The Elegance of Leaving the Metaverse

IMG_0447I’ve always been skeptical of Facebook. I was the last of my friends to sign-up, and over the years, a persistent, uneasy feeling led me to deactivate my account several times. My reasons always had to do with creating more simplicity and elegance in my life, but after a few months, I was drawn back like a moth to a flame. It was when Facebook recently changed its name to Meta that I decided to leave for good. 

Meta is short for metaverse. The term was originally coined in a 1992 science fiction novel called Snow Crash by Neal Stephensen. The metaverse is now defined as a combination of multiple elements of technology, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and video where users live within a digital universe. Ugh.

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving my real car down a real road listening to a real person on the radio announce this business news headline: “Nike buys virtual sneaker maker to sell digital shoes in the metaverse.” Huh?

Turns out we can buy virtual shoes, clothing, land, and other digital goods for our avatars in the form of a crypto asset called a non-fungible token or NFT. As if the real sneakers I put on my actual feet each morning aren’t expensive enough.

The restless feeling I got from Facebook, I mean Meta, was replaced with something more disturbing. Maybe my age is showing. Maybe I taught George Orwell’s novel 1984 one too many times. Or maybe I just really enjoy living in this beautiful world where I can interact with real people, hike on real trails, look at real art, and stop to smell the real roses.

Virtual reality aside, here are a dozen simple reasons my days are a little more elegant without Meta, formerly known as Facebook.

1. Fewer Advertisements – Social media platforms, like Facebook, exist to make the owners money. As users, we are constantly bombarded, both consciously and subconsciously, with messages encouraging us to spend our money on everything from diet aids to political campaigns.

2. More Positivity – Facebook can be fertile ground for fear, judgment, anger, sadness, insecurity, and narcissism. Those negative vibes can seep right through the internet and zap us. Not only do I want to protect myself from negative energy, I also want to avoid the very real temptation of adding to it.

3. More Time – This is an obvious one, but not being on Facebook frees up time in my day to do things that add more quality to my life. Time is one thing we can never purchase more of either with real money or crypto currency.

4. More Presence – It’s amazing how much more present I am in my experiences when not thinking about taking a photo, posting it with a clever caption, and constantly checking reactions to it.

5. Better Focus – My mind is much clearer without Facebook. All of that input takes up too much valuable real estate in my head. Without it, I’m better able to concentrate on my own priorities.

6. Less Worry – As a lifelong people-pleaser, I was secretly worried about how my posts were interpreted and who loved, liked, and ignored them. Without Facebook, I’ve completely eliminated that concern.

7. Better Relationships – The average Facebook user has an intimate number of 338 friends. Instead of posting something for hundreds of people to see, I now take time to communicate more personally with individual people I know will be interested or amused by what I have to share.

8. Less Guilt – I often felt guilty I wasn’t closer to Facebook friends with whom I’d once crossed paths. I care about them, but I found it difficult to offer my sincere support and empathy to so many people.

9. More Discretion – Facebook can encourage us to over-share and reveal too much about our personal lives (and that of our loved ones). Personally, I’m more attracted to people who maintain a bit of privacy and an air of mystery.

10. More Self-Confidence – Have you ever felt sure about something, but after hearing from others began to doubt your own mind? Getting rid of the noise on Facebook helps me better trust my own voice.

11. Improved Self-Care – It’s up to each of us to take care of ourselves in the ways that are most nurturing and healthy. The same way I know I need lots of time alone and in nature, I also know I’m better without social media.

12. More Real Joy – If we would all look up from the mesmerizing glow of our screens and step out our doors, we’d see there’s a big wonderful world to explore and enjoy with all of our senses right now, in real time. §

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
~ Opening Line from  George Orwell’s 1984

Just Between Friends – My Personal Spending Moratorium

Welcome to the first of a new weekly series called Just Between Friends. This additional Wednesday post is written especially for subscribers of The Simple Swan. Although its purpose is still to inspire simplicity and elegance in our everyday lives, I think you’ll find it a little more personal and practical than my Sunday posts and newspaper column. Please share your own thoughts and ideas with our community. Just scroll to “Leave a Reply” at the end of the post. Thank you! ~Alicia

IMG_0517

I’m a stress shopper. I can go into the grocery store for a carton of eggs and come out with a tube of lipstick, a candle, deep conditioner, a magazine, mittens, and an avocado slicer. Depending on my state of mind, there’s a very good chance I’ll forget the eggs.

