As the year draws towards its last months, I am starting to feel as if this year has been about letting so much go and finding that in the end that has been the most productive and pleasurable thing for me to do. I recently came across this quote which mentions a story from Steering by Starlight a book by Martha Beck, a writer I much admire:
Does this option taste of freedom? Martha Beck tells a story about how you can tell if any body of water originated from the ocean because it tastes of salt. Likewise,enlightenment always tastes of freedom. So to find out if you’re steering by starlight in your own life, take any element of your day (it might be today’s To Do List or a party you’ve been invited to) and ask yourself how you feel. Is it a “shackles off” (freedom) feeling? Or is it a “shackles on” (prison) feeling? Which decisions are you going to make more of?
(I can’t find the source at all – if you come across it, or these are your words, please let me know so I can acknowledge, I would not normally post without an acknowledgement, but I just had to share this).
I stopped blogging, keeping on top of housework, trying to cook new things every day, crafting, writing, travelling so much and stressing about the pile of fifty or so books I wanted to read but never got round to.
I let go of all of the things in my life that I used to enjoy or take pride in: a clean organised home, solid routines for everyone, time to blog and craft, my social life. Every single thing I let go was painful in some way. It meant I had to let go of the high standards I set myself. I had to accept I was only human, had the same 24 hours as everyone else and trying to rush through numerous activities and to-do lists was in no way meaningful or useful anymore. I had to accept that we can’t have and do everything we want by trying to just go faster. At first it felt like I was giving up, failing in some way or admitting I was not smart enough to do it all. I felt like I was missing out and letting opportunities pass me by.
I pared my life back down to the things that were essential and that would make life feel easy and simple: praying on time without feeling hurried, making sure the babies were cared for, my older children were being listened to, my husband had my undivided attention and ensuring I gave my mind and body the rest it needed. I found that this was such a relief. It taught me how blissful and easy it can feel to live in a way that is simple.
Then I started to build back up slowly and thoughtfully asking myself – can I live without this? What does this add to my life? Does this distract me in my worship? What is the real reason I want this? I took note of things that even in my quietest, calmest moments would speak to me and say that they needed attending to: the need to keep reconnecting with my faith and refreshing my iman, the desire to study the Quran, the siren call of blogging and writing which never goes away. Also the need for a clean and organised home, I am a visual person, so clutter and mess distracts me, I also find a clean, tidy home easier to relax in. Beyond this was the yearning to travel with my children and husband when the chance arose.
This time around, I didn’t feel like I was trying to do everything. I was trying to do a few things which really called to me and I could take pleasure in and only if I had the capacity. I can comfortably let them go when it all gets too much and focus back on the essentials: worship, family, self-care.