“Our life is frittered away by detail ... simplify, simplify.”
~Henry David Thoreau
I have a lot of befores and afters in my life. Dr. Phil calls them the "10 defining moments". 10 points in your life that define and redefine who you are. Personally, I call them before and afters.
There's Before and after I graduated from high school
Before and after I got married the first time
Before and after my kids were born
Before and after September 11
Before and after I got a divorce
Before and after I married Gene
But the one I've been thinking about lately, is before and after I moved to this place. This little house, on 2 acres, in the middle of a bean field, in northwest Missouri, smack in the middle of this country, in North America, in the northern hemisphere, on this big blue planet, in this little solar system, that's just a blip in one of the 5 billion galaxies.
Feel small yet?
I guess you really don't take a lot of notice of the before, until you hit the after. You know, that moment when you realize how much your life has changed, and hopefully it's for the better. That moment when you say to yourself how this is so very much how it didn't used to be. I hope you then chuckle to yourself and smile, and say "life is good".
Before, I used to let myself get tangled up in drama, much of it self induced. Now, I cringe at any sign of a dramatic moment. Only once in a while letting loose, but quickly wishing that it would all just go away and I could start that moment over.
Before, I used to spend too many hours on the phone, talking, complaining, venting. Now, I shun the phone to the point of being a loner. I like it. I answer when it's my husband, my kids, or business. That's pretty much it.
Before, I used to tie myself up in the pursuit of the material "things" to the point of putting myself in financial risk. Now, I am happy with the things that I have. I surrounded myself with only things that I love, getting rid of things that make me think unhappy thoughts, or are not beautiful. The result is that I'm constantly surrounded by little things I love. Sure, I still like "things" but it seems like the less I care about the latest gizmo or geegaw, the more blessed I am when I something new comes into my life.
I love the simpler things now.
- Standing out on my back deck every morning, deciding what the day is going to look like.
- Chickens watching me come to the coop in the morning, and pecking my toes when I get there.
- Planes flying over in every which direction.
- Watching the flowers and every stage of development. Knowing *I* did that, all by myself.
- Seeing Tanner turn from a little kid, to a young man. He changes every time I see him.
- Listening to the sound of the ground settle after a rain.
- Observing as the down of a baby robin turns to feathers in a matter of days.
- Comments from new readers. I love them, and read them all.
- Redeveloping old friendships on facebook. "Seeing" people around the world and their daily lives.
- Watching the personalities of my cats, and how much they love me, or want to be loved by me.
- Roses. These I bought for myself. Just because they were there and they were pretty.
- A million other tiny miniscule details around me every day.
I was thinking to myself this morning, when did this happen?
And I answer "after".
After I came here. I was plopped back down in the middle of the country, just like I was 25 years ago as a kid. Back then I was forced to entertain myself with the woods, the cows next door, the pond up the road, an old barn, and miscellaneous critters.
Then I realized, that when I came to this spot, I was forced to entertain myself with the woods, the cows next door, the pond up the road, an old barn, and miscellaneous critters. I realized it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe my parents weren't so crazy to move out into the middle of absolute nowhere. It drove me nuts as a kid, but I think I "get it" now.
I said to myself, that I wish people would take more time to be less distracted. I know what you're saying, you're busy. You have finals, and a job, and 4 kids that want mac and cheese with cut up hotdogs for lunch, the car is almost out of gas, the Henson report has to be on the boss's desk by 3 p.m., you dog needs to get to the groomer, there's soccer practice at 4, dance at 5, the cat barfed on your comforter... again, and why.... you can't possibly miss American Idol.
I get it.
I'm not saying I'm not busy. That the cat barfs on my comforter too. (been there done that). My list is long every single day of things that must get done. There's photos to be edited, a list of 5 albums that need created, I need to buy cat food, the water bill really needs to be paid, what is that smell and it's noon, why do I have pajamas on still?
I'm not asking you to quit your job, sell all your possessions and live off the land in the middle of Montana - however appealing that might sound.
All I'm asking, is for you to turn your head to the left. Stop living your life with tunnel vision. It's ok to focus on what needs to be done to make that day happen. To pay the water bill. To wash the dog. To not be late or soccer practice... again. But in the process of the every day, you can acknowledge and appreciate the simple things that you never saw before, by simply turning your head to the left at a stoplight and watching the kids play in the schoolyard. By turning your head to the left at lunch, and eat in the park instead of your desk. (and that means sitting in the grass, not in your car). By turning your head to the left and look at that bud blooming into a flower right outside your window at work... check every day. Watch it's progress.
Life has been much more full, when I started noticing things after I came here, this little spot in the middle of nowhere. Taking 3 minutes to stand outside and listen to nothing but the birds or appreciating how the raindrops look on a clover leave (I have plenty of both).
I'm less stressed.
I don't care as much.
I read a post today by NYC artist and photographer Color me Katie, where she talks about buying a bright green rug, and being so happy because it looks like grass. "We rarely get to see grass in the city!" And that clenched it for me. I'll never be able to live in NYC because I have a hard time picturing a life with no grass.. covered in concrete. Oh, I know she has her simple things too, I'm sure many people that live in a concrete jungle do. But, the highlight of my day is when I get to go out and sit in my grass, photographing a bug, or a raindrop or if I'm lucky, a chicken (that will let me catch it later).
That's my simple things. Those simple things that make me appreciate the world, and which I hope will ultimately let me live longer, and appreciate more. I'm not asking you to buy two acres in the middle of nowhere. I'm not asking you to never live in NYC. The secret to simplicity, is not that it's afforded just to the rich, but something that anyone, of any status can achieve. It costs nothing, to turn your head to the left....
...and delight, in the simple things.
That's how I know, that it's the simple things that change a life from just lived, to a life lived richly.
“We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition.”
“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”
~David Henry Thoreau