Living a More Simple Life
Morning arrives on a whisper, most of the time. I love that first hour or two of the day, when the world is still quiet and the events of the day remain a mystery. It is my best thinking time and probably more therapeutic than I even realize. At this time in my life, I am aware of changes. I don't feel older but I know my perspective on things is changing. As I sit here with that first wonderfully aromatic cup of coffee, I can sense that my values are changing, that I am beginning to feel more gratitude than anticipation. The excitement of what the day might bring has been balanced with a contentment of just being here now, in this moment. It is a good place to be. It feels, well, simple, that's it...simple.
It's hard to figure out when it began or what events led to me being here but I am sure I don't want to go backwards to find out. I'm just glad to be here. Sometimes I wonder if it happens to everyone at the same place in life or is arriving here dependent on how much grief or loss you've endured in your lifetime. Or could it be how much you've accomplished or, who you have loved or even how many challenges you've overcome? Or is it the collective? Just maybe it's a choice and has little to do with what you've gone through. I don't remember making the choice though. I'm just here and I'm grateful.
I've been blessed a lot in my lifetime. My immediate family has suffered no significant tragedies. I've had some really awesome friends who encouraged me and stood beside me when life threw me a curve. I've loved and lost, more than once actually, but didn't end up bitter. There came a time in my life when I felt it was important to make amends or to at least apologize to some people I had hurt and over the course of a few short years I did that. What a weight was lifted. The prospect of doing this was frightening but you cannot imagine the value until it is done and you are no longer dragging that guilt or worry around.
Emotionally I've been rich and I've been poor. Financially, it has been the same. I've been comfortable and I've been poor. To be honest, there is value and dignity in both. Humility doesn't come to us for free. Not normally anyway. Most of us have to suffer some loss or embarrassment before we become humble. But, humility is a powerful teacher. It is the single experience that allowed me to disavow being owned by material things. Don't misunderstand. I love having things around me that inspire memories of good times and good people but I am no longer owned by "things". A hug or a smile from someone I care about is much more precious than money or cars or jewels.
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Once I learned the lesson of humility, I was haunted by the need to clear the clutter from my life. It may take me a lifetime but I am working on it. It's amazing how much stuff you accumulate in the course of your life. When I really got serious about it and took a good look around, I was dumbfounded. In reality, I was suffocating myself in stuff that I had held on to, that had no meaning and little value. It was simply stuff taking up space and creating clutter. That physical clutter was something of a metaphor for my mental status as well.
I had to get busy and get rid of that clutter. It is true that one man's trash is another man' treasure. EBay and Craigslist would become my tools. If it didn't sell, then I would pack it up and donate it to Goodwill or the DAV. However, if it wasn't like new, or at least in working order, it would go in the trash. Even people in need deserve to have functioning appliances and clean, like-new clothes. For many years I was involved with charity that did what it could to provide for some schools and communities on Indian reservations. Nothing made me more angry than to open a box of donated clothes only to find them stained and stinking. That's right, they had not even been washed. How insulting! These so-called "good hearted people" who want to help Indians to ease their guilty conscience would die if they knew how many bonfires were made from their stinking dirty clothing donations. Now, I've vented that, let's move on.
I began by placing big bins in a spare room and I committed to placing one item in each bin daily until I was satisfied that the clutter was gone. There was a bin for selling, one for charity, and one for trash. It is a work in progress but at least I am doing it after all these years and it feels good.
Life really is a journey from one point to another. Even when we think we have it all planned, that we have created the road map for where we want to be in 10, 20 years, there are forces in the universe that can change that plan in an instant. Someone once told me that if we had the vision to see around the next turn in the road, we would freeze in fear of taking the next step. A bit profound, don't you think?
Trust and Faith
As we travel through this journey called life, it is inevitable that we make that next turn and the road appears before us and wow....it's a scary sight. It appears that we are headed down river and into the falls without a paddle. Maybe we don't even feel like we have a boat. It's too late to turn back so where do we turn?. We turn back to what we know. We know that it's not the first time. We know we aren't the first to face the falls. If we can quiet our mind and draw upon our previous experience, we will find the trust and faith we need. We are survivors. We adapt. We have all the tools we need to weather the storm. And so, we put one foot in front of the other and we move forward in spite of our fear. Some will reach out to family and friends for support. Some will turn to their spiritual or religious leaders. And some will search within themselves for courage, because this too, is temporary.
It is faith and trust, wherever you find them, that will become your key to creating a more simple life. Fear can strip away our arrogance and materialism, and leave us with a genetic memory of what is really important and that is loving others, loving yourself, and coming to a place where your success is not measured by what you own but rather by what you've learned. For some of us facing those waterfalls, we find that our strength and determination is strong enough to allow us to back-paddle hard enough to grab the boat and oars but life will still challenge. It may be strong under-currents or big rocks just under the surface that will punch a hole in the boat but there will always be unforeseen challenges. Our ability and willingness to adapt will save us once again. Knowing that keeps it simple. We are prepared. we have the tools we need. We have lived and we have learned. I wish you a smooth journey and when it isn't, I wish you the courage to adapt.
Follow Up July 7, 2012
The universe certainly has a sense of humor. Only days after I wrote this hub about keeping life simple, my city was hit with a derecho. I had never heard of a derecho but now I am on a first name basis with it. It is a storm consisting of straight line winds that cover a wide area and are long-lasting. The area around me looks like a bomb went off and many still do not have electricity, a week later. Temperatures here have been in the triple digits. Life has been anything but simple. As I tossed all the food from my refrigerator and freezer into trash bags, I had to remind myself of the words I had written here. When night came and I moved through my home by the light of a flashlight, I was reminded again. Thankfully, I have learned to laugh in spite of the challenges and in the quiet darkness, have found that place of gratitude for what I do have. All is well.
Follow Up - August 31, 2012
This concept of simplifying my life is ongoing and the universe continues to put obstacles in my way. I am determined though. Since my last update, I have faced challenges with my family. My Dad's Alzheimer's disease is progressing and we have stopped him from driving. My Mom's health isn't great either and the daily stress of living with Dad's Alzheimer's is taking a toll on her. I am quickly being forced to take on their trips to the doctor and grocery and, for keeping track of the many medications they take. These things are necessary and I want to do them but they create new challenges.
It helps to remind myself frequently that I have a plan to keep it simple. When I begin to feel the stress, I consciously stop myself and concentrate on breathing. Deep breathing. I am amazed at how a simple deep breath can change the way I feel. Priorities must change for me if I am to be successful at living a more simple life. Life will continue to challenge my plan. Of this, I am certain. I am equally certain that if I remain focused and take time to remind myself that I am creating a new "me", that a happier, healthier life is on the horizon.
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.