When my kids are playing games with their friends, like chasey or ‘it’ as they call it these days, they have a rule which didn’t exist when I was younger. You can go on a pause. Sometimes it involves a pole or a tree, sometimes it’s me. They grab hold of it, or me, and they get a break from the game, until they let go again.
Someone asked me a few days ago if I was still writing about slow living. I said that I was, but realised after the yes had slipped out, that I’ve been posting less and less frequently of late. I’m not exactly sure why. I didn’t make a conscious decision to stop blogging. It’s just happened. I’m still living slow. I’m still writing most days, but the urge to document my thoughts publicly seems to have diminished for now.
So I guess I’m on a pause…
I’m hanging on to my peaceful thoughts, keeping them close, until I’m ready to jot them down for others again. Hopefully some new creative doors will open in the meantime. The cogs are definitely turning.
Thank you…Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting, and for letting me know that you are out there and interested. It’s always a privelidge, and often a surprise to know that your work is being read.
I make no secret of the fact that my relationship with conventional medicine is generally just a professional one. It is what I do…not what I believe in for myself. Of course it has its place, but I feel that its role is limited. It is simply too much about symptom management and pill popping, and not enough about searching for the root cause of illnesses for my liking. I love to learn from those who have deep insight into the human body as a perfectly functioning organism. That’s not something I ever discovered at nursing school. Conventional medicine just doesn’t do that, with the odd exceptions of course. Alternate healthcare isn’t for everyone, but for me…it’s the real deal.
I recently saw a healer in Ubud, Bali. A man with many hats. He was a cranio-sacral therapist, a chiropractor, a kinesiologist and an all round peaceful, healing soul. A great friend recommended I see him, just to experience his marvellousness, and he was indeed marvellous.
I spoke to him mostly about a feeling I have, that my body no longer copes with stress as it once did. I imagined he would confirm that my adrenals were screwed, and that my path to slowness wasn’t having the effect that I had hoped for. He proceeded to do a full assessment of me, clearing one system after another. My adrenals were fine, my immune system was great. I had no nutritional deficiencies. Fantastic. But when he came to assessing my pancreas, it was a different story. He said it was severely inflamed, which was causing internal issues which made it difficult to be calm on the inside essentially. He mentioned a casein intolerance. Then as he held my head for what seemed like an hour, working his cranio-sacral magic, all he could feel was pressure. My sinuses were full, as they often are. Hayfever I thought was gone forever, after a couple of years of diet and health experiments, was still there. The only time it has ever disappeared completely, was while I was in the throws of doing the GAPS introduction diet, which is essentially an elimination diet. I had no dairy for a couple of months, but because I was so focused on gluten being the culprit, I had overlooked the real problem. There you go. So, some inflamation in my belly, and very full sinuses. Both factors capable of unsettling a person.
Lots of thoughts flowed through my pressurised head. A hospital admission I’d had for severe abdominal pain a few years back. I thought it was my appendix, but I left the hospital none the wiser, after being bombed with every antibiotic in the book. It may have been my pancreas, but it was never tested, and would never have occured to me. I had random times where my entire belly wall was abnormally tender. I had no idea what it was. I could feel the pieces of the puzzle clicking together in my mind.
Since I’ve come home from Bali, I’ve been doing my best to stay completely dairy free. For anyone who knows me, it’s a big ask. I’ve always been an enormous cheese head, a massive fan of milk, cream, butter, butter and more butter. It is easier to eliminate something when you think it’s doing you damage though.
Hopefully I am on the right track, and some answers will come, as I embark on yet another experiment along the road of my slow living adventure. A road to happiness, inside and out.
I wrote most of this a few weeks ago in the midst of our family holiday in Bali. I know it probably sounds a bit melodramatic, but I feel as though this brief, but very intense experience really changed me.
Here we go.
My idea of bliss is a yoga retreat. Imagine one of those magical locations in a tropical forest in the mountains, a huge open air bamboo hut, gentle mystical music drifting through the trees, tranquility infusing the air. Perfectly peaceful…bliss.
I’ve been green with envy in the past, when friends have announced they are off to Bali on a week long yoga retreat or detox of some sort. It’s a dream I’ve had for some time…and now I’ve done it. Mine wasn’t exactly a retreat, and it wasn’t exactly a week, but it was blissful all the same. I’m calling it my 48 hours in Ubud.
