1 February 2008

Starting your simple life

I was quite overwhelmed at the response to yesterday's post. I never fails to surprise me that so many readers enjoy reading about our very ordinary life. Thank you all so much for your comments. I will respond to every one of them in due course and have written a list to go through. Today I have a mixof two requests - a photo of the drive to work and a post about being at home in your home, for Marilyn.

Before I get to Marilyn though, I have to say that although I shouldn't be surprised at the curiosity shown about the Australian landscape, I am. I guess I'm so used to living surrounded by the beauty of this part of the world, I don't appreciate it as much as I could.

I live in a small semi-rural town called Landsborough that you can see a little bit of here. Below is the view from the top of the mountain that I drive up to go to work. Clicking on the photos will enlarge them. These are the Glasshouse Mountains, named by Captain James Cook on his voyage of discovery in 1770.

If you drive in the opposite direction, you will find yourself in Caloundra. This beach is a 20 minute drive from my home. Kings Beach is settled on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I took this photo on the small cliff behind the surf club.

This is part of Marilyn's comment: "I would be interested to know more about you're change of attitude towards your daily tasks, from getting through the daily chores so you could enjoy yourself, to thriving on them as you do now. I wonder did this coincide with children leaving home or hubbie retiring, with possibly more input from him, perhaps a sense of combined effort? ... Our young adult daughters at home also don't really know what it takes to be wholly responsible for a home, despite being given plenty of practice. I still have to remind them to do things all the time (one has ADD which is the greater source of constant frustration). Being fussy eaters, despite relishing some, reject a lot of the meals I provide from our lovely home grown vegies. Combined with their lifestyle of burning the candle at both ends, I end up feeling taken advantage of and resentful, that at thier ages I have to work so hard at parenting. Surely I've done my bit by now. So, does it just get easier/more pleasant without all of that? What was your experience? What forces do you feel lead you to have the change of attitude?"

When I first stopped working in my little writing business, I was as far from content and focused as I could be. I didn't know that living like this was possible. I didn't know anyone who did it, I hadn't read about others living the kind of life we currently enjoy and when I closed down my business, I didn't know what I'd do. I started with the knowledge that I would have to make up for the reduced income so I started looking online for various ways of cooking, cleaning and keeping house that would help me save money. Then I remembered a lot of what I knew when I was growing up - I remembered what my mother and grandmother did and I copied their example. I realised before I stopped working that buying more things didn't make me happy, so I'd already stopped shopping for wants and just bought what we absolutely HAD to have. That lead to stockpiling, gardening, preserving, knitting and sewing etc. So they were all of the practical things - the things that kept us alive, I also needed to make myself happy.

I realised after a while that not going to the mall, not watching advertising on TV and not reading the flyers that were delivered in the letterbox removed that need to accumulate more "things". I started decluttering and as I did, it seemed that I was ridding myself of some of the bad feelings I'd had in the past. After a few weeks of just working quietly at home, cooking from scratch, green cleaning and no shopping I thought more about what it was I wanted from life. Hanno was still working at our store at that time and I had each day to myself. I used to do my morning chores quickly - make the bed, clean up, sweep, bake bread etc. so I could sit on the front verandah with a cup of tea and think about life in general.

I worked out that I had to make my own happiness. I realised I had to shape life so that both Hanno and I would be happy, without the constant spending that we once did. It suddenly dawned on me that instead of looking outward to other people, the stores, buying more crap and the outside world in general, that we could build what we wanted at home. We could fill our lives with meaningful work that would sustain not only our physical beings but our spirits as well. When I knew that our happiness was not reliant on anything "outside" I started to slow down and concentrate on doing my work well. This lead to several things. I was more relaxed as I wasn't rushing to complete tasks, I changed some of the things I was doing because I felt that I could do them better another way, I discovered that housework never ends, so I didn't try to finish it every day. I've accepted housework now as an ongoing stream of chores with no end. Knowing this took a lot of pressure off to complete everything within a certain amount of time. I hope you understand the general idea of what I've written here. I guess the message is to slow down, be mindful of what you're doing, stop multi-tasking and try to enjoy even the most simple tasks. If you look for it, there is beauty in the mundane and familiar.

There is a lot more I could write about my change but this post is getting very long and I want to write about your daughters. What I wrote about above happened while I had either one or both boys living at home. They moved in and out a few times and I forget now when those times were, but they were definitely still here at the beginning of our simply journey. I love my sons and would do anything for them, but that does not include pandering to their every whim and making special meals for them. I have always strived to give them the gift of independence. I taught them to cook and look after themselves as they were growing up, so by the time they were in their early 20s, they were ready to be launched into their own lives, living in their own apartments.

Marilyn, you are the only person who knows what will make you happy. It seems to me that the current situation with your daughters isn't doing that. You will always be their mother, but at some point, you have to stop mothering them. They aren't children now and you should treat them as adults - capable of looking after themselves. If they don't like the food you cook, they should cook their own food. You aren't running a diner where everyone gets a choice. They should be doing their own washing, ironing and cleaning up. You, my love, should step back and provide them with a space within your home, but apart from that, it's up to them. If they were living in an apartment you wouldn't be there to make their beds or their lunch. That is their job now. You've finished with that part of your life. There is a pay off at the end of the parenting phase - you get your life back to do what you enjoy, and they get to live as they wish, without your constant input.

I know they'll be upset for a while that they have to do all the things you're now doing for them, but that's okay, they'll get over it. Tough love is needed sometimes. It doesn't mean you don't love them with all your heart, it means you're giving them their lives to organise and do with as they will. I think the best way to go about this would be to talk to your husband and tell him what you propose to do - that apart from providing your girls with a safe and comfortable home, they will be looking after themselves. Then you could both sit down with your daughters and explain the new system. Expect them to not like it. : - ) But they need to discover now, before they get out into the wider world, that very few people go through life with a mum there helping every step of the way. At this stage they should not expect you to do anything other than to love them unconditionally. The rest of it is their own responsibility. So cook the family meal that you want to cook. They don't like it? Fine, they can make themselves something they would like to eat. This is not being mean, it's allowing them to develop the time and management skills to look after themselves. Better they do it while in your warm embrace than out in the world.

Marilyn, I feel this is a very condensed response to what I think it a real problem for you. Please feel free to email me and we could discuss the finer points. I think if you get the girls on the right track, you'll be able to see your own life more clearly. Overall, I guess my message is that one thing will lead to another and that stopping all you're doing for your girls will be good for them, and for you and your husband. I've found that when you simply, life slowly uncurls itself and leads you on to the next thing you need to know. So when you ask "what forces lead you to have the change of attitude", it was actually living this way, it opens up new ways of thinking and teaches that your day to day life, and how you live it, is THE most important thing you'll ever do.
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