How I’m Simplifying My Life Lately
I was going to title this, “How I’m De-Complicating My Life Lately” but that seemed kind of complicated…
It’s almost July now & it’s time for me to start thinking about a little mid-year review. I got this great idea from YouTuber muchelleb & really ran with it. All my new year’s plans and resolutions are six months in the rear view & have gone decently well. I set some core desired feelings, worked on a vision board, did a TON of journaling, and hoped I could really make the best of my 2018.
Throughout the last few months, I’ve also been thinking of this funny “screenshot capture” from a women’s bible study instagram account in January. Whatever word you captured on a screen shot as they were flashing by was supposed to be your word of the year. I know, pretty silly & fun. The word I got was “simplify.”
For some reason that thought has come up again and again. When I’m stressed out and bogged down: simplify. When I’m anxious and burnt out: simplify. When I feel like I’m running uphill: simplify. When my toddler’s a mess and I can’t grocery shop: simplify.
Maybe there’s something to it.
I’ve also been thinking about this podcast interview where the guest suggested the following: “Ok picture something in your life where you have a lot of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Keep it in your mind. Now where does that feeling reside in your body? A tensed jaw, painful neck and back, a little bit of a headache? Ok. Now ask yourself, ‘what would this feel like if it were easy?’”
Immediately after hearing that, my tensed shoulders relaxed, my mind cleared up, I felt well rested, and could take a deep breath. It’s not magic. Just some cool visualization techniques. After I tried that, I started thinking of all kinds of creative, no BS solutions to the things that I was fretting about. Just really clear, easy paths forward. Between that exercise and the keyword “simplify” that was hanging around in my mind, I started to really re-examine my year.
I decided to just go with my gut. You see, I’m the type of person who totally over-complicates things. I carefully consider every single possible option before I make a choice. Whether it’s the shampoo I use (how does this effect the ecosystem and the health of my DNA?), the food I feed my son (but he needs omega 3s and iron reserves and I must make all organic meals from scratch!), or where I spend my time (am I being the most productive I can be in an ethical compassionate Christian way with these five extra minutes in my day?), I think about everything A LOT.
Are you that way? Or do you just kind of shoot from the hip? If the latter is you, well done! I love chill people. My husband is just like that, and it’s something I deeply admire. If you’re anything like me, though, that zen monk living in the moment stuff is hard won.
With all that in mind, I woke up one morning and decided to just make everything easier. Like, what would it feel like if everything wasn’t such a “thing?” What if I lightened up and tried to do things a whole lot less thoroughly and perfectly?
These are some of the things I’ve been doing lately that have ratcheted down my year considerably.
+ blog less
I haven’t been as frequent a contributor to my blog as I had set out to at the beginning of this. And that’s totally ok! I like having goals and deadlines and being accountable to myself, but it doesn’t have to be 100% all the time. So, you get something once a week instead of twice. I can keep to that. Closer to fall, I’d like to hop back into twice a week, but for now what I’m doing is good enough.
+ step away from my fitness community
As any reader around here knows, I LOVE Tone It Up, their workouts, nutrition plan, challenges, products, you name it. I’ve been hard and heavy with the Tone It Up lifestyle since 2015. I’ve sunk countless hours and countless dollars into something that made my life better. I felt great when I was sticking to the workouts and the nutrition plan guidelines. I loved belonging to a community who rooted for me as I reached my goals. It was fun interacting, joining along on twice-yearly challenges, going for prizes, and following along Karena and Katrina on all their adventures. But little by little, it all started to become a “thing.” It wasn’t meshing with my vegetarian family of three with a toddler lifestyle easily. I found the instagram community check ins to be a lot of work and not as much fun. I found tracking all my meals and workouts and water consumed to be tiresome. I wasn’t listening to my body and my schedule.
After having strep throat two weeks ago and being knocked out for an entire week with a fever and feeling totally rotten, I realized I had started feeling a little bad that I was missing out on a week of their Bikini Series this year. With a little more thought, I was like, “what? My body and my schedule need easy food, simple grocery lists, no workouts, and lots of naps.” And when my fever broke, so did my desire to keep going with my fitness community.
I’ve always been a healthy weight. I’ve learned to love being active. I like taking care of myself. I’ve learned a ton about nutrition and fitness and consistency. So… maybe I’m good? Maybe all the challenges and prizes and all that other stuff is just, you know, stuff. So I’m throwing away my tracking journal, trying some other online workouts, buying a new water bottle (seriously, all of my Tone It Up ones were WELL loved and WELL destroyed after all these years), taking a step back from my second instagram account, and just doing what feels good. Listening, being aware, and just going with it.
+ bye bye facebook
I’m not going to go into some sort of polemic on Facebook’s privacy violations, fake news, political overflow, and whatever any of the headlines are. I have my own thoughts and feelings, but mostly I’m just not super into Facebook anymore. I’m also mostly not into having a bunch of social media accounts. It’s a lot! And a big time suck for this stay-at-home-mom who has a TON of other stuff to do. I just posted a simple update, “hey guys, find me on instagram” and called it a day. No deleting. No privacy purging. Just sort of untethering myself from another thing that felt like an obligation. I’m having way more fun on Pinterest and Instagram lately anyway. I said goodbye to Twitter a few years ago and never once looked back. Online simplification is a great feeling.
+ stop carefully weighing everything on the scales of justice
As a Christian, there are things in life that lead me toward temptation and things that lead me away. There are things that are a bad influence on my personal journey and some things that are good. And then there’s a lot of in-between that’s neither bad nor good.
