The Search for Simplicity

The sweet, satisfied sigh that ensues a Sudoku puzzle accomplished.

The chubby rolls of a baby’s leg.

The quickly abated tragedy put aside with ice cream and a game of catch.

The nightly news that speaks of a neighborhood robbery, not the salacious stealing of our souls.

Counting on the World Order.

Counting on World Leaders.

Counting our blessings.

These are the days I miss.

As I looked about the lush, green lawn on a self-imposed smartphone sabbatical amidst hundreds of fellow bathers today, I recognized how complicated our lives have become. Admittedly, everyone appears on the same level when they show up in bathing suits. Fat or thin, mal- or well-nourished, dark skinned or light skinned, freckled or frowning. Nothing smacks of grassroots democracy more than a day at the community pool.

My children are no longer small or even medium-sized kids. They are in their mid- and late-teens. The intricate web of complication called growing up has begun as they navigate this world under very different circumstances than I did at their age.

They have to battle the constant onslaught of (mis)information. Of competitive Instagram appearances. Of snap-chat that and oh, please this. We can never start a meal until someone has photographed it first to share with the universe.

Simply put: Life has gotten complicated.

So I recognized, even as I put away my phone last night with no excuse that I needed it on my nightstand to serve as an alarm clock, that I struggle with my habitual need to be needed. Or to be needy. Or to be — simply put — on.

On what? God knows. On much of social media, I’ve witnessed rampaging rants and rude thrusts of opinion; excusing misbehavior and playground bullying.

Only the world stage is not a playground. And it is hard with each passing day not to succumb to equally ruthless wickedness that has besieged us since November.

But the hopeful are the last to die. And I shall not perish without a good fight. It is time to find pockets of simplicity.

You can find it

  • in the dusty pages of that Sudoku puzzle book at the foot of your nightstand
  • in the gloriousness of homemade lemonade on a bright sunny summer morning
  • in the accomplishment you feel when you walk 10,000 daily steps (FitBit fans unite!)
  • in the sweet smell of your loved one’s neck that says “I am here for you. Because I am here.”
  • in re-watching that old movie from the late 1980s that reminds you of the times when you knew less and it didn’t matter
  • in the kindness you show every single day to those you know and to those you don’t simply because the world deserves your care
  • in the absence of malice when you could have chosen otherwise
  • in the words “I am thinking of you”.

The search for simplicity may never end as we combat the avalanche of our modern world. I vote for its pursuit anyway.

In my view it is a battle worth attempting. Yes, indeed. It’s that simple.

For the Love of Simplicity

Smooth lines. Clean surfaces. Rooms filled with air, not stuff.

Streamlining life can be so lovely.

“Simplicity is what I want in 2014,” my friend told me. But, she admitted, in our complicated world filled with data and distraction, it’s not that simple to obtain.

I couldn’t agree more.

It takes discipline to keep things simple. We tend to pile on activities, information, relationships and more stuff than we need. Whether we are at the grocery store or online, we fill our lives with noise.

Fighting against the daily cacophony is harder than giving in to all the influences that tumble through our every day lives. Media messages on the sides of streetcars, advertising on TV, 10-second videos before we can listen to our favorite songs online all add up – it is no wonder we have a hard time falling asleep at night.

If you find yourself stuck in a complicated situation, take heart. Marathons are only won stride by stride. The same applies to life changes. Baby steps are a very good start.

Moving helps. Faced with either schlepping all our junk to a new place or getting rid of half of it, we are called to question what’s truly important to us. When I moved last spring, I made a commitment to simplicity. If I didn’t love the item I was about to pack, I would give it a toss or give it away. I got rid of more than half my belongings.

To maintain that commitment, everything that enters my home now is subject to severe scrutiny. In fact, it doesn’t even enter my shopping cart unless I absolutely love it or need it. Champagne and roses are my only exception. And I do love them!

Simplicity requires innovative thinking. It means to do without certain things we once thought were imperative. My friend tells me I need more kitchen items, but truth be told I can cook a delicious meal without all the things I once had. Sure, a smaller frying pan would be great, and probably more economical. I’ll get to it in good time.

If you think about it, do you really need all the things that surround you? If I were to take a closer look, I could probably pare down my household items by another third.

Simplicity doesn’t mean austerity.  It means living with more flow.

Take the first step by eliminating three things from the drawer closest to you. Add to the pile each day from various spaces in your home for a week. Then look at all the items you once thought you required.

It feels good to free up space, physically, mentally and emotionally to make room for what really matters.

And what truly matters can only enter your life if you clear away the clutter first.

Want to take the simplicity challenge? I’m with you – every step of the way.


Little Simplicities

The simple life means something different to everyone. For some it means living in small, minimalistic spaces. For others it means removing barriers that stand in their way. For others still it refers to their pace of life ~ sleepy, super Slow and silent.

For everyone it means living with less complication.

In our 24/7 world, that is indeed a worthy, yet perhaps lofty, goal.

We build our lives around dreams whose fulfillment we think will make us happy. Oftentimes we realize those dreams don’t actually yield the level of joy we desire.

Two very good girlfriends of mine admitted to me yesterday that their lives haven’t turned out the way they thought.

“Thank goodness!” I said. Imagine if we got everything we thought we wanted. I’d be a former prima ballerina with broken knees, married to a guy who’s now a plumber.

Life is actually simple that way. It unfolds on its course. We can influence certain things about as much as we can influence how our children will turn out. You can add a lot of sweetness to the pot, but in the end we never really know whether it will taste good or not until the very end.

Keeping things simple isn’t as easy as it sounds. Our egos chime in loudly when they feel knocked down, like a toddler throwing a tantrum when it doesn’t immediately get what it wants.

Simplicity can be threatening to the ego because it is programmed to strive for certain things ~ acknowledgement, attention, adoration. But when you opt for a simpler life, you often leave those accolades behind you for a truer path to your own happiness.

It is extremely centering to strip away the noise to get to the essence of things.

I know a marvelous woman in her mid-fifties who doesn’t have a driver’s license, never has owned a computer and thinks that smartphones are, well, dumb. And she’s happy. And well-adjusted. And well-integrated in life. Her own simple life. I admire her greatly for that.

Can there be happiness beyond our hyper-connected world? She certainly is proof that there can be.

Embrace a little simplicity today and see where it takes you.

My guess is it will lead you back to your glorious, beautiful self.

Simple Pleasures

The greatest pleasures in life are free.

Take laughter as an example. Do it daily. You’ll live longer…and better too.

Or how about sunshine? On days when the sun is beaming, let the rays shower your spirit (use sunscreen, of course!).

Connecting with dear friends is another way to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. A phone call, a Skype chat, or time over coffee are great ways to solidify relationships. Time with friends is time well-spent indeed.

Or what about discovering that first bulb of springtime? Those snowdrops that rise triumphantly from the ground as harbingers of warmer times? They can skyrocket your pleasure levels in an instant.

Making new friends is truly pleasurable, if only it turns out to be a brief encounter in time. A smile shared with a stranger on a train or a kind gesture as you let someone in front of you in traffic can increase your quality of life.

Goodness can be had anywhere. And with it the pleasures that life offers every day.

How will you experience simple pleasures today?