So it came to be…two happy yogis in the back of a Bluebird taxi, waving farewell to a gaggle of children and a pair of Dads. Heading to the mountains for an intensive yoga, meditation, food and relaxation camp. An extra special side trip to a family holiday, which fell serendipitously into place only a week before it actually happened.
We arrived at the beautiful home of one of my best friends an hour or so later. The house just happened to be essentially vacant while we were there, and it served as a fantastic base, and place to sleep. The same lovely friend had given me a detailed list of all of the best places to go, to eat, to drink and most importantly, very explicit directions to The Yoga Barn, a yoga Mecca in these parts. We went straight there, and essentially mapped out a plan to do as many yoga and meditation sessions as we could. We also booked in to see the Cranio-sacral therapist/healer my friend had raved about. I’ll be sharing some thoughts about that soon. So we sat, we ate, and then we started…and it was incredible.
I think a kind of honesty of the soul occurs when you focus so much of your energy on quietening down everything inside of you. There’s nothing but calm. The energy just flows…it doesn’t take any actual physical or mental energy. The experience of being a Mother is generally the antithesis of this. You become connected and tuned in to your little people, and aware of yourself, but not deeply connected to yourself. That’s my experience anyway.
Before kids, I wasn’t into meditation, and had limited yoga experience, so they are both relatively new interests for me. Doing both activities so intensely made me feel as though I was exploring a whole new part of myself in Ubud. I can’t really describe it adequately, but I’ll give it a try.
All of my senses were heightened. My intuition was heightened. I knew exactly how I was feeling, and what I wanted at every moment of the day. I knew exactly what I wanted in my life! It felt very raw, as though every thought I had was a small life epiphany. Truth flowed through me. No crap. Just pure, honest, truth. I was completely connected to who I really am, and acutely tuned in to my body, and my mind. Everything just felt so right. Now every time I meditate or practice yoga, it’s as though I’m building on something which started to evolve in Ubud. I’m still quite stunned by the fact that I continue to feel so transformed by a simple two day experience…but that’s just what happened.
Up until a couple of nights ago, I was in Bali. I didn’t write much while I was there. Just a few notes here and there, and the beginnings of a post about a snippet of our trip, which took me and a friend to Ubud, on a quest for peace and yoga. The experience was amazing, and I will post it soon, but it was something at the end of my trip which has caught my imagination for the moment, in a very different kind of way.
This was from me a few days ago.
There’s a volcano in East Java called Mt Ruang, which is quite active at the moment. It’s spewing out volcanic ash which is drifting across Bali, making air travel dangerous. So we are stuck. Quite stuck it seems. We’ve been here for a two week holiday which was lovely, but now it doesn’t feel much like a holiday, and I realised today after a fourteen hour stint at the airport on standby for Perth flights…with my two boys in tow, that we have actually become travellers. Me again, them for the first time. We’ve only really been traveling for a day or so, but there was a very distinct point where things shifted from ‘luxury bali getaway’ to ‘Michelle shows her sons what real travelling is all about,’ or more to the point, ‘Michelle is inspired to show her sons what real travelling is all about.’
Two nights ago, we were looking for a place to eat along the beach. An older woman stopped to ask us a question, which turned into a twenty minute conversation, and a promise to meet the following day at noon, for her to show us the best warung (local food place) around.
As a young traveller, I met quite a few people like this. Older women whose independent spirit drew them along alternative paths. As the layers peel away through very open conversation, a life very similar to my early life is often revealed. There was Oya in Istanbul- we met her brother on a bus, and stayed with her for a number of days. There was Jen in Amsterdam – I taught her how to use email in an Internet cafe. She was emailing her brother in Jerusalem to see if he was OK. I had just left Israel because of conflict there. I stayed with her for a week, and it was as though our lives had been running in parralel. Similar upbringing, similar work, similar ideas about life and how to live, and a yearning for travel and adventure. When you are travelling free, you meet people and see things you wouldn’t ordinarily see.
Since we have had kids, I’ve had this urge to have ‘safe’ holidays, not exploratory ‘dangerous’ travel. And I do want to keep us safe, but in the last few days we’ve actually shifted gears. All because of volcanic ash and a chance meeting.
