“Two weeks and one day!” my daughter reminded me today. Until she comes home from her semester abroad, that is. (I can’t wait!) It seems like the last five months have flown by, but a lot has happened too—especially related to my book project.
I have two more chapters to write to complete the first draft. I plan to finish these two chapters before my daughter returns—so I can cherish our reunion and not be writing around the clock. (And because this is the third deadline I’ve set for myself. Third time’s a charm!)
In order to get it done, I’m going to have to not do some things the next fourteen days. Specifically, I’m going to press the pause button on my Sunday newsletter and blogging. I probably won’t be as active on social media either, but who knows. I might find some great quotes to share. Like this one:
When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. ~Dr. Shefali in The Conscious Parent
I don’t feel too bad about not blogging for a little while, considering that great thinkers/authors such as Naomi Klein and Nilofer Merchant do the same thing when they’re working on book projects. (And Nicholas Carr had to move to the middle of nowhere, stop blogging, and get off social media in order to complete The Shallows.)
Please hang tight while I immerse myself in writing about “Compassionate Parenting” and “Student-Centered Learning.” (And send energizing vibes my way.) When the draft is in the hands of my volunteer content editing team, I’ll get back to posting and emailing. I’ve got some exciting topics lined up!
I’ll leave you with the (completely unedited) opening paragraphs of Chapter 16: Creating a Culture of Enough. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
When I started working in Corporate America twelve years ago, I didn’t have any world-changing plans. My main priorities were to earn a decent living (I started at $29,000, which was way more than I’d ever earned), take care of my family, stay healthy and fit, and enjoy life. I never dreamed of fast cars or a mansion, but I longed for the day when we might afford a slightly larger house (we lived in a 1,200 sq. ft. townhouse) and have enough money to visit Sweden (and my family) every year.
I was a good worker. I completed my tasks quickly and took initiative. After less than a year, I received my first promotion and pay raise. As my role at the company became increasingly demanding, I started working longer hours. While I had started at 45 hours/week (company policy), I soon found myself working 50-60 hours each week, taking work home with me every weekend. I became obsessed with my work, which led to additional promotions (but wasn’t awesome for my family or my overall wellbeing). I was like the antagonists in Hollywood workaholic conversion stories such as Elf and Up in the Air.
When I got promoted to Product Manager, we decided that we had enough money to buy a bigger house. I fell in love with a 2,800 sq. ft. home with a view of downtown Nashville in the distance. It was way more space than we needed, but we had the money, so why not? After filling our house with IKEA furniture (I am Swedish after all), we hosted a housewarming party for friends and colleagues. Everybody loved our house, and I loved being able to have so many over our friends over all at once. While chilling on the couch after the party, a straggling guest (a colleague from New Zealand) said something that would stick with me forever: “Congratulations! You have achieved the American Dream. You have this great big house and no time to spend in it.” (Did I mention that he’s a minimalist?) It hit me in my core. Wow—yes, that had happened. I had become trapped in the hamster wheel, running faster and faster and faster.
While I didn’t do anything about my hamster wheel situation immediately, my colleague had planted a seed in my brain—a seed of contemplation that perhaps something was wrong with the picture that was my life. In the meantime (in a quest to become more productive and squeeze even more work into my day), I read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. The book served its intended purpose, but the reason I bring it up is that it led me to the blog Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. This blog changed my life forever. Literally. Leo (and guest bloggers) wrote about how to slow down[i], how to declutter your life[ii], minimalism[iii], and other fascinating topics. Reading this blog quickly became the favorite part of my day, and it led me to explore a whole new world of simple living/voluntary simplicity literature such as Simple Prosperity by David Wann, Radical Simplicity by Jim Merkel, and Your Money or Your Life by Vicky Robin and Joe Dominguez. This opening paragraph from Radical Simplicity gave me the perspective I needed to realize that life wasn’t just about me and my family having enough—it was about everybody having enough:
Imagine you are at a potluck buffet and see that you are the first in line. How do you know how much to take? Imagine that this potluck spread includes not just food and water, but also the materials needed for shelter, clothing, healthcare and education. It all looks and smells so good and you are hungry. What will you heap on your plate? How much is enough to leave for your neighbors behind you in the line?
Until this point, I had never considered that shopping for the heck of it might negatively impact the earth and other human beings (think sweatshops). I happily threw away plastic grocery bags, not realizing that it would take hundreds, if not thousands of years for them to break down. I had never stopped to think about how much of the world’s resources I was using up while others used barely any. Yes, of course I thought (occasionally) about the fact that people around the world were starving, but only when I heard about it on TV and then only fleetingly. It seemed like something beyond my reach to address. I was busy building software to help big box retailers increase their profits, so when would I have time to save the planet or work toward ending world hunger?
But once I got clued in, I started making personal changes. Some were small changes like bringing cloth bags to the grocery store and getting rid of unnecessary clutter. Other changes were bigger like creating a philanthropy plan for the year and attempting to buy mostly organic and local food. But the biggest change of all, which I outlined on my shiny new blog, Simply Enough, in January 2009, was that I was going to stop buying clothes unless I really, really needed them. I wasn’t a compulsive shopper or anything, but the idea of buying based on need rather than want was revolutionary to me. When I recapped my experience at the end of the year, I wrote on my blog that only clothing items I bought were a pair of athletic shorts, two workout shirts (made of recycled polyester), and a pair of SmartWool™ socks.[iv] So that was a success, but more importantly, I realized that I enjoyed not buying clothes unless absolutely necessary. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I decided to apply this idea to all my buying (inspired by Judith Levine, author of Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping)—and I haven’t looked back.
[i] http://zenhabits.net/how-to-slow-down-now-please-read-slowly/ (Accessed 5/3/14)
[ii] http://zenhabits.net/18-five-minute-decluttering-tips-to-start-conquering-your-mess/ (Accessed 5/3/14)
[iii] http://zenhabits.net/gandhi-lessons/ (Accessed 5/3/14)
[iv] http://tabitagreen.com/simplicity/reflections-on-my-no-new-clothes-experiment/ (Accessed 5/3/14)