Since my word for 2022 is wisdom, being more intentional with money is a good place to start. On the first day of January, I spent a lot of time reflecting and planning for the new year. It was then I created a three-month personal spending moratorium. I read somewhere that when we want to do something differently, we need to know our why.

Here are some reasons why I want to get a grip on my personal spending habits:

  1. boost our savings account
  2. avoid clutter 
  3. practice self-discipline
  4. better manage stress 

So here’s my plan. January, February, and March of 2022 I will not buy:

  • clothing, jewelry, or accessories
  • make-up
  • skin-care or hair-care products
  • magazines
  • home decor

My strategy is an oldie but goodie – use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. I’ve already faced several challenging scenarios. I’ll share a few with you in hopes you can relate, or at least won’t judge too harshly.

  1. I ordered a really cute jumpsuit from Chicos that didn’t arrive until after the new year. That doesn’t count, right? Did I mention it’s really cute? 
  2. Wouldn’t you know, I didn’t have the right shoes for said outfit. But…I had also ordered a dress from Macys. So when that dress arrived, I returned it and bought some shoes. Since the shoes cost less than the dress, I told Mike I was actually money ahead. He said they call that fuzzy math. Math was never my strongest subject.
  3. I thought we needed something for an empty wall in our living room. I convinced myself it would be smart to go ahead and buy the cool mirror I had my eye on while it was half off at Hobby Lobby. Filled with guilt, I nervously made my $48 purchase, sweating and shaking like I was buying crack on the corner. The next morning I returned my purchase and felt well on my way to rehabilitation.
  4. We were almost out of toilet paper. I walked into Wal-Mart without grabbing a shopping cart. I went directly to the back of the store and picked up a giant 24-pack of toilet paper with both hands. I couldn’t have carried anything else if I wanted to. That may have been the first time in my life I walked straight in and out of a big-box store and bought only one thing.

I’m three weeks into my three-month “no-buy” personal spending plan, and it has already proven to be an interesting challenge. I’m definitely more aware of my habits, urges, and triggers to spend money. Through the next three months, I’ll let you know how my spending moratorium is going. I’m not really sure what to expect, but I have a hunch it will add wisdom, simplicity, and elegance to my life.

What are your financial goals for 2022? Do you have a handle on your personal spending? What causes you to over-spend? Have you ever tried going on a spending moratorium? Do you consider yourself frugal or more of a spendthrift? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below. §

Thanks for being a reader! Don’t Miss a Word from The Simple Swan
On Sundays – The Simple Swan’s regular post is emailed to subscribers. These posts also run in the weekend edition of the Southern Illinoisan in my column, Everyday Elegance
On WednesdaysJust Between Friends is emailed to subscribers. This mid-week reflection is still all about adding simplicity and elegance to life, but it’s a bit more personal and conversational. 
To Subscribe – Go to http://www.thesimpleswan.com and click the blue “Follow” button to add your email address and become a subscriber. (It’s to the right of your screen or at the bottom of your phone.) The Simple Swan is not on social media, so please subscribe and join our community. Thank you!

The Elegance of Mangos

As I shuffle through the mail, I casually chat with my husband about things on my list of home improvements. Among the bills and catalogs is a familiar envelope that makes me stop and flush with embarrassment. It’s a letter from Lukas, an eight-year-old boy who lives in a village outside of Entebbe, Uganda, one of the poorest nations in the world.

The envelope includes a sweet picture drawn by Lukas and a letter written in English by a translator. Lukas asks how we are doing and tells us more about himself. We know the names of his brothers and sisters. He likes to read and play soccer with his friends, and his favorite color is green.

