In one of my recent posts, I mentioned having taken a little break from the digital world lately and how refreshing it was to take a step back from it all for a while. I have now significantly cut down on my social media use (I’m planning on sharing more of my thoughts on this topic soon on the blog), but even putting my concerns about screen time aside, I haven’t been able to help but feel lately that I’m running a race against the clock. With our wedding coming up in July, the to-do list seems endless. I’m trying desperately to brush up on my stagnating French so that I might be able to have a conversation with my soon-to-be in-laws (who don’t speak any English). Then there are airfares, accommodation arrangements and travel equipment that need to be organised before we depart for France. And while our wedding will be a simple affair, we still need to provide food and drinks for our guests on the day, no simple feat when you live approximately 16 000 kilometres from where the event will take place. Meanwhile, our day-to-day lives remain unchanged, with work to get to every morning and cleaning, laundry, shopping and cooking to take care of in between.
With all this going on, I feel I’ve gone from the calm minimalist I usually am to a burnt-out participant in the rat race I had been so carefully avoiding, and I’ve been reminded that minimalism isn’t just about what’s going on outside. It’s about what’s going on inside, too. The reality is that my tidy shelves and sparse home furnishings won’t do much for me if I can’t put order to the hectic jumble of things in my head.
I think Bea Johnson (in her book Zero Waste Home) offers an interesting insight into why we have a tendency to put ourselves through this:
“Today, we want people to know about (and sometimes pity) our crammed schedules to show that we are both important and fully engaged in life.”
She has hit the nail on the head, in my opinion. There really does seem to be a strong celebratory narrative in the Western world surrounding ‘getting stuff done’ and being time-poor. The society we live in is one fixated on efficiency, productivity and achievement, and we all live in perpetual fear of being branded as ‘lazy’ by the talented, multi-tasking individuals that surround us. But you really have to wonder: if no one was watching, would we still feel equally as compelled to be busy? Are we doing this for ourselves, or for ‘them’? Are we truly interested in the things that are making us so stressed, or is what we long for the badge of honour associated with the accomplishment of all those things?
When we ask these questions of ourselves, we can gain some much-needed perspective into what is driving us to constantly teeter on the brink of meltdown. For me at least, Bea Johnson’s words ring true: we overfill our schedules because we want to feel valuable, that we are taking part, being productive. We want to feel that we are someone.
If what we are craving is indeed love and acceptance, there is one simple way we can obtain it that many of us sadly overlook (myself included at this current moment): we can give it to ourselves. This is a valuable lesson I learned from Domonique Bertolucci’s book The Happiness Code, a simple self-help guide which I highly recommend to anyone struggling with the stresses of overcommitment and high expectations. Once we consciously give ourselves the approval we have so long been seeking from others, suddenly what ‘they’ think is not so important anymore. Whether ‘they’ be strangers on the street or wedding guests, their opinions are nowhere near as valuable as those we hold of ourselves. When we give ourselves permission to feel, to know within ourselves, that we are someone – not because of what we do, but because we just are – then we also give ourselves permission to slow down and switch from a goal-oriented mindset to one that focuses on relationships, emotions and experiences.
My first step towards making the time to live slowly over the next few months has been recognising what is going on inside, but the real challenge now lies in putting into practice what I know to be true. The perfect wedding day won’t be one that is perfectly organised, but one where I am fully present and allow myself to become immersed in experiencing all the wonderful moments the day will have to offer.
Here’s to living a little more slowly, friends!