Jesus, you gift each of us with a unique journey. My deepest sorrow and greatest joy result from traveling this journey with you. That is the way of the cross. It is the agony and the ecstasy. I spend many a moment contemplating and trying to be faithful to the course while simultaneously wishing desperately I had been gifted with someone else’s travel plans. My current life is a result of hundreds of choices made while trying to be true to your call. My deepest inner conflict comes from the gnawing feeling that I somehow heard you wrong or went off track and did my own thing. I pray to be at peace with the choices I have made thus far and for a deep inner peace to accompany present and future choices.
Taking the time for me is as essential as breathing. When I don’t, life closes in and results in suffocation. I clammer and claw at whoever and whatever is around me gasping to hold on to a bit of myself. Our girls, my spouse, my job, our home all seem to scream out louder for attention...but the quiet voice within me screams the loudest of all when I don’t pay attention to it’s quieter hum. It screams in the dissatisfaction of all the other voices around me cuz apparently they all take notice. At first listen, they seem to be yelling at me to attend to them...but a closer more careful listen reveals they are truly sounding the call that I have ignored within myself...or simply not prioritized. I hear you. I’m listening now. I’m sorry for giving you a deaf ear.
When I was a child, chores made sense to me only in that things needed to be done so I had to do them just as much as anyone else. The extrinsic reward was an allowance. The intrinsic reward was my inherent love for order and beauty...and things returning to their rightful place. The guarantee of a warm smile and equally warm fuzzies from my mom was the icing on the cake. Since we bought our farmhouse my love for this ‘busywork’ (as my daughters call it) has grown as well as the sheer volume of it. I fondly renamed weeding “dirt therapy’. As I dug my hands in the dirt this evening to pull out the relentless weeds, I contemplated the generations of moms before me who spent countless hours faithfully doing the same task. It dawned on me that they ‘got’ the metaphorical value of these activities. In this moment I understood that weeding and other routine chores is a cleansing ritual or spiritual practice of sorts for the common householder. Cleaning windows cleanses our perspective and holds the potential for a whole new outlook on life. Scrubbing floors and baseboards purifies and solidifies our foundation. Digging in the dirt reminds us to dig deeply within ourselves to extricate the growth of things that do not serve our essential purpose. Little did I know back then how wise my mama was and what she was really up to when she religiously returned to her windows and weeds and trained us to do the same. It feels like a rite of passage and an emergence of wisdom to have unearthed the deeper significance of these common earthly practices. Thank you.
"If you know how it feels then why don’t you do it differently?" Ouch. The truth hurts...especially when spoken by your own child. She wanted time with me. She doesn’t want to have to share. I get it. Boy do I get it! Her younger sister screams louder and persists longer in demanding my attention...so she wins. It’s not fair to her and I know that as well as any. Being the oldest of five I totally understand what having to share feels like. Does anyone ever emerge from childhood feeling like they got enough love? I knew my parents loved me...but knowing you are loved and feeling like you are filled up to overflowing are different things altogether. I want to make it a priority to give both of my girls a balanced and rich experience of time with me. I humbly ask for help with this.
Where do these moments go? As I peruse through old photos, I see image after image of child in arms. Those eternal moments have gone by in a blink. No matter the effort to slow life down, it persists in rushing by at the speed of light. Our oldest is 10 and the second trailing closely behind. I find myself questioning whether I have tried to slow life down too much. Have I kept her...them...from being the best versions of themselves they can possibly be? We all vie for attention and time to make our own matters matter most. The stage of life we are in now is making a house a home and establishing patterns and rituals of living together. I look around and see parents running their kiddos here and there and everywhere. They are pre-pubescent experts at one thing or another...karate, jujitsu, soccer, piano, baseball, gymnastics, math. I wonder if I have done enough...am doing enough for them. Have I missed the boat? I want to motivate and inspire them to action and give them opportunities to excel and succeed at something. Even more, I want them to know the lost art of slowing down and relaxing, a lost art which I have much to learn about myself. This home and space we are creating is first and foremost for that. Work certainly happens here but the pace seems to be more in rhythm with times gone by. If I could surrender one thing right now it would be shame and guilt over not doing enough, being enough, giving my kids enough. I would accept that I am giving what I can and that is enough. Who I am is enough. I surrender this to you now and I thank you for receiving it.
Cows chewing, sun setting, mosquitoes buzzing, grass growing, green blanketing the recently brown earth, kids sleeping, evening quiet hushes the sounds of day, sweet chorus of crickets and frogs emerge, moon rises, time passes imperceptibly slow, gratitude swells, my heart sings.
