It's been almost five months since I began my year long journey to re-immerse my life in the delights of gentle domesticity.
I thought it was going to be easy, you know?
But it hasn't been.
Not because I wasn't committed, because I am, wholeheartedly. But because I did not realise how deep my personal neglect of self had gone.
The last few years have seemed to me like living in a fast moving train with only glimpses of the life I desired as it sped past; little snapshots of yearning and delights that could never be touched for long enough, leaving me with an increased longing for the train to slow and eventually stop.
The pace of business, family responsibilities and trials, health and home; they all took time and energy, and they all kept me running.
I'd been planning A Year of Gentle Domesticity for months and when the sun rose on January 1st my plan was to begin 2015 by taking time out to rest each day, to build up my physical and emotional reserves by re-visiting the me I used to be and stepping back into my own skin, exploring the many domestic arts I'd neglected for so long but which I knew would take the over-burdened emphasis off work and bring creative and domestic balance to my life, and generally 'go home' with my whole heart.
Last week I pondered how this plan was progressing, and for a few days wallowed in self pity that things weren't where I'd hoped they would be by the end of May.
But then I sat outside and examined our ailing Mock Orange tree and had an epiphany.
I live in the tropics of North Queensland, Australia, and every year we have a wet season from around November to April. It didn't happen this year. We had the driest wet season in over 70 years, and the landscape which is normally green, wild, and lush by May is dry and brown and dying.
Like our poor Mock Orange tree...
Like so much of our garden it has become malnourished and dehydrated from the lack of seasonal rain and a broken home sprinkler system (this is a rental home and the owner will not fix it).
Looking at my tree that morning I realised that was how I felt too - not from lack of water or soil nutrients, but from lack of self care. From personal neglect.
Mr E and I decided that we needed to save the tree, and if water was what it needed (a lot of water), then we'd do what we could, without waiting for a miracle from the sky or our landlord.
So we put the garden hose on a gentle stream right at the base of the tree so the water would slowly sink deep down to the roots and not run off over the parched and hard soil.
For three hours each day we followed this plan, and after a week we noticed that the leaves were 'lifting' instead of wilting, and new growth had appeared...
Excited, as though this was a child we were nursing back to health, we continued with the plan.
This morning I opened the front door to let Bob-the-dog outside and was greeted with the most incredible fragrance from the BLOOMS on our tree!
Next weekend Mr E will chop away the dead sections of the tree as now we know it can be saved and removing limbs will not cause more stress to the plant. You see, the first time we cut away some of the tree it got worse, but it's gaining in health every day now...
So what have I learned from this tree?
That neglect - whether from circumstances (like the drought for my tree) or from doing too much and forgetting to say no - will dry you from the inside out. It will empty you of spirit, health, peace, wisdom and joy.
It will leave you as the passenger on a fast moving train catching only a glimpse of the beauty around you and never truly nourished in spirit, mind and body.
I see this now, and the lesson is embedded in my heart.
Reflecting on these first five months of my year of gentle domesticity has taught me things I may not have understood without walking the journey...
* an understanding of how important emotional and physical healing is to my growth as a person
* how slowing down allows a wider view of my life and clarity to see what truly matters
* patience is required to bring positive change, and for some things patience simply means 'rest'
* it's not selfish to say no when life is already full or I know it's not right for me or my family in the big scheme of things
* saying no does not mean I'm a failure - oftentimes it means I've gained wisdom
* filling my emotional tank gives me a healthier measure of love to share
* it's okay that I'm not a social person, but someone who loves time alone or just with my husband
If you feel like my tree before we took the time to care for it, then maybe you need to join me in re-acquainting yourself with the gentle art of personal rest and renewal?
Stop and consider your life and your responsibilities.
Are you over-burdened?
Have you committed to too many things?
Do you say 'yes' because you fear you'll be rejected if you say 'no'?
Have you forgotten to spend time doing things that give you joy?
Are you tired, weary, lonely?
Do you live your life 'clothed' in a personality not your own but one you believe others expect of you?
Dear heart, what are you missing?
Where did you take a wrong turn and stop caring for, and being, your precious self?
I don't mean selfish care - I mean doing things that fill up your emotional tank, that allow you a good dose of laughter, that rest your body and your thoughts and bring renewal and refreshment, that truly reflect the lovely person you naturally are and always were.
My mock orange tree is healing and blooming in a season of renewal but it took time and care and thoughtfulness on our part.
You and I are no different to the tree. Maybe, like me, you need to give yourself time, care and thoughtfulness too. Be patient, nourish yourself from the inside and renew in strength before you begin cutting away debris that may require emotional effort. But the small stuff, yes, let that go now.
