Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rebirth, Refocus, Reinforce

As my birthday roles around, I don’t count the years anymore.  I stopped at 43 so long ago.  My kids had those candles shaped like the numbers.  They used the same 4 and 3 for years until they were melted down to not look very good anymore.  I suppose I ought to up the ante some, but why?  I could be 49 forever like Jack Benny.  And if you don’t remember Jack Benny, that says something about how old you are.

Anyway, I treat my birthday more like New Year’s Day.  It can be an assessment of my year and where I’m going.

What are my priorities?  The answer is easy:

Spend more time with family and friends.

Take care of myself by eating well and exercising regularly..

Offer to help others in need.


Now accomplishing that is not as easy, but I suspect the path may be what is called voluntary simplicity.  That's actually a book written way back in 1981 by Duane Elgin.  I don't know if he coined the phrase or merely used it as the title of his book.  It is sort of like how interest in recycling keeps coming back into vogue, so does simplified living.  Another name for this idea is sustainable living.  


Now voluntary simplicity does not mean you have to quit your job, move to a farm, grown your own food, make your own clothes, and do without all the techno gizmos. Well, that may work for some people, or some part of that may be included,  but simplified living is less about doing without certain things, and more about having just enough. It’s about designing your life so that you don' t have to sacrifice anything important or waste your time, energy or money on things you don't really need or love. It means different things to different people in different situations. What I might find comfortable or enriching could be a life of deprivation and boredom to someone else. The level of simplicity also depends on your existing responsibilities,  not abandoning legitimate commitments, or imposing your values on other people.   There is a peace that can come over you, if you stop worrying about what other people think about whatever you are doing.  But it's human nature to want to be accepted and praised, so that is a hard one to accomplish.


The first step towards constructing a simpler life is to gradually begin paring your life down to the things, activities and relationships that you truly need or genuinely love. I had a sort of forced paring down when we moved from Indiana and 2 incomes and a 2000 square foot home, to Missouri and 1 income and a 1000 square foot home.  I had to leave a lot behind and the emotional ties to some of the material things were enormous.  Today, I don’t really miss most of what was left behind.  Focusing on my family has been so much easier now that they have moved to this area.  It also makes me realize how much I was missing when they were in Louisiana.  I plan to cherish every second I have to spend with them each and every day.


To me, the goal is to free up more time, resources, and energy for things that add real quality and meaning to my life.  Here’s a list I found of things many people may focus on while trying to move towards voluntary simplicity: 

-Limiting material possessions to what is needed and loved

-Meaningful work, whether paid or volunteer

-Quality time with friends and family

-Fun leisure activities

-A conscious effort at budgeting your finances; finding your line between deprivation and excessive spending.

-Connection to community, but not necessarily in formal organizations

-Sustainable practices, such as recycling and supporting local, community-based businesses with fair labor and environmental practices

-A healthy lifestyle, including exercise, adequate sleep, and nutritious food

-Activities that encourage personal growth, an inner life, or spirituality, such as yoga, meditation, prayer, religious ceremonies, journaling, and/or spiritual reading

-A connection to nature, such as spending time outdoors regularly

-Things that make you smile in your personal environment


My goal is to make the most out of whatever I am doing at this very moment…because this moment is the only time I am sure of.  I think we make our own happiness and it’s easier to create that joyful life if there isn’t so much clutter in the way.


What matters most?  I want to make my daily life a true reflection of those ideas beliefs and attitudes.  Wish me luck.


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