I see it first thing in the morning, through tired eyes as I splash cool water on my face. It’s the last thing I look at before I go to lay in bed. It’s in the perfect spot and is the perfect reminder. It also happens to be a memento; when my aunt passed away of cancer a few years ago, it is the one thing of hers that I got. It’s perfect in that way too, that it was hers, and if there was one thing her battle with cancer taught her, I think it was that the simple things are the only things we really need.
8 letters, one word: SIMPLIFY. Arguably, one of the simplest words, the simplest concepts; so why are we living such complicated lives?
Stuff… the more we have the more distracted we become and the more complicated life becomes. We focus on it rather than our loved ones, our faith, rather than improving our lives or doing something healthy for ourselves. What’s worse, is that because we are so distracted by it, we rarely even realize it’s going on unless we are forced into a wake-up call. Keeping up with the latest trends and technologies, having a new car, a beautiful home and nice stuff inside– it’s really all just stuff, just a distraction of clutter robbing us from the ability to fully live our lives.
I have kept the family thread on my phone from 2013. She used to write us “Happy Friday” messages every week reminding us of the realizations she had come to over the course of her last years on earth. I refer back to those messages periodically and I get something new out of her words almost every time I read them. It was so important to her that she pass on her profound wisdom: let go of our wants and fears; focus on the great blessings we already have; do not take a single moment for granted; life is so beautiful.
However, so often I wonder, did it take a terminal diagnosis for her to fully realize how simple life should be? How good life really was? That in the grand scheme, as she looked back on life, she knew with all of her heart that her loved ones and cherishing made memories were all that truly mattered? Perhaps the diagnosis simply encouraged her to share her personal revelations, to leave her legacy– one that can save some of us from ourselves.
How many times have I obsessed over things, impressing those around me, and lavish living?
Too many to count.
How many times have I dreamed of winning a shopping spree, or a million dollars, and been consumed by the excitement that accompanied it?
Again, too many to count.
But then, it’s safe to say none of us have made good decisions since day one, and that sometimes it takes darkness for us to find light. I was always so focused on me and trying to make myself happy with all the wrong things that I missed what true fulfillment was. My darkest days were spent either A) at some shallow party drowning my sorrows in booze, or B) alone in bed with a laptop filling cart after cart with meaningless comfort buys, drowning my sorrows in retail therapy.
As one would guess, neither of these choices fulfilled me.
There came a point when I knew I could not allow a dramatic wake-up call to be the only hope I had for change in my life.
There was no exact day when everything changed, but slowly, everything just began to. I began to learn live within my means. I began learning self-restraint, how fulfilling sharing my time and talents is, and how to let go of self indulgence and greed. But simplifying is a journey, not a destination.
We have kept old, ugly vehicles that we owe nothing on. We live in a home that could use new kitchen appliances, carpet, paint, and a new fence. I quit working a good job a year and half ago and we have less money because of it. Yet, these decisions have allowed us to live a happier, simpler life. By looking for joy in the things that surround us, we are able to realize there is no need to go looking for more.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Let us not get so caught up in worldly pleasures and possessions that we cannot see straight. Our lives are already so full, we just have to open our eyes and see that it is already there; we have wants, but there is nothing else we need.
Let us simplify our things, simplify our thoughts, our agendas, and our to-do lists. We need to spend more time loving, living, creating memories, and doing what truly makes us happy. It’s really all so simple.