Once a month we head out to the farm that Bo and I lived on for a while when we first started our transitional rent-free leg of the Nothing New project… We head out there because we love it there, we love the people there, we love the calm – but we also get out there to get our hands in the dirt and to help things to grow. The farm hold a monthly seed planting day for the local community, where everyone is welcome to bring their seeds and plant them together. It’s a beautiful morning that is full of laughter and conversation – plenty of healthy debate and lots of cake and coffee.

By coming together we grow not only seedlings but a stronger and more resilient community.

There is something very therapeutic (and useful) about sowing seeds. Whether you follow the planting guide by the moon or you just stick some random seeds in the dirt, it’s cleansing. A very basic and simple process of sorting, swapping and labelling, of mixing compost and peat, of sifting and filling trays with the heady scent of dirt. The kids make lines of soy beans and runner beans and drop sunflower seeds into holes made by little fingers… to some these activities may seem merely repetitive and monotonous, but process is important…even to the smallest of people.

When we see the tiny shoots break through the top of the soil, I can’t help be in quiet awe of the power of nature. All of the goodness in a seed that lays dormant, waiting, biding it’s time for the perfect conditions to begin to unfurl. New life makes life easier to understand. The hothouse is full of little signs of spring, and as we move into yet another season in our lives I can’t help but wonder what it will bring. Choosing to make space for connection, choosing to make time for myself, choosing to allow myself to grow and change with all the new things that is sure to bring.

There is nothing better than connection. With people. With the earth. Even if just for a few hours.

 

The more I pare back our life and find simpler ways to use our time the more I am growing to understand that true happiness comes not from things or even necessarily from purpose… but instead it comes from meaning. There is meaning in every moment and there is an inherent meaning in all of us – all we have to do is seek it out.

Besides, growing our own food might just be the second most important thing that any of us can do to cultivate beautiful communities and eventually, to change the world.

(The first of course, is to be kind)

  • August 28, 2014 - 5:07 am

    Mish @ Eatingjourney - I love this. We’re planting a huge garden this year and I can’t WAIT to watch it grow. I can’t wait to can/preserve stuff. We’ve made some jam/marmalade and giving it away has been such a gift. I think kids needs to be more exposed to this.ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 6:42 am

      Sash - So do I. I think it’s what’s missing from most homes and it’s so strongly linked to education, health, wellbeing, community… seems like a no brainer doesn’t it! ;) ReplyCancel

  • August 28, 2014 - 8:26 am

    Life With The Crew - We’re not very good at gardening (having 6 dogs in the yard kinda makes it tough), but we do belong to a CSA, which is another way to grow community, for without its members, there is no CSA. Every Tuesday we get our big bag of veggies and our daughter helps me put them away, tasting things along the way.ReplyCancel

  • August 28, 2014 - 1:14 pm

    Reannon @shewhorambles - I love growing veggies, just today I pulled out about 7 potatoes! They are the first ones to have grown & even though all the others we planted gave us nothing I was ridiculously happy. I love to grow food, even when it stuffs up & I get nothing for my hard work, I still feel better having food in the garden.

    It’s funny you mention being kind as the most important thing we can do because lately”any time my 11 year old son talks about someone he likes the first thing he says about them is “they are kind”. It makes me really happy that kindness is the most important character trait he looks for in a person, be it a friend his own age or a grown up he meets.He is a kind soul himself so he deserves to be surrounded by kind people.ReplyCancel

Thirty four weeks into the Nothing New project and we’ve found ourselves living at my mothers… this wasn’t “exactly” the plan. But we all know what they say about life and plans and how the two don’t tend to get along.

Transitional living has been throwing curve balls at me that I never really expected. We moved out of the beautiful little solar powered cottage in the leafy suburbs south of our little town – and into my mothers. Another opportunity fell through and we found ourselves in-between a rock and my mothers, so we chose, graciously, to take her up on her offer of a comfortable place to stay while we figured out the what-comes-next dilemma. A gap of about six weeks lays ahead before our next bookef house-sit and whilst I love my mother dearly, that’s a very long time to be bunkering down in her home.

