Simplifying to find joy

Each week, I sit down and mull over the past week or so to decide which moment to share with you here. This week, that was much harder than it should have been to find something for which to be grateful and that’s a problem.

Sitting down to write

I arrived at the airport early yesterday, laptop in tow, hoping for time to sit and write my column for this week before my flight took off.

I found a cozy corner in an abandoned wine bar, spread out my things… laptop, notepad, pen and wine.

I turned on my laptop, opened Word and stared blankly at the screen.

The words didn’t come. I sipped my wine and worked to recall the past week.

Juggling life's responsibilities

Deadlines, tasks, and errands immediately came to mind. Unfinished to-do lists swirled in my brain. I replayed each day for a shred of something to share with you here… some small fragment of time for which I was filled with gratitude, but short of some snuggles with my kids and a handful of quiet moments shared with my husband, I came up empty.

Feeling and expressing gratitude have always come easy for me. I’ve always felt things deeply... the good and the not so good.

But there, in that quiet spot in the wine bar, I realized that somewhere along the way, I’ve lost sight of so much of what matters and replaced it with things that will be long forgotten a month down the road.

Try these 6 tips for a simpler life >>

Asking the important questions

I spoke with my friend Melissa several months ago about how busy life has gotten. We lamented the speed at which life was flying by. I told her that I needed to find a way to scale back… to reclaim the small moments for my family and for myself.

Yet somehow, three months after that conversation, I sat and stared at my laptop and realized that since that day, life hasn’t gotten simpler. It’s become just the opposite.

Melissa posed a thought-provoking question that day that has echoed through my mind since: Are we busy by necessity or by choice? We both agreed that as difficult as it was to admit, we had chosen to be this busy.

I willingly take on new responsibilities. I volunteer for things without fully considering how much time they’ll take. I say yes to things because I want to be helpful and valuable. If you scrolled through my recent texts, you’d see messages from friends asking me to go for coffee or meet up at the park and my replies are now all the same: I’m so sorry. I’m crazy busy. Can we shoot for next week?

Yet, next week never comes. The cycle is in motion and I haven’t been able to slow it down enough to figure out how to stop it.

Here's how to put the simple back in simplifying: Realistic ways to streamline your day >>

Refocusing on what matters

I want to linger over coffee with friends, go for a spontaneous dinner and squander away the weekend with my family. And I want to feel overhwhelmed with gratitude again.

So, as I sat there in the wine bar, I decided that things will never change if I don't take control and make them change.

I’ll be slowing down… saying no to more responsibilities and yes to more spontaneity. I’ll be turning off my iPhone and closing my laptop and going for post-dinnertime walks and bike rides.

My work responsibilities will still be here, bringing me joy in a very real and important way. I love my work and can’t imagine my life without it. But, it will be balanced by focusing on those things that recharge my batteries and fill me with joy.

That’s my promise to my family.

And to myself.

More about living in the moment

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7 Secrets to a great life
Practicing Gratitude: Find your whimsy


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Comments on "Practicing Gratitude: Refocusing on what's important"

angela July 16, 2012 | 6:07 PM

I love that you are so honest with us about this struggle. I think sometimes people gloss over how easily it is to tip the scales from busy-in-an-exciting-way to too-busy-to-breathe. I hope you enjoy your post-dinner walks; I know you will find your gratitude mojo again :)

Sherri July 16, 2012 | 4:37 PM

Amen, my friend...I hear ya.

Tonya July 16, 2012 | 4:04 PM

I love that you shared your struggle with us this week. You are NOT alone. It's a constant battle to balance it all, get it all in and stay present while doing so. I know I haven't figured out the magic formula and work at it almost every day. I'm happy that you are moving in what feel like the only direction. Sending love and much understanding. xoxo

Erica July 16, 2012 | 9:23 AM

I think it's sad how wrapped up people get in trivial matters. There is nothing wrong with relaxing and just enjoying the ride. I think that we tend to feel guily if we aren't always on the go. That mindset needs to change.

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