There Are No Formulas

This weekend Damien spent some time poring over maps and the Internet, starting to think about our summer adventures. He came to the conclusion that we are going to have to blaze our own trail a bit this summer, in terms of backpacking trips in the peninsula.

There is a tremendous amount of outdoor opportunity where we live (one of the reasons we moved here) and there are hundreds of miles of mountain trails but no guidebooks that we've found yet. And most online resources cater to a more commercialized crowd. Hikers who can afford to stay in huts each night (way out of budget for our family of five) and who want a bit of "cush" in the wilderness. The most "cush" I get is my sleeping pad, which is luxury as far as sleeping pads go but isn't a Hilton in the woods by any stretch of the imagination.

There is no AMC here in the Gaspe (nor AMC-like guidebooks) which will mean something to you if you are familiar with the east coast hiking scene. But there are vast stretches of mountainous land we can access. We'll figure it out. Of course Damien sees opportunity in this. He always is thinking big picture while I'm focused on the details.

I was a bit discouraged at the news. I love the comforting familiarity of the White Mountains. I love the ready resources.

plaque from mb studios

Looks like we'll be blazing our own trail. Again. I shouldn't be surprised.

I hit a bit of a "a wish there was a path to follow" low point this weekend.

Releasing my first e-book has been an emotional roller coaster. This is our family's first project like this and I viewed it largely as a learning opportunity. Like all growing there has been a steep learning curve that has at times plunged me into the depths of insecurity - the natural terrain of hiking your own hike.

You'd think I'd get better at this.

We've made so many choices through the years that run counter to the prevailing culture and have been walking our own path for as long as I remember being together. In everything from our family-first mentality, income level and longterm financial goals, where and how we birthed our children, how we eat, how we educate our kids, and now, most recently - how we earn our income and structure our home life. We are swimming against the stream.

This is not a "oh, aren't we special" kind of thing. This is simply reality.

I have gained a certain comfort in this path by keeping my heart and energies fairly close to home. It's safe here. There is love and understanding and let's be honest, I'm the queen bee. I have always given to my community but my family is always first and this at least feels like a safe path for me, even if it lonely sometimes.

And now this - my desire to go deeper with my own learning and to more actively fulfill the parts of my mission beyond family. Part of this being the desire to work with my husband, using my unique gifts, skills and experience to contribute financially to our family.

So we wrote and published an e-book. I didn't write an e-book because I knew what I was doing. I did it because writing and encouraging moms is part of my mission and publishing an e-book is something Damien and I could do together. It was a good fit for who I am and our family goals. But the whole experience was brand new to me. I have no special knowledge or insight in online publishing matters. 

I did it in spite of my ignorance. 

It would have been nice if someone (my fairy godmother?) had appeared in the sky, or rather the Internet, to hold my hand through the process and tell me exactly what I needed to do.

Writing the words was no problem. Years of blogging has grown my writing muscle. (There's a lesson right there about practice and patience.) But I do wish someone would tell me how to market, how to know how many copies to giveaway, how to design a landing page, etc. I wish someone would say "here, follow these steps to sure success."

Follow the yellow brick road.

But this is not the way of it when walking your own path. There is no yellow brick road. There's a lot of bushwacking.

The DeMille's who wrote Leadership Education (one of my favorite education and "how-to-live-your-life" books) say that women tend to look for formulas as we seek to live our mission in our homes and in the world. More specifically,

Women, in particular, tend to think that if we just talk to the right person or meet with the right circle of friends, somebody will give us that secret knowledge that makes everything ideal.

Uncomfortable silence. Anyone else feel like someone's reading your mind?

There are so many things we wish would have a formula:

  • how to raise children
  • how to find and stay with your life's love
  • how to homeschool the "right" way
  • how to get our babies to sleep through the night
  • how to "balance" home, work, & family
  • how to eat right
  • how to launch a very intentional life path in your mid to late thirites
  • how to homestead
  • how to live with dignity and safety in your old age (some people call this retirement)

Life off the beaten path doesn't come with a formula. The hard truth, that I need to learn over and over and over again - is that I have to apply myself to our life, our path, and realize it's not going to be easy. I know this. So I'm not sure why I struggle so much against this knowledge.

I'm reading and re-reading Chapter Nine of Leadership Education right now and I am finding some comfort there. Not the cushy Hilton hotel in the woods kind of comfort but the right tools to help me navigate the journey.

There might not be formulas but there are principles.

Principles for successful family living, principles for education, principles for managing your finances, etc. I tend to call these philosophies but principles works also.

As I struggled through the "am I doing this e-book thing right?" questioning this weekend I was reminded that no, there isn't a formula but there are principles. Living by those principles does not guarantee success, nothing does, but it does mean you will live your life with integrity (matching your values with your actions) and with a roadmap of sorts to follow.

To do the really cool stuff and live your life to its full potential your roadmap will look nothing like the roadmap of your nearest neighbor or your favorite blogger. Because you are a unique person, in unique situations and relationships, with a unique mission.

Yes, you're unique but it's nice to have some company along the journey. Damien and I have started a subscription forum to serve people who are striving to live outside the box. To help you follow your roadmap.

The story of our own life outside the box is told here at FIMBY and on your family adventure blog. But we would like to go deeper with those of you who are interested (and willing to compensate us somewhat for our time - it's a paid subscription forum).

We don't have any formulas for life success but we do know some principles. Principles we've been learning and living through the years with regards to family outdoors, creativity, aligning your work with your values, making big life changing moves, home education, and more.

