Every New Year’s Day, it’s among my many resolutions. Every season of spiritual renewal I vow to make it my new way of life. Intellectually, I grasp the value of unfettering myself from so many material pursuits. Aesthetically, I recognize when the space around me is balanced—a tended garden or the living room of a friend who knows her feng shui. Lately it is the one goal I find most attractive and…alas…most unattainable.
To simplify my life.
I would believe the whole concept to be a myth if I didn’t actually know people who live in the paradise of simplicity. In my novel, “The Healing,” the character named Grace is such a person, and I created her in the likeness of a dear friend. Yes, people like this actually exist. They are detached from their worldly possessions. Their minds appear to be unclouded. Their lives are in order because their priorities are in order. And they take each day as it comes without dwelling on the past or getting anxious about the future. This is what I envy most—the ability to live in the moment.
Even though I’m not one to make lists, I have this notion that I am unable to relax until I accomplish what I set out to accomplish. “I’ll go for that nice walk, but let me finish this first.” Or, “I’ll sit down to read after I’ve done the bills and cleared off the desk.” That list of mine might not be written down on paper, but it’s branded on my brain. It gets longer as I get older and life gets more complicated. At this rate, I’d have to live three more centuries before I could disentangle myself from my own expectations.
So instead of fantasizing about the end result—A Life of Simplicity for Fran Pergamo—I’ve come up with three rules that I will attempt to impose upon myself:
Spiritual well-being has to come first. Not only does it set a person on the right path, but it is the source of inner peace and purpose. Human connection is second—family, friends and those with whom we come into contact each day. Everything else is optional, flexible, or downright dispensable. I believe this wholeheartedly. Can I live my life accordingly? I’m working on it.
• Avoid Being Overly Sentimental
This is so hard for me. I have been sentimental about people, places and the objects connected to them ever since I was a toddler. Hubby Jim and I are both the babies in the family, and it’s evident in our attachment to “things” that belonged to parents, “things” we’ve given each other, “things” that remind us of a person or an event we wish to somehow immortalize. Unfortunately, our younger son is the same way, so we preserve everything knowing he’d be willing to keep it all. Now I’m starting to think, why would I do that to him?
We have what matters in our hearts. Yes, keep one or two things. Keep the pictures. Write down the history. But every tool, every kitchen gadget? Even as I write this, I realize it’s like some form of idolatry. Will I be giving away all that stuff? We’ll see.
• Do One Thing At A Time (And Finish It)
I often spin in circles when I have a full day at home. Today I am writing this blog post, and I probably allowed myself to get distracted more than twenty times. I would’ve been done hours ago if I didn’t jump up to “get something else started” every time I had a random thought. This is a matter of discipline, and if this is the path I chose, I can’t keep detouring. I can make excuses about the artistic mind or say that I NEED the distraction, but then I can’t complain when I find myself juggling a dozen unfinished projects and commitments in a day.
So here I am writing instead of cleaning out my closets. Here I am writing instead of visiting an elderly loved one. But I will finish this article and post it today.
I vow to simplify my life…tomorrow.
Are you in?
I’m overly sentimental too. Up until I was 22, I still had all the notes my friends gave me in junior high and high school.
I’ve also done the same thing with kitchen utensils, books, writing assignments from kindergarten, my daughter’s school papers, you name it. It’s only been in the past year that I’ve really started to purge items and think about what we really need around the house. I found that as we started to get rid of things that the house felt lighter and more carefree, which in turn made me feel better. It’s amazing what decluttering can do for the soul.