I can gradually let the task completely overwhelm me.”
— Ashleigh Brilliant
This is just a ramble. Not sure where it’s going to go …
A long time ago I decided that keys — yeah, the kind on a key ring — would be a good measure of how successful I was at simplifying my life. I figured getting down to one key would mean I’d made it. At zero, I’d probably be living in a cave, and I’ve never hankered for that version of “simplicity.”
Closest I ever got was two. I think I’m a seven right now. And while things could be much worse on the Great Key Scale (were there actually such a thing) …
… they could be better, too.
There’s a reason that every time you see people with lots of keys, they’re some sort of jailer or some sort of paranoid. Or they just have so much to guard or protect.
Have you ever reached a point in your life where you broke an old pattern, made what you thought was a monumental change (e.g. gave up a career in law for art; divorced a spouse and broke with the entire life you’d shared; left a stressful job to start a business) … then found yourself a few years later feeling as if not much had changed?
Or, on the other hand, have you made such a change, lived it for years, and found it really gratifying? Found that you, and your life, really changed?
What do you think makes the difference between “meet the new rut; same as the old rut” and really breaking free?
Mindset, of course. Or at least that’s a part of it.
If we tend to stress out in one line of work, chances are we’ll stress out in another, just because we’re a stress-out kind of person.
If we fall into Bad Romance time and again, likely the fault lies with us, rather than in our stars.
If we jump from one pie-in-the-sky endeavor to another — absolutely sure each time that the next one really will make us rich, famous, and good looking — we’re at fault when we end up poor, disappointed, and just as homely as ever.
But mindset isn’t all.
Life has an insidious way of complexifying itself. When we’re not looking, the freedom we seek in our personal lives becomes a heap of responsibilities and difficulties. (Similar to the way political freedom gradually becomes a heap of bureaucracies, rules, and incursions. Whether the two phenomena are linked could be an interesting subject for another time.)
It takes darn near as much “eternal vigilance” to keep our personal lives focused and gratifying as it does to keep a country from becoming tyrannized.
It’s all tradeoffs. Today I could go pitch a tent in the woods just to get away from the artificial annoyances that have piled up over the last week.
At first, the thought of throwing it all off fills me with — if this is even possible — calm elation. But no sooner do the warm fuzzy feelings arrive than the thoughts come crowding in: “But what would I do for Internet? And insulation? And what if …?”
His life seemed incredibly complicated to me. The logistics of it. The perils. The dependencies. And for him, the incessant moral/ethical decisions.
It would be a lot easier just to be rich and have the servants handle things. Except then you have to handle the servants. And the tax man. And whatever.
Not to mention that small problem of getting rich in the first place.
You’d think that life could at least get simple on one’s death bed. But I remember my Grandma, in the last weeks and months of her life, fretting about duties she’d neglected and people she’d slighted decades earlier. Nobody else knew what Grandma was talking about; she wasn’t fully with it by then. But she’d pluck urgently at my aunt’s sleeve and say, “Oh, be sure to tell Nettie about that pinafore,” or, “I shouldn’t have said that to Leonard, I really shouldn’t have.”
I sometimes wonder when life gets to be simple. And why is getting to simplicity so darned complicated?
Is simplicity a gift, a grace that comes when one quits trying? If it’s a grace, does that mean it’s unavailable to some of us, no matter how hard we try?
I ought to conclude on some upbeat philosophical note. Some word of wisdom. Some demonstration that I have it all figured out.
Some days, I really do. Some days … don’t we all?
But it’s been a stressful week. And today all I have is Ashleigh Brilliant to kick off the blog and Yogi Berra to close it:
“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.”