Keeping things simple? We know it’s a good idea, yet we struggle with achieving it. Sometimes we find ourselves so bogged down in details that we cannot see our way clear to how we can simplify.
Are we really so afraid of missing out that we must immerse ourselves in a surplus of “somethings” that have little meaning to us?
Do we over-complicate our lives without realizing we’ve done so?
“I’ve discovered two principles in recent years, and I live by them,” said an old friend to me, a few weeks ago.
“What are those principles?” I asked.
“Do what you love if at all possible. And be lucky.”
I smiled. I understood the first point, and likewise the second. We have control over the first to some degree, and less so when it comes to luck – the sort that we can’t “make.”
As for complications?
They seem to come in all forms – thrust upon us by “life,” or we have a hand in creating them (even unknowingly) – in our emotional lives, our work lives, our financial lives.
Realistically, we carry the burdens of a mix of worries and duties that are unanticipated and beyond our control, and others that we take on or manufacture, all on our own.
Planning to Overflow
Some of us are so committed to contingency planning that we take simple life tasks and weigh them down with an abundance of worst case scenarios.
We may be conditioned to do this from prior experience. A life in which we don’t have backup may add to the tendency to overcompensate in this area. Or, we may be worriers by nature.
I know myself to over-complicate in this way (though not in everything), and I’m consciously making an effort to do better.
Control, or Fear of Lack of Control?
Some of us complicate our lives subconsciously, repeating relationship patterns with friends and partners. We may take on troubled people, troubled situations, and responsibilities that become our own by virtue of making them our own – when we shouldn’t.
I think of those who take in strays (men or women who are fixer-uppers), entangling their lives or setting themselves up for heartbreak – or worse.
I wonder if we attempt to fight what we cannot control by (inadvertently) complicating situations and relationships, believing that will reduce our fear or worry.
Striving for Healthy Simplicity
And I look at the friend who is a master at keeping it simple – in style and in life – and I remind myself that he’s at a stage where he can.
His children are now grown, he’s on a second career that feels meaningful to him, and he has streamlined every aspect of his lifestyle so that he’s comfortable, while requiring little that is material. Instead, he focuses on relationships and experiences, as well as pursuits that interest him.
Are Women More Likely to Complicate?
Is over-complicating a woman’s issue, a mother’s issue, or an accumulation of nature, nurture, and experience that leads us to overdo in a confusing and complex culture?
Even my friend acknowledges that my situation – logistically, financially, personally, professionally – is different from his. It is structurally more intricate, less predictable, and with others who depend on me in a way that isn’t true for him. As for the rest of his opinions on simplifying when we can?
Doing What You Love – If You’re Lucky
As for pursuing one’s passion, getting lucky, and facilitating both with sound judgment?
Writing is my passion and I love it. I’m not writing everything I wish I had time for, but doesn’t that offer more to look forward to? As for luck, these days, I’m feeling my share, though that wasn’t always the case.
When it comes to choices, my single mother life took me in a direction in which I made certain decisions – some good, some less so – and others were made for me, which I learned to live with. Most single parents could say the same.
Yet I’m convinced I can do better, and I take a lesson in simplifying when and where I can, hoping to accept necessary trade-offs that result in more deeply felt experiences and considerably less stress.
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