I don’t want to be melodramatic, but the very act of blogging seems to bring the drama out in me. Something about stopping, reflecting, and distilling a memory or thought into words heightens every emotion and romanticizes every experience. That’s exactly what I love about writing, but at the same time, it’s also what I want to subdue at times. So I offer this little prelude as I talk to you about simplicity…a concept that I know I romanticize.
I would call simplicity my Number Two goal. My first goal is to follow God, but secondly, I want to lead a simple life (I find these two goals to be significantly linked.). Oddly, my “simplicity” goal is pretty complex. Don’t you just love those pesky contradictions? I want simplicity to be the timbre of all aspects of my life: family, food, housekeeping, community activities, social life, faith. I look at magazines and fall in love with pictures of sparse living rooms, tidy nightstands, and bookshelves that have room for things other than books. I turn the page in my calendar and marvel at a clean-as-a-whistle month. BUT…contradiction coming…I also derive a sense of importance and value when I look back at a heavily graffiti’d calendar, layered with multi-colored notes about appointments, meetings, and deadlines. Look, I think to myself, I must really matter. Look how busy I’ve been. Of course, these thoughts are ridiculous. My worth doesn’t come from how many appointments I can squeeze in a day; yet, I would be foolish to brush aside those thoughts without a bit of introspection. How should I define success? Now that I’m not working toward a specific academic goal, what does it mean to have a successful day? How can I embrace the simplicity I crave but maintain characteristics of solid work ethic, perseverance, motivation, and industriousness? I look to my children, and as I watch them fall asleep, I realize that they feel no pressures to complete something specific in a day. They build block towers and stop on a whim to make a collage of purple circles and later a Batman mask tied with yarn. What do they know of success? They ask for food and drink when they need nourishment. They call to Mommy when they need comfort. They look to Daddy for silliness and laughter. They look inward for playful imagination and problem-solving. They measure the completion of the day by heavy eyelids and a feeling of contentment.
As I work toward a simpler life, one centered upon God and family, I’m trying to embrace the things that I love to do and grant them the same (if not greater) value than the things that I do “professionally.” Over the last year, I’ve been drawing great inspiration from a little prayer that our church’s Sunday School students say each Sunday morning. They recite: Father, give us every day work to do and time for play. Help us to be kind and good, and treat others as thy children should. Amen.” Initially, I was struck by the thought that small children are asking God for work to do. They don’t work, I thought to myself. But then I considered the work of childhood. The work of growing, discovering, learning to share and compromise, learning to take care of possessions, cleaning one’s own spaces in the world, learning to form friendships and maintain them. These are important tasks, simple steps of growth toward a fulfilling life. I can learn so much from that model.