Thoughts on Simplicity Now and Then

I want to give and take from my children and husband, to share with friends and community, to carry out my obligations to man and the world, as an artist, as a citizen. But I want first of all- in fact, as an end to these other desires- to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can.
— Anne Morrow Lindbergh / A Gift From the Sea

This excerpt is from a book that my dear friend, Sarah Jenkins, gifted me two summers ago, and it changed my life.

She picked the book out for me as we were perusing through a glorious old book store that summer. I was telling her about a trip I was getting ready to go on- camping on the beach with my sister- and her eyes lit up. As she handed me the book with browned tattered pages and an 80's cover with a picture of a seashell on it, she said, "YOU NEED THIS." And she was right. Oh-so-right. 

Up until that point I hadn't considered much my need for simplicity or to be in the moment, and I certainly hadn't searched out books on the subject. At the time I had a one-year-old son. I was 31. I was on the brink of changing, no-- completely blowing up-- my worldview and how I saw myself, but I didn't entirely recognize it at the time. I needed someone to speak wisdom about how to stay sane amidst the many hurdles modern life, parenting, and aging throws at us as we try to become more of who we want to be in our relationships and our inner-selves. This book held the beginning of a revelation and revolution I needed then, and continue to need now.

I picked this book back up recently after it came up in a conversation and I was reminded of its wisdom on the topic of simplicity. The second time around reading it was equally as life-altering. Back when I read the book the first time, I wrote a blog post summing up how it had truly captured what I needed in my life at the time. A reminder that to feel at peace I must have my inner and outer selves be congruent. Its funny how reading old journals or old blog posts are equal parts pleasurable and painful, given that many of the same desires of the past I still desire now.

From that post--

"How very quickly one starts to realize when spending  several days in the open air just how much one can do without. So much of my life is spent in a distracted haze-- worrying about all the little things that add up to one big thing. Appointments, self-imposed deadlines, dates, friend outings, daycare, being sure my son is learning at the correct pace. None of that has much to do with furthering my inward self. While at the ocean enjoying a simplistic life, I thought for quite a while about how modern life offers a certain sort of severance. Lindbergh writes, "This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation. It does not bring grace. It destroys the soul."

Summer has begun, and I am in the middle of a short season of lighter work, longer days, travel, and an easier schedule. I have found myself relishing in a much-needed break from my every day hustle and longing for a realignment; a simplification in the hectic world I have chosen. 

I wonder now, in what ways am I still living fragmented, distracted, and clinging to the things that I think bring life but actually inhibit it?

I have come a long way from those early days of child-rearing with all its re-imagining and realigning of goals, but there is still so much to learn; so much to work through. I know I continue to rush from one thing to another, spilling out my energy to the tasks at hand and tying up my inner self to the constraints that schedules, timing and obligations bring.  Back then I felt like I was too busy, too pressed, too scheduled-- and while I have made many changes; the act of simplifying has not always been one of them. Maybe this was a good time yet again to read such a life-altering book. To look around and look into myself, to adjust and grow. To call from with myself a sense of peace and practice of the things that matter. 

“May the outward and the inward man be at one”
— Phadreus
photos by Michelle Houghton

photos by Michelle Houghton