously again.
Once in a while, a get a comment or an mail that make me feel I could write the entire blog again just for his one person and his or her family. It is really important, really. Not because I am the only one in the world with this lifestyle and a perspective like ours, but because my voice in the choir is anyway unique.
We need a change – we need people who arewholehearted, people with opinions, people with focus, people who can think for themselves, people who dare to make a difference. My goal with this blog is that I can help to contribute to this change.
An added bonus with blogging is we become smarter. It is me who writes the blog, but as with everything in our family, everyone is involved. I write, but we all talk about the topics. My husband and eldest daughter read through the posts and comments, and we reflect on what it is exactly I am writing about and why it is crucial to share. Everyone is involved, everyone has a voice. These conversations make us more aware of who we are, why we do what we do, and what comes out of it.
The challenge is often that we have lived this so-called different life for so long, our perspective is elsewhere. When we meet people outside of the “hippie segment,” it can sometimes feel hopeless to try to explain how we live. But I am thinking about these situations at family parties or arrangments in another context, where we randomly meet people who haven’t really approached us. We are always met with a lot of curiosity and openness and interest, not negativity or raised eyebrows, it’s not that. But sometimes people have an empty stare when we answer their questions about our lifestyle. These situations make me go home and talk with my family and write on the blog again because we are no more strange than anyone else. We use underwear and trash cans, sit on the sofa and drink morning coffee.
My writing t is a catalyzing process for our travels. It is an awareness-giving task to communicate: an enjoyable process to out words on it. I am thankful for the readers and for the modern world where the game-changing internet exists. Where we thus can reach each other and be co-creators in each other’s lives.
Space for slow, when the important things are in place
Here, ¾ of the way into the year, there is finally place for slow. Suddenly this theme opened up for us, and we are discovering to quality of doing things slowly. The logic in buying an organic coconut, opening it with drill holes (so the shell can be a birdhouse or something else useful), scraping out the flesh with a knife or spoon, pouring the water in a jug, blending briefly, sipping slowly, and drying the pulp in the oven (for date confectionary or bread) – before you have the coconut milk in a
a smoothie or warm cocoa or Hokkaido soup or to pour over the oats
The consideration sounds like this (and in relation to the coconut milk, it came from my clever husband):
“Is it really time-saving to go down to the supermarket to buy coconut milk in a can? First you have to earn the money for it, hen put aside time to go to the supermarket, use the product, and then dedicate time to clean the can and take it to be recycled – and you have to look much longer to find a can which actually has real food inside (only coconut milk and water). And it is anyway far cozier to stand together with the kids and make milk ourselves than it is to stand in line at the supermarket; and in relation to durability, a coconut comes with its own can.”
We haven’t worked it out, and we won’t either, because slow living is not about mathematics. The goal isn’t time, or money, optimizing, but slowness in itself.
Another consequence of the coconut milk, to give it in the same example, is that we don’t have it so often. A long time ago we decided if we were to have tasty delights (cakes, sweets, confectionery, chips), then we should make them ourselves. It wasn´t to forbid sugar, but just to create awareness, that it requires effort to get brownies.
Yesterday we decided the days of chips from the bag are over (when we have access to a kitchen), the fine organic chips in the Irma (Danish luxury supermarket chain) are very tempting and convenient.
These deliberate “slow” decisions give the phenomenon increased value and on many levels. The most important is existential, where we are not so busy, but rather happy and present: perfection and meaningfulness.
When we mess around with coconuts or set the washing in its place, read the History of the World or go for a run. We know why we do it, and we have space to do it thoroughly.
How Slow links with Stepping Up
The link between Slow and the mentioned part of Step-Up is when I dare to breathe air deep down in existence and listen to the deep, inner vibration which has such a subtle and quiet sound, but so precisely points towards my road in life; so I can write, so I can be here, so I can step into character. When I can do that, I am not busy. Then I do what is essential.
Then I stand with my YES and my NO, you know my choice and my waiver, and suddenly there is a lot of time. A lot of life. A lot of space, high up to the ceiling, wriggling bare toes.
I haven’t filled out any schedules or set my values in a system or any form of bullet-journal-habit-tracker order in my Step Up. It isn´t new values that filter my decision making. In many ways, it’s the same as it´s always been. The most significant difference is:
Number 1: The daily practical work is sorted and does not fill all my time or snatch my attention and energy.
Number 2: I have taken the muzzle from my mouth and with the blog chosen to stand with all the choices and waivers, attitudes and raised eyebrows; and all the strategies and reflections which I actually think are relevant.
These two elements: the relief in my surroundings and my daily housework make me able to start Slow.
Slow and simple, but not easy.
Slow is really hard. It is the most natural thing in the world to move at full speed, attain more, do more, set notches on the “to do” list; whiz around like a fly in a bottle, fall dizzy in the evening and do it all again the next day. To want to do everything, try to do everything, do everything, and finish it all. Maybe you get tired, but you don’t need to make it difficult. Choose to opt-out. Say no. Sit still. Be a stone in the water.
Slow is about giving yourself time and about filling time. Be! Be present. Discovering the quality in filling your seconds with meaningfulness. Have less on the to-do list. It´s not easy.
Slow isn’t that. Slow is not easy. Slow is something you practice. Something that requires focus. Something you get better with over time. And with us, it has only been in focus for a short time. But it will not disappear again. It’s absolutely fantastic. Cleaning.
An uncut diamond
Slow down is a uncut diamond in our lives. I don’t fully understand it yet, but it’s glowing in front of me for the time being. I am looking for ways to get it in focus and have in front of me an almost empty calendar.
A focus on NOT starting new projects, simplifying meals, giving me time for conversations, not having anything to do, enjoying the clouds and the sun, going to bed later, sleeping longer, breathing, drawing, reading (more) stories.
I’m really looking forward to seeing this unfold over the last three and a half months of the year, see what it can bring.
Slow down rhymes very well with the minimalist theme, and I think for a bit that The Minimalists have such a mantra-like word: When you leave everything behind, the important follows. Yes – a little salesy. But compared to Slow, I think: When you slow down, doing one thing at a time, slowly, it creates a space for what’s important. And then you actually do what is essential. Then the magic arises. Inside the tranquility. To do it slowly is to do the important thing. First. And only.
What is not worth doing slowly is probably not worth doing at all. Or it is worth waiting for proper space, focus and time. I know it’s very provocative to say that and today’s order is in a hurry. But I don’t believe it. It is a sacrifice of oneself: I have been indebted to it for years, and Slow becomes the way out, becomes the clarity, becomes the responsibility for his own decisions, for his time, for his productivity, for his contribution, for his being.
Welcome to my reality. I’m looking forward to sharing more about slow as I’ve gotten smarter, and have written it in the calendar that I will reflect on it again in six weeks. Then we must see how much or how little I have learned and whether I can put words to it.