Reading the letter out loud, my voice cracks, “Lukas also adds that he appreciates so much his birthday gift of 86,350. With that money, he bought a mattress and a piece of candy.”

We forgot his annual birthday gift of $25 had been automatically withdrawn from our bank account. Lukas didn’t replace an old mattress with a new one. He bought the first mattress he’d ever had to go with the mosquito netting he bought with last year’s Christmas gift.

The little boy’s grateful words tangibly hang in the air next to my greedy ones. The ones about all the things I need in order to sit squarely in the lap of happiness – things Lukas has no idea even exist.

The next part of the letter is something neither Mike nor I can get out of our minds – something incredibly humbling and beautiful. It reads, “The thing that makes Lukas happiest is climbing trees for mangos.” My heart feels simultaneously heavier and lighter.

We love mangos. We buy them at the grocery store when they’re available. Mike is good at picking a perfectly ripe one. He slices through the yellow-red skin and makes neat cuts in the bright yellow flesh to release cubes of the tropical treat. Biting into the fruit brings a burst of floral sweetness with a slight hint of pine. If eaten mindfully, it’s heaven.

I imagine our young friend nimbly skittering up a mango tree in his village. His bright brown eyes spy a ripe fruit. His tiny hand picks it off the limb and stuffs it in his pocket. He climbs back down the tree, laughing. He sits on the ground and leans against the base of the tree. Pulling the golden prize from his pocket, he takes a big bite, juice dripping down his smiling face.

When we find ourselves getting caught up in our first world delusions and disillusions, Mike and I need only say one simple, elegant word. Mangos.§

Hello, friend! Thank you for reading my blog. Starting this coming Wednesday, a second weekly post will come to your email inbox. Just Between Friends is especially for subscribers of The Simple Swan. It’s still all about adding simplicity and elegance to our lives, but I think you’ll find it a little more personal, more conversational, and more practical. Look for Wednesday’s post on my three-month personal spending moratorium. I can hardly wait to read your thoughts and ideas. I’m no longer on social media, but you can comment on the blog or email me at Alicia@thesimpleswan.com. Have a beautiful day!

The Elegance of Winter’s Simplicity

IMG_0469Just outside our upstairs bedroom window, winter trees stand like elegant steel sculptures against a silver sky. As I awaken, my eyes trace the trees’ bold, black branches. The bare winter trees inspire me to simplify.

Based on the popularity of books and television shows on the subject, I know I’m not alone in my urge to simplify, nor am I the first to be motivated by nature. Isaac Newton wrote, “Nature is pleased with simplicity.” He was referring to mathematical principles and philosophical reasoning, not kitchen cabinets and sock drawers, but I think his point remains.

During his time at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau observed, “Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with nature herself.” Wouldn’t we all accept an invitation to more purity and ease?

Inspired by the winter landscape, I am beginning the new year by simplifying. Like beauty, simplicity is in the eye of the beholder, but maybe you can relate to my goal of tackling the following areas.

Physical Possessions ~ I’m reconsidering every item in every drawer, closet, shelf, box, cabinet, glove compartment, and secret nook and cranny. I’m keeping only things I love and that align with my idea of a simple, elegant life. Uncomfortable shoes, be gone!

Health and Finances ~ I don’t know about you, but during the winter months I tend to put such things on the back burner. I have experienced the relief of being on top of my game in these areas, and I’m not going to wait until spring to feel that way again.

Digital Footprint ~ Newton and Thoreau didn’t have to worry about this one, but it’s a struggle for me. Photographs, emails, documents, passwords, downloads and “the cloud” hang over my head. I hope to take control of my technology before it changes, and this old dog has to learn more new tricks.

Activities and Pursuits ~ Just as we have limited space in our cupboards, we have limited space in our days. I’m letting go of vague dreams to travel the world or become a gourmet cook who is fluent in French, but I am fully committed to a small number of true passions.

Thoughts and Emotions ~ Sometimes intangible baggage prevents us from simplifying. Just like physical clutter, we have to let go of the stuff in our head and heart that keeps us from living our best life.

