Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)
I have two friends who host a podcast called “Cultivate Simple“. It’s about working toward living simply, intentionally, in every area of life. They certainly are quite good at this, but I always chuckle at the title as I am also aware of the multitude of actitivies and responsibilities and events that dot their schedules. (To the point where these ‘dots’ often commingle into much larger ‘blobs’.)
Not too long ago, as I discussed our family’s schedule for the week with Jen, I saw many of my own dots chaotically infringing upon one another, and my own blobs growing unmanageable and out of my control.
And I longed for simple.
My heart nearly begs for simple. Maybe even my body. After a full day of celebrating Cameron’s birthday, I crashed on our bed—out like the proverbial light—much, much earlier than I would normally bed down for a night.
And though that longing is present and making itself known, here I am, amidst six growing-older children, a wife who loves to keep relatively full schedules, and running a couple of my own businesses, too.
Where and how do we find simple in the middle of all that life is? Is it possible to have a quiet, peaceful, serene, simple existence?
Perhaps my definition of simple is all wrong.
adjective ( -pler , -plest )
1 easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty : a simple solution | camcorders are now so simple to operate.
plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation : a simple white blouse | the house is furnished in a simple country style.
[ attrib. ] used to emphasize the fundamental and straightforward nature of something : the simple truth.
2 composed of a single element; not compound.
Mathematics denoting a group that has no proper normal subgroup.
Botany (of a leaf or stem) not divided or branched.
(of a lens, microscope, etc.) consisting of a single lens or component.
(in English grammar) denoting a tense formed without an auxiliary, e.g., sang as opposed to was singing.
(of interest) payable on the sum loaned only. Compare with compound 1.
3 of or characteristic of low rank or status; humble and unpretentious : a simple Buddhist monk.
4 of low or abnormally low intelligence.
Well I don’t think number four is the one I’m looking for. And I’m sure the mathematical and botanical applications are not … applicable here, either. So, am I looking for ‘low rank or status’? ‘Humble and unpretentious’? Yes. But do I live in such a way that is so other-than-that as to cause me to long for ‘simple’? Probably not.
So if I go with these definitions of ‘simple’, I think the second definition under number one might be the thing I am wanting most: “plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.” If you know me, you’re likely aware that I’m not much for ornamentation. I definitely lean toward “plain” and “basic”. (Ha! basic!)
But how—and why—am I lacking that? Where did this train run off the rails?
There’s a problem many of us have: saying ‘no’. Whether it’s out of fear that we might hurt another’s feelings, or whether our own reputation might be somehow sullied—we’re not great at saying, “No.”
There sure is a lot to which we can say ‘no’! There are probably dozens of physical and spiritual and relational and educational opportunities of which we could partake; and in our family, multiply that by eight! No, there is no shortage of chances to exercise our No Muscle.
But instead, we just keep saying yes.
Now, I may have an even more difficult time as I have inherited something of a defect. You see, I look at life as though it might be more conquerable than it truly is. I tend toward optimism, as I have said before. This will often—nearly 100% of the time!—causes me to misjudge the time it might take to do something, usually by at least half. It is quite likely, I believe, that such poor estimation of the duration of various tasks is a direct result of this inherited defect (from my dad) that we call “Cramming Ten Pounds into a Five Pound Bag Syndrome”.1
And boy do I have that… bad!
I don’t intentionally add things to our schedule for appearance (reputation) or for my own sense of accomplishment or anything of that sort. I think if I’ve crowded my schedule, it’s often because I either have those rose-colored, sure-I-can-fit-that-in view of my day or week ahead, OR because, I just forget that I don’t want to do that!
Thus, I frequently return to this place of longing for simple.
My podcasting friends hold solidly to the line of thinking that “simple” does not mean not busy. (Though I would say that they often long for down time, too.)
But isn’t there something to doing less?
I think much of this comes back to technology. As we increase the efficiency with which we do things (via technological advancement) we are able to do more, do it better, do it faster … and honestly, I think this makes us less. We are stretching ourselves beyond what we are designed to do. I will certainly continue this thought in a future post (it’s been ruminating for quite a while now), but to elaborate here would not be… simple.
And simple is what I’m hoping to rediscover.
We do lead a fairly simple life in some ways: we have one vehicle, we live in a relatively modest home, we are not extravagant in our spending, we are not members of many organizations, we like 80s TV shows… simple.
But I think there’s more. And if I do rediscover it in some areas, I’ll be sure to share those discoveries here.
Until then, I need to wrap this up so I can get ready for today’s three events. (Oh, and make breakfast for everyone, gather the laundry, send emails, prep dinner, pay bills, read the library book due back tomorrow, discuss several upcoming events with Jen, mow the lawn, play a word game or two, maybe play a game with Alex, brush my teeth, feed the fish, and save the world.)
- This reminds me of the other verses I found when I was writing the post Messes. Right before where it says “children are a blessing from the LORD”, it says: “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” Admittedly, one thing that keeps me busy is needing to make money to feed our family. Perhaps God was gently nudging me here? ↩
If you read the book ‘Carrying Water as a Way of Life’, she states in that book about her life off the grid with no running water or electricity: “Who knew the simple life could be so complicated.” Very true, simple doesn’t necessarily mean devoid of stuff and activities. My life is anything but simple in some sense of the word, but very simple in other ways. I think simplifying is more about living mindfully.
ChiotsRun’s last post: Cultivate Simple 41: Resilience
Susy, you and your husband are definitely on the same wavelength. As I was preparing this post last week I mentioned the main gist of it to Brian and he recommended that very same book (which I picked up at the library tonight, just a little before you were leaving your comment!) 🙂
I think one interesting aspect of simple is maybe focus vs lack of focus? It might take a lot of work to live “simply” but it’s all toward one end, direction, goal. Where a lot of our activity complexity comes from spreading ourselves too thin, going in too many different directions. The whole, “jack of all trades, master of none” thing. That feels like part of what I’m talking about…
The “simple” my soul is longing for is focus, I think … and just less. Less stuff, less schedule, less frantic/hectic/stress. Which, I think, means more focus on things I love, more focus on people I love. I think.
[…] and loved today was the simplicity of it. (You’ll recall, my heart is currently longing for simple.) I found Simple in animals being animals, and, being a fairly small fair, the pace is a bit […]