Living Simple Update: Finding Happiness with Less
How Long Has It Been?
There was a time, maybe two years ago, when this writer would regularly compose weekly articles about living the simple life. In those articles I told anyone who would read them that my wife and I were moving slowly away from a possession-fueled life for a more meaningful existence, one that did not measure happiness by the size of the truck I drove, the number of designer labels in our closet or the size of our bank accounts.
Then I moved away from those articles so I didn’t bore you all or sound preachy.
Well, I’m back!!!!!
The journey for me actually began about five years ago. At that time I was not a writer. I was in year one of a new teaching gig at a middle school here in Olympia, trying my best to pass along the wisdom of the Ages and, on a completely un-altruistic level, to pay my bills.
One day I woke up and prepared for a new school day in year eighteen of my teaching career, but that day was different from all those that came before. I noticed, for the very first time, that I was not looking forward to going to school. Take into consideration that I loved my time as a teacher. There were many years when I would have taught for free and believe me, that’s not hyperbole. That’s how much I adored that profession.
But on the aforementioned morning I had no desire to go to school.
Something had changed.
I thought about that for days afterwards and then one afternoon, in the middle of a faculty meeting, the principal was a bit snippy in a comment aimed at me, and I tossed her my keys and quit….on the spot…and walked away from my profession without a financial safety net.
The next day I became a writer and I embraced the “living simple” lifestyle.
What Is Living Simple?
Psychologists have known for years that the happiest people on this planet all have certain commonalities. It turns out that people most satisfied with life have strong social connections, find meaning in their work, exercise their highest talents and have a sense of a higher purpose.
Now I’ve known that for years. I heard basically the same thing when I was a hell-raiser in college back in the Sixties, and I embraced that knowledge and swore I would live my life according to those findings. I would have a higher purpose, I would be connected to the social web, I would find meaning to my daily life and work and I would exercise my talents.
And then life came along and a reality, mostly of my making, took over my life. I got a job out of college to make some money, and I bought some possessions, and I worked harder to make more money, and bought more possessions, and when money was in short supply I ran up credit for more possessions and of course then had to work harder, and longer, and…….
I forgot all about those promises I made to my twenty-year old self, and by the time I was forty I was knee-deep in the American way and clutching desperately at the American Dream.
By the time I was fifty-eight I was spinning out of control, exhausted and not a happy boy at all.
I was lost!
I needed, so very badly, to live simply once again.
It would make a great story if I told you on that day I turned on, tuned in and dropped out, but that’s fiction at best and a bald-faced lie at worst. Changes come slowly for me. I need to think them out. I need to chew on them, as a cow chewing cud, taste and feel their textures, spit out the unacceptable and embrace the acceptable.
I began with a simple statement of truth: I wanted to be happy. From there came the realization that happiness is not achieved by constantly working. Possessions are transitory happiness at best, a quick fix which inevitably leads to another quick fix, and another and another and…..
I didn’t necessarily want off the merry-go-round as much as I just wanted the damned thing to slow down a bit.
Back to the Tossing of Keys
So, back to that day with me walking confidently out of the faculty lounge…..the moment had come for me to begin a new journey. No excuses would be tolerated. I didn’t enjoy teaching any longer so it was time to find something meaningful that I would enjoy.
It was time to form strong social connections.
It was time for me to find a higher purpose.
It was time for me to simplify my life and get rid of the material and psychological clutter.
I stood atop an imaginary soap box and declared to the world that I was no longer going to play the retail/possession-fueled game.
I was returning to my roots.
A Flash from the Past
I thought about my grandparents.
At one time they had a couple hundred acres of prime Iowa farmland. Then the Great Depression came along, and foreclosure followed closely, and upheaval in their lives followed that, and through it all the family stood strong and supported each other, and those lessons were passed down to my parents and their lessons handed to me, and the most important lesson of them all was four simple letters…..
Love fueled our family when the corn was growing strong and fetching the highest prices, and love fueled our family as they stood in bread lines and the corn was plowed under, never to rise again.
And one of the really cool things about love is it doesn’t cost a penny. One need not go into debt and pay high interest rates when stockpiling love, and that means it isn’t necessary to work forty or fifty hours at a job you dislike in order to pay for love.
I was rich and I didn’t know it.
So Here I Am Today
Today I get it.
Bev and I live a pretty simple life.
We are cutting our debt. Our monthly bills are diminishing. Our urban farm is flourishing. Our love for each other is stronger than ever. We are learning to live in harmony with nature. We do not buy new unless absolutely necessary. We have learned to make repairs and not pay others to do them for us. We mend things and coax life out of dead objects. We spend more time in each other’s company and have meaningful talks. There is very little stress in our lives and what we do have is normal, run-of-the-mill stress that goes away in a few hours.
And with each new day it only gets better.
What’s the Bottom Line?
I think you get it, right? You don’t need me to give you a bottom line.
Is it possible for you?
I believe it is, but only you can make that decision.
Whatever you decide, I hope you find happiness. It really is right there in front of you, waiting for you, calling to you. All you need to do is answer its call.
Pax vobiscum, my friends!
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)