Walking the line : My journey to simple

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I suppose it isn’t surprising. Some is introspective of course, stemming naturally from the slowing down of life that always comes with colder temperatures and from the big changes in my life, but some is directed at exploring ideas for change.

I need change, even though I’ve been encouraged to focus my energy on acceptance.  Yes, I need to accept my life, learn to work with all the parts, but I also need to change it, make it more malleable to the me that I’ve become. Accepting life isn’t possible if you can’t handle the way it is. In the last four years, my life has taken over me, much as a bird would fall prey to a cat. Marriage, career, motherhood all seemed to sneak up and pounce, leaving the self I knew behind.

Last week Lindsey at A Design So Vast wrote about having a foot in two worlds. She discussed her personal choice to work part-time and to be home with her children part-time and how “by refusing to let go of either “world [she has] failed at both.” As much as I am certain that isn’t true, I could wholly relate. I’ve chosen to work full-time and put my children in daycare and I too feel the constant tug and pull of competing priorities.

So I come here, to reflect and consider once again about that defeating concept called balance. Since moving forward with my perfect protest I’ve come to an important awareness—there is no such as thing as balance, there are only varying degrees of acceptance. Whether it’s knowing that for now I must focus primarily on my family and less on my life as a professional, or a reaching an understanding that my house will be a consummate tornado, or acknowledging that gaining control means saying no to various social invitations such as I did several times this weekend, I’m learning to accept it’s impossible to do it all.

I can’t juggle what I used to. And I’ve wasted a lot of energy judging and finding myself guilty for it. A friend recently pointed out that I really wasn’t juggling everything, that I was probably living on adrenaline. I think she’s right. Even more importantly I realized that I was measuring myself against an impossible standard. My benchmark for success came from blending an absurd expectation that I should be able to everything I did before children and everything I must since having them, and doing it well. With that realization, I had felt a flash of understanding and I allowed myself some forgiveness.  

So acceptance starts. It comes from making the change and understanding that it’s the best I can do at that moment. But it also comes from recognizing that change is never ending and life is a constant cycle of new challenges, hurdles and winding roads. It’s hard line to walk for a person such as I who was once restless, ambitious and driven—to understand that balance is a myth and not even a virtue, but that life is better lived as a series of choices that are sorted differently at any given time.

So now, as the last leaves gently float and swirl to the ground, and we prepare our home and lives for the impending dark and cold months, I’ve decided to focus on simplifying my life. I’m not going to walk any line, I’m going to stand down and accept that less is more. 

As part of this journey, I’m introducing a new series. To be honest, I was inspired by Kristen at Motherese and Jana at An Attitude Adjustment who recently started some of their own and wanted to join the party. I’ve also been reading Faith’s writing at Minimalist Moms about the benefits of simplifying life. Once a week, or as often as I can, I’ll write about my own journey to simplicity. I’m calling it Simply Living: Discovering the virtue of less being more. I’ll write about all parts of my life including the traditional, like minimizing stuff and commitments, to the existential and learning to focus my mind and body. I hope you’ll join me and share your thoughts and tips along the way.

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25 thoughts on “Walking the line : My journey to simple

  1. Lindsey says:

    Christine,
    Sending you so much love and support on this journey … as I think you know, I feel like I’m walking right next to you. I look forward to reading your reflections and observations as you begin this project. xoxo

  2. Hester says:

    I am struggling with this exact issue. My husband says I am too busy but I struggle to decide what to let go of. A speaker at a retail conference recently commented, “balance is overrated!”

  3. Great idea! I also want to simplify, and it’s one of the testimonies of the Quaker faith. First up: clean out my attic and throw all the unneeded stuff out the door!

  4. Amber says:

    This sounds like a great series – I can’t wait to read it! 🙂

  5. Rebecca says:

    Wow, I can’t even begin to say how much this post resonated with me (varying degrees of acceptance, living on adrenaline). I can’t wait to read your upcoming posts.

  6. What a wonderful series to start. I’m really looking forward to it and hope that I will learn from you along the way.

  7. Leslie says:

    Christine, I look forward to reading your reflections and the responses they’ll gather. Jana beat me to the Quaker sentiment – 🙂 – but I’ll echo: ’tis a gift to be simple. I’m struggling with the push and pull of work and home, too, and simplifying is always, always my goal.

  8. Good for you, Christine! So many of us struggle with this issue, and feel like we’re drowning, and I can’t wait to come along on your journey. I have this mental image of a bunch of us in this leaky ship, poking fingers and chewing gum in the holes, passing the oars on to other shipmates when we get too tired…it’s kind of a comforting image, don’t you think?

    Perfect sucks and it doesn’t exist. I hope to learn something about grace and acceptance in the coming months.

  9. I don’t think it’s so much about achieving balance, as it is about striving for balance. It’s more of a constant re-balancing.

