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Community Advocacy Organization

Simplicity and Stillness


Courtesy Photo-Kristen Freeman-Author of “The Mother” column.



In 2022 alone, we have lived in three cities, moved twice cross-country, traveled 4,142 miles with a couple of small road trips and detours sprinkled in between. All along, with our two small children in tow, seeing the country and witnessing their parents move through the celebrations and challenges of it all. 


This year has been one well-lived and simultaneously, one lived on the run. Momentum behind us, it was like we were running a race propelled by destiny’s sheer power and wisdom. From packing up our Southern dwelling to unpacking and settling a home out West; getting confirmation of my husband’s hire for an unforeseen opportunity, securing a dream job, we quickly packed one large suitcase within a week and began this journey here, up to Michigan. 


For three months this year, we lived out of a single suitcase, toting it around, two small pairs of shoes and one pair of sandals for each child with two pairs of my own. Ten outfits, and everyone was satisfied with the minimal selection. The fraction of our closet seemed to leave more time and space for experiences each day.


With our belongings in storage, we gained a clear realization: we have each other and that is enough. We learned and cultivated a deep appreciation for simplicity.


Through all of the motion and movement, I felt much like I imagined a marathon runner might in the thick of her contest. She is tired. She is exhausted. She is aware of the long race ahead. Still, she is excited. She is anticipative. She is looking forward to seeing how long she can go, how far she will run and her ability to sustain. As the breeze scuffs her cheeks, she prays for super-human endurance.


I was praying.


A few weeks after arriving in Michigan with the most important parts of our home unpacked, I felt my body give way, beginning to collapse under the pressures of fatigue, just as the marathon runner’s body does after she crosses the finish line.


My motions were slow. My mind was groggy. My head: clogged. I was feeling disoriented and under the weather but I was not truly sick. I felt out of my body.


It made sense, though. 


With months of exerting, of running, of keeping up, my body was signaling back to me. It was giving me feedback: stop, be still, rest and restore. 


It was time for stillness.


I spent a day curled up while my kids played around the house. It had been months since we did nothing. Opening and closing the closet doors 10 times over, they acclimated themselves to the new space. Like cattle when they arrive at a new ranch, they were walking the perimeters, investigating the house. They marveled at the toys fresh out of a packed box, as if they were new again.


I allowed myself the time to recalibrate. Like our phones in need of an update, I had to get plugged back in, charged back up to download this “update”- the move, this new house and new chapter we were embarking. My body was in the midst of processing all that my mind had scooted to the back in an effort to just keep on going. I felt guilt for a moment, but why?  


You see, in the bustle of hustle culture- it is easy to get caught up in how much we are “doing” as our child’s mother for them, how many places we are taking them, what they are learning while at home with us and how productive we are being. 


Our culture does not value stillness. In stillness, money is not being made. Capitalism fades as the systems that uphold centuries of fables screech to a complete halt and what is left? The truth of who we are, our essence apart from what we do. Our truest nature, our spirits are exposed to ourselves and one another once again.


In the on-going grind, we can hide for years, even entire lifetimes under the guise of productivity and motion.


For many, summer highlighted this: perhaps you felt you needed to provide your children with a certain amount of work or else they would “fall behind”. We may feel we need to provide a certain number of enrichment activities, projects and scheduled downtime with reading for ulterior motives, concentrated learning and teaching. 


While these things are great in doses, the feeling of needing to constantly be on is exhausting. It can quickly lead to depletion and the spiral of dissatisfaction. It diminishes the value and nourishment that can only come from stillness and simplicity, from rest and restore. Virtues that are necessary for peace of mind and deep reconnection- to ourselves, to one another, to God. Virtues that are necessary for a fulfilling life.


Maybe, just maybe that is why so, so many people now have filled their schedules to the brim and still feel empty inside and unfulfilled in life.


At times, we even associate our worth with how much we accomplish, what tasks we tick off the to-do list and if our children can sing their ABCs and count their 123s. We can get wrapped up in what sports and instruments they play or which extra curriculars they excel in all while forgetting a very important piece of life: rest.


Rest: such a simple concept yet not as easy to practice.


As the days followed, we stayed put, giving distance and canceling the scheduled playdates. Not because we did not feel good, but because stillness felt so good. In that, the one day curled up on the couch turned into a week of observation, of family togetherness. 


In the stillness and simplicity, my children watched the Blue Jay and Cardinal without an agenda. They listened to their song. Hand in hand, they talked to a squirrel and stood to hear their reply. Led only by curiosity, they discovered a bean field just down from our home where they found a raccoon’s skeleton. I noticed the tiny chipmunks that scurry across the yard and talked to the new leaves popping out from my plants, thanking them for showing up. In the simplicity and stillness, we nurtured our lives. 


In the simplicity and stillness, our children learn independence. They learn how to explore their own enjoyments and pleasures. They exercise their creativity. Out of nothing, toddlers and young children will create something. Throw an empty box down; they will make a train of it and transform into the conductor. They will discover their imaginary friends. They will find a story to embody.


In simplicity and stillness, we transcend the world’s chaos. We defy that narrative that movement is synonymous with productivity and we find out the truths of living. Simplicity and stillness are productive in the ways they allow for self-awareness and enrichment in relationship- to take our time with ourselves and other people, to study them in a way that says “I care about who you are apart from and beyond what you can do”.


We honor our blessings in the still spaces.


We connect with eye contact; we are allotted the necessary space to actually get to know one another, to organically hold each other’s hands, to ask honest questions.


In deeper reflection, I had to ask myself if and when I hold my children’s hands when its not out and about for safety purposes? It is in our stillness, as we sit together.


Life with littles goes fast enough without any additives. It goes fast in the fact that they set an energetic, excited, zesty undertone in most of what they do. It goes fast in the fact that they grow and develop, learning something new each day and growing countless inches in some years. 


One of my friends with a toddler endearingly remarked “My favorite days are often the most simple ones” and that sunk deep into me.


Somedays, we don’t need to add to the quick pace. We don’t need to shuffle them around, over schedule ourselves into confusion and plan sunup to sundown. Somedays, we need only simplicity and stillness.



_____________________


The Mother

The Mother is a new addition to The Chronicle News, ran as a column featured in each publication. From The Mother, readers can expect captivating, practical pieces that encapsulate modern motherhood. Each issue will offer something different; from traveling with toddlers to the trials of balancing work and personal life, The Mother will touch on a vast array of topics. This column will be sure to give words to your raw experiences as a mother while offering a sense of humor and lightness amidst motherhood’s greatest challenges. It will be a column you can laugh along with, shed a tear to and gain greater insight on the journey of being someone’s mom. The Mother is authored by Kristen Freeman, St. Louis, Missouri native, brought to Lansing by way of Houston, Texas. Mom of two and prenatal/motherhood meditation guide, Kristen is cultivating space for brand of motherhood that emphasizes the importance of conscious parenting powered by self-awareness and self-insight. She believes that mothers who are well supported in community and graceful with themselves are healthy and fulfilled. She believes healthy, fulfilled mothers rear healthy, fulfilled children. Through The Mother, the intention is to offer compassion, understanding, practicality and commonality through her writings to create a sense of belonging and community that impacts moms from across the country and around the world. “You are the mother and just as you are, you are enough.”

 

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