March has simply whooshed right by me. It feels like I was just sitting down to write my One Little Word update for February and here I am again! Thank you to Carolyn for hosting this monthly linkup. Having a check-in on a regular basis keeps this process alive for me and I’m endlessly thankful for that.
Mary shared an interesting quote earlier this month that stuck with me and shaped my March more than she could have known:
“When a Japanese gardener “prunes open,” Marsha explained, he or she cuts away not only dead branches and foliage, but also often a number of perfectly healthy branches that detract from the beauty inherent in the tree’s essential structure. Pruning open allows the visitor to see up, out, and beyond the trees to the sky, creating a sense of spaciousness and letting light into the garden. It also enables an individual tree to flourish by removing complicating elements, simplifying structure, and revealing its essence. The process of pruning open turns the tree inside out, so to speak, revealing the beautiful design inherent within it.” – Pruning Open The True Self
I began thinking about how this applies to my own life; all the things I love to do, yet still cause me so much distress because I feel like I don’t do enough. Is there something I could prune that would make room for a more simple and focused life? Where can I say, I surrender. It’s all too complicated.
Leading up to March, I’d been cramming in cross stitching, knitting, hand sewing, and quilting into the last few hours of each day, leaving almost no time for my greatest love: reading. I decided to try an experiment and pare down drastically. How would it feel if I focused on just knitting and reading in March?
Looking back at my notebook, I stayed pretty true to this goal. I sewed a knitting bag at one point, but I needed to satisfy my feelings around wanting a new bag. Other than that, I maintained my focus. I have to admit that it’s felt pretty satisfying to see my current knitting project and my stack of finished library books steadily grow.
Before I pruned some branches, it took a lot of mental energy to map out when I could squeeze in time for all of my different interests. I’d spend the whole day psyching myself up to spend time in the basement after 9:30pm. And when I’d be too exhausted to do much of anything at that point in the day, I’d be endlessly disappointed in myself despite knowing that my days are long and full and that rest is important, too.
With this little experiment, I know how I’m going to spend my time, which has given me a burst of energy. There’s no desperate feelings around not doing enough. And despite doing fewer types of activities, I’ve felt so much freer. Surrendering those expectations on myself has brought a renewed energy, a sharper focus, and a recognition of my ability to still be able to learn and grow, despite thinking otherwise.
I write a lot about learning to be okay with slowly completing things, taking my time, and enjoying the process. I still think that’s important, but it’s also important to acknowledge the satisfaction that comes from actually finishing things. Finding the balance between the two is necessary for my sanity.
I am always so inspired by Japanese wisdom and I’m looking forward to living the life of an Okinawan this summer, with plenty of time in my garden. Maybe I’ll find a few more things to prune that will help me create a more simple and beautiful structure for my day. Have you pruned anything to simplify your own life lately?
I’m so glad that you’re relieving some of the pressure! And I was compelled to dive a little more deeply into your ‘life of an Okinawan’ reference. Very interesting and thought-provoking, as was your opening quote. I continue to focus on pruning belongings and yesterday had a fire in our fire pit and burned some old papers. I definitely see several more fires in my future, and it’s a very satisfying process. Onward!
I know so well what you’re describing, how all day long you work and do stuff around the house because you keep thinking you’ll do the things you love at the end of the day and then, when the time comes, you’re either too tired to do it or there’s really no time left. So I’m glad that the changes you’ve made have allowed you to make the time for what brings you joy. I’m sure you’ll go through phases or seasons where you’ll switch up how you spend your leisure time, but you’ve recognized that it’s probably smarter to limit that time to one or two things that you really love instead of trying to cram everything in.
On a related note, I used to have this sort of attitude toward life in general — that I’d put off the things I enjoy doing in favor of doing the things I have to do as a mother, a partner, etc. — but realized that I am a much happier person if I make time for me every day, even if it’s just a little. And that’s aside from the very real fact that the future is not guaranteed; a big takeaway for me from the past couple of years is that we shouldn’t put things off but should enjoy them now.
I am so glad you have tried this. From the time I first read your blog I wished you’d slow down and try the less is more approach. I am really happy that this has been good for you. I am still doing my morning pages, by the way, they help me so much , so huge thank you for that.
Oh wow, Katie! I had not thought of pruning in this way… but yes, I have been doing some pruning in my life and it does feel so good!
I too took a deep dive down your Okinawan link! Thank you for that!
I think the making process can be a trap… the race to the finish. But there is a fine balance in there for process enjoyment and completion. And I have dramatically slowed my reading this year, and it has turned out to be the best thing ever!
Good for you! Took me years and years to learn that lesson. I have pruned my life down to what is essential for me: writing, home, family, health. For different people, it will be different things. But one thing is certain—we can’t do it all.
I really love that quote that both you and Mary have used, and it truly fits into every day life. For me, I am learning to let go of many things and concentrate only on the things that give me true joy. Because honestly there’s not enough hours in the day to do everything. Great post Katie !
oh Katie, I love how you took those words and brought them to life this month! Your surrender feels like it’s been freeing and fulfilling … and the perfect lesson in how that kind of pruning opens up space for something beautiful. Thank you for sharing!
This is such a beautiful interpretation of pruning, and it sounds like one that is truly life-giving. I’m so happy to hear you have found a way to harominze. (I recall past posts when you’ve tried to reconcile, so I can imagine how good this must feel.) And I remember the days when I had to put off anything and everything *for myself* until after my kids went to bed–a challenging season in that way. (It wasn’t very long ago!) Early on, I simply had to surrender to rest. No question, I need at least 7 hrs of sleep at night, consistently. I can’t find much joy or fulfillment in anything when I’m tired! I’m also slow at what I do–or at least…not fast–so, in addition to surrendering to rest, I’ve also accepted that my ‘output’ is less than others. On the flip side, it might be more than some. And none of that matters, as long as there’s joy in the process + the product! Sounds like you’ve found both with your reading + knitting this month. Happy heart.
I’m trying to prune away old narratives I’ve carried around with me that don’t serve me and don’t serve anyone else either! I enjoyed reading this post, Katie!