As I want to delve deeply into this conversation with you, I think it’s of upmost importance that I address my journey so far and what has ultimately lead me to embark on this slow living lifestyle.
Why do I feel the need to readdress my attitudes to this short, finite experience? What events and experiences have caused me to do so?
If we rewind back to my childhood, I’ve always been on a trajectory to be academic as both of my parents were teachers and therefore fluent in the word of academia and so it was decided that so was I to be also. Every educational decision consistently worked towards the goal of being enrolled into a ‘Redbrick University’. To surmise in the words of the Oxbridge website: a redbrick, or Russell Group University is a “group of internationally recognised universities” similar to the Ivy League Universities over in the States.
In conjunction with this, I was destined to become a teacher from an early age because, like I previously alluded to, both of my parents were successful teachers within their arenas. Teaching was deemed as a safe, stable career where you could rest assured your pension would be fruitful and you were blessed with thirteen weeks off a year – as well as every weekend. However, I felt as though, as I myself embarked on my teaching career at the start of my twenties, that I was living for the weekends, counting down to the next end of term break, consistently dreaming of escaping the present. In the working week I would commute in a rat race, work through my lunch break because there was just too much to do that I couldn’t allow myself the time to stop and eat. In the Spring of 2016, which was my first year of teaching, I got burnt out with the stress of the job and then a couple of months later I was hit with a life-shattering event: the sudden downfall and eventual death of my mother as she struggled for three months with terminal lung cancer. My mother, the matriarch of the family, the strong, exuberant teacher who was adored by many, passed away before she was able to indulge in her long-awaited “fruitful” pension.
The year of 2016 rocked me to my core and I instantaneously reassessed my own perspective on what a healthy work-life balance meant to me. The prospect of continuing along this route for the next forty-plus years seemed daunting, dangerous and most certainly not safe or stable. To take you a couple of years forward to November 2018, Ben and I were blessed with the arrival of our first child, Olivia. Although we were only 24 at the time, we were so ready for our baby, a little ray of sunshine to break through the sorrow of loss. We are so incredibly blessed with the existence of a vivacious, free-spirited and loving girl.
Maternity leave was a sacred time to get to know this new bundle of love, as well as learning more about myself. It was truly the most mesmerising experience as I, even continue to feel, that I know her inextricably and that I deeply understand her. Harmoniously intertwined in this rhythm of responding to her needs, playing endlessly, taking naps together and seeing the world through her perspective: all awakened me to a more authentic way of living.
Because I wanted to feel professionally “safe and stable”, I eventually returned to work – part-time may I add(!) – as a teacher and found it very difficult to be away from her. Then COVID-19 came around in March 2020 with a nationwide lockdown here in the United Kingdom. As I was only required to be physically in work two days a week and as the construction industry shut down totally for Ben, we were in our own cocoon with our little Olivia. We have such fond memories of this chapter of our lives as we spent our days playing in the garden, cooking food and listening to music. The Vitamin D of the extraordinary March sunshine was also a big help during this time. And though there was a lot to be frightened of in regards to the pressures on the NHS, the soaring death tolls and the fear of the invisible virus, on a personal level we also recognised the way our lives had slowed down to a motion we had never dreamed of and we were thoroughly enjoying having time on our hands: being present in the moment. Waking up when our bodies wanted us to, eating healthy and nutritious meals when our bodies required us to do so was a very humbling experience. Plus, the uninterrupted time as a trio was precious.
Ever since returning to work after the depths of the lockdowns, we as a family continued to stay humble, uphold our healthy living attitudes and cherished our time together. I worked full-time as a teacher for the following eighteen months, keeping astride with my ego and quickly forgetting my 2020 experience. I felt as though if I earned more money, I would have more pride, more happiness and could consequently buy more stuff. It was only when I’d had a particularly difficult experience at a teaching job that I decided to listen to my quietened intuition, ignore my ego and step down from the hustle and bustle of teaching. In April 2022 I became a teaching assistant and felt empowered knowing that I was still making a difference in the educational paths of young people; yet I was able to have more mental clarity on what my spare time looked like. I no longer lived to work but worked to therefore live an honest existence.
However, in the Summer of 2022, we found out that we were expecting our second child and were elated. Although this excitement was short-lived as we unfortunately had a miscarriage in the August of 2022. A truly traumatic time – and it still is traumatic to contemplate – for us all. I recognised that the fragility of life hung in the present. I will (when I feel emotionally strong enough) talk more about this at some point in the future and I hope you understand that it is too difficult for me to expand any further on this dark period of our family’s story at this present moment.
With any form of grief, a huge process of contemplation takes place. I started listening more to Baba Ram Dass, reading spiritual books like ‘The Untethered Soul’ and began to slow down. I realised that rushing around, feeling chaotic and pressured was not conducive to my existence, or that of my family’s.
Two months down the line in late October 2022 we discovered that we were pregnant again and, elated of course, we now felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety. This third pregnancy has been difficult to navigate, I experienced bleeding throughout the first trimester and due to other health complications, have been signed off work by my doctor. On a very important side note, I do believe that The Universe is always sending messages to you, even those that seem uncomfortable and that it is up to you to either take notice through being proactive or, by shying away from the gravity of the situation. Therefore, I am viewing this final three months of my pregnancy as a direct message from The Universe to slow down. It is time to foster a slower narrative for our family, a chance to take more time to be present, prepare and eat nutritious food and listen to the rhythm of my body as I grow this beautiful being.
So, why am I passionate about slowing down?
Slow living has progressively become more prominent to me over the course of the past three years. Although my own personal trials and tribulations with grief have played a prominent role in my awakening, the realms of Instagram and YouTube have also played a significant role in my attitude towards slow living. Yes, there are those clichés, as I guess there are with any topic on social media. And although the materialistic side is extremely inspiring, I mean, who doesn’t envision themselves floating around the house in a handmade linen dress? A Provencial aesthetic is, in my opinion, not something to snubbed at! But, in all honesty, the core values of why these people lean more towards wearing natural fibres, gliding rather than frantically rushing, taking extra care with even the most mundance of tasks is because each and every moment of life and our sensorial experiences are to be cherished.
Through writing this blog and overstepping that somewhat never-ending cycle of fear due to being a perfectionist, I have ultimately decided to seize the moment and that these precious three months before baby number two comes along are precious as I intend to continue to be present. I am also aware of the incredible feeling that I am here, we are all here and this slow living journey can mean whatever you wish it to mean so that it is workable for you. It’s important to recognise that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to slow living – including the need to perpetually wear linen – as being authentic to who you are and what makes you tick is essential. I look forward to sharing this experience of slow living with you.