Maybe we have this “simplify” thing all wrong. Yeah, we don’t need anywhere near as much “stuff” as we all seem to continue to own. And maybe we don’t need a lifestyle where the calendar is jammed so full you can’t make it from appointment to appointment without total love from the traffic gods. And maybe even switching to a single story living arrangement makes sense. But for heaven’s sake, let’s not get carried away with making everything simple.
We need mental challenges. We need to step up to things we aren’t sure we can do. We need to stretch—mentally, emotionally, and physically.
I just got back from one of the best vacations of my life. When I was on the brink of it, I wondered if I was insane to have set it up the way I did. I hadn’t committed to climbing Mt Everest or anything dramatically daunting. But I had committed to doing a lot of different things in a place that I didn’t know my way around easily and totally on my own. When I laid it all out on paper, I could not help but ask myself “Are you NUTS?!”
In the course of nine days, I got myself TO Colorado (by plane—with a ride to the airport from my older son, bless him), rented a car, found the hotel I had also set up, went to dinner with an internet friend and his significant other, found my way back to the hotel (in the dark), made it to the new home of friends from college that I hadn’t seen in 30 years the next night, met with the curator of a mining museum to begin research on the sequel to a western I published a while back the day after that, met with a friend I hadn’t seen in 35 years, found another hotel, toured an underground mine, visited six museums related to gold mining in Colorado in the 1890’s, found the third hotel I’d booked, found the remote address of another set of friends, dressed for and went to a toga party (and danced like I was 19), attended two other parties with total strangers, drove back to Denver from the high mountains to spend the night with yet another pair of good friends, got myself back to the airport with the rental car full of gas and properly checked in, flew home, and then got back to my house (thanks again to the same son) to start working on a dinner party I’d committed to two days later.
Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot to you. If so, you probably haven’t been listening to the well-meaning mess-makers telling us “Slow down.” I have had that going in stereo from various healthcare providers for over five years now. In this case, I ignored that advice and did what I wanted to. WOW! Did I have fun! And I felt just as good (well….BETTER) than if I’d been doing what the “experts” were telling me was right.
As I write this, my two granddaughters are working on craft projects in my dining room. They could have just opted to read a book or play with toys that they already know how to use. No way! They wanted the challenge of something new—something where they had to master a skill they didn’t already have. This does not go away. We still need to do complex stuff when we are older. NOT expecting that of ourselves is how to get to where we can’t. That’s how you get to “old and decrepit.” It’s totally natural to want a complex challenge to work on. At EVERY age.
It might be wiser, as we start to throttle back, to think in terms of choosing the best challenges in what we keep. You don’t have to keep the challenge of maintaining a 7000 square foot house. You don’t have to keep the collection of Hummels that your mother so lovingly amassed. But you DO have to expect yourself to learn new things, to try new stuff, to tackle new challenges. THAT is what being truly alive involves.
So when someone tells you, “Simplify,” don’t be too quick to jump on that. Do you really want to let that complexity go? NO one knows what you need as well as you do.