This is not the only (very minor in the grand scheme of things) challenge that we’ve found ourselves facing. I’ve been facing a much larger challenge, a war I’ve been waging in the somewhat overpopulated sea that seems to house the voices in my head.

A war against the very loud and unrelenting voice of my inner perfectionist.

Perfectionism is undeniably bound to the western culture of consumerism. It’s how we are sold just about everything…

This one last ‘thing’ that you need to make your home perfect, to make your experience perfect, to make you look perfect, to create a perfect childhood for your children… We continually upgrade and purchase new things that we don’t need  because we are told that they are the answer to something that we are not necessarily consciously searching for – perfection. Every advertisement that we see is a carefully constructed vision of perfection – and we strive for it, time and time again. I’ve watched friends try to construct the ‘perfect’ home, by throwing out, selling or giving away everything they own to make space for new (every)things – some people do this with their wardrobes too – as if this kind of carefully curated life is an entire life aspiration, as if it’s going to make our lives better in any kind of tangible way. As if this kind of surface perfection makes us happier. And maybe for them, it does.

The problem with this kind of material based happiness is it is always short lived.

Consumerism is a very clever beast, and just when you’ve bought the ‘perfect’ thing that you’ve needed all along… a newer, better, more perfect product will hit the shelves and the cycle begins again. We live in a world where idealism rules and we are forever running on the consumer wheel where clever product marketers are dangling the perfection-carrot right in front of us. It’s elusive. It’s powerful. It’s making us hungry for more. But it’s realistically unachievable. It stops us from loving what we already have. It stops us from being present. It chews through our time and our money and our sense of contentment.

The solution to this is not an easy thing to achieve in the world in which we live. The solution is to be happy with the things that we have and content with where we are. It’s not to stop striving to be a better person, but instead to stop striving for a world where we have more.

The world is already overrun with things. We produce things at an incredible rate, far higher than to meet a demand. Everything we purchase, is a vote for the kind of world that we want. If we look at the way that we live and the impact that makes far beyond our own homes and our own communities – we can see that this sort of perfectionism is not only damaging to our sense of success, our feeling of contentment and our general happiness – it is potentially catastrophic to our environment and to the wellbeing of people not only in our communities but in the world as a whole… and we can choose to vote differently, for a world that we want for our children… for the kind of world we want for other peoples children.

Striving for perfection makes us all vulnerable… striving to be perfect puts us in the firing line for a constant feeling of failure. When I used to work in the performing arts industry I felt a constant need to portray perfection, in an audition, in the way that I dressed, in the way that I looked – and over the ten years that I worked and auditioned and performed that constant standard of perfection nearly destroyed any sense of self worth that I had. It crushed me because I couldn’t separate what the industry expected from me and who I was as a person. It crushed me because I let it. It’s the only reason I walked away from an industry that I loved (and still miss) and walking away saved me.

Life is not about how we look or what we own. Life is about meaningful connections with people. Life is about bettering ourselves (spiritually, mentally, emotionally) and doing what we can to build stronger communities. The best way I have found to challenge (and hopefully eventually silence) the perfectionist in me is to step out into nature – to remember that what happens naturally in the world is imperfect and beautiful and exactly how it should be.

The word perfection is synonymous to ‘finished,’ ‘untainted,’ and ‘superior’ – I am none of those things, none of us are. So instead of beating myself up about the fact I’m a rather unfinished and terribly flawed… I’m attempting to embrace the fact that imperfection is not only natural.

It doesn’t matter if there is something better out there than what I have right now.

I have everything I need and everything I need is enough.

