With my bedroom windows open, I'm awakened to the birds' morning songs—a cacophony of chirps and caws. It's loud and dissonant, but simple in its source—birds. Outside. Doing what birds do. I savor the sounds for a minute while my brain engages, and suddenly my mind chirps its own note: Get coffee now!
As soon as my feet hit the ground, what began as a simple start to the day quickly gives way to a complex schedule: Coffee. Shower. Out the door. Hour commute. At my desk. Onslaught of e-mail. Voicemail. Meetings. Decisions. Reading. More reading. Editing. Eat lunch while editing. More meetings. Write. Write more. Pack up. Hour commute. Stop and see Mom in nursing home on the way home. At home. Dinner. Homework with kids. Walk dog. Collapse in bed. Attempt to watch Netflix. Asleep within five minutes. Wake up at midnight. Turn off computer. Back to sleep. Birds chirping. Repeat.
The details may be different in your life, but the routine probably sounds grindingly familiar. And if you're anything like me, you probably ache for something simpler. Something slower.
In my article, "In Search of a Real Simple Life," I describe lessons learned when a simple life was foisted on my family and me. A house fire destroyed nearly everything we owned. We lost much, but what we gained—time and a changed perspective on possessions—far exceeded any losses. This experience was a watermark event on the Liautaud family timeline. It changed us and shaped our values in indelible ways.
I never thought I'd forget those lessons. And yet, 20 years later I'm seeing that they weren't etched on my heart; they were written more with a Sharpie, which, though supposedly permanent, really does fade over time.
I've been wrestling for some time at the crossroads of craving a simpler life versus the reality of my not-so-simple life. I ache for simplicity. I long for a slower pace. Fewer things, more time. This is my definition of a simple life.
And yet, as I assess my life and ponder how to achieve this hoped-for simplicity, I'm discovering that I may be my own worst enemy in the fight for it. I sabotage myself at every turn, it seems.
My closet is brimming with clothes that no longer fit or are out of style. But I hang on to them in hopes that sooner or later I'll lose 10 pounds, or the styles will come back and I'll have a ready-to-wear trendy wardrobe.