Simplify, Simplify

courtesy of flickr user coco frigerio

“Our life is frittered away by detail.  Simplicity, simplicity.”  ~Henry David Thoreau

When I was in my intensive psychiatric program this spring, one of their mantras was:  Simplify.

When you are in a place in your life where you are struggling and suffering, and getting through the days is a challenge, then strip it down.  Make it simple.  Decide what you need to do, what is a priority – and be brutally honest about what is really a need – and just do that.  Nothing keeps you down in a state of depression more than feeling lazy and unaccomplished, and when you set unreasonable goals for yourself you are setting yourself up to feel just that way.  As one of my colleagues (if that’s the right word) said, “Expectations are premeditated failure.”

So here I am in this place in my life where the tasks of daily living are a struggle.  Simplicity has always appealed to me in theory, but I had no idea what it meant in practice before.  Now I do, in a very real way.  I keep my days simple – get up, get breakfast for everyone, get showered and dressed, do stuff around the house, get people where they need to go, eat again…you get the idea.  There is no energy left for the extras, but as I get a little better each day I add an extra layer to the basic tasks.  I pop popcorn on the stove for snack, I make barbecue sauce from scratch, I include a little gardening in my home maintenance, I declutter a bit here and there.

I always thought that personally, I would feel empty just being a “homemaker”, but what I’m finding it is actually an incredibly liberating way to live, at least for now.  I have spent much of my adult life as what I would describe as a spiritual seeker, but I spent much more time reading about things like mindfulness and self-observation than actually practicing them.  Now, I have altered my expectations for myself, and I finally, for the first time in my life, feel really and truly free.  I’m not spending my time rushing through one task so I can attend to the next and the next and the next, crossing one thing off my mile-long to-do list while adding five more.  I am mindfully doing things like squeezing lemons for lemonade or watching my kids play at the park, and I feel fulfilled.  It may not be this way forever, but for now I am enjoying it.

The thing is – this kind of living doesn’t make for the most exciting blogging in the world.  I’m trying to live life as it comes, which means that I do a lot of things like spraying my kids with a hose and taking a leisurely stroll through the farmer’s market, but I’m not always thinking about how I can write about these things to make them appealing to readers.  I’m also not photographing things, because I don’t want to watch my life through a lens.  I want to LIVE it.  Over time, I’m sure I’ll find a way to synthesize the two – living mindfully and writing about my life – but for now, one thing at a time, one day at a time.  Everything doesn’t have to get done RIGHT NOW anymore.