  • August 25, 2014 - 7:38 am

    Life With The Crew - A simple idea, but not one that many people really “get”. I love the part about stepping into nature.ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 6:44 am

      Sash - Nature saves the day :) ReplyCancel

  • August 25, 2014 - 7:46 pm

    Rachel - We found ourselves living in my parents spare room for 12 months! It was only supposed to be three months while we sorted out visas for China that our university had messed up. Well, they never got sorted, and because of that, my American husband was on the wrong Australian visa and I was really pregnant so neither of us had jobs for most of that time. Life has a habit of overturning the best laid plans of mice and men and teaching us what it is we really need whether we like it or not!ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 6:44 am

      Sash - Absolutely. Life’s constantly yelling at us to slow down… and sometimes, maybe we’ll listen ;) ReplyCancel

  • August 27, 2014 - 6:55 am

    Jess - Very humbling read, and I needed to read this today. I don’t consider myself consumer crazy and live on very little… but I have anxiety and sometimes my behaviour and actions reflect perfectionism. If it’s not done a certain way it’s ruined, basically. I’ve started writing down 3 gratitude’s a day and journaling a positive experience to bring my mind to the present and to prevent it from dwelling.So far it’s helping.
    But it’s so nice and refreshing to read something like this. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 6:43 am

      Sash - I have anxiety too (especially socially when I’m having a bad day) – and I find it’s totally linked to the perfectionist inside me… A gratitude journal is a great idea!! :) xReplyCancel

  • August 27, 2014 - 9:52 pm

    Jemimah - The perfect is the enemy of the good. Been mulling this quote over for a while now and this post made me think of it again. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • August 28, 2014 - 6:41 am

      Sash - I think it’s a really easy concept to grasp and a seemingly impossible one to live by… but slowly, slowly, the voice quietens. Slowly. ;) xReplyCancel

“I do not particularly like the word ‘work.’ Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his  -daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.”  - Masanobu Fukuoka

I read this quote this week for the first time. I read it and I rolled it around in my mind for a few days… I had it on the tip of my tongue while I sat at my desk at work. I held on to it while I facilitated group. I sat with it as I talked a friend through a really rough patch in her life. I work advocating for inclusion and the rights of LGBTI youth in regional Australia. I do this work a couple of days a week because I am passionate about it. I do the work because I believe it needs to be done.

I’ve been thinking a lot about it this week… work and life and doing only what truly needs to be done. I’ve spent more time cooking and less time stressing. I’ve thrown away my to-do list. There are things on there that I just never get around to doing, and they are stress inducing. One of these days I will submit that photo essay to that magazine, I will submit that story to that publication – but I don’t need these pretend deadlines looming over my head… so I’m trying to convince myself just let them go. One day I’ll probably get around to finishing them up and submitting them. If I do, it will be because I really want to – not because it’s on a list that I have rewritten more times than I can remember… and when I do, it’ll be great. If I don’t, it probably was never a great idea in the first place.

I’ve been trying to see household chores in the same way. Not good or bad or boring or time consuming, just little things that need to be done. Little things that never take nearly as long as I spend procrastinating about doing them. Simply doing the dishes, or hanging out the laundry.

Work is not work… but simply what needs to be done… there is great joy in that, I think.

 Bo and I went out into the world instead of sitting behind the screen.

Life this week was just that little bit brighter.

 

 

  • August 12, 2014 - 5:30 am

    emma elliott - i love this post it is so true what happen to working the land etc if you don’t think about it tooooo deeply, humans have just made life complicated due to greed someone always wants something more or supposely better than someone else….
    Thankyou as always for simply sharing :oxReplyCancel

  • August 12, 2014 - 7:53 am

    Life With The Crew - This is a thought provoking quote and post, though I don’t know if it can apply to everyone. Being a stay-at-home mom, I get to do “the work that needs to be done” – cleaning when I want, cooking when I want, worked in a schedule around my daughter. However, we do need money to live, and so my husband has to go out in the larger world and do other work, work that doesn’t directly affect our lives, but that is necessary to pay the bills.ReplyCancel

  • August 12, 2014 - 9:06 am

    Jade - Oh so so true that we spend more time procrastinating over chores than the time it actually takes to do them. This is something I’m working on. It’s part of life and what makes our homes a home so we should just get on with it.ReplyCancel

  • August 14, 2014 - 8:21 pm

    Molly - Masanobu is one of the grandfather’s of permaculture. His book, one straw revolution is short and mind blowing. I think permaculture might be something that makes a lot of sense to you…ReplyCancel