Keeping It Simple
In the past few weeks, I’ve been reading a book about Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda that had a bit of advice that’s stuck with me: the more complicated life is, the simpler your meals should be. It was such a lovely reminder that even when much of life feels out of our control, there are small ways we can take back the reins each day.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of simplicity lately. There are scores and scores of great blogs devoted to it (and its cousin minimalism), and even still, I don’t have a clear sense of what it would actually look or feel like in my life. How to live more simply came up when chatting with a friend recently, and it felt as mysterious and out of reach to both of us as a nighttime ride on Falcor. We both knew we wanted it, but we didn’t know how to go about introducing more of it into our lives.
When I asked my mom recently what she thought a simple life looked like and how I could create more of it, she encouraged me to think about the roles I wanted to play in my life. It flies in the face of what Eckhart Tolle writes about, but I think it’s kind of a clever, side-door way of getting at the heart of the question. What do you want to occupy the most space in your life? Artist, friend, mother, breadwinner, athlete, advocate, leader? You can keep your life simple, she suggested, by keeping those primary roles top of mind in the choices you make each day.
What would a simpler life look like to you? This is not a rhetorical question. Because while I feel drawn to the concept, I also feel unsure of what its real-life application looks like in a busy, messy, full, and super-connected world. I’m still working it out myself, but a simple life to me is tidy and organized, lived within my means, and low-stress. I have stream-lined systems that provide ready answers to what to wear and what to make for dinner. I have a regular routine, with time carved out for creativity and exercise, weekends filled with friends, family and nature. A simple life also has to have some whimsy and bouts of adventurous fun, or else it may start to feel too spartan. And that wouldn’t do.
My sister swears by ruthless purging and small space living, the latter requiring the former. Her husband has been known to live at times by a strict one-in, two-out principle, and they are experts at unsentimentally disposing of belongings. They check-out library books instead of buying everything they want to read, and my sister’s closet rail is lined with slim, matching hangers holding only items she loves. That makes life simple.
I’m Day 4 into Oprah and Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge. It’s a wonderful free online program, filled with journal exercises, mantra, thoughts of the day, and Deepak’s wise and soothing voice. But if it’s brought up one recurring theme for me thus far it’s my need for a regular routine. As is, I wake up in some 2 to 3 hour window, exercise on the days it’s convenient, move through a few gentle yoga poses when I’m feeling especially worn in the evenings. The day of the week with the most reliable routine also happens to be my favorite.
On Sundays, I drink coffee on my way to a morning yoga class. After a class that invariably leaves me more cheerful than when I arrived, I walk toward the farmer’s market and call my mom or sister on the way to chat. Once there, I fill my tote bag with greens, apples, and eggs, and maybe buy a cider donut for Sebastian before slipping into a nearby restaurant where he will meet me for lunch. That’s my most regular and beloved routine. Otherwise, I make room for things that are important to me when I can (read: when it’s easy). More often than not, this leads to life feeling like it’s being lived behind the eight ball in a game of catch-as-catch-can. A daily routine seems like a really grounding way to simplify, even if it means waking up significantly earlier (no small task for someone who can hit the snooze button seven times in the morning, no problem).
Then again, some part of me says to enjoy it. There will come a time when babies and school days and dinner times will require a day that runs like clockwork. I should enjoy the malleability while I have it. But when the roles you want to inhabit are that of healthy creative person who lives with a sense of balance and vitality, making room for expressing that each day feels important.
These aren’t real problems, of course, just a way of refining the day-to-day so it feels most supportive. Making each day simpler feels like a good way to do that. But now I defer to all of you wise ladies to share how simplicity takes form in your life. What does a simple life mean, look like, and feel like to you? What have you given up? What have you introduced? What discoveries do you swear by? And how, help me, can I become a morning person?