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.1