I met my new friend at noon, and we walked and talked for about a kilometre before we found the warung. The owners spoke no English, so there was lots of gesturing, pointing, and a bit of nervous laughter from the young girl serving, as she wrapped our Nasi Campur in paper and stapled it into a neat triangular takeaway packages. As we stood there choosing our food, caught up in the energy of the local lunchtime rush in this tiny little warung, I felt an awakening inside of me. This is how I always ate as a young traveller in Asia. This is how all travellers used to eat in Asia. It felt so enlivening to be a part of the local landscape, not simply a tourist tacked on the edge. As we left the warung, my new friend turned to me and said, “now you can do this on your own,” and that was exactly what I was thinking. We wandered back to my hotel, already knowing lots about each other, and we shared the food as a picnic on the grass outside. It was the first meal in Bali that both of my kids ate without question or criticism. Hours of really interesting and diverse conversation followed, and we parted with another promise…to stay in touch.
That night it was just me and the kids. We were flightless (my husband had been injured the week before, and had flown home earlier that day), we were in a cheap hotel, in a poor area of Bali near the airport, and we adventured out into the streets. The kids chose a Muslim warung with fish and chicken in the window, that they both thought looked “delicious”. We stepped inside, into a completely different world. The call to prayer was on a television high in the corner of the room. Old women were shuffling food from a back room into the dishes at the front. The kids were fascinated, and we were also an attraction. Something which was always the case for me as a very tall, very blonde traveller in Asia in the eighties.
After the meal, my youngest needed to go to the toilet urgently. I made signs to the owners that we needed a toilet, and we were led to the back room, which was essentially a very dark cave. While my youngest discovered his first ever stand up toilet, and the dangers of holes in the ground and darkness, my seven year old was beckoned over by the two old women preparing food. They were laughing toothless laughs, tickling him sweetly, and gesturing wildly about his size. He was much taller than both of them. The warmth of these women was palpable, and they lifted my spirits completely. As we left the warung, both boys skipped happily along the rough path, calling out questions to me about everything from what they’d just eaten, to what on earth that toilet was all about.
We had dug a little deeper, and experienced something so much more interesting than that offered by any of the resorts or spas of Bali. We were tasting real life. We were real travellers. Very contented, very happy…travellers.
Last week I wrote a post about simple life. About how all of the things I do to simplify and slow my life are essentially with the goal of wellness in mind. When I was writing that piece, there was a slight niggle in the back of my mind. I was questioning whether all of my choices are actually good for my health. You see, I love to move and exercise, and I don’t go crazy with it, but I am a bit of a running junkie. In my head, the world just isn’t quite right if I haven’t run free at least once every second day. It used to be most days, but as my body ages, I’m discovering it doesn’t really like to run every day.
I love the intensity of running, and the way it makes me feel. It’s like meditation in motion for me. And I know that I’m not alone. There are millions of me out there, but this is where my questioning comes in. You see, about two months ago I felt a bit of a twinge in the back of my right knee. If I squatted, I could feel something was wrong behind my knee, and it took a few steps after each squat to go back to normal, or close to normal. I knew pretty much straight up that there was something going on with my posterior cruciate ligament, but I chose to ignore it. A few weeks later, on a Saturday afternoon in May, I did some very impressive kicks of a football with my eldest son. He thought I was the coolest Mum ever…but that night, I could barely walk. Internally I was panicking that my running days were over (either temporarily or forever), but after a few days it felt OK, so I ran, albeit in a fair amount of pain.
So here’s the issue. I am focussed on wellness, and I love to exercise, and I know my body inside out, but am I really listening to my body? I would say yes, generally, but not when it comes between me and my running. So there’s this disconnect when it comes to addiction, which got me thinking about pretty much every other human I know, and the disconnect we all have when it comes to things we love, and knowing when that thing is no longer serving us. People do it with work and stress, with food, with inactivity, with drugs, with relationships…with lots of things…it’s crazy.
I did exactly the same thing when I had plantar fasciitis a few years back now, so I’m definitely seeing a pattern emerge here. I ran, I ran, I ran. I could barely walk when I stopped running, but it felt fine when I ran, and I couldn’t visualise my life without running. When I finally acknowledged the problem, and I stopped running, it took over two years to recover. I would internally curse other runners in the street for being able to run. It was awful.
With my knee, by running on it, I have more than doubled my recovery time. All because I was scared that a) I would have to stop running short term, or b) I may never run again. Both of which are completely irrational thoughts which make no sense when you say them out loud. Which is exactly what I did last Friday when I was trying to rationalise what I was doing with my knee to a very practical ex-physio friend. I kept on running on my injury, because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to run again?? Saying it out loud was like slapping myself across the face, and saying “wake up you crazy lady. Are you trying to destroy any chance you have of still being able to run at 80?” Which probably makes me sound like an even crazier lady…and then I woke up. And I’m now listening to my body. And I’m promising my body that I’ll keep on listening, particularly as I get older, and parts of me start to wear out and need more love. I’ll listen, I’ll adapt, and I won’t just run myself to destruction, which is definitely not on my path to wellness.