I used to spend a lot of time inspecting and verifying that everything I was spending my money and time on was ethically and faithfully consistent. If I was buying a book, I wanted to buy a digital copy to reduce paper waste. It also had to be a book where I could learn something. The subject had to be worthwhile and admirable, good, noteworthy, and praiseworthy. If I was spending time out having margaritas, was this a good use of my time? Was I drinking in a responsible way? (I mean, obviously not drinking and driving, but I was considering what it was doing to my soul and mental health a lot.) Was buying non-biodegradable shampoo bottles ruining the planet for my son? Was watching the Real Housewives eating away at my soul?
If you’re getting tired of reading this, imagine how tiring this was in my head! So, like, it doesn’t MATTER. Choosing who to vote for matters. Choosing where to spend my Sundays matters. Choosing the people I hang out with matters. All that other stuff is, like, whatever. So I bought a book to read just for fun and got a bottle of Pantene conditioner and called it a day.
+ lay off on food anxiety
Along with my fitness community, I’ve been freaking the heck out about a balanced, healthy, nutritious diet with no processed foods, nutrient-dense meals, and no refined carbs past lunch (no really, that was a thing I was striving for). Then I was sitting down to breakfast with my son one morning and feeling so peaceful. I was drinking a coffee with coconut creamer, eating an Eggo waffle and veggie sausage, with no fruits or vegetables in sight, and it was nice. It was no big deal.
With my bout of strep throat, it was all I could do to parcel out some Spaghetti-Os to keep my son from starving. And he’s FINE. When I had a little extra time one night, I packed a super cute and balanced lunch for a trip to the zoo and it was great! But that night, we ordered pizza for dinner. I can trust myself because I tend to always make my way back to whole, healthy eating. I’m not going to spiral into another Kool-Aide and Cocoa Pebbles life like when my husband and I were young and poor and in love and newly married. And if I do spiral? Fine. Like, it’s not a big deal.
+ keep myself to myself
I’ve been spending more time with just myself, or just my little family lately and it’s helping me so much. I deeply love my friends and my family. But I was spending a TON of time engrossed in their lives, opinions, thoughts, challenges, and victories and not a lot of time tending to my own affairs. I’ve been feeling the call to something different lately. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 captures it best:
“Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you.”
Good stuff, right? I needed to carve out some time and head space for myself. So if I’m hanging out less or on the phone less or texting less, that’s what I’m about. It’s something I’m trying to do, at least. It’s a good little project. And it’s helping me really clarify what does and doesn’t matter to me and weed out what’s not working. It’s also keeping my non-stop socialization to a minimum and my data usage to a somewhat normal range.
+ live the simple life
My very favorite youtuber, Love Meg, is really just the cutest little Southern mom and wife in her late 20s. She has been on youtube for years now, and has a sizable following for her mommying, homemaking, lifestyle channel. The best part about Meg? She’s living the simple life.
Meg started on youtube as a stay at home mom with a firefighter husband. They made $20,000 a year, had two toddlers, were high school sweethearts who married at 18, and lived in a double wide trailer. And damned if she didn’t make the very best of that life. Cleaning, decorating, homemaking, mommying, laughing, and having fun. Now that she’s hugely successful and making over six figures, you would think she would leave the simple life behind. Nope. She’s still shopping at Walmart and buying $20 handbags. She’s still eating ice cream most nights with her family and throwing all of her clothes in the same washing machine at the same time (whites AND colors! gasp!). She’s just so regular. And it’s why I like her so much!
My whole life I’ve always felt an obligation to be special, different, exceptional, excellent, praiseworthy. I’ve felt this really heavy burden to do everything to this impossible, unique, one-of-a-kind standard. And you know, I was good at it. But did it matter? Maybe not. I mean I’m proud of my accomplishments and all my hard work, but seriously, a 4.0 GPA in my master’s program isn’t putting dinner on the table tonight or making my son laugh any harder when he sees a beach ball at the pool. And THAT’S OK. Ice cream dates are good. Blowing bubbles is fun. A shopping trip to the Dollar Tree is great. So, I’m taking my cues lately from Love Meg. Regular is good enough for me.
+ choose either hair or makeup
I’m the type of person who seriously loves self-care. I love putting on makeup, putting together cute outfits, dying my hair and deep-conditioning it. It makes me happy and I enjoy it. But when it’s 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity in the mid-Atlantic, something’s got to give. Lately, I’ve been choosing to do either my hair OR my makeup. Sometimes my crazy wavy hair just gets pinned up with a bunch of bobby pins and my eyeliner is crisp and pretty. Sometimes I have a great blow out with smooth strands and I’m only wearing lip balm. Yeah, if I have the time and the energy, I’ll go full in. But this summer, I’m going to take it a little easy. Saves me a bunch of time and nobody really cares but me.
This simplify idea I haven’t gotten out of my head for the past few weeks came at the expense of a little bit of additional time and soul-searching, but it’s making the rest of my year free and easy. I’m lightening up and just having fun. I’m taking cues from my son and my dog and just going with the flow. I’m letting the laundry pile up a little and getting outside. And I’m going to sit down to an Eggo waffle and a coffee with creamer at breakfast and enjoy.
Because, you know, everything doesn’t have to be a “thing.”
One of my last Tone It Up instagram account workout check-ins. It really makes me laugh.