I suppose jumping in is as good as any ol’ place to start. So here I am, my feet in the puddles standing still, able to see the ripples make their way towards the edge. Here I am, wading with wonder and letting life wash over me like the sweet balm it is, as I sit here and write a letter to you and to myself.
I have not been on social media for almost a week, and what a beautiful and eye-opening string of days it has been for our family and me. Although not a lengthy chunk of time I must admit, it has already felt like I have taken a giant step away from an energy that was pushing me into a corner of which I began to feel depleted and disoriented. Over the course of the past few years my outer world had begun to take over my inner one, leading me down a path of distraction, slowly detaching me from living life the way I desperately yearned to live it: slowly and calmly with true presence for my family. How long had I been living this way? A question I feel is not really worth answering, for here I am now in the present, clicking away on my keys and sharing with you exactly where I find myself standing, in the muck. And it feels wonderful.
What prompted me to unplug from Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter and Facebook and all things in the realm of fast social information? A true culmination of things I suppose, but the strongest being a recent trip I took to Iowa with the kids while Andrew was away on business. It was an impromptu visit for the four of us. One that I felt strangely compelled to take, given that I loathe driving long distances, especially because I was the only adult in the car for two five hour stretches! But I did it anyway and the solitude experiences during this solo trip with the kids gave me a gift I didn’t see coming. I was given ten (somewhat) uninterrupted hours to let my mind drift, to catch up on podcasts, to listen to music, and to look out over the expanse of the Midwestern landscape with its red barns and rows upon rows of newly seeded crop. It was a time to soak in the three words my dear grandma said during a visit to her house on this very trip after talking about gardening and housework and the simple joys of motherhood. I know I’ll keep them with me for a long time, if not on the forefront of my mind, then in my back pocket.
“I envy you,” she said.
A bit of backstory: my grandmother has aged gracefully but there are some things that are not as they once were. Since being seriously ill over a year ago she has had her share of struggles, including short term memory difficulties. Things as simple as putting together a meal, inviting everyone together, or writing a note to someone (all things she found a lot of joy in) are harder and near impossible for her now. She has lost some of her independence and can not drive. And although my mother has been bringing this up with me with great sadness for some time, I really hadn’t allowed myself to see it for what it was, nor be fully present enough to grasp the changes that aging, along with her other medical issues, have done to my grandmother’s beautiful mind and abilities to enjoy her days like she once used to.
It was raining. Not heavily, but enough to make us run from the car to the house, blankets over babies and shoes off in the foyer. We were sitting in the front room of their house and had just finished up eating some tenderloin sandwiches for lunch and were sipping cans of Pepsi. My grandparents have been offering me a “cold pop” for about as long as I can remember. The only time I really indulge in soda is when we visit their house. It always tastes better there for the same reason fried sandwiches do. Because it takes me back to days spent on their farm, when roaming the porch fridge after a morning’s worth of chores always ended in popping the silver tab on a cold blue can. Nostalgia has its way with me. She was sitting in the chair across from us—a thick air of discomfort noticeably present. Unlike her usual attentive self, I knew upon entering the home she was somewhere else. I tried my best to grab hold of things I could think of to connect us, to tether us together…but I felt the reigns of our conversation slipping around every attempt to engage. So I spoke of what was going on in this season of my life, in motherhood, in our kitchen and in the spring garden. We laughed at Alfie dancing to no music and Theodore running around being his usual quirky self. We talked of Stella and how she would be going into Kindergarten. With her light blue eyes heavy and full of what can only be described as a jumbled mix of fear and regret and loneliness, she told me rather calmly that she envied me.
Something clicked when I heard those words. I didn’t get choked up or feel the need to run out of the room to delete all my social accounts. No. Instead, I felt a stirring taking place within that moment as if the hole of the straw with which I was using to view the world was removed and a clear and gracious invitation to invite stillness and presence into my life slid in to take its place. This stillness, I would later come to understand, was underscored with a gentle yet haste earnestness to make better use of my time, something that I was wasting on scrolling and liking…sleepwalking through moments that could have been scooped up to savor.
Through the spring rain on my journey home, what I originally thought to be a sudden knee-jerk desperation to unplug, rather quickly (and fortunately given the perspective of hindsight) revealed itself to what I can best describe as a thirsty longing rooted deep within me to take necessary measures to better tend to and preserve what I do with my time, and most importantly, who I give it to. This longing created an itch that kept circling back to the forefront of my mind, and the only reasonable answer I could sink my teeth into was to say farewell to the mass of social connections and simplify my sharing, so I could amplify the meaningful connections in my life with those I love…with those special individuals I am choosing to invest in.
On the drive home I reflected on all the ways I allow myself to be pulled away from the present moments in my life. I let my mind travel down uncomfortable paths that shined a vivid light on all the times I use technology as a placeholder for boredom and daily discomforts and the more pronounced hardships in motherhood. I thought about all the things I craved to do, to see, to read about, to learn, and to explore. About sitting idle in the grass with my babies and what joy that could bring. About being there with and for my kids throughout the day without the tug to share that moment with whomever was following me. I thought about all the beauty in the world and how my health and able body/mind are something I ought to be using for a more meaningful purpose, even if that purpose is to live a more quiet and calm life focused on making things and loving on my family.
