Do you ever find yourself getting burnt out by the craziness of “now”? Feeling detached from your own thoughts because of the constant viral conversations and noise? Have you ever longed to transport yourself back to another time (any) just to appreciate the simplicity of life again?
My husband and I are quite modern in most of our ideals but, by nature, drawn to “older” interests. We have both been told that we were born in the wrong time period. We gravitate to old movies – I literally can’t remember the last time we saw a movie in a theater. Our car rides entail older music (Dave’s into the ’80s, but can also get down with classical and Big Band, which I find an awesome spousal trait). When we take a vacation, we always make at least one historically significant stop along the way. We generally prefer older houses (although goodness knows what we’ll end up with during our current house hunt). The list continues on and on.
So, today I’m sharing some ideas for anyone who may have had enough of the current fast-paced, do-it-all world in which we all seem to be swirling. Here’s how to add some timelessness to slow things down…
Simplify. Okay. Look at a person one hundred or more years ago (or even less, actually). How much “stuff” did they own? Or, simply think about their wardrobe. One nice Sunday outfit, then maybe two outfits for every other day. A woman used an apron and petticoats so that they didn’t have to wash their dress every day. One pair of shoes kept cean.
Now, I’m not advising that we go to these extremes. But, consider this individual and ask yourself, “Am I any happier?” Life is easier thanks to modern day conveniences and we certainly don’t have to “do the washing” nearly as much. But I didn’t say ‘is life easier?’; I said ‘are you any happier?’ Big difference.
So, address your closets. Check out your over-flowing storage situations. Analyze whether or not you need enough plates, cups, etc to feed four dozen people. Is this all stuff that you NEED in your life? Does it make you happier by having it? If so, you may need to do some more soul searching to discover where your fulfillment lies. (We are slowly but surely making our way through our own stuff and, boy, does it feel freeing!)
Be mindful and let go. Common sense truly used to be a common trait. It was partly inborn, partly taught. I find that by being in touch with one’s surroundings and trying your best to be “present” in the current moment, we can find a lot of clarity – which, in turn, helps us make wiser choices. (There’s that common sense thing.) Try your best to be mindful and you may also find yourself enjoying life quite a bit more, as well.
At the same time, the current issues that people have are plentiful. Yes, there were issues many years ago (disease and mortality have always been problems, right?), but when they were problems, they were HUGE – think: the crops didn’t come in and we don’t know how we’ll keep the farm this year. Many of our current problems are self-made. Say you didn’t have enough taken out for your taxes and rather than getting that juicy tax refund (the one you’ve already mentally spent), instead you have to pay. This isn’t something to hold on to. It was a mistake — a mistake you made. Own it, figure out a way to amend it (in other words, pay the darn thing), then move on. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s yours. But, we all make mistakes, so it’s perfectly find to move on.
Learning to let go can be downright liberating. Mindfulness can help you connect to your life. Both awesome things.
Go green. It’s surprising (or not) how many of the “green” initiatives and suggestions these days are actually deeply rooted in practices that our great grandparents would have found to be the norm. Cloth diapering? Breastfeeding? Eating natural, home-grown foods? Finding natural treatments for minor ailments? Finding uses (and reuses) for things? Backyard chickens and gardening? None of this is new. It’s just starting to make more sense to people.
There are a million small ways to go green. So, save rain water. Start a small potted garden on your patio. Keep an eye on your water use. Eat vegetarian once a week. Or check out the many websites that have a plethora of other suggestions (of course, I’m biased and love Green Child Magazine and The Eco-Friendly Family). Every time I water a plant, I think about the backyard garden my great-grandmother fed her five children on.
Step outside your comfort zone. Maybe your annual vacation consists of a nice long trip to a beachy resort with lots and lots of splashing fun for the little ones. This is an awesome way to recharge and get some fun family time in, but consider just trying one thing that might be outside of your family’s comfort zone, like a quick trip to a historic lighthouse for a guided tour or a stop by the visitors center to learn more about the significance of the area you’re visiting. If you’re camping, you may be surprised to find a gem of a museum right in the middle of the woods (my favorite is the Adirondack Museum). There’s often far more than meets the eye when you’re traveling, and you may find yourself with a deeper appreciation for your favorite vacation spot.
The funny thing here is that it’s often a battle with older kids (or your spouse) to take precious time away from one’s vacation for one of these stops. However, if you start your kids young with this type of activity, it will often spark a further interest in history of all different kinds; and older children ride along with a pout but before long are found with smiles and laughs while helping historical interpreters pour candles or test out an old trade. Now, it’s your job to get your significant other on board. 😉
Read. The best way to get in touch with the past is to get hands-on like with the aforementioned activities. However, arguably the second best way (I have friends who would claim it to be THE best way) is to immerse yourself in books that were either written during a past time period, are set in the past, or are about the past.
