“I think I want to slow down. You know, that whole slow living thing…I want that.”
I thought this to myself from the quarantine of my bedroom after throwing up a thousand times throughout the course of a night and a day.
That’s right. I was not rolling artisan dough on my countertop or braiding my daughter’s hair when I was inspired to live off the grid and embrace a snail’s-pace of life. I had the flu. I was watching Grey’s. So much Grey's. And my bed was so comfy that I couldn’t help but wonder if laying around wasn’t so bad after all.
So, while I lay there in my sickly state, I considered what slow living would mean for me. For my family.
I quickly came up with a strategy to embrace “slow living” with vigour. Forget just tidying up, I want to read that “Art of Tidying Up” book while the smell of freshly baked bread is wafting in from my spotless kitchen. Speaking of my kitchen, my whole house is gonna get a makeover. I’m gonna have to go “Kinfolk” on this place. Cause my house has got to look and feel perfect since I’m basically going to go off the grid and spend all this extra time in it, right? I’ll meditate in the morning, yoga at night, and start doing DIY projects with Em. Yeah, she’ll love it. We should make our own Christmas ornaments this year. Forget plastic baubles, slow-life-livers don’t hang plastic baubles. They make their own baubles. You know what else slow-life-livers do? They take walks, try new recipes, and they nap.
As these ideas were popping into my head, I became so stressed out. I realized slow living seemed like a really ambitious project. I would have to give up so much of my current life to create all that margin. And, I don't even like yoga or baking or DIY projects.
The current era of my life is fast. In that photo above of my kid and husband colouring, they're laying on the floor of my business, drawing on parchment paper from the kitchen while we're racing the early sunset to get photos taken for our new website. The reality is that I have a super, super busy one-and-a-half-year-old (if you have met her, you can attest to this), a year-and-a-half-old donut shop, freelance work, writing, two dogs, friends, and lots of family. Entrepreneurship and parenthood have a lot in common. You're never clean, you're never rested, your social life dwindles, and just when you think you know what you're doing, everything changes. But, overall, you're freaking happy and you love this thing that you've made from scratch. My kid is who she is and she's not going to be much more independent anytime soon. And I have bills to pay, so there goes any ideas of taking work off my plate. It doesn't make this season of my life bad. It's beautiful in a really messy, crazy way.
Slowing down just doesn't jive with my kind of life and it stresses me out to think that I won't be able to live up to that standard. Not for awhile, at least. Yes, I want mindfulness, peace, and contentment that slow living offers, but what if I don't have the time or space to live that kind of lifestyle?
Because here's the thing; even when this busy season is done, I will probably find something else to do. I'll have another kid. Open another business. Pursue my writing career. I love being busy. The idea of slow living doesn't just stress me out because it's something I can't have, it stresses me out because I don't know that I want to have it. I would rather have a busy day at my desk than be at home and bake bread. It’s just who I am.
This sleepless, entrepreneur life is very peaceful for me, so I can't be totally missing the "slow-living boat". Which brings me to this thought: Maybe I can still have the mindfulness and contentment that slow living encourages, even though my days have me running from the time my feet hit the floor.
Maybe my entire definition of slow living is wrong. Maybe it's not such a binary. Fast life versus slow life. A life full of things versus a life void of things. Perhaps, slow living has become a buzzword (and a popular hashtag) that brings to mind a perfectly curated, no-mess, no-clutter life that would require us to trade in huge parts of our lives for something slower, neater, and much more zen.
I think that idea of slow living would stress anyone out, no matter what kind of lifestyle you prefer. We all have weird, busy lives. And bills to pay. And obligations that no matter how much we might want to cross off the list, we just can't. We have night classes, budding businesses, inconvenient work schedules, full laundry hampers, the need to go to the store twice cause you forgot something. Life is cluttered, even if your house isn't. Life will be noisy, messy, and unpredictable and it will come in waves. Does that mean only those with lots of margin get to achieve the physical and mental benefits of slow living? I don't think so. Perhaps we've turned slow living into a vision of perfection, a hashtag, an unattainable bar when really all it is, is a mind set. I think we need to throw away the vision of perfection that #slowliving has given us and get back to what is really means.
Slow living doesn't have to be a certain lifestyle; maybe like the slow fashion and slow food movements it simply means being intentional. You know where your energy is going and you know where you get it from and you are keeping that in balance. You have more energy coming than going.
Could it be that slow living is a state of mind rather than a really big life overhaul? That it's simply living with intention over obligation? A life lived from obligation and intention might look the same, but they feel very, very different. One feels like living and one doesn't.
The bottom line? I don't want to rush and strive from a place of lack. I want to do things that bring me life.
I think slow living should be as simple as asking myself that question throughout my day:
"Does this bring me life?"
That's the kind of slow living I can sign up for.
I don't actually want to spend more time in my bed watching Grey's. I mean it's nice, but I actually like getting out of bed an hour earlier than I have to so I can write. I might be living out of my laundry hamper, but I'm also busy making block towers with my future-engineer kid. I may not eat at the dinner table very often, but that's cause I'm eating leftovers in the car on the way to a bellydance class.
What brings me life will look different from what brings you life. Maybe for you, slow living is yoga and freshly baked bread. I am so happy for you. I will like all your photos on Instagram. And I will eat your bread. You're living your best life. That is what brings you energy. I'm doing the things that bring me life, spending it with people that bring me life. I'm not moving slowly, but I am really, really living.
Meghan Zahari is a donut shop owner by day and a writer by night. In between, she does photography and social media accounts for other businesses. Motherhood and emotions are a 24/7 gig. She lives with her husband, Brett, daughter, Emelyn, and cousin, Laura. (Plus, a pug and a puggle.) It’s a full life with a full house, so her introverted soul seeks refuge by hiding away with a book or watching Buffy or Grey’s.