I hope you will join me in answering Thoreau’s call to simplify, simplify! If we get stuck, winter’s elegant inspiration is right outside the window in the clarity of a shaft of sunlight, the peace of dormant fields, the freedom of geese in flight, and the beauty of a snowflake. §

“In winter, the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of more exalted simplicity.”
~ John Burroughs

The Elegance of Feeding the Birds

IMG_0411

My husband taught me the elegance of feeding the birds. Initially it was his interest, and I stood back wondering if it was worth the effort. It wasn’t long before I was convinced the time and money we spent caring for our feathered friends was returned many times over.

Whether you live in the city or the country, maintain an elaborate system of bird feeders, or just sprinkle bread crumbs on your window sill, feeding the birds brings simple elegance to life in these six unexpected ways.

1. Kindness – When we do something nice, no matter how simple, it increases the kindness in the world. A single kind act can have a long-reaching ripple effect, sending good vibes throughout the planet. Watching the birds gleefully flock to their freshly filled feeders and bird bath, makes us want to keep spreading good cheer.

2. Connection – Over the years, I’ve watched the birds from kitchen windows and backyard porches with family and friends of all ages. Watching the birds together creates a sweet and common bond over the wonder of our shared world.

3. Learning –  When we watch the birds, we naturally want to know more about them. Is that a bluebird or an indigo bunting? Do orioles prefer oranges or meal worms? Did you know a woodpecker’s tongue is so long it wraps around the inside of its head? There is so much to learn! 

4. Beauty – In our flashy bigger-is-better world, we can easily miss the subtle, natural beauty of life. When we take time to notice a bird’s intricate coloring, delicate shape, and  sweet song, we begin to appreciate the genuine beauty in the world we sometimes take for granted.

5. Simplicity – A few seeds and a little fresh water is all a bird needs. It makes us stop and think about what we really need to live a healthy, happy life. Watching the birds mindfully eat, chirp, nest, and fly encourages us to strip away the pretenses and live a more simple, authentic life.

6. Charity – Remember the bird lady Mary Poppins sang about? “Come feed the little birds. Show them you care and you’ll be glad if you do. The young ones are hungry; their nests are so bare. All it takes is tuppence from you. Feed the birds. Tuppence a bag.” We all benefit when we share our blessings, not just count them. §

“I wish we had all been born birds instead.”
~ Kurt Vonnegut

The Elegance of New Year Intentions

I gave up on making new year’s resolutions. For several years, I’ve instead adopted a word of intention for the new year. The idea is to choose a single word that can serve as a guiding light for all areas of life for the next twelve months. This carefully chosen word provides focus and clarity to holistically live more intentionally, and ultimately, more elegantly.  

My past words have included simplicity, joy, nature, seasons, and peace. Each new year, I post the word in several places to be reminded of my intention and do my best to infuse the word into my daily life at every turn. Do I fail at times? Of course, but attention to the word helps me consciously make more choices that lead to living my best life. 

My word for 2022 is wisdom. I’m turning sixty this year and poised to embrace the wisdom I’ve gained from growing older. At this stage of my life, I’m pleased to say goodbye to things that used to seem so important, and I now count wisdom as one of my greatest values. I’ll have no shortage of challenges as I attempt to apply wisdom to everything I think, say, and do. A good place to start is with Socrates’ wise counsel, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

Do you have a word for the new year? Maybe I can help. There aren’t any rules, but here are some questions you could ask yourself to help you find your perfect word for the new year. How do I want to feel when I wake up each morning? What do I value most? How do I want other people to feel when they’re around me? What does my soul crave? What are my goals? What would make me happier? What is no longer serving my life? What is (and isn’t) my responsibility right now? What am I uniquely able to offer others?

Here are some powerful words to get you thinking – positivity, adventure, presence, creativity, gratitude, fun, courage, relationships, empower, relax, cheerful, learn, strong, balance, focus, grow, kindness, acceptance, passion, generosity, change, happy, organized, grace, confidence, quiet, home, relationships, calm, faith, motivation, wellness, energy, mindfulness, clarity, love.

