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rhythms of life.
a practice to reduce the overwhelm.
Trust. Risk. Seek. Courage. Rest. Steadfast. Simplify. Rhythm.
From 2014 until 2021, these are the words that guided my years. What happened unofficially in 2014 became an official practice in 2015, and for eight years, I identified a word that shaped the next 12 months of my life.
In 2017, I got my word stamped on a key that I wore around my neck, and I continued to do the same each year after that.
As is the tradition with a Giving Key necklace, whenever I encountered someone who I felt needed the reminder on my key more than I did, I gave it to them. I passed on courage and steadfast and simplify. I’m not sure I’ll ever be fully prepared to pass on rest.
But the word that has stuck with me for going on a third year now is that last one: rhythm.
Maybe it’s because 2020 I felt so completely out of rhythm that it’s taken (more than) two years to fully sink into this word and all of its implications for my life, but the more time I spend mulling it over, the more I find the richness to it.
For years I focused on routine. But after a time, routine felt rigid and unforgiving. As my life changed, routines didn’t change with it and I found myself floundering.
Rhythm, though similar in concept, is different in heart. Rhythm results in forward movement and progress, but it allows for and expects the ebb and flow of life.
Maybe that’s why we talk about the rhythm of life, and not the routine of life.
I don’t know about you, but one result of me being completely out of both rhythm and routine for the better part of a year, coupled with the many major life changes that have occurred since then, is that I’ve perpetually felt behind and overwhelmed.
More so than ever before, there were never enough hours in the day or days in the week to feel like I was making any kind of dent or progress on a task list that seemed never ending.
The problem, I eventually realized, wasn’t so much the amount of time I did or didn’t have to get things done. It was that I didn’t have any kind of rhythm, pattern, or practice in place for when I would do those things.
Every other week, my mother-in-law watches my son for about six hours. It’s a continuation of what used to a weekly pattern when I was still working full-time and she watched him when I had to go into the office.
For the remainder of this month, two of those hours are still spent doing consulting work for my former employer, but the other four hours are mine to do with as I will.
At this point, I have the established pattern of spending two hours working, twoish hours on projects, and twoish hours on creative work.
Something I noticed after the very first week, before I even put this kind of pattern into place: my to do list wasn’t that much shorter, but it immediately felt less overwhelming.
There’s still a lot that I would like to get done. I don’t even want to contemplate how many tasks it would be if I counted them all up. But that number doesn’t overwhelm in the same way it once did because I now have a rhythm in place to make some of those things happen.
It’s not a lot. Just four hours a month, two hours every two weeks. But it’s something, and that something is enough to lift a weight off my shoulders. That something is enough to make me feel a bit more like myself, enough to help me breathe a little easier, enough to give me confidence that I will make progress on things, even if it’s slow.
It’s one part of the rhythm of life I’m building for myself and for my family—a rhythm of time with Gammy for my son, and a rhythm of carving out time for the things that make me feel like myself.
I’m learning to embrace the beauty of small steps like this—of rhythms that build a life, instead of multi-step routines and massive overhauls that stall out by the third week in January. Of slow, but intentional progress toward the things that matter most to me and my family so we can live the slow, simple, quiet life we want and hope for.
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