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's 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.

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