Do any of these words resonate with you and your hopes for the new year? Once you’ve chosen a word, think about specific ways it might positively affect your daily round. How could a clear focus on your word influence these areas of your life?

  • your attitude 
  • your relationships
  • your home and possessions
  • your personal style
  • your work 
  • your physical, mental, and spiritual health
  • your activities and pursuits
  • your contribution 

With some soul-searching and contemplation, 2022 holds 365 chances to live our happiest, most intentional, and most elegant year. I am always inspired by Anne Frank, who wrote in her diary, “What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t even happened yet!” §

Note to Subscribers: In my search for simplicity and elegance, The Simple Swan will no longer appear on Facebook or YouTube. I want to focus on writing my blog and newspaper column in the weekend edition of the Southern Illinoisan. Thank you so much for subscribing!

To Subscribe: Click on the blue “Follow” button located to the left of your computer screen or at the bottom of your phone. It will prompt you to enter your email address. once you confirm, you will receive an email from WordPress on Sunday mornings containing only my post for the week. Thank you!

Contact Me: Alicia@thesimpleswan.com

The Elegance of the Winter Solstice

Growing weary of the dark days? Take heart. The Winter Solstice arrives this week and, for good measure, will coincide with the glow of a waning full moon. Nature remembers what we sometimes forget. Darkness is always ousted by the elegance of light.

This return to light isn’t just a positive affirmation, wishful thinking, or snappy ad campaign. It’s indisputable, mind-blowing scientific fact. In the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day of 2021 comes on December 21. That’s when the sun will be at its lowest point in the sky.

Solstice, in Latin, means to stand still. At the Winter Solstice, the sun reaches the latitude called the Tropic of Capricorn. The southward movement of the sun seems to stop before it reverses direction and begins its path northward bringing longer, lighter days.

The Winter Solstice also marks the beginning of our astronomical winter. (As opposed to the meteorological winter which began December 1.) Some may bemoan the upcoming season, but we can choose to find elegance in the quiet beauty of winter knowing that spring is on its way.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this year the Full Cold Moon reached its peak last night on December 18, just before the Winter Solstice. Also known as the Long Night Moon, this will be the last full moon before the end of the year. A full moon is six times brighter than a half moon, making it the brightest object in the night sky, and far brighter than the brightest planet, Venus.

I don’t know about you, but I think we could all use that extra dose of promising light about right now. Are the world’s troubles troubling you? Perhaps a loved one is going through a difficult time. Maybe you are experiencing a dark time in your own life. The Winter Solstice can signify a turning point, a time to release the darkness in favor of the light and positive energy.

Nature is urging us to see the light and be the light. So put another log on the fire, light the candles, and string up those holiday lights. Bask in the promise of the stars shining in the night sky and the one atop your tree. Fill yourself with warm, twinkly light so you can go out and shine in all your elegant glory. In the words of John Lennon, “Yeah, we all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun.”§

Note to Subscribers: In my search for simplicity and elegance, The Simple Swan will no longer appear on Facebook or on YouTube. I want to focus on writing my blog and newspaper column in the weekend edition of the Southern Illinoisan. Thank you so much for subscribing!

To Subscribe – Click the blue “Follow” button located to the left of your computer screen or at the bottom of your phone. It will prompt you to enter your email address. Once you confirm, you will receive an email from WordPress on Sunday mornings containing only my post for the week. Thank you!

Contact Me – Alicia@thesimpleswan.com

The Elegance of Signature Style

IMG_0227 (1)

Audrey Hepburn had a little black dress. Abraham Lincoln had a stovepipe hat. Ruth Bader Ginsburg had fancy robe collars. Harry Potter had glasses and a magic wand. 

What they all had in common was a distinct signature style. They were each well-known for other accomplishments, of course, but their sartorial choices added to their recognizability, uniqueness, and elegance.

Having a signature style means creating a consistent and memorable visual image or look. Whether that look is considered gorgeous or goofy may be in the eye of the beholder. The fact remains, what we wear matters.

