Living a simple life. It sounds simple and surely it should be simple – but what does it actually mean?
One of my recurring goals for at least the past 10 years has been to “simplify my life” but I am still not exactly sure what it is that I really want to achieve.
Fourteen years ago when I first went back to work after having our precious Amy, I remember sitting and writing a vision of what my dream life would be. I wanted a life with the freedom to focus my attention on those I love the most, a life without the stress, strain, busy-ness and relentless pace that in the end has characterised the childhood of both of my babies. I suspect I have never achieved this vision because I was never exactly sure what this simple life would look like or how to achieve it. Essentially I knew what I didn’t want but not what I did want.
We made an escape to the other side of the world and in the process did find a certain type of simplicity. Our lives in beautiful Aotearoa New Zealand are simpler to some extent, because we are just a family of 4 here. We do not have to accomodate the needs of our wider family and have few commitments outside of the four of us. Weekends and holidays are certainly easier to plan and we have become more focused on doing things together because we rely on each other so much.
The move here was also the catalyst for the adoption of a materially simpler life as we gave away most of our belongings to move here as cheaply as we could. While there are many things that we have replaced, there are also many that we have not and do not miss and so our material existence has been undoubtedly simplified. There is nothing that squashes the desire to shop more than knowing you have already given away more than so many people ever have in their lifetime.
Still however, the yearning for a simpler life remains and lately I have really been trying to grapple again with what it is and what I really mean when I flop down on the chair and say I am tired of being tired and I want a simpler life.
Of course, there are several different definitions of simplicity but the one from the dictionary that gets closest to this yearning for me, is the idea of a ‘freedom from complexity, intricacy or division into parts.’ As I have thought about the desire I have for simplicity, I have realised that it is a desire that transcends the simple wardrobe, simplified home cooking and simple frugal lifestyle ideas that I am often drawn to online in my exploration of what simplicity might actually look like.
I have realised that to me, simplicity represents a desire to be free from the fragmented experience that sees me jolted from one identity to another. Even as I write this, my work email is pinging away and I have the usual thoughts flitting through my head around what to make for dinner, whether I should reschedule an appointment that is looming large on the calendar, when I should get the car serviced, how my lessons will go tomorrow and whether we should plan a camping trip for this coming weekend or not.
Perhaps my yearning for simplicity is really a yearning for wholeness: the opportunity to be fully present and focus on one thing, the most important thing at any one moment in time. I wonder how I can reach this, though, how I can still the busy, loud background noise that is the soundtrack to my life and find that stillness and wholeness.
There is a part of me that just wants to escape again, to go and look somewhere else, to try and find a simpler life in yet another location, but I know in my core that this will not help, simply because it cannot lead to the simpler life that I crave. To find simplicity, I think I need to be brave enough to look further inside myself because I have a sneaky suspicion that it has been there all along.