17 April 2009

Just do it

Anna S by Carl Larsson from here.

I really enjoyed reading a comment from Elizabeth yesterday. She said, in part, “I have been reading your blog for some time but until last week I just read and wished but did not action in anyway. That is, until this last weekend when I thought 'just do it!' So, I have started knitting a cardigan, knitted three squares for a throw for this winter, and made a chicken soup using up a chicken carcass for the very first time!" It is obvious to me that Elizabeth has been thinking about how she wants to change her life for some time, and now she's just dived right in. Living deliberately, there is nothing like it.

When Thoreau wrote his book, Walden, he had left his job and set up in a small cabin to live alone in the woods. He wrote: "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 ..." I think that is one of the most profound pieces of writing I've ever read and since I discovered Walden, many years ago, I have tried to live to the spirit of what Thoreau wrote in that one passage.

So what exactly is living deliberately? I guess there may be several different interpretations but to me it means taking control of my life, thinking about what it is I want my life to be, knowing what I want to do every day, or what I have to do to achieve my goals, and then living that life. Very few people have their life planned out for them and handed over on a silver platter. But what many people do is to just react to life. They have no real plans, they live each day doing what is expected of them, then, when something out of the ordinary happens, they react to it. There is no real plan, no map to follow, just reactions to what life throws.

Deliberate living is deciding what you want your life to become, working out the steps you need to take to make that happen, then, as Elizabeth said, just do it. You will still get life throwing the unexpected at you, but when it happens, you work to solve the problem, then you get back on track.

Those three little words, just do it, are the best advice for anyone hovering on the edge of a simple life. You might be hovering because you don’t know what to do first, because you feel you can’t do it all so why bother with a little bit, or you’re waiting for just the right time – until you move, you get that pay rise, you retire, the kids move out – whatever the right time will be for you, let me tell you there will be no right time. The only right time is now.

The other thing Elizabeth said was that she feels renewed now when she wakes up. I feel that way too. Every day you continue along the path you’ve chosen, you feel you have purpose and you feel renewed.

I think the economic crisis will bring a lot more people to this way of living but living simply is much more than a financial strategy, it's more than your location, it's more than how you manage your home or plant your vegetables. It's about you, how you think about your life and how you express your values day by day. Anyone can learn to make yoghurt, budget, knit dishcloths and grow tomatoes, the real trick is for your actions to reflect how you think and how you want to live. What good is it to list the hundred things you've accomplished if you're not made happy by what you do, if you aren't renewed by it, and if you don't do it with grace, humility and generosity.

When you deliberately choose this way of life, you will be doing things that bypass the conveniences of your old life, there will be many things you'll do differently, but if you do it well, if you really throw yourself into your life, if you live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, not only will you be living deliberately, you will be changed by it. Just do it.


Combine the following dry ingredients in a bowl:
1 cup self raising flour OR one cup plain (all purpose) flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup walnuts
½ cup brown sugar

Melt 125 grams butter (1 stick/4 ozs)
Add 1 lightly beaten egg

Mix the dry ingredients with the wet and press the dough into a slice tin. Firm it down before baking on 180C (350F) for about 2o minutes. Don't leave it in too long or the outer sides will be very hard. When cooked, cut into slices. You could substitute the walnuts for a cup of sultanas (golden raisins) or choc chips or any nuts you have on hand.

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