In a 2012 report in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, a pair of scientists coined the phrase enclothed cognition and proved the clothing a person wears has an effect on the way one thinks, feels, and functions.

In one experiment, participants who were asked to wear a white doctor’s coat showed an increase in cognitive abilities. Similar experiments showed formal clothing enhanced the ability to negotiate and think abstractly. Casual clothing boosted openness and agreeableness. Gym clothes increased healthy choices. Bright colors improve mood, while softer colors had a calming effect.

What makes signature style so intriguing is that there’s no single definition, and it’s impossible to purchase no matter how much money one has. I have to admit, I’m really not one to give fashion advice. Although I’m still working on the how and what of personal style, I am convinced of these six reasons why we should cultivate a signature style.

  1. Self-Knowledge – Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly.” Creating a true signature style requires knowing who we are, what we value, how we spend our time, and what we want to project into the world. This can be a lifelong challenge that requires some deep dives.
  2. Authenticity – Energy healer Carol Tuttle believes what we wear on the outside should be congruent with who we are on the inside. She teaches that everyone is born with a natural energy that should be honored. Are you naturally extroverted or introverted, loud or quiet, silly or serious? Be careful, she warns. Most of us hold false beliefs about who we are or should be. We can learn to dress in a way that celebrates our authenticity.
  3. Confidence – Committing to a signature style, impervious to trends and opinions, takes guts. Dressing every day in our own unique style will increase self-confidence and eventually garner the confidence of others. Audrey Hepburn said, “To pull off any look, wear it with confidence.”
  4. Simplicity – There’s no question that having a signature style makes life easier. Clothes shopping can be overwhelming and expensive. When we know exactly what we do and don’t wear, the entire process saves time and money. No more standing in front of a stuffed closet with nothing to wear. According to Coco Chanel, “Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.”
  5. Discipline – Staying true to a signature style requires discipline. It’s easy to question our wardrobe, especially when the choices are endless and ever-changing. The fashion industry banks on us being easily distracted, discouraged, and undisciplined. It takes laser focus to only purchase and wear that which we’ve determined perfectly expresses our personal style.
  6. Wisdom – Having a signature style is smart. Albert Einstein famously wore a grey suit, black tie, and white shirt. He said, “I don’t want to waste brainpower on what I’m going to wear each day.” Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg all followed suit. Saving time and money makes good sense, but so does taming our closets and consistently projecting an authentic image of ourselves.

Director Orson Welles said, “Create your own visual style. Let it be unique for yourself, yet identifiable for others.” It’s the big, gold charm bracelet my mother has worn for fifty years and the upswept hairdo her best friend has worn for as long as I can remember. Signature style is difficult to define and to cultivate, but it’s always the epitome of elegance. §

“Personal style is about a sense of yourself, a sense of what you believe in and wearing what you like.”
~ Ralph Lauren

The Elegance of Blooming Like an Amaryllis

When my children were very young, they became unexpectedly fascinated by the big red flowers that bloomed in pots at their grandparents’ Wisconsin home at Christmastime. Grandpa Bob, a crusty farmer and Marine, patiently explained how he forced the amaryllis bulbs to bloom as exquisite holiday decorations.

The next year, and for many years after, my children and their grandfather participated in a holiday tradition known as the Great Amaryllis Race. Shortly after Thanksgiving, they each opened a box containing a pre-planted amaryllis bulb, and the race was on!

I watched my children stare at their pots of dirt and whisper magic words, wishes, and prayers to urge the bulbs to sprout. Within a week or so, green pointy stems nudged out of the dirt, thrilling them to no end.

They carefully watered their plants, moved them to the perfect light, turned the pots to encourage the stalk to grow straight, and expertly used the thin stakes to keep them from falling over. Day by day, centimeter by centimeter, they watched their plants grow.

Throughout December, my children regularly called their grandparents from our home in Florida with their amaryllis report. “Grandpa,” my son excitedly said into the telephone, “mine is the tallest!” Holding a ruler, his older sister added, “But only by half an inch!”