The cool thing about this tip is that if you’re a reader, you don’t have to change much. If you like a certain style of fiction, I guarantee that you’ll be able to find it in a historical setting (adventure, romance, science fiction, realistic…it’s all available in historical fiction form, too). If you prefer non-fiction, well, just head for ANY time period that sparks your interest.
The great thing about history is that you can tailor it to your interests: if you enjoy a good political debate, read up on American politics (things were just as raucous and rude 150 or 200 years ago, believe it or not) or even Greek and Roman politics; if you’re a world traveler, pick up a great piece on the turmoil your favorite country underwent in centuries gone-by; if you’re a crafty individual, grab a “book of receipts” (oftentimes a how-to book on how to run a house in the 1700s and 1800s, it’s quite fascinating and creative to see what activities were undertaken and how without electricity and modern conveniences), found for a steal on Amazon; if you’re into current Hollywood celebrities, try a biography on a classic starlet; fashion, try ANY historical clothing book. There are practically endless options.
If you’re not a reader, a lot can be said for “books on tape” (although they’re now downloadable in a variety of formats and available as CDs), especially read by a famous actor you’ll actually enjoy listening to.
Watch a movie. Wait, what? First you tell me to read a book, then you say to watch a movie? Isn’t that kind of contradictory? Nope, not really. There’s a ton of history in movies, whether they’re new films based on historic events or an old movie about, heck, anything, either way they can open your mind.
When Dave and I were just “friends in a show together” he got me an old ’40s film noir called “Scarlet Street” for my birthday. While it wasn’t necessarily my usual “style” of film, it was superbly acted and meant more than anything in the world to me because he realized I had a taste for the old school (ie he “got” me). Later, when we started dating, we enjoyed nights in watching, yes, the occasional “Family Guy”, but also movies that had a meaning to them, like “His Girl Friday” (Dave worked in news). Now, as our family has grown, we’ve raised our son with Andy Hardy movies and even a Fred Astaire clip here and there. It definitely pulls us not only back into another time, but back down to earth.
Learn about your past. You may think you know everything there is to know about yourself, and to an extent that’s accurate. But, you don’t fully “know thyself” until you are aware of how you got to where you are and how many people are really rooted in who you are today.
I’ve accomplished much of this by reading our family’s papers on particular past members, but also through my research on Ancestry.com. Discovering how many ancestors had hands in real, significant historical events is both humbling and heart-touching at the same time. It definitely forces me to consider what my effect on the world might be.
You don’t need to buy a subscription to Ancestry, though, to learn about your family’s past. Just start by asking questions: your parents (my mom somehow knows more about my father’s side than many of Dad’s siblings!), any living grandparents or aunts and uncles. They all have a wealth of information to share, and it’s often like chatting about old times (and people that were very dear), so can be a very pleasant conversation to have.
Try something an old way. My husband has forsaken his electric or disposable razors for an old-fashioned safety razor and brush. Aside from this method giving a good, clean shave and looking super cool on our bathroom shelf, it lowers our waste (yes, the razor part needs to be disposed, but if you rinse and dry it well, they last 5-10 times as long as they would otherwise).
We also wash our dishes by hand. I’m not sure if it conserves water, but we do our best to do so. We also don’t really hate to do it (most of the time) and it gives your mind a chance to wander. You may be surprised at how just-as-convenient some “non-convenient” methods can be.
Limit your online time. This is one that Dave and I still find to be a challenge, but we’re trying to be mindful (ha! See above!) about it. Unless I’m hunting for a recipe for dinner, my phone is away when the guys get home at night and doesn’t reemerge until after the little guy goes to sleep. It’s important to give your mind a rest and to remember that you CAN survive without checking Facebook or your email every hour (or minute).
Every once in awhile, I’ll do a tech-free day (sometimes without TV, most of the time just a little). It definitely helps to break the addiction and cycle of constantly leaving the “real world” for the “non-reality” of the internet. It’s hard to remember sometimes that it’s not a real place to give every second of your life to. Your tangible reality – your family, friends, pets – are in the now and won’t always be there. Cherish the real world.
Go outside. While avoiding that internet time, try heading outside. You can be extreme and take a hike to a tall mountain or simply head to your back deck with a coffee, but there’s something refreshing and soul-recharging about listening to the birds, feeling a breeze, smelling grass and flowers. You may also strike up conversations with some unexpected neighbors, much as people once did very commonly. Just think about how much time people spent outside in years gone by and how, at the end of the day, the feeling of a day well-spent in fresh air must have filled their souls with such contentment.
So, here we have just a handful of ways to find and insert some “timeless” into your daily life. What are some ways that you hold history dear in your day-to-day life? Any suggestions to add?