Originally published 15 December 2009
I enjoyed your post. I'm wondering, though, how much your slower more deliberate life is possible because your children are grown and gone? I have tried to be more deliberate in my life, but I have children and I teach them at home. It's certainly a challenge to take from your posts and apply them to my busy life, but I have learned from you and the others. What's really working for me is to take one change at a time. That was great advice. ~ Anonymous
This is a comment from those made yesterday. I'm sorry I can't name the person who wrote as she is only know to me as anonymous. Anonymous, I wanted to address your comment today because I think "living deliberately" can confuse some of us. My interpretation of deliberate living is that I have intentionally taken my life in the direction of my values. I needed to sit and think, and I needed to work out for myself what was important to me. I knew how I didn't want to live, but what exactly did I want? When I changed, I knew I didn't want to keep spending and rushing around like a loon but I had to replace that with something, and that required me to decide on what my core values were and how I could live by those values.
I deliberately focused on my values - generosity, kindness, independence, self reliance, self respect and respect for others - and I made my everyday life reflect those values. That, to me, is living deliberately. You make a deliberate decision to live a certain way and every day make sure your life stays true to that. It sounds like a huge commitment, and it is, but it is done in small steps, every day, without fail, deliberately following that path.
I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau about 15 years ago, well before I made my changes towards simplicity. I have no doubt that book, and in particular this quote below, influenced me more than anything else; although I didn't know it at the time and only made that discovery in retrospect.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience ...
It still takes my breath away to read those words. I am trying to live deep and to suck all the marrow out of life; I want to know if life is mean or sublime, and I want to know it by experience. I do not want to read about it in a magazine or a blog, I want to truly experience my life every day, and every day it is deliberately focused on the values I want to live by.
Now to answer your question: I'm wondering, though, how much your slower more deliberate life is possible because your children are grown and gone? Living deliberately isn't reliant on who is living in your house. It is the decision to discover your real values and live them, on purpose, everyday. That is important when you're raising children. You want them to live to your values until they have grown and are capable of making a sound decision for themselves on how they want to live. Hopefully, by that stage, your life and the way they were raised will influence them towards the kind of life you want for them. So for instance, deliberate living would be to decide you want to pay off your debt: you want to homeschool your children: you want to instil in them the values of care for others, kindness and generosity; you want to be healthy and connect with nature. Once those decisions on values (whatever they are) are made, everyday from then on, you would make sure your every day life reinforced those ideals, and deliberately move your family towards them. Every day you would deliberately work towards the outcomes you want by the way you homeschool, the behaviour you model for your children and the example your life sets for those young eyes. You would make sacrifices to pay off debt, even when it's difficult, you would continue to homeschool, you would plan into your homeschooling a few nature days and read books about the natural world. You would do all that deliberately - even when it's difficult to do.
Walden, and in particular the quote above did more for my resolve to live as I do than anything else I've read. As I said I read it many years ago, but reread it when I started to live a slower and more deliberate life. That second reading made me certain of the truth of Thoreau's words and I have tried to live true to them ever since. Walden is available free online here. I have it quietly tucked away on my computer and frequently revisit it. It is fine inspiration. It's not an easy read because it is written in the vernacular of the 19th century, but if you decide to take it on, I'm sure you be rewarded for the effort. It would be a great holiday project to read a little bit of Walden every day and if you do that, I hope you gain as much as I did from it.