DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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22 April 2014

Learn to say "no"


The weather is close to perfect at the moment. The evenings are cool, the days sunny, the humidity is low and it makes me feel happy and optimistic. I spent some time yesterday morning planting granny's bonnets (aquilegia) in the vegetable garden. I love seeing flowers in with the tomatoes and cabbages, it's something you don't expect. Flowers bring the bees in too, and that makes it even better. Hanno has been working in the garden too. He's trying to remove the stumps of trees felled a few years ago that are now providing a problem with his ride on mower. Soon we'll organise a day together, when it's a bit colder, when we weed and prune the front garden and plant out a few cuttings I've been growing in the bush house.


Whether in the front or back garden, this time of year is our busy time in the garden and when we're not out there, we're thinking about being out there. But there is one thing we must remember at this time of year, when the weather makes being outside such a sublime pleasure, and that is to go out there, enjoy it and just soak it all in. No work, just sitting or walking or sipping tea. We make these spaces to be beautiful and serene and it at times like these that they should be appreciated, looked at, thought about, enjoyed and celebrated.


Simple life is as much about slowing down and enjoying your surroundings and your home as it is about the thrifty management of household funds and low impact living. We live in an age where many people are permanently busy and although I am busy at times, I take time out of every day to relax, think and appreciate what surrounds me. Those times, sometimes brief and some not so, help me get through the harder times.


Would it surprise you to know that when I'm not giving talks around the libraries I only go away from my home about two or three times a month? Here is where I want to be, I've moved away from wanting to driving around or shop or even to be where a lot of other people are. Here at home is my place and I'm happy here. Always. I'm not saying that you should be that radical in your relationship with your home life and the work you do there but I do encourage you to drop the "busy" mantel, to start saying "no" and make a slower life.


Recently I read this newspaper article about busy lives and the scenario of busyness was so far away from my personal experiences when I was in the garden yesterday, that I had to link to it in the hope it would resonate with you as well. I loved: "Learn to say no": it's such a cliche, and easy to assume it means only saying no to tedious, unfulfilling stuff. But "the biggest, trickiest lesson," as the author Elizabeth Gilbert once put it, "is learning how to say no to things you do want to do" – stuff that matters." We all need to say yes to ourselves.

So am I saying to stop doing all your work and just enjoy? No, that would become boring very quickly and we all need to work. But I am saying that in the middle of your work take a break, to plan downtime into your schedule, and to slow down and appreciate what you're working for. I hope you're enjoying life as you live it and not saving up that enjoyment for later - the weekend, retirement, or whatever. Enjoying the ordinary things in life and having simple down time to relax is what helps us carry on and live life to its potential. But no one will come along and tell you to stop working, no one will tell you to not be busy all the time, you have to give that gift to yourself.

34 comments:

  1. My grandmother was talking to my kids the other day and I heard her say, "your momma probably hasn't noticed but the elm tree out back is starting to leaf out." WHAT? I may be busy but I do notice these wonderful transformations going on around me this time of year! It makes me feel more alive to take a breath of fresh air and notice the colors starting to pop after a long winter of greys and browns (a lot of white also this year). Saying no doesn't come easy. Even to the things I hate to do. I am a pleaser. Unfortunately. Hopefully in the future I will exercise this practice. :)

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  2. I can definitely relate to the mindfulness, to take oneself into consideration. Recently I have tried to focus more on relaxing, find myself and take time to notice all the little things in life the way I used to before I started working.
    Today, I decided to go for a walk, I left the mobile at home, and ended up wandering around in the sunshine for two hours, going through the Botanic Gardens here in Glasgow, and through Kelvingrove Park, just enjoying, seeing, smelling, feeling. I was almost overwhelmed by all the goodness surrounding me, and when I got home - I felt so relaxed, at ease... Sometimes you just need to do these kinds of things, an hour or two can make such a big difference in our busy day-to-day lives. I've also been prolific in the kitchen today, making an edamame and chilli dip, bread, soup and fish gratin. So it isn't that I end up doing nothing, but sometimes you just have to go on a little adventure, being physically or mentally, reading a good book, meditate, climb a hill, go camping, fishing...
    Thanks for reminding me, reading this just makes me even more inspired! x

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  3. I think slowing down has been one of the biggest changes my husband and I have made since we left paid work. It didn't happen straight away, in fact I think in the beginning we still felt we had to maintain a level of busyness, even in retirement. That was an interesting point in the newspaper article, the fact that there are cultural and societal expectations on maintaining a 'busy' life in order for it to be meaningful. Our experience is that since we have consciously tried to slow down, we see things now that would have previously passed us by. This morning we both sat in the garden, making the point of simply appreciating the new Spring growth, listening to the birds singing, and watching the little male bluetit gather grubs for his mate (we're so pleased they've chosen our nestbox!) I'm sure there were other 'more important' things that should have been done, but just sitting quietly was what we chose to do. We are learning that those times are important.
    As always, Rhonda, your post has given me something to ponder over - thankyou.
    (And belated birthday greetings, too!)
    Michelle

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  4. such a lovely post an one I can so relate to, I have never felt the urge to be out shopping and go go going all the time, I think if we make our home a happy comfy place and learn to truly "like" ourselves we will enjoy our own company more, to be content is a blessing well searched out and discovered, have a wonderful day at your beautiful home, its a lovely haven,

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  5. Such wisdom. And your garden looks glorious!

