Why I Quit the Hustle

She wrote on my husband’s birthday card in perfect cursive,

“I wish I had ten more years to live.”

Sometimes she makes it easy to forget that she’s ninety-eight years old—still picking peaches in her own backyard and sending cards on all of our birthdays.

She told Matt how she loved him, how proud she was of the man her grandson has become, and how she wished she had another ten years to live so she could watch more of his story unfold.

She’s quite a lady, my girls’ great-grandma. A woman who makes pies from scratch and doesn’t miss a Super Bowl. A woman who saw the beginning of cars and the Great Depression and World War II. She raised four kids in a tiny farm town and slaughtered her own chickens behind the shed.

Now she’s ninety-eight and she’s never had a smartphone or a laptop or a Facebook page. “No need for any of that stuff,” she once told me. “I’d rather look out a real window.”

I tucked Matt’s birthday card in my purse for safe keeping. I don’t typically keep greeting cards around for more than a few days, but this one is different. Cards like these you keep forever. When we got home I set it on the corner of our mantle.

I walk past it a hundred times a day and every single time I hear those words again.

I wish I had ten more years to live.

All my life, I’ve been a slave to productivity. Even as a child I valued achievement above everything else, and I put excessive pressure on myself to outperform my peers. As a wife and mom, I took pride in the never-sit-down attitude that kept my house clean and my life filled with multiple volunteer roles.

No matter how well I did or how much I accomplished, it never felt like enough. I associated my performance with my value to the world, so I didn’t know what else to do except pick up the pace.

I lived my life by the clock, planning my day in 15-minute increments and telling my kids to “Hurry up” and “No, no, no, we don’t have time for that.”

The more I focused on productivity, the less I nurtured the rest of my life. I no longer had time to think beyond the next task. I dealt with situations as they arose rather than planning for long-term prevention of those same problems.

The potential fallout from my poor diet and over-stretched schedule didn’t present an immediate enough concern. I had more urgent things to address.

At the time, I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I figured I would put in the work now and make up for it later—once I achieved all my dreams.

After all, isn’t that the point of living? To make something of yourself? Amass a big fortune? Live the dream, as they say?

That’s certainly what our culture tells us. Go big or go home. 

And the bigger you go, the more people pay attention to you. You draw a million followers or get your own TV show. You get to live the dream.

But what happens when we get so focused on our future dreams that we lose sight of our right-now lives?

What happens when we look back and realize that those dreams didn’t deliver the happiness we long for?

I still remember watching Grandma bite a farm fresh peach and how she savored the moment.

That’s not how I enjoy a peach, I thought. First I take a filtered photo of it sitting in my palm. Then I write the perfect caption (probably one about savoring moments). Then I click “post” as I wait for the likes and comments to roll in. Bonus points if I score some new followers.

Those were the moment I savored. I wouldn’t even notice the sweetness of the peach.

Someday, when I have less than ten years to live, what will I think of the years I spent wrapped up in the hustle?

Will I still cherish all the likes? Or will I regret trading real life moments for filtered, captioned ones? Will I wish I devoted more time to stillness and joy rather than productivity and success?

Or will I even live to see that day if I don’t step out of the hamster wheel?

Based on the recent decline in my health, I can already answer that last one.

The hustle bites all of us eventually. Because of my sensitive nature, life pulled me down much earlier than it grabs most others. Many people run in their wheels far past the age of thirty-five.

The fallout looks different for each of us. Chronic illness, addiction, broken relationships, or depression, to name only a few. For me, it’s been severe adrenal fatigue and autoimmune disease.

If we don’t recognize how we got there, we’ll continue our destructive patterns forever.

But if we can see the writing on the wall, it might not be too late to shed the weight of our burdens and refocus on a deeper way of living.

Over the last six months, I have slowed the pace of my life dramatically in the hopes of restoring my health.

I now have limited access to social media; no commitments outside of caring for myself, my children, and my home; and we’re slowly replacing all of our food and household products with natural, organic, and homemade options. We eat home-cooked dinners as a family at least five nights a week;  and on Saturday mornings the kids tip-toe down to our king-sized bed and all four of us snuggle until we feel like starting the day.

I wish I had ten more years to live.

Every so often, I stop in front of my mantle to read those words again—just in case I start to forget that time is too precious to waste it on the hustle.

I might never have a million—or even a thousand—blog followers. We might always struggle to make our financial ends meet. Our kids may not have huge college savings accounts or be involved in every activity offered. Our house will never be huge; and our lifestyle will never be flashy. We definitely won’t amass any kind of fortune.

That doesn’t mean we’re not living the dream. We’re just living a different kind of dream.

Our dream thrives on slow and simple rather than rushed and complicated; it brings health and joy rather than wealth and success; and it can be accomplished quite easily with a shift in perspective and a shuffle in priorities. You don’t need anyone’s permission to live the dream of peace and well-being.

If I live to see ninety-eight, I hope I’m healthy enough to enjoy fresh peaches from my own backyard. As I look back on the time gone by, I’ll thank God for ushering me out of the hamster wheel all those years ago.

And when I bite into the peach in my palm, I’ll savor that simple moment without any effort–because, for the past sixty-three years, that’s all I’ve ever known.

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Side note: I don’t necessarily think everyone needs to be this extreme about scaling back their lives. But too many of us are over-committed and resorting to poor health habits in order to keep up with our own busy schedules. I believe we can all benefit from taking stock of what really matters to us and whether our lifestyles reflect those values. I can tell you from my experience that slowing down and letting go of some things I thought I wanted has changed my life, (and possibly saved it).

If you want to hear more about my journey and how you can give quiet relief to your own busy mind, sign up for my email list below. I promise not to bother you with constant content or sales pitches. My goal is to relieve your sense of busyness, not add to it.

As always, thanks for following along!

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