FINDING BEAUTY EVERYDAY
“We’ve paid for our speeded-up lives with a loss in the quality of our time. Our chronic lack of time has robbed us of the ability to understand that the truth of living is found in the experience of being, and that life cannot be put on hold while we’re trying to produce more.”
Thank you all so much for being excited along with me (see my previous post) about my opportunity to spend some time with Alexandra Stoddard! Speaking to Alexandra was an amazing experience I know will impact me the rest of my life! While I have always felt a kinship with her ideas and was inspired by her encouragement to find beauty and happiness in life, what really struck me after speaking to her on the phone was something more. Alexandra is able to affect others around her in a profound way because of the choices she makes for herself.
In all our rushing around meeting everyone else’s expectations, we miss many of the small details and grace notes that Alexandra is clearly in tune with. She understands the power of living at a slower more deliberate pace. Ordinary moments become more vivid because she gives them her fullest attention. This was what impressed me the most: she jealously guards her personal time and then is able to be fully engaged in giving to others. She lives what she teaches. And clearly it works for her, she is such a dear woman!
Fully Engaged in the Moment
In a day where multi-tasking is the norm, Alexandra holds fast to the benefits of what I perceive to be focused living. It is in that focused living that she is able to fully appreciate beauty and find real happiness in each task. I’m so honored that she took the time to share her insights with me personally. She understands the art of beautiful living like few women I’ve met.
The Dilemma of Connection
The first thing we talked about was the fact that she does not use computers or email. It was an interesting discussion because I feel a certain tension in myself about blogging and email. Reality is many of us are torn between both the blessings and the curses of computers. While I have felt a great sense of connection and friendship to so many through blogging, and it has brought me opportunities I never would’ve had otherwise, it has also brought about a dilemma in life.
How do I keep up with the pace? How much time should I devote to communication, and how often should I make myself available? Blogging and emailing can speed up communication and expectations to a breakneck pace. So is that pace of life and level of connection a good thing or not? And are all good things good for us? I approached the subject with Alexandra as I was curious to find out her perspective.
Choosing A Different Pace
“My life was rich and full long before computers. I don’t want to be so connected. I think computers are a mixed blessing, but mostly it is not good to be so connected,” Alexandra confided. She said that people all around her are always trying to get her to use email or computers for efficiency and speed, but she remains steadfast in her belief that faster and more communication is not necessarily better. “Too much connection is not good,” she said.
Alexandra says she “doesn’t like the idea of people having access to her 24 hours a day.” Needing to check emails many times a day, be accessible at all times via a cell phone and messages throughout the day feels like “a frantic pace of life” to her. And frantic is not the kind of life she wants. “I don’t want communication to become a burden or a responsibility,” Alexandra said. She makes the choice to live differently.
While she enjoys receiving letters from people, she wants to handle them on her own terms so that it is always a pleasurable experience. “With email, people expect instant responses. They ask more of you than they would in person or in a hand-written letter.” The demands become overwhelming and she doesn’t want to communicate all day. Alexandra doesn’t even check the messages from her website on a frequent basis. Her assistant prints them out just once a month and gives them to her in a big stack to read when she is ready.
Making Living An Art Form
Alexandra creates a time to communicate and devotes herself fully to the enjoyment of it. She often reads letters while riding the train. While others around her are speaking too loudly on cell phones and frantically handling incoming and outgoing emails as quickly as they can, she is quietly enjoying the notes and responding to some of them with a hand-written response. She enjoys the experience, the “beauty of the paper, the stamps, the colored ink.” She always uses fountain pens (except in banking or legal documents) and even writes all of her books longhand with pen and ink. The pace is slow and concentrated, but the benefits are great. She believes that “living life is really an art form. Enhancing beauty makes living more pleasurable.”
She is true to herself, she knows what makes her the most effective in life. She doesn’t waiver from living the life she knows is best for her, in spite of the outside pressures to do things differently. “I cannot do what others expect of me, I just cannot do that,” Alexandra explained. It was clear to me that her focus in life is what makes her so inspiring. She lives fully in each moment, both in times of solitude and times of giving. Her effectiveness and pleasure in life supersede the lure of doing more. Yet, she has accomplished so much! I find that very intriguing and definitely something to think about!
Beauty Is A Gift
I really enjoyed my conversation with Alexandra and am deeply moved by her willingness to speak with me. Hearing her confident but calm voice reaffirmed to me that beauty is a gift that elevates each day to something more than a series of frantic activities. She reminds me that we need to make a choice in how we are going to live, how we are going to respond to pressure and how we are going to protect ourselves from a diluted existence that robs us from the real joy in living. We need to decide what is truly good for us and have the confidence to know when to say NO to even some of life’s good opportunities. Clearly her choices not only create a beautiful life for herself, but influence the world around her in profound ways. That is truly a gift.
I have more Grace Notes to share from my conversation with Alexandra during the week, including her thoughts on love, happiness and daily rituals! Stay tuned for inspiration from women bloggers who will give you a peek into their life and how they find beauty every day! There will be two or even three posts each day to fit everything in!
lily pad photo copyright Heather Doornink, used by permission
journal and ink from Levenger
pen from Lamy USA
related topics: The Best Things