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  6. Thank you for your words of wisdom. I am looking to purchase your book "The simple Life" in book form. amazon only has Kindle. Help???
    thanks
    Becky

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    1. It's only available in ebook form in the US at the moment. However, Penguin is hoping to get the printed book over there.

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    2. Yes, when I purchased Down to Earth I also purchased The Simple Life. I am really enjoying Down to Earth! I am only on page 45 but it is great!

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  7. It was certainly glorious Easter weather here in SE Queensland and so nice to sit outside and soak it all in. It is a wonderful time of year before the cold of winter sets in and the westerly winds start blowing. You must also enjoy the low humidity,Rhonda. It can get very muggy where you live in the warmer months. Have a great day. By the way, your new book finally arrived last Thursday!

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  8. I know what you mean Rhonda, I've just come out of a delicious weekend at home.

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  9. We've had our first frost (two nights in a row) and that puts us on a tight timetable to finish some of the garden and farm work pretty quickly now. Evenings are longer, the fire needs to be lit, cows come in to the night yard earlier and chores need to be finished earlier as the season closes in. There won't be much more active growth here now and the leaves are just starting to drop on the fruit trees. Learning to be driven by the seasonality of the tasks and not the social 'trappings' was the biggest change for us. I used to be overcommitted to things for other folks and learning the most gracious way to say 'no' has been a long process but one worth working on.

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  10. Rhonda,

    Your reminder to say "no" and slow down comes as part of a conspiracy in the Universe to make me change my life. I say this because I was scheduled to teach summer term, but really didn't want to do it. So.... the Universe sent me a certain book (a-hem, "Down to Earth") and then made sure I stopped to listen when a very large log fell, crushing a finger joint. Can you say cast and stitches for six weeks? I can type with one hand and can't drive because all our cars are manuals!

    So, today I went for a lovely walk, read a little, spent time with the goaties, and sat on the porch to watch the phoebes put on an air show Just For Me. Thanks for sharing your encouragement and insights!

    Warmly,

    Martha (aka "leftie")

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  11. Yes the Western cultural ideal of being busy is one most artists have had to grapple with as time taken to think, contemplate, and be inspired is derided as 'having one's head in the clouds' etc. when it is in fact meaningful and beneficial. I spent the weekend at my parents' property and I didn't want to leave! I could have happily stayed in front of the fire and pottering in the garden and kitchen forever. I wish my husband could slow down and say 'no' a little more. He works in one of those businesses where you're not considered to be pulling your weight if you're not doing unpaid overtime. This long weekend was the first time I've seen him stay away from his work computer/phone in such a long time and you could see the positive effect it had on him!

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  12. This resonated with me so much this morning . When I was a teacher I used to be almost relieved when I caught the flu because I could finally sit down and do nothing....now I am home I find that 'busyness' feeling hasn't quite left me yet and I find more things to do to keep me busy.
    I don't think anyone that is old would say that they wished that they had got more done...they would probably remember days spent in the sunshine just 'being' ....not 'doing'.

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  13. My just turned 18 year old son is going for his probationary licence this afternoon. During our learner driving sessions over the last 2 years, I have frequently told him, "take your time, we are in no hurry". This was meant as a means of reassuring him that as a learner he can drive at a speed that suits him, but it has also been for him to understand, that taking a little longer will not harm the outcome of the day's schedule.

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  14. Thanks Rhonda I found your post very thoughtful. I also enjoyed the parts about the garden living in Brisbane (after 7 years in New Zealand) we are trying hard to learn what to plant when so your comments here and in other posts are really helpful.

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  15. We are just learning that lesson! DH and I are going to say more often as we find less and less time for ourselves x

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  16. Mindfulness helps me. I'm a pleaser as well, and also feel guilty if I'm not "doing", or at least thinking about "doing". But that is the way to stress and anxiety. So I try (not always successfully) to spend some time each day to just be in the moment, and not thinking about what has happened, or needs to be done (or not).

    I sit and say to myself "what can I see? what can I hear? what can I feel?". Sometimes my mind wanders into planning mode as a result, as in "I see a wasp. I was supposed to do something about getting rid of them. I wonder can I do it organically or will I have to use some horrible chemical?" Oops! Back to the present. "I see a wasp. I see a beautiful plant. I hear the buzz of bees. How difficult would it be to set up my own beehive?" Oops. Back to the present.