The Big Guy upstairs is there to help you too.
"You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures evermore."
Once again the timing of your post was perfect! For the past nine months or so I have been juggling the health needs of loved ones, in addition to my own health issues. During this time I have taken a "back seat" to the more pressing issues of others. But, in taking the back seat, I have neglected my own well being...physical, emotional and spiritual. The time has come to shift the focus back on me, for without such focus and attention I am of little help to those I love.
Hi Jenny, I find I have to spend my Sunday's doing this or my whole week goes awry. Every Sunday since my son was a toddler I have had a rule, that the day must be spent at home. Sometimes completing chores, catching up on sewing, watching movies or spending the day in bed. It is only for very special occasions do I leave the house on a Sunday and then I usually have to schedule a day during the week to catch up on my Sunday rest. I also found this really beneficial for my boy as well, he always had a day at home with me relaxing, where he could play or we could do projects together.
Very timely post today indeed Jenny - I dont know how you do it but your timing is always perfect. I shall think of you & that orange tree & I shall remember to breathe & take some time just for me x0x0
What a lovely, lovely lesson today Jenny-girl. I pray you blossom as does your tree.
So beautifully written Jenny. I've been forced into a position of reassessing my own life, taking time to rest and look after myself. I don't know yet what path my life will take next but I won't settle for ho-hum, whatever comes next will be something that fills my heart and soul!
A lovely post and a very wise one, Jenny. I should ask my girl to read it as I was telling her she needed to learn to say 'no' when I saw her recently.:-) Your mock orange tree is doing so well from your TLC.
A lovely post again Jenny, it certainly isn't easy getting the balance right. I hope you find yourself thriving as your tree is now. x
What a beautiful post. So sweetly put and much needed. You lift me up so much. Your tree is looking so good....Hard work but beautiful.
That's a beautiful and meaningful post today. I too have stepped back from the 'ratrace' this year.A reminder of the need to have 'me' time when one of my friends screamed at me 'I HAD to do her quilting'. How selfish the world can be and how we have to be strong and say no.Self and family first.
Thank you, Jenny. I needed this! I am in a very busy season of life right. Last week I felt overwhelmed and sad. Between work, my husband's problems, trying to parent 3 teen girls as well as help our one of our son's and his wife with babysitting, I am exhausted. I want the train to stop so I can get off! I am not sure how that will be accomplished anytime soon, but I am praying for relief.
You are such a blessing!
You are a special person with such a kind soul. I wish you peace and happiness.
I enjoy your blog so much and look forward to the daily reading. Today's post was very meaningful as I have health issues and need to take better care of myself and set my priorities straight. I do enjoy embroidering your designs Being a member of your "club"is so much fun. I print off the patterns right away.
Thank you for your blog. You are slowly but surely bringing me back to God, and I've been away a long time. I'm feeling more at peace with myself and the world than I have done for years. Your words and faith are very powerful. Blessings
You have such a wonderful way with words...
I love to read your blog posts. It makes me slow down for just that five minutes each day and I come away renewed and refreshed.
You have the ability to quench my soul with your words and beautiful works. I want to be just like you when I grow up.
I am so pleased that you have managed to save your tree - now is the time to save yourself. I wish you time for rest and recovery cos what would we do without you!! xx
Jenny, your post today has me crying as sometimes they do. I'm coming out of a long battle with major depression and while I still have a long battle ahead of me, I do see clearer days ahead. With God's grace, the setbacks will be few. I believe He lead me to your blog as everyday your words minister to me, especially today. It's so easy to lose ourselves somewhere along the way, not everyone understands that, and the resulting loneliness can be deep and dark. Thankfully we have a God that is there for us in the light and the dark, with friends and without, through the dry times and the rainy seasons. I'm so glad to see your tree flourishing under your special TLC...everything on this earth needs it at one time or another. God bless.
What a wonderful post! Such food for thought. I know that I over schedule myself. I need to work at breaking that habit.
Oh my goodness
This post could not have been timed better and i thank you for sharing
Your honesty hit home...I am home off work with a chest infection...I pushed and pushed until finally yesterday I had to stop.
I hear you Jenny and thank you for the gentle reminder
Loads of love to you
Tanya hughes x
Perth Western Australia
I feel like I have just read my horoscope the day after and it was exactly right on. I purposefully spent yesterday doing just what I needed to do...for me...sew some fabrics to make another birthday gift for someone. Your post is full of insight and courage. It does take a lot of care to keep ourselves healthy and happy and fulfilled. Thank You Jenny Dear...
