I aim for a slow and simple life. With time to ponder and putter. I love to feed my family simple, real food and spend time hanging out with them; it nourishes me deeply to do work that feels meaningful to me—to build my small community and encourage the women in my circle of impact.

But sometimes my slow living feels busy and stressful.

Sometimes I start to feel anxiety bubble up in my chest because I am aware of my ever-expanding to-do list. I feel guilt because all the muffins and granola are gone and there is nothing premade for breakfast. I see the threadbare kitchen chairs that need recovering, the linoleum that needs a good scrub, the book that sits unwritten.

Sometimes my plans for slow living are thwarted for weeks on end by unexpected illness, a new life challenge, a desire to serve the people who ask for my help. The time blocks I have set aside for rest get eaten up by work—even good work, meaningful work. I spend a week and realize I walked on my treadmill only a couple times because I felt depleted and instead chose to crawl into bed.

I loved and slept and accomplished many good things. But never quite enough.

And, let’s be honest, even the choice to continually declutter and let go of what was to make space for what will be can cause stress and tears. A bit of an emotional unravelling. Getting rid of the books we read together cuddled on the couch, helping kids prepare to leave the nest, learning to parent adult children with just enough space and just enough support—all of it can be hard. Busy and stressful and hard.

Although I purpose to say no and eliminate, to craft a slow and simple life, sometimes slow living can feel busy and stressful.

I plan for white space, for breathing room, I do my best to live an authentic life; I only recommend to clients what I am willing to live myself. And yet, taxes and laundry and client work cannot be ignored. Lunches and beds and appointments need to be made. Someone needs to pay bills, menu plan, attend kids’ events.

None of this is bad. I am not complaining. But I do feel it is important to acknowledge the truth because we can read articles on slow and simple living and set ourselves up for unhealthy comparison. Unrealistic expectations. If we are not careful, our efforts become golden calf not panacea.

We see the capsule wardrobes and minimalist dwellings. The articles about living a laptop lifestyle or the decluttering challenges. And we can jump to the conclusion that if we just follow the five simple steps, get rid of enough stuff, downsize to a camper van that all will be well. That finally we will live stress-free, perpetually joyful, feathers unruffled.

But sometimes slow living is busy and stressful. Period.

Because we are human. Because people are messy. Because we still have to eat and sleep and live in community. Because life is never as black and white or as simple as we want it to be. Because no matter how well we plan, life is rarely linear.

And I think it is healthy to admit this reality to each other.

A meaningful, beautiful life is not a stress-free life. A slow and simple life is sometimes too busy. A well-nourished mama at times feels depleted. But we ebb and flow, we dance with change, we learn to breathe and bend and become in the midst of it all.

Sometimes even slow living feels busy and stressful. And none of this bad. It just is.