A simple life is a completely subjective concept. For some people it means having free ranging children and chickens, producing all of your own food, and going off-grid with water and power, or being somewhere along that path. For others, it means reading or sitting peacefully for a small part of each day. Or it could mean finding peace within yourself by just ‘being’ more, and doing less. Every person interested in a simpler life, has their own unique interpretation of what that actually means.
For me, simplicity means being as well as I can be. It’s a reciprocal arrangement. I live simply to stay happy and healthy, and I’m happier and healthier because I choose to live simply. Pretty much everything I do, has become a part of my life with wellness either directly or indirectly in mind.
A small window into my simple life, is not me saying that my life is great, and yours is crap. It’s me saying that my life before slowing down wasn’t working very well. Only certain aspects of my needs were being met. I was always very fit, but not always really well, and not always doing all of the things which ultimately I’ve discovered make me feel more me.
When I wake early to meditate, it’s a conscious decision I’ve made to be a calmer person. To step away from a life where stress and raised cortisol affected every part of me. Meditating every day has been the best decision of my slow living life. I’m not simply hoping for peace in my day, although sometimes it does just happen by chance…I’m doing something which literally calms my nervous system, and sets me up, generally, for a peaceful start to the day. My morning mantra for the entire family is ‘Start each day, in a happy way’. Hollie Hobbie. A corny flashback to my seventies childhood.
When I’m writing, I’m happy. I am expressing myself creatively in a way which has satisfied me deeply since I was a kid. I love words. I love playing with them to create meaning and truth. Writing is such a powerful art, and for me it feels as though I’m touching on my ultimate purpose every time I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. My Mum was the first to instill the thought that I should become a writer, and it has been dancing around in my head ever since. It’s a very happy place for me.
When I crochet a tiny granny square of a greater rug, there is joy not only in the making, but also in the visual art of the project, and in the connection to my creative past. To my mother who taught me, and to all of the women who preserve the gentle arts as a part of their daily existence and tradition.
The same joy drives me in food production. There is happiness and health at the bottom of every jar of sauerkraut. I love picking cabbages, and feeling that connection with the earth (especially when I have to hunt through the layers of leaves for slugs and snails!). The whole process allows me to become entwined in the mystical elements of fermentation. There’s an enormous sense of accomplishment which comes from producing complex food. A cupboard full of ferments, learning to make sourdough bread, waiting for a batch of Kombucha to finish brewing. It’s not necessarily easier or a more efficient way to live, not at all, but it brings such positive energy into my life. It’s useful, and I have the knowledge that my food is living, simple and as unprocessed as it can be.
When I grow my own food, I know exactly where it has come from. I’ve had the chest swelling pleasure of watching it grow, and the enjoyment of seeing it become part of a meal. I love to pick and collect vegetables and herbs to make juice. It’s deeply satisfying, and it feels very right to me.
These are some of the elements which make up my simple life. It’s nothing dramatic, it’s just me being, and enjoying the very basics of life. It’s not about money, or having or doing. It’s about peace and happiness and wellness. I enjoy every small part of the life I’ve created, rather than feeling stressed or overwhelmed by a life that’s just whizzing by.
Simple, happy memories are a part of the puzzle of who we are.
When I was about ten or eleven, I can remember getting extremely excited every time Mum announced that Dad had a meeting, and wouldn’t be home till late. Sorry Dad, it’s a great memory that you helped to create by not actually being there! It wasn’t regular, it was usually on a Tuesday, and Mum would often make one of my favourite meals, which was mince stew with tinned pineapple, and a pile of mashed potato on the side. If it was cold and wintry, she would top it off, by whipping up a self saucing steamed chocolate pudding with custard for dessert.
I am someone who remembers events based on the food I ate, however the crux of this story, is that with Dad out of the picture for the evening, we got to eat our dinner while watching TV. The sense of illicit freedom I felt on those evenings was huge. Essentially Mum was being the good cop for a night, revealing to us through her actions that it was Dad who dictated the rules on strict TV control which were normally in place. I’m not sure what we would have done if he had arrived home earlier than expected. It wasn’t spoken of as a secret, but we all knew that it was, even though looking back now, I’m certain Mum would have shared it all with him when he arrived home late at night, for his over-cooked stew (she always left his dinner on a plate in a blazing oven until he arrived home…perhaps she was not all that happy about his meetings).
