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.
Our pattern is so painfully familiar. I disrespect your need for closeness and sleep. You pull away. I reach out in attempt to find you but nothing is there...you have retreated into the safe confines of your shell. I feel the sting of your absence and am left feeling alone as a result. Ouch. I don’t know how to find you again...what I need to regain your attention or favor. I heed the call for time and patience. I rediscover the need for self love and the capacity to love selflessly that emerges from that simple yet strangely challenging and powerful act. I find the courage to lean in when my impulse is to run away. You emerge to meet me there.
Something in the way she moves reminds me of what it felt like to love movement for its own sake. It’s that feeling I perceive she has that drew me back to the beam, bike, boat, board, boulder over and over again a thousand times and more. She twists, turns, swings, rolls, flies as if one with the air surrounding her. She yearns to return to like movements with fervor and persistence. Learning is a by product of repetition but not the motivator by any stretch. The simple joy of movement compels her to stay with it. What would our world look like if we were each given space, freedom, support in finding our own rhythm...discovering the kind of movement that feels right...that allows us to move in perfect unison with its pulsation? What if all life forms were allowed this freedom? Watching her move makes me ponder the awe of being in a world that moves thus. I think this is the image that the Divine holds hope for.
Longings stir under cover of night in spaces that are dark and quiet. The impulse to create churns in the depths of our being where the mind is inactive and cannot interfere with Life reproducing Itself. Melody, poetry, architectural lines, paint strokes, babies...bubble to the surface of our awareness and convince us of their need to exist. We either numb to their sound, hear and suppress, or claim the voice as our own and label the creation "mine". Oh to listen, receive, give way to the birth of a word, an idea, a visual display of splendor, the sound of angels. Creativity is at our core. It is the flowing and flowering impulse that unites us all. It has the power to blend colors, dissolve boundaries. Creativity is gifted to us upon our arrival here. What we do with it is our gift in return...to the Giver...to one another. What we do with this gift may very well determine our survival as a species on this planet. Please help us, your creation, turn toward You, oh benevolent Creator this all powerful generating force that is the birthright of humanity yet a power we ourselves cannot possess. Help me open to your flow within me to be a conduit through which Your creation can emerge in whatever form or capacity You desire. Thank You Almighty One...Father and Mother, Generator of all.
...that bakes cookies and does loads of Pinterest-type crafts with my kids...or lathers their skin with the lovely scents of healing essential oils. I am not the kind of mom who encourages my girls to participate in all the latest and greatest things that are guaranteed to challenge their bodies and intellect and ultimately guarantee their success in the world. I am not the kind of mom who has neatly organized chore charts on the fridge or hanging in their bedrooms. I am not the kind of mom who does all the neat nurturing "mom" things I envy other moms for. I am the kind of mom who severely limits time on technology and engages my girls in meaningful conversation at the dinner table. I am the kind of mom who rewards my girls greatly when they think to ask me (with interest) how my day at work was. I am the kind of mom who is willing to uproot my family several times over until I am confident we have found the best place for our family to have deep enough soil to root in and sufficient enough space to spread our wings and fly. I don't tell my girls daily that they can be anyone they want to be when they grow up (because I am tired and I forget) but I do try to show them through my actions and the inspiring stories I share with them during our nighttime reading ritual. I am the kind of mom who teaches my daughters that life can be hard and choices have real consequences that can sometimes feel hard to live with. I am the kind of mom who sometimes screams or trips over her own toes, who falls down and cries and then picks herself up and apologizes unabashedly when necessary. I am the kind of mom who is real with my girls about the challenges that we, her parents, face sometimes and reveals that while it can be hard, we choose to stay in and work it out and are both better people because of it. I don't hide that stuff. I choose to be transparent so that they learn how to live life. I ask my girls if they heard me slam the door and if they felt that something was going on with me. When they say yes, I ask if they want to know what was up. When they say yes, I am honest about my anger and transparent about the roots of it to the extent that their level of maturity can handle...and tell them that one day, if and when they want to know more, I will be happy to share. They live in my energy day in and day out. There is no escaping that. While I have had high expectations for myself, I have often fallen short of them...in my own eyes. I am the kind of mom who strives to be better at all that I am each and every day but most of all strives to be real. While I may never be the kind of mom I have envied other mothers for being, I can be real with my daughters about who I am, shortcomings and all, and hopefully free them to be fully themselves too. I guess if "being real and transparent" is a kind of mom then that is the kind of mom I am.
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.