Eventually the slender green stems reached more than a foot. By Christmas day, the buds at the top magically unfurled revealing two, three, or even more separate flowers that burst opened into the most elegant five-inch wide, scarlet blooms.

My kids always felt a little sorry for their grandpa who, for some reason, never won the contest. In fact, whose amaryllis grew the fastest, tallest, or with the most flowers became secondary to the miracle of watching a pot of dirt transform into something so beautiful.

There’s no greater joy than seeing children so excited about something so pure and wonderful. At a time of year when kids can become materialistic and self-centered, the Great Amaryllis Race taught my children important values including patience, care, faith, beauty, and simplicity.

The metaphors are too plentiful to do them justice, but aren’t we a little like that amaryllis bulb, so full of amazing potential? We must root ourselves in good soil, provide optimum growing conditions, prop ourselves up when we start to fall, and patiently wait until we fully bloom into the elegant creation we were meant to be.

“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”
~Chinese Proverb

The Elegance of Resting Like a Fallow Field

Here in America’s Heartland, the farmers’ fields lie fallow now. Barren squares stretch out like a patchwork quilt gently covering the land while it settles in for a well-deserved nap. The scene makes me want to snuggle under a cozy blanket and enjoy the time of year when nature encourages us to elegantly rest like the fallow fields.

Fallow periods are traditionally used by farmers to maintain the natural productivity of the land. Leaving a field inactive for a time allows the soil to recover, restore, and rebalance itself. You see, the land becomes depleted and unproductive if it isn’t given a chance to rest.

Can you relate? What if we took a cue from nature and thought of this season of the year as a natural time to recover, restore, and rebalance ourselves?

I know, the stretch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is the busiest time of the year. Maybe you’re in a season of life when rest seems impossible. A stressful job, child-rearing, caregiving, and other challenges can be exhausting. Keeping up with the daily news is taxing. Even fun-filled celebrations can leave us feeling worn out. All the more reason to rest.

My husband is the most steady and calm, yet efficient and productive person I know. He manages to get everything done and more, yet he’s the first one to suggest we stop and chill. It’s no surprise his favorite Christmas carol is Silent Night. Like my laid-back husband, the elegant song hushes and reminds, “All is calm. All is bright.”

Rather than waiting until the hustle of the holidays is over, let’s give ourselves the gift of rest now, when we really need it. Here are ten ways we can follow the fallow fields, even if just for a few minutes each day.

  1. Be still. Being busy isn’t necessarily being productive. Sit in complete stillness a few minutes every day to let your body and mind recharge.
  2. Stay home. Sometimes we stay on the go out of habit or fear of being bored. Be it ever so humble, home should be the most comforting place in the world.
  3. Renew your spirit. Read, pray, sing, create. Do more of whatever renews your soul.
  4. Turn down the noise. Do what you can to quiet your surroundings. Unplug at least once a day and experience total silence.
  5. Say no. We aren’t obliged to say yes to every invitation or request. Graciously decline an avoidable situation that’s likely to be more draining than fulfilling.
  6. Eat well. When a field lies fallow, the soil regains its nutrients. Be sure to consume healthy foods to replenish your own nutrition.
  7. Talk a walk outdoors. Not only is walking good exercise, the crisp air is a great way to clear your head.
  8. Practice self-care. Schedule a massage, a haircut, a manicure, or try some at at-home spa treatments. Take time to take care of yourself.
  9. Go to bed early. Sleep research shows human beings have a natural circadian rhythm that mimics the sun’s rising and setting. Shorter, darker days are a good excuse to get more sleep.
  10. Observe nature. Take a closer look at nature. Appreciate its beauty. Be inspired by its simplicity. Learn from its wisdom.

This morning at sunrise, a single bright star twinkled in the glowing horizon while the waning moon illuminated a frosty, barren field dotted with several deer. The elegant scene looked like a Christmas card sending sincere wishes for a beautiful, peaceful, and restful holiday season.

“It is precisely those who are busiest who most need to give themselves a break.”
~Pico Iyler