Support and encouragement for life outside the box.

Check it out if you're interested. Right now the forum topics are limited to Nurturing Creativity - a forum to accompany my e-book, and Family Outdoors, a forum to support families who want to spend more time outdoors together.

We'll launch more if we find this works. There isn't a roadmap for this journey of merging our skills, interests and passions with a means to support our family. So we try things out, see how they work.

So now I have some difficult questions for you. Have you been looking for a formula? Are you ready to blaze your own trail? (ie: do the hard work) What does this look like in your life?


PS. Damien's got me some new share buttons (which show up on the blog but not in RSS). Which means you can easily Tweet, e-mail, PIn, Stumble Upon, Facebook share, etc. all of FIMBY's posts. Yay Damien!

« The Weekend Edition ~ Comes to an End
Sugaring! (& a Spring Reading List) »
  • Jessica

    Jessica on March 27, 2012, 2:38 a.m.

    Formulas? Yes please! I have realized how much energy I spend trying to find a formula for practically everything, a repeatable pattern that will work every time. I think God resists my pursuit of formulas because He knows I would rely on following a plan instead of following HIM. Great quote from Leadership Education...and yes, I think the author was totally reading my mind! :)

    Love your concept of the forums. I may join sometime. I'm about half way through your book and loving it. Thank you!


  • Kimberly

    Kimberly on March 27, 2012, 3:26 a.m.

    Yep, you nailed it! I too am looking for formulas. As a perfectionist, I am searching for the elusive, nonexistent "perfect" one. I'm working on that... @Jessica I loved how you phrased the relying God thought. Good stuff, ya'll.


  • amy

    amy on March 27, 2012, 5:40 a.m.

    I so badly want a formula. Lately, I catch myself thinking, 'if someone would just tell me what to do', in dealing with my energetic and sometimes surly eight year old, my tender hearted five year old or his fiesty three year old brother, in how to stay kind myself when all i want to do is scream at them (and sometimes do),in choosing the best school for them, in discerning how to live with more intention and purpose when I often feel trapped. A formula would be so much easier. So, I've been waiting and waiting and I think you are gently telling me I can't really afford to wait any longer, for I will literally be waiting the rest of my life. Isn't there a great Dr. Seuss bit about people waiting? that's me. I do hope to find strength to take some steps forward. I hope to check your ebook if I can figure out how (quite computer-impaired here). I don't have a reader, can I read it on my computer?? Thanks.


    • renee

      renee on March 27, 2012, 10:20 a.m.

      Yes, you can read it on your computer! On a PDF and it's not too long so it's not like sitting on the computer for ages to read something.  


  • Anne

    Anne on March 27, 2012, 1:14 p.m.

    I've been following your blog for awhile now, and loving how your share an intimate look at your life. It's been fun, just in the little time I've been reading, to see you making your goals happen. :-)

    At the first homeschooling conference I went to (in 2000 - my kids are teens now!)Oliver DeMille spoke (just before Thomas Jefferson Education was published) and I felt like I had found what I was exploring homeschooling for. For various reasons, I ended up not homeschooling, but I was so pleased to see that he's still at it, and that another decade of families are benefiting from his too-true words.

    When you were talking about publishing your e-book, I had coincidentally run across a podcast about growing your online business, and I thought some of asking you if you wanted the link. Now I realize it was too formulaic anyways. Besides, it seemed that you would find your own way through the process - something you do and write about so well. And you even photograph it beautifully! I admire that greatly (and wish I'd stumbled across a family/site like yours back when my children were young), and I appreciate all you do. I may be facing an "empty nest" soon, but it still helps to have someone pointing out that all of those family-oriented decisions along the way were important, and still are. Thanks so much, and much love to your family! Anne


  • Carol

    Carol on March 27, 2012, 7:36 p.m.

    Wow you hit the spot with this post. I don't have any children now but we're planning on having them next year. My husband and I are also trying craft our lives according to what speaks to our hearts and not according to what others are doing. Our friends think we're a little way over our heads because we don't want to have a mortgage, we eventually wanna work for ourselves, grow our food, homeschool, cook from scratch, make my own soap and live with intention. Reminds me of a quote: "If you're doing the same things everyone else is doing STOP. Stay weird". So we're the weird ones. I love having these dreams for our life. They only thing is that since we're making our lives our own, there's no script to follow and as you said; no formulas available. I found your blog fairly recently and see you as an example. Not to copy, but to be inspired, as reassurance that what we want is attainable. So I love your idea of the forum an dplease keep writing about this!! Thank you!


  • Jennifer

    Jennifer on March 28, 2012, 3:24 a.m.

    I enjoyed reading your post and all the truths behind it. It's scary being brave but so worth it. I wish you well in your new endeavor.


  • Naomi

    Naomi on March 30, 2012, 12:49 a.m.

    Our own trail has become, in many ways, so comfortable to us that it is easy to forget that it is such an odd one. That is, until someone in my family asks us to bare with them as they adapt to us living our lifestyle, and I remember more clearly how different it is. At the same time, each new step we take in a direction far from where we began has me wishing there were clear answers, a clear path, or some way of knowing what lies at the other end. No matter what we face though, I have come to realize that the one thing that is most important to me is that our family unit is not only together, but enjoying our life together. If we can do that, and keep our priorities and goals straight, the rest will fall into place along the way, choppy as the ride may be!


You can subscribe to comments on this article using this form.

If you have already commented on this article, you do not need to do this, as you were automatically subscribed.