Simple Minds

Simplicity, The Dew Abides
Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond/Flickr

Simplicity. We throw that word around as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to find. As if there’s something wrong with you if you can’t flip a switch and slow down your life.

Truth is, simplicity doesn’t start off easy, and it’s not something you stumble upon. It’s a decision — a thousand decisions everyday — to choose focus over distraction, intangible over material.

And it often involves change.

Case in point. Last year I had the perfect job and several volunteer board positions that gave me a sense of purpose. But as the health of both my parents collapsed simultaneously, two options became apparent: continue full-throttle, caring for them while maintaining the status quo — racing faster and faster toward a breakdown — or embrace caregiving as a way of life.

Only one path offered a sustainable choice. I had to eliminate anything that didn’t involve keeping my parents healthy and safe, or me and Brad, sane and functional.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

I won’t lie. Giving up my career and those committees brought a difficult period of financial and psychological adjustment. My identity floated precariously like a half-filled balloon, untethered by job titles and responsibilities that defined me for so long.

Six months later, even though I miss the environmental community, I wouldn’t trade the razor-sharp lens I’ve gained through which I see the world, cutting away extraneous claims on my time and thought.

Each weekday begins with the same three goals:

  1. Spend an hour doing something for myself, whether that’s writing, working in the garden, or toasting the sunrise with a cup of coffee.
  2. Help my parents live the best day they possibly can.
  3. Nourish myself and Brad with good food, space for creativity, and at least a few minutes with nature.

Notice the references to time that keep popping up — just because I’ve narrowed the scope of my obligations doesn’t mean I have more of it. Quite the opposite. But I’ve become more aware of how I spend every minute and am learning to staunchly defend what little free time is left. Learning to say “no” has been tough but necessary and, unless an emergency arises, weekends are unapologetically ours to improve our home, play, and catch up with friends.

That brings us back to the traditional definition of simplicity. Have we streamlined our home and given away trucks full of stuff? You betcha. The question becomes, would I rather spend that precious Saturday ironing fancy clothes or challenging Brad to a photo scavenger hunt? Dusting knickknacks or enjoying a meal with friends? Every item in our home — and every potential new acquisition — is now scrutinized for the true cost of ownership, including storage and upkeep. Price tags only scratch the surface, and we feel richer avoiding the things that drain our time as much as our bank account.

The Dew’s tag line is “a simpler, more creative life”, and we’re learning that’s an ongoing process, balancing the relationship between inner well-being and outside influences. Like all worthwhile relationships, this one requires attention and commitment, but I can already tell the rewards far outweigh the sacrifice.

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