Outside my window in the dark of night is the sweetest lullaby, the most magical of orchestras bellowing out in perfect harmony. Singing frogs intermittently spliced with the rhythmic chant of crickets. Just weeks ago perfect silence descended upon this landscape that was blanketed by a depth of snow rarely seen here in April. Now growth, life, vitality, emergence is fully underway. In the night’s stillness I am almost certain I can hear the grass growing and the flowers announcing their expectant blossom. A short while ago I was keenly aware of my mind’s desire to race with a swirl of seemingly important thoughts, the kind that leave me in the same hopeless place I’ve traveled to a thousand plus times before. Tonight the chorus outside my window beckoned me to slow my mind and listen. Heeding it’s call I found myself again as it summoned me beyond mental stirrings into the quiet of my heart, like the quiet of night that produces such sweet melody. I am distinctly aware that I can return to the thoughts tempting my attention. I am likewise aware that to return to those thoughts is a choice. No thank you. Feeling grateful for her melodious call.
Home. This home. Our home for a time. A year ago felt like another’s home but sweetly called us to make it our own. It bore the promise of life anew. Alas, we discover wherever we go, there we are. We bring all parts with us to anything new...the good, the bad, the ugly. The backdrop has changed but the foreground looks and feels distinctly familiar. I think the same will hold true for that magical place we will travel to when we exit these bodies in search of what lays beyond. For a moment the newness will shock us into ultra alertness. Then we will realize it all looks and feels familiar. It is tempting to believe that being liberated from the bad and the ugly would be something desirable. Yet we so value our freedom to make choices, the same kinds of choices that brought us to where we stand right now. It is a benevolent gift to be given the freedom to choose the same or something different. This home we call The Nurturing Hearth carries our energy. It is becoming a reflection of those of us who take up residence here and of the visitors and guests who leave their indelible mark. Each time we change, the reflection looking back changes. Each time we make a change to it, the very difference transforms us into something new as well. Home.
Quite a few domain names were considered before settling on slowandsimpleliving. It won out for the depth and breadth of things it allows me to write about and the lifestyle choices it anchors me to. I have wanted to launch this website and blog for quite some time but each attempt to begin was met with my own internal confusion and indecision. I have been a little hard on myself for the "slowness" of the process and felt that surely I should be able to just whip this thing together. In my prior life as a priest I was accustomed to asking a question in meditation, quieting enough to receive an answer and stepping out on it promptly and without hesitation because that is how I was taught. I can't say that I was always 100% on board with the forward movement but, for the most part, I did what was asked of me as the consequences of doing otherwise bore too high a cost on many fronts. While there was much to be learned and gained from moving ahead swiftly, the neglect of the 5% of me that was not fully on board has come back to haunt me in ways I will revisit another time. The process I have been in since leaving my life as a priest serving a spiritual community and embracing my role as spouse, mother and "ordinary person" has been a very organic one. It has been a slower process of "feeling" my way forward each step of the way. With each stride the landscape and horizon shift just enough that the next step of the journey reveals itself naturally. In contemplating this it occurs to me that the process I have been engaged in is one of "re-branding". Before this transition, my primary self-identification was my priesthood. It defined who I was and was a statement to the world around me about what was most important and central in my life. The role of spouse, mother, therapist, adventurer came secondary and tertiary to that role. Being a priest was far more than a "role", it was a deep internal conviction about my life's purpose. From the clothing I wore to the rituals I practiced to the lifestyle I lived, I embodied this role with my whole being. It defined me and informed every aspect of my existence. Since doffing the clerics and leaving my active ministry behind, I have painstakingly tried to figure out who I am all over again and what my life is all about now. The roles of spouse, mother, sister, friend, employee, manager are fairly straightforward as they all carry with them a certain parameter of activities and responsibilities...but those roles do not define me...they are not who I am. Yes, I am all of them but so much more...as is true for everyone. My priesthood is still very much alive in a much more interior sort of way. It is what drives me at my core. It is a deep internal commitment to know what truly makes my heart sing and to do that in spite of whatever obstacles I might encounter along the way. In order to discover what makes my heart sing, I had leave that life behind me...a life and a role I never dreamed that I would leave. This deep internal commitment prompted me to change course, slow down and pay closer attention to the sacramental nature of the ordinary moments in my life with my husband, daughters and with myself. While certain aspects of that prior life were easy to let go of, much about it has been gut wrenching and hard. Walking around in clerics and a cross the size of a Madonna crucifix was a rare opportunity that I was blessed to have. It made me squeamish at times for all the assumptions people made about what it meant that I would wear such attire. It prompted stares and a certain flavor of conversation which only that kind of outfit could. It forced out the small talk and allowed me the chance to connect with people on the deepest level...for better or for worse. It forced me to get clear about what I knew to be true from my own internal experiences and what I was willing to stand on. In an odd sort of way, leaving and embracing a slower simpler life has done much the same. "Re-branding" feels like taking the gems of the original product and recreating the package through which the product finds its way into the world. In an odd sort of way, as I discover myself emerging on the other side of this crazy time of transition, that is just what I feel I have done.
I'm Kelly Isabelle.
Full-time workin' mama & spouse aspiring to live a slowly paced, sustainably minded, creatively expressed, clutter-free life shared with kindred folk.