In recent weeks, I’ve learned, or perhaps rediscovered, a hard truth. I embrace wholeheartedly the Quaker ideal of simplicity, but the truth of this ideal that a lot of Quakers don’t talk about is this: Living simply is actually quite complicated. And I don’t mean just in terms of clearing out the massive rubbish that daily life accumulates so quickly and so easily. I mean from the harder aspects of letting oneself off the hook, letting stuff go, and just being.
As a perfectionist, I struggle mightily with all three of these things. I wrestle with the yin and yang of striving for perfection. On the one hand, I am thankful never to be complacent about my life in all its many facets. I am thankful for an incredible work ethic. And I am thankful for my persistence in building and maintaining relationships with others and with ideas. But on the other hand, I wish, perhaps more strongly, that I could give myself the same gentle “it’s going to be okay” talk I give to so many others so much of the day. I wish I could let myself just be, take problems one step at a time, and deal with roadblocks I put up one brick at a time.
So while on break the last two weeks, I’ve worked really hard to let myself be. I’ve tried tackling projects around the house to simplify our material lives one step at a time. I created two sanctuaries for us: one in our bedroom and one in our shared office/creative space. And it feels good. I still have the tendency to look at all the other projects left waiting, the piles of boxes to be recycled, the areas of the house still left to re-organize after yet another community member in our little household has moved out. But I am trying to stop and breathe, to outline what it would take to solve the insurmountable problem step by step.
In addition to removing stuff from our lives, I’ve also tried to put in place or back in place some good “me” habits. One of which is more reading and writing. I have already made two trips to the public library and now have a stack of books, with more on the way, to fuel my mental fire and inspire me to simply be with a book and a cup of coffee or tea. I’ve written down my thoughts every day for the last four days, letting myself breathe on paper or on the computer. I even finished a piece of writing I started back in January about my paternal grandfather. It felt so amazing to give him the gift of my words—to know as I sent the simple piece on that I was showing him a piece of my soft, inner core.
I want to hold on to this feeling that while living simply is hard, hard work, it is possible. You just have to do it step by step, word by word, and breath by breath.