Thank you for your post. Very refreshing!
I think this post probably resonates with most women because we ALL tend to give until we are past empty. The two days I took not to worry about things in my life, but to have fun with a friend, were good. I'm on the cusp of deciding to give some things up - not because I don't love doing them, but because I don't any longer have the energy to do EVERYTHING. Your post was a wonderful reminder and I'm so glad your tree is growing healthy again, and it's rewarding you with those beautiful sweet-smelling blossoms. There is nothing as sweet as orange blossom, in my opinion.
I think really caring for yourself and believing the worth God has placed in U.S. Is one of our, well my, most difficult tasks. I automatically help others and find it easy to go out of my way to guide an assist them...,but I find it so much harder to see that I am worth the effort of drawing Gods help down for a full on tilt at the problem. It is so easy to say...I just don't care...I am too tired to care about me...too tired to start the battle and believe their is help for me to change.
Dear Jenny, just like a lot of your other readers this resonates with where I am in my life just now. We recently moved to the highlands of Scotland, leaving behind the 2 businesses that dominated the past 12 years sapping me of my joy, confidence and financial stability. I am so blessed to have a wonderful husband who now has the job of his dreams and although money will be tight he has said I'm not to go back into work until at least the end of summer and then it HAS to be a job that is only part time and most importantly something that I will love.
It's difficult to 'stop' but I'm learning, slowly! Thank you for your openness, it's good to know that we're not alone.
Seems many of us are taking a little time to rest and refresh. Thank you for your gentle reminders that it's not something we should just want to do, but something we really need to do.
Thank you for encouraging me to re-think things. Sometimes I think we forget to think of ourselves as important enough.
I'll be 78 in a month and I cannot tell you how meaningful your message is to me. It took me the vast majority of my life to realize what you have so aptly expressed. It's never to late to follow that path and let go of the guilt that we feel saying no to others and yes to ourselves. It's mentally, emotionally and physically healthy to do so. Thanks for the reminder!
Jenny, I think you hit the nail on the head for me. I have way too many things weighing on me as well and I try to do everything and end up getting very little completed it seems. I think I will take your lead and start to say "no" to more requests as well. Thanks for the beautiful sewing that has entered my life and the excellent advice as well.
Just what I needed to read today; thank you.
At 75 and with many health problems what better to get needed rest and recuperation than with a needlework project. Thank you, Jenny for all of your hard work and talent in encouraging us to do more quiet things such as embroidery projects. love your column and designs.
Thank you for sharing your heart in such a beautiful way. I have been thinking about this a lot lately and you have been my inspiration to do so.
Well spoken. My Sunday School teacher put it to our class like this. We need to practice planned neglect, not of ourselves, but of all the things that we THINK need to be done in order for life to progress smoothly. I think there's a good reason why Psalm 46:10 which says, "Be still, and know that I am God:..." was included in our Bible. This verse helps to remind me that all is in His hands and in His timing. Running around like a chicken with my head cut off rarely accomplishes anything worthwhile.
God is good!!
We know how sometimes life is a challenge but we keep going because we need to keep family, friends and work people know that we CAN do anything. Your comment Jenny is lovely and I was given this post from a very good friend who knows me well, as a reminder that I need to renew and refresh. Thank you
Hello Jenny. What a wonderful analogy that tree is for your life. And your story has come at just the right time. I hope you don't mind, but I am going to share it with my son who is struggling at the moment with chronic ill health post a bone marrow transplant 3 years ago for acute leukaemia.
His transplant was successful and he is 3-years cancer free but the whole thing has left him very debilitated and with many chronic health issues. Your story will inspire him, I am sure.
Thanks for your courage and faith. You make a difference in so many lives. Good luck and God bless. Jan
I have been blessed by your newsletter many a time but this is the first time I leave a comment.
Thank you for your post on your beautiful revived tree. It touched my heart.
There are so many things that came to my mind as I was reading.....I loved your comment that said it was alright that you are not a social person...time spent at home or with my Old Bear is what came to my mind immediately. I have often had to defend myself on this point. Until I realized that I didn't have too any more. It really was ok.
My Old Bear retired two years ago. We just recently were blessed with our first grandbaby, Who has given us a new lease on life in many ways. You see, we found ourselves in a slump. Watching lots of tv, and I could hear my quilting, embroidery and scrapbooking calling my name. I had lost the pull of them because I had fallen into this habit.
I hope I am making sense, because the rest and renewal for me comes in the fact that I had let those things that give me joy go.
Your post blessed my heart and was confirmation also of what I have been feeling.
Thank you.,,,,,Blessings, Margi
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