I have replicated the screen dictatorship of my parents, but Friday night is movie night in our house, and it’s bliss. Sometimes we all watch…sometimes I write and pretend to watch…and sometimes if I’ve had a tough week, I take a bath, do yoga or just meditate. There is so much excitement and anticipation running up to the night. What are we watching? Whose turn is it to pick the movie? What’s for dinner? The build up is almost as much fun as the night.
My food isn’t as classy as my Mums. I haven’t mastered the art of using tinned fruit in my dinners yet, and I don’t imagine I ever will. I’m not sure if that was a fad of the seventies, or if it was just my family. There are many more food memories down that lane.
I often feel as though this whole parenting gig has me overthinking pretty much everything. And then I look at the world, and what it’s become, and I have to remind myself that the life of a kid has become seriously complicated. As parents we struggle against this complicated, fast-paced, technology obsessed, hyper-consuming, information overloaded, crap food driven world. There is a lot to overthink, and I’m swimming upstream through most of it.
I’m a bit of a screen Nazi with my kids, and so far I haven’t seen any evidence that this is a bad thing. TV had very obvious detrimental effects on my eldest son when he was little, and I made a decision back then to ban all screens. This decision morphed into a two hour movie night every Friday, which has been a happy compromise. Movie night has become a lovely tradition, and is also an exciting and relaxed way to finish the week for our little family. I’m also a little more relaxed on holidays and special occasions, where a bit of extra viewing might slip in. I guess I envisaged that this phase would last for ages. That technology wouldn’t infiltrate my kids lives further for quite a while, but in todays world, that is simply not possible. I know it’s going to haunt me for the next decade or so, or at least until I’m no longer one of the grown-ups in charge.
The other night the boys (aged nearly 6, and 7 and a half) had a discussion (with their Dad) about when they could start playing Mine Craft. My first thought when I heard about it, should probably have been to research Mine Craft and find out exactly what it was. But my actual first instinct was NO. A screaming, never, ever, ever NO. Now I understand that I am truly swimming upstream on this one, but I’ve since had a great conversation with another Mum, and I’m feeling slightly better about things now. I tip my invisible hat to her, for her inspiration on the topic.
She had this exact scenario in her home, and her answer was that before any of her children could play online games, they need to be able to read. Properly read. Fluent, flowing reading of chapter books by interesting and engaging authors, not just simple ‘learning to read’ books. She feels that books will take over her son’s world, stimulating his imagination so deeply that computer games will pale into insignificance. And not only that, if he does want to play a game, and he can read…the screen time he uses for gaming becomes part of his allocated two hours a week.
I may simply be delaying the inevitable, but I am going to adapt this plan in our house, as my own gaming saviour for the time being anyway. I’m not just saying no, I’m not overthinking it (much), and it seems like the right thing to do. Until the next technology challenge, I almost feel at peace with this one…
Our suburb is littered with post World War II houses, each of them either a carbon copy or a flipped version of the same design. Many have been modernised and extended. Ours is small, and very original. It stands strong, but as with most old houses, it is quite hard to maintain, and it’s often difficult to make it feel really clean. When you live in a house with two wild boys, a permanent Lego trail, and a big hairy cattle dog who prefers life indoors, you can feel as though you are always living in a bit of a mess. That feeling can make you feel quite unsettled.
It’s a beautiful airy summer house, and conversely it’s a breezy, freezing winter one. Every year as soon as the cold weather sets in, I seem to become possessed by minimalist fever. Running around seeing what I can offload to others, to charity, or just ‘out’. In a way it helps me to regain control over a home which has been a bit neglected over the summer. It’s also a step towards feeling less unsettled during the cooler, more home bound months of the year.
One of the main principles of spring cleaning (or Autumn cleaning if you’re me), minimalism, and probably many other domestic activities, is to start small. To work on small areas and make micro differences that add up over time. I like to have (at least) one small uncluttered space in our home, which regardless of the chaos in the rest of the place, brings some calm. Mine is our dining table area, which is in our main living space. It’s set simply with greenery, but otherwise it’s kept perfectly clear. It means dealing quickly with school bags, mail, shopping, washing and anything else which threatens to impinge upon my calm space. It’s in my direct line of vision from the kitchen, and the unclutteredness of it helps me find peace amongst whatever else is going on.