    I’ve only been reading your blog for a few months, so I’m not sure on your faith. However, I know you are a reader and I would recommend Elizabeth George’s A Woman After God’s Own Heart. You may not accept all of the principles involved in the Christian faith, but I would encourage you to find/create a similar solid list of priorities for yourself and not deviate from them. It’s helped me immensely. When things do get crazy I can go back to my clear priorities (made in a calm, thoughtful moment–not the middle of chaos!) and judge my actions and thoughts. If I’m following my priorities, then I give myself acceptance of the results. If I’m not following my priorities, then I adjust as necessary. Change IS a good thing. Blowing around like a leaf in the wind is not.

    Biblical standards give me a firm, unmoving foundation to build on. I don’t know if you can find the same unwavering criteria following societal values, but it might be worth looking at. Some type of personal mission or values statement to reference yourself back to. And I’m 100% on board with simplifying too–It’s a necessity for us!

  10. Kameron says:

    I did a major purge at the end of the summer. I had a yard sale and what was left I donated. It felt great to get rid of some clutter and crap that was in my house. Try it and you’ll see how amazing it feels!

  11. I love the way you are processing everything, bit by bit, and reflecting – here – with us. I think we’ll be joining you along the way, questioning and tinkering with our own ways of doing things and seeing things.

    As for simplifying – I love the concept. (And will look forward to hearing how others accomplish it.)

    I will say, for solo moms, the challenges that present rob us of some of our choices. Which doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to simplify, but they may be tougher to accomplish. And God knows – they’re tough already, for any mother.

  12. Chantal says:

    I am totally checking out Minimalist Moms. I need lots of help in preparation for my return to work and the return of the hurricane we call live. Hugs to you!

  13. anymommy says:

    It’s so interesting how a bunch of people can be thinking about similar things at the same time. I’ve thought a lot lately about simplifying life and finding the heart of what is important. Your post helped to gel it in my mind. Thanks.

  14. Balance is a fiction. And yet we all seek it and struggle with it. I so look forward to reading your thoughts here on simplifying life. I have no doubt I will learn a thing or two.

  15. Simplifying is something we could all learn. I am looking forward to your perspective on how to do this and am sure I will be applying it to my life.

  16. […] Christine at Coffees and Commutes has written eloquently about the tug-of-war she’s living – wanting to stay in the workforce, dealing with a long commute, feeling as though each aspect of her life – marriage, parenting, career – is compromised by an inability to provide peak performance in each area. Her words are meticulously selected, yet this jumps out at me: I can’t juggle what I used to. […]

  17. Justine says:

    I’d love to join you in your Simplify Me journey – I think it’s a great idea; I have a feeling I will learn so much from it too.

  18. Excellent. I have a post in my head that hasn’t materialized onto the screen about this, too. Maybe I’ll just link to you? It’d definitely save time.

    😉

  19. I’m a few days late here, but I just wanted to leave my words of support along with all the others. I’m really moved by the way you are breaking your life down into its pieces and assessing each one on its own merit. Doing everything at once does mean that quality will suffer across the board. And so prioritizing (painful as it sometimes is) is the only way to go. You are brave and inspiring and I look forward to reading more about your simplicity project. I’m sure I will learn a thing or two!

  20. I’m so, so glad you’re starting this new series. Lord knows, we all need help with this. I think we all – our society – need to reframe the idea of “success” from having more and doing more to appreciating what we have. Finding joy in the everyday things. Living our life instead of going through the motions. THANK YOU for leading this important discussion, Christine!

  21. Rudri says:

    I am looking forward to your reflections Christine. I have no doubt that I will certainly learn from your musings.

  22. Mrs.Mayhem says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The way to find happiness is to let go our our ideals and accept that we are doing the best we can. The new series sounds wonderful.

  23. Hyacynth says:

    I’ve been in the process of doing this — simplifying life. I’ve recognized my priorites now, and I’m working to accept that fulfilling those right now is where my energy should be directed. It’s a good feeling, but it’s hard to let go of a lot of the other stuff.
    Wishing you the best, and I’ll be here reading.

  24. […] Living Simply for me is the very same thing. It’s about taking each piece of my life, no matter how small, and stripping it down to bare elements, so that I can better cope with the whole picture put together. This extends from the most mundane including the stuff we have in our lives and how we manage and organize it, to the most intensely spiritual and how I learn to accept myself and feel confident and capable moving forward.  My core parts as mother, wife, friend, professional, or daughter will not change. They live on, always. Each has an important place in my life. Each contributed to my inability to cope. Each will have to form part of the new blueprint for moving foward.  […]

  25. Pamela says:

    I’ve come to an important awareness—there is no such as thing as balance, there are only varying degrees of acceptance.

    So beautiful and wise!!!

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