A family member recently asked me if I should consider simplifying my life. Rather than spit out my tea, I spent a minute trying to imagine what that could mean. Last I checked, a simple life was defined by smaller houses, fewer commitments, fewer and smaller purchases, growing your own food, enjoying home-cooked meals instead of restaurant fare, making crafts and clothes instead of buying them, owning fewer and/or cheaper vehicles and so on. Going simple means giving up extravagant clothes, outings, events, vacations, trading all things status for all things green and earthy.
In the last few years I have left my job in the city, given up a commute, traded in new vehicles for old, assigned myself as the handywoman in charge of renovating our home, become a full time farmer, a stay-at-home mother, learned to raise all manner of meat, milk a cow, process most of my own food and committed to buy or borrow almost everything in my life second-hand. Am I not the flipping POSTER CHILD for the Simple Life?
Ah, look again.
On the flip side here’s how I would define a complicated life. Taking on too much. Forgetting to prioritize the things you think are most important in life. Spending time and money on things that serve frivolous means, not heartfelt ones. Forgetting to listen to your heart. Setting your family aside for the purpose of making money. Triple booking your schedule. Overspending on your bank account. Telling lies to yourself or others and having to cover your tracks.
In the past few years my life has included all of the above, except maybe the last thing. Although it is possible that I have been telling myself that I have been living the simple life. It turns out this would have been a lie.
What I have learned is that even in a field of green, one can have a temper tantrum. Even without the sounds of traffic and the scent of pollution, one can run circles around themselves and be held hostage by their own agendas and pressures. You can take the girl out the city but you can’t, apparently, take the city out of the girl.
Polite folks often comment on the lifestyle we have. They say things about peace and meaning and importance and all of that. I appreciate what they are saying. It is all true. However, what is missing from this description is how much the experience depends on the person experiencing it.
Oh, I’m an earthy girl. I am actually out of place in any city. I like what a city offers, but my bare feet feel far more at home on softer ground. I need the quiet. I need the living things, the green, the fresh air and wide-open sky. I prefer real food, straight from the soil and prepared the way it has been enjoyed for hundreds if not thousands of years. I like a banjo more than the electric guitar.
I prefer to take time to be quiet. To stay close to those I love. To be present. To breath often. To smells roses, if you will. But preference does not always make it so.
This girl left the city decades ago. But the person who strives to make her life better every second of every day has not gone away. The environment I live in affords me a certain peace and quiet. My personality does not. I can’t stop looking for a better way. I can’t put down the hammer, the whip, the map, the striving.
So it is for this reason that I will give full credit to the person who observed that perhaps my life could use some simplifying.
Every moment we are given a gift. The opportunity to observe what is going on right in front of us. No pressure, no expectation – just the way it is. So much beauty. So much laughter. Right at our fingertips. Softer ground.
Recently I have been caught up in the day-to-day chores. I exist as a robot meeting all of my obligations, forgetting what I am doing it all for. Pushing aside my children to make sure nothing is forgotten. All tasks are complete, nothing is wasted, potential profits are maximized. There have been so few moments that I have been present for.
Now I realize, none of it has to be that complicated. It doesn’t matter where you are. Simplicity is only ever one step away. Towards softer ground.