At the time of me writing this post, the theme of this website is “everyday elegance for real people”. I called it that because I feel like, as adults, isn’t that what we are really craving? A bit of elegance in our daily lives. When I think of elegance, I don’t think of “uptightness” or stuffiness. I think of lightness, ease and passion. How would you feel if you incorporated more lightness, ease and passion into your daily life? Might things feel a bit more fun? Would your day flow better? Would you feel a bit more comfortable in your skin?
I feel that there are 4 key DAILY elements to living a life of elegance. Those 4 key elements are:
- how you plan your day
- how you nurture your home
- how you nourish yourself
- how you present yourself
Are you feeling a bit out of sorts or unsettled? Do you feel like you are living life in circles and yet not really achieving a real feeling of contentment? A daily focus on these 4 elements can have a compound effect on how we feel over the coming months and years about how well we are living our lives.
How does focusing on these 4 elements lead to a feeling of overall contentment?
I feel that simply making the decision to plant our energies into surrendering to finding the beauty in the daily details of our private lives allows us to show up more alive in our public lives. When the details of your private life are in order, you feel more pulled together and the big goals you have planned often come together more quickly because you feel more cushioned and supported by rich daily victories.
We often hear so much about mindfulness. It’s a huge buzzword in Western Culture at the moment, because people are feeling like they are moving unconsciously through their days, almost going through the motions. At the same time, a lot of people have big goals they are wishing for in their lives, things we say we want to achieve at some time in the future- write a book, buy a house, own a sports car, win an award. We set these goals because we feel that when we reach them, we will have “arrived”. When we arrive, we feel, then we can allow ourselves to be happy. Pursuing these goals can often block us from achieving contentment NOW.
So how do we cultivate more lightness, ease and passion into our every lives?
Let’s start with how we plan our days. This shift begins with the decision to apply daily focus in these areas. Before you make any changes on the external dealings of our private spaces, you must first decide to be someone who focuses on the present moment and on our daily pleasures. It begins with planning to put yourself first instead of last as we sometimes do for often very practical reasons. I understand why we procrastinate putting ourselves first. We figure if everyone else’s needs are dealt with first, then when we get to our own needs, we don’t have to worry about what else we have left to do. We can just kick back, free in the knowledge that it’s all done, right? Except, it is NEVER all done. There always something more left to do.
I’ve encountered so many people who drink cold tea because they keep putting off drinking it as some reward for getting everything done yet that moment never happens. They simply never get around to taking the 5 minutes it would take to savour it and breathe in the warm steam, then get back to facilitating everyone else’s goals and deadlines. How useful are you to those around you if your needs are never met though? It’s the reason airlines ask you to apply your own oxygen mask first before assisting someone else. If you run out of air, how can be useful to anyone else?
I believe the world takes its cue from us when we decide to give reverence to our daily details and things and people around us take notice of the change and fall into place with supporting our decisions to live in the present instead of the past or the future. We exude the enery of putting ourselves first simply by making the decision. When we get in the flow of honoring our desires first each day, ideas on how to do this and meet our deadlines and obligations with ease seem to come to us with ease.
The next daily detail I’d like to focus on is how you nurture your home.
Did you notice that I call it nurturing your home rather than cleaning, de-cluttering, tidying, scrubbing, washing, house keeping etc, because don’t you think of something more warm if you think of nurturing your home rather than the work of cleaning or de-cluttering? I don’t believe this is just about using different words.
When you can open your front door and look forward to coming home because your home feels like an oasis, regardless of your budget, you can relax and feel cradled. You won’t feel the need to escape to some time in the future when everything is “perfect” or to a hotel because everything is clean and in it’s place. You can enjoy creating in the space you are in now.
Your home is one of your most important spaces. It cradles and supports you. It houses multiple sources of nourishment. It can be a place to gather with others as well as place to shut out the world when you need to. When something is that significant, doesn’t it deserve to be nourished daily?
The word nourishment means quite simply to sustain with food or nutrients; to supply what is necessary for life, health and growth. When you delve into the idea of nourishment as an act of sustaining life, you obviously come up with food as a major provider of nutrients. However, I would argue that nourishment is so much more than that as well. Sleep, exercise, bathing and entertainment also provide nourishment which are important for life. Many of these things can be achieved quite cheaply or free. Of course, in our fast-paced society some of us have lost touch with accessing things (like sleep) as easily and intuitively as some of our ancestors did.
Let’s focus on food. In the Western world, food is available more cheaply than it has ever been. Yet, sometimes I think there is a high price for this thrift,especially if you are eating cheap ingredients with many of the nutrients diluted or even if you rush through your meals without much thought or appreciation for the preparation or growth. When you can feel secure that what you are eating is feeding you the nutrients you need and tastes delicious, there is a comfort and reassurance to your day. And when you sit down to a warm, inviting table prepared for a special guest-you, everyday can feel magical.
How you present yourself to the world
In college, I trained to be a teacher and musician. As part of the teacher training, one of my professors used to say that we need to remember that our students are constantly projecting this thought, “I’m not who you think I am nor who I think I am. I’m who I think you think I am.” This basically means that how we feel about ourselves each day is often a direct reflection of who we see mirrored in your eyes. So if I want to feel my best, I should present my best self to the world.
I know there are schools of thought that tell us to “fake ’til you make it” and that we should “ not care what anyone thinks”. Those ideologies certainly have a place in bolstering our self confidence temporarily, especially when you are trying to make a change like getting fit or losing weight. But when you genuinely feel that you look the best you can in the body you have right now, there is no substitute for the lift is gives you. When you can pull clothes from a wardrobe that is tidy and only full of things that look good on you, that go together and are comfortable, you exude a confidence that is immeasurable.
you are special enough
With regards to daily focus, I have observed that there seems to be 3 different kinds of people in general. There are people who frequently look back to the past, trying to find a way to re-frame some pivotal event from their previous memories or grappling with some experience that happened to them that they are trying to “get over”. Then there are the people who are constantly looking to the future. They are the people who say, “When I lose X amount of weight, then I will be happy”or “I’ll go to whatever exotic location when I find a lover to go with” or “I’ll read that book after I get the perfect job. This is putting off your happiness until some time in the future that may or may not come. And finally, there are the people who live in the present. These people focus on attending to the daily details of life and suckling every last bit of flesh off the fruits that life puts on their plates.
It occurs to me that the culture in the US often is funneled toward the middle of the 3, focusing on the future. There is a real pragmatic reason why we feel the need to focus on the future. The mythical American Dream is all about creating a way out of no way and being ultra productive in limited time. We idolize efficient multi-taskers and reward people who move everything out of the way to achieve a big goal, even at the expense of their private lives. We put off experiencing pleasure until some undetermined time in the future when we have achieved X goal. We save our good dishes and good clothes and good wine for a time when something special is happening, often without a date in mind for when this special event is actually going to take place, but we tell ourselves we’ll treat ourselves to luxury only when someone else special is going to see it or experience it with us.
Why can’t we be the special person we are waiting to spend time with? Why can’t now be the time that we get to experience the fullness of eating beautiful food and wearing elegant clothes? Aren’t we special enough today?
What are your ideas of everyday elegance?