Truth: I stopped all the extra. Then, my life started.

I have had this subject on my heart for quite a while and silenced it time and time again. The fear that kept me from sharing was quite real, and in the same respect it was not real at all.  When I dissect it, really take the fear apart, thought by thought, sensation by sensation, it is irrational. I have a tendency to get all caught up in how I would feel about the feelings of others, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter. If I was being transparent, I would share that I don’t even have that many people in my life whose opinion of me holds meaning. This is not said to sound self-centered or cold-hearted, but after years of working on myself, it has been a giant revelation.

Several years ago, I had a village, a close-knit group of friends that were my people. I do not feel the same is true today, and for the first time I can say that it is okay. It may not be what my heart desires, since I very much value community and relationships, but it is well with my soul. My yoga and mindfulness journey has taught me that nothing is permanent. If we can live in the present moment and appreciate it for what it is, good or bad, comfortable or uncomfortable, full of pain or pleasure, we can heal our anxiety and depression. Anxiety for me was sourced from a worry about things that have yet to happen, things that may happen, possible worst-case scenarios. Depression set in when I thought about things that had happened, things I lost, things I wished were different, things out of my control. With present moment awareness those things are unable to take a hold of my head space and heart space.

The first real step to my own healing was taking a look at all the extra and simplifying it all. I realized some of my favorite relationships came out of the product of doing. I am grateful for them. Thankful for those moments, the memories and connections. But, without the village, I was tired. Tired in a way that felt as if I was dragging my soul outside of my body. Bruised and bleeding, with no way to pick it up and put it back inside. It is complicated, that soul, and slippery. And the harder I tried to wrestle with it, to protect it, the further away it becomes. In order for it to find its way back into the depths of myself I had to start walking downhill, slowing. I had to allow it to be gently pulled by gravity and momentum behind me, until we both arrived safely at the stop sign at the end of the street and became one again.

That stop sign, in all its red glory, demanded my attention. I listened. I stopped. We stopped. If I close my eyes and think about this time in my life, I imagine my sweet family all sitting, criss-cross apple sauce, around the stop sign, as if it were a campfire, holding hands and taking deep breaths. It never happened like that, but that is how I will remember the last couple of years. A Kumbaya my Lord, of less is more.

I stopped trying to do it all. I said no to just about everything that made the shadow of anxiety creep up behind me. I let go of what others thought. I began to question the motives of myself and others around all the doing. I became still and quiet. I started to take myself seriously. I began to trust the nagging voice that had been whispering for years the very word I was afraid of, stop. I stopped.

In turn, we stopped. As a family, we stopped the running ragged in circles. We stopped the eating meals on the fly. We stopped the hurry up. We stopped the have to-dos. We stopped the over abundance of places to be. We stopped the endless hours in the car after school. We stopped signing up. We stopped the endless spending on activities, costumes, uniforms and camps. We stopped the constant division of our family for the sake of a beaming college resume. We stopped keeping up with the Jones, or insert a dozen other last names that I see on social media everyday, that make me feel less than. We stopped.

In turn something amazing happened. We became a we instead of six little separate selves. We spent time together, even when it was uncomfortable. We learned about each other in a way that was never possible while sitting for hours upon hours at a gymnastic meet. We read books together, something that was lost in the late nights getting home from whatever activity we had spent the evening participating in. We had pizza and movie nights. We focused on paying off debt. We simplified our home. We donated our things and our time. We took trips. We made memories. We spent time with family, time we had lost while driving from practice to practice. We took walks and hikes. We went to the movies. We stopped all the excess and in turn found everything.

Our kids still participate in some activities and we foster their gifts and abilities, but it is a very minor part of our family life compared to the time invested in years past. Most of their extras are related to their schools or to our church; student council, drama club, select choir, youth group. All things that allow us to arrive home from work and school at a decent hour. Allowing us the gift of having dinner and down time together, because for the most part we have decided that being home together is better for them as people than a long shiny list of extra-circulars. We would much rather raise a close-knit family with siblings who know, love and support one another than line the shelves with trophies. We would rather be home teaching them how to care for each other, our home and the things they have, than spend the weekends sitting on bleachers.  Our goal is to raise capable and kind people who care more about helping others than blue ribbons or medals.

I know this is not a popular opinion in our society, not even among many of the fellow Mama’s that I call friends, but, like I said, it is well with my soul.

My wish for you is to take back your life. Stop all the excess and start living. May you have the courage to address all the extra doing so you are able to enjoy the beauty of being.

Love and Light,

Jenn xo

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