To Get More From Life, We Need To Do Less — So Let's Clear Our Calendars Now

by Melissa L. Fenton
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A few years ago, Amazon saved my life. No, it wasn’t because they were shipping a variety of nut butters and multigrain crackers to my house to sustain my life and that of my kids. Nor was it because I was ever so grateful to be able to conserve what was left of my sanity by being able to shop for birthday gifts from my couch. At 2 a.m. While watching Bravo network. I heart you so hard Jeff Bezos, but I digress.

It was because, according to my searching and shopping trends, Amazon so lovingly suggested a few book titles I “may enjoy.” And all of that had something in common: Simplifying my life.

How was it that my own spouse, all my closest girlfriends, and even my own physician were unable to diagnose and fix my mental maladies, but a random shopping algorithm did?

Serene, calming titles and sunset-covered book covers were floating across my screen all preaching and proposing the same philosophy: to have more, you need to do less. And according to their sales rankings and 5-star reviews, I wasn’t alone in desperately grasping for a book to give me permission to empty my calendar and take my life back. Even the cliched subtitles spoke to me — “Nothing to Prove,” “Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living,” and “Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World.”

Wait, it’s now actually okay to do less? What about my high-achieving Gen X counterparts? We’re the ones who have spent the last 15-plus years attempting to raise Ivy League-bound children, practicing mindful attachment parenting while puréeing organic beets, and being obsessively available and present (and also perfect) in the lives of our children (and communities, schools, careers, extended families).

Have we all hit the parenting wall simultaneously, only coming to realize in our exhaustion and resentment that what truly is going to make us happy and fulfilled is not calendars full of time sucking obligations, but hearts and souls full of ordinary simple moments with our families?

After devouring a handful of the “do less and be more” books that were suggested to me and finding myself more content and peaceful than I’d been in years, I found myself wanting to give my “Quit everything you’re doing to be happier” testimony to everyone I met, especially those young moms who spent their days believing they were never enough.

The ones who were incessantly volunteering, working extra hours that would never be appreciated, and setting insanely high parenting and family standards they would never, ever be able to meet. The ones whose self-esteem was in constant flux and who were forever wasting brain cells on comparing themselves to others. The ones who fell into bed at night feeling completely spent and dreading doing it all again tomorrow, instead of being happy with how their day went and actually looking forward to tomorrow.

When you don’t want to do tomorrow, you need to seriously think about how you did today.

There is an old saying that goes like this, “That which you gaze upon, you will become.” And because we are often gazing at the wrong things, we’re walking balls of stress. Our stomachs, attitudes, and patience forever in knots and our joy completely zapped.

Moms, please take your gaze off a life of unattainable achievements. Off of petite body sizes, monogrammed and freshly pressed children, one-pot fantastical dinners from grass-fed beef and spelt noodles, and jam-packed calendars that are constantly taking withdrawals from your life and not making any positive deposits. You don’t need permission from anyone to release yourself from obligations that are not filling your heart and soul all the time.

Gaze upon the things that are eternal: your life partner and your children — not the neighbors’ newly renovated kitchen or that toxic friend you just can’t get out of your head. Reduce your life calendar to one that is full of actual life, not dread and tension.

You won’t believe how cool life is when you start to look forward to your tomorrows, not dreading them.