I have written about simplicity before, probably too much if it were up to some people! I have thought and shared quite a bit about the practice of pairing down and the importance of rooting ourselves in the present. But what I failed to see, what I failed to know and feel for myself, is that in order to allow those principles to authentically enter into our worlds, we need to create a space for solitude and welcome stillness into our lives. For me personally, this meant doing without social media, something I have used and turned to for over five years.
I hope that me expressing myself in this way does not mean I have disdain for things like Instagram. In my experience I was not using it in a way that benefitted me, nor enriched my life the way it used to. My recent experiences on social media left me feeling as though I was pouring far more out than I was pouring in. There was an imbalance and it started getting heavy. This would lead to exhaustion as I aimed to constantly engage throughout my day with thousands upon thousands of people. The connections, though beautiful, were not something I could physically keep up with. That inability left me feeling inadequate, and often times, less than. The pace at which I went about my hours from sun up to sundown was dictated by a device glued to my right hand, with the temptation to share, and catch up, and dive into the lives of others as a means to connect and find purpose and companionship as a stay at home mother. In the end, I thought about making a smaller account, one that only included those I personally knew. That still meant I would be on my phone…thereby not giving me the presence with myself and my family and dear friends that I so craved and needed in my life.
I would say connection is the main reason I have continued social media for the last few years, even when doubts and questions surfaced in times of burnout and distraction. I really value community and feel as though I am better for having known how others are doing life through social platforms. The friendships I have made in the social world have deeply impacted our family, and in fact, I would not be sitting here in the bright nook of my bedroom had it not been for my dear friend I met on Instagram several years back. I could go on and on about the good that can come from sharing joy with others on social platforms, I have done so many times before. But what makes this time different for me is that never before have I felt it completely essential to not only pull away from many of the technological distractions I have brought into my life, but to more importantly craft a rhythm for myself that honors time and respects my energy as a mother. To do this feels very empowering and has thus far, blessed my days with waves upon waves of newfound peace and contentment.
Looking back it’s very clear to me, clearer than ever before, that I was designating far too much real estate to an area of my life that was more invested in depleting my energy and creativity than restoring it. And what ever happened to making for making’s sake? Or the wild notion that most of us take vacations to unplug yet we toil and labor over the very thing that has permeated the essence of our days? Why can’t we unplug today? Why must we wait until given a vacation or if our phone falls into the toilet? Why can’t we shake things up and reassess how our hearts really are and adjust accordingly as to make an impact on our life in the greatest possible measure? Why not now? All of these questions were brought to mind on my drive back home to Kansas City.
Mother’s Day, and the days surrounding, I savored my family like I never have before. Simply put, I was and have been all there and it has been the best gift I could have ever given myself or my loved ones. I am keeping this journal as a way to pour my creativity into something tangible without the need to keep in constant update with others around me. I often found that that kind of social sharing for me personally lead to toxic avenues like comparison and self-doubt, something I want less of in my life. Like I have been doing in the past, I am going to use Homesong to share my honest growth and more light-hearted endeavors with you, dear readers. To explore areas of interest, to learn and lean into things I find to be beautiful, to create a haven for my soul’s desires that gives me space to try things out and get messy. When I step back, I view this journal as a slow conversation, not only with you, but foremost myself, and I invite both of us to enter into this space with grace and kindness.
“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen
My creativity has been bubbling over the past few days, my mind swirling with possibility around all the lessons I have yet to learn and all the things I want to try with regard to mothering and homemaking. I cannot help but think, gosh…I know so very little, and it’s just so wonderful!
By giving myself room to enter into my inner landscape first, I feel as though I will be able to squeeze more joy out of sharing, thereby building more energy to give back to those in my circle, those I am privileged to do life with, namely: Andrew, Stella, Theodore, Alfie and I suppose, myself.
There is so much more for me to say, so many roads I could walk down with you right now but I will leave you with this, a simple place to start and a source of inspiration for me. I recently read in Sara Avant Stover’s book, The Way of The Happy Woman, the importance in designating, and perhaps reclaiming, a physical space in your home where you can go to hit refresh or escape as a refuge. My island of calm, my grounding point for inspiration, is this little home I have made in the bright nook of our bedroom sitting underneath sixteen panes of glass.
On Mother’s Day I brought down the old desk that was sitting empty in our loft and draped it with a scrap of oatmeal linen fabric. I gathered an antique crystal lamp, a sturdy wicker basket, a vase for pens, a candle, some flowers, and some new notebooks I was gifted from where I will be storytelling for myself. After putting this space together it became very apparent how much my soul was craving it. Perhaps you too are in need of a space in your home to call your own. Perhaps you already have one but have forgotten about it. If you’re looking to turn the page, a tangible act such as making a haven within your home can be a worthy first step.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
And finally, for those who have made it this far in reading about my recent journey, bless you. I don’t know if this stepping away from social media is a forever thing, but it is for sure a right now thing. I thank you for your grace as I try something new, allowing me space to make mistakes and be human and to grow rather publicly. Your kindness is a gift and something we all can use a bit more of, no matter our sunshine, and no matter our struggles.