    Mindfulness. Calm.

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    1. I'm gradually getting to understand mindfulness as well. We live in such a beautiful place here that it is good to take time to appreciate it, and not feel guilty for avoiding the hard work which we need to do. I read somewhere that we should be called human "doings" rather than human beings, and that really rang true with me. We have to be on the go the whole time, it seems, and we miss so much until we consciously slow down.

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  17. I think I must be one of the Lucky People, as I've never had a problem saying NO if I don't feel comfortable about doing something. 15 years ago I was very involved with community organisations as well as working 5 days a week. I was out two or three nights a week attending meetings. Busy yes, but I absolutely loved every minute of it. When I decided I'd had enough of a particular activity, I would bow out gracefully, making sure there was someone who could follow in my footsteps and not let the group down.
    These days retirement finds us both busy in different ways, but the best thing about it is that we do things in the time frame that we want to - not because we are expected to, or paid to. On a nice day, hubby and I will sit in our back yard all afternoon, watching the chooks roaming around the yard, or watching the antics of the finches and canaries in our aviaries. Never mind that there might be washing, ironing or cleaning to be done - we enjoy these moments of leisure when we feel like it.

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  18. The problem I have (and am contending with at the moment) is the reaction by other people when I say no. I have been gradually letting go of responsibilities that I do not need or enjoy. This time last year I took on the presidency of a local group because nobody else would and I didn't want to see it fold before it had even got off the ground. I had thought I had made it quite clear that it was a one year only responsibility. It seems I was misunderstood. Consequently other people have become upset and angry and I have to take a deep breath and repeat the word no.

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  19. Beautifully put, Rhonda. Just the reminder I needed to spend some time today on my front porch ,in my rocking chair, listening to birdsong. Thank you! Jeannette in So. California.

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  20. I found saying 'No' for the first time was very hard to do but I also realised there are no 'No Police' and no-one will berate you for saying No.

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  21. Important words, that I think many of us forget these days.
    Enjoy your beautiful garden Rhonda.

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  22. What an absolutely beautiful post...and one I am trying to learn to live by. It's hard--I was recently tempted into a (temporary) new position at work--but at the same time, I am also insisting on making time for relaxing at home and sharing time with the home and family that I value above all else!

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  23. I like staying at home too! After years of work that required early morning starts, catching trains, making meetings, often getting home late at night several times a week, staying home feels like a great luxury...even after six years of retirement. I only shop when I've identified a need that I can't meet from what I already have. I meet friends a couple of times a month and we visit thrift shops, cafes, museums and anything vaguely historical. I go to a craft group once a week and to a knitting group twice a month, and that's it! The rest of the time I putter around the house, read a lot, do genealogy and occasionally garden (I really envy you your weather - I have to get out when the rain stops!). I don't do nearly all the things you do, Rhonda, but I have started making homemade laundry soap!

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  24. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post Rhonda, and for the link to the Guardian article.

    I only work 4 days a week, and I love my job, but at the minute it's going through a phase with a lot of travel, and recently when friends as how I am, or what I've been doing, I'm finding work travel and tiredness are dominating my replies... Much as I love the work, I don't love the travel, and I don't like how it's making me think of my life right now!

    During this busy time I'm going to make a conscious effort to take care of myself and focus on other things too, so that when I'm asked how I am, I have something to talk about other than work...

    I love being at home too - all the more so now I'm out of it so often. My weekends are so valuable.

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  25. I love reading your blog posts Rhonda! I just love reading about home grown produce too. I am so happy to know this.

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  26. I am too busy at the moment and feeling overwhelmed. Some bad planning on my part ended up with too many days out and not enough down time. Today I am planning on being at home, I need to recharge and get some rest. Thank you for this timely reminder.......

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  27. Everything looks so green and inviting!

    Blessings~

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  28. Such an important post. Life is just too short not to say No. I should know being a nurse and sadly caring for people dying too early in life! I work agency and at the moment not getting much work but at the same time enjoying the break. We are moving from our rented place in Mooloolaba back to our own home on the Gold Coast which we are trying to sell. I really want to buy a sustainable block in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast and then enjoy being busy. Your garden looks beautiful Rhonda it is good that both you and your husband have similar interests. I look forward reading your posts.

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    1. Hello Lorraine. I think the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast is the best place in the country to live a simple life. The climate is good for growing all year if you want to. There is ample rainfall - 1500mm a year and plenty of sunshine for solar panels. You're close to the beach if you want to fish and there are many artisan food producers and farmers markets here..

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  29. Love this post. Things are always easy to appreciate if we just take time to LOOK AT and FEEL our surroundings. Your cat is beautiful by the way, he has such a long nose. haha
    http://reneehartsthis.blogspot.com.au/
    Renee x
    A cruelty free blog.

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