Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Questions and Answers

My dear friend Arizaphale posed some provocative questions regarding my quest to simplify.
I'm going to quote her questions here, as they have resounded in my head for several days and I want to explore them in print.

"I'm still struggling with the concept of simplify. Can you tell me first what makes your life complicated? And what is the difference between complicated and busy? Or complicated and messy? I am really interested..not just having a laugh. I would like to consider the idea myself."

I'm definitely struggling with the concept of simplify. Perhaps that is not quite the word I was looking for. Yet, I return to it time and time again. It feels right in my mind, when I say it, when I talk about it. It feels like that SHOULD be my word for 2008...the word I strive to achieve, to become: simple.

When I first read the question "What makes your life complicated?" my response was EVERYTHING! I completely complicate everything. I'm the person who lives among the trees, never catching a glimpse of the forest. I never see the big picture because the details bog me down, tying me to whatever it is I'm working on. My friend, Barbara, is a magnificent caterer. Just last night, I was honored to help her cater a birthday party. She can give me any task without worrying about it again. I'll take care of it to the tiniest detail: dill sprinkled on the cucumber sandwiches, lemon wedges on the shrimp, napkins folded and placed on the table. I never see the big picture: the guests enjoyment, the beautiful table settings.

Now that I've had time to ponder that question a little more, I realize that I want to rid my life of all the things that complicate it. Credit card debt, overwhelming schedules, clutter, my extra weight. All of these things take time away from what I really want to be doing: creating and spending time with M and H.

How does credit card debt complicate my life? It's created an endless cycle of check-to-check living. Every month, in order to "pay down" my credit card, I put a huge chunk of my income on it. The problem with that is that we then have no money to live on, so I charge my card back up. My credit card RULES my monthly income. Up, down, up, down. I'm a slave to my credit card. If I could pay off my credit card significantly, my family would have more money to do the things we want and we would have the money to do it. I might even be able to stay home for a few years to do my favorite job: mother my daughter! Now the question is how do I break this cycle? Well, the credit card no longer resides in my wallet. No more mindless purchases. We're eating at home more. That's a significant money saver. I'm going to plan better and cut out some of the excess that we have. I don't need any more scrap booking supplies. I have enough to stock a moderate store. I'm going to use what I have--probably not all of it, but I'd like to make a dent in it before I buy more. M has entirely too many clothes. I'm going to cut back on what I get her. I've got a large basket with material in it. I'm going to make some sweet summer dresses for her. All of these things will result in a more simple life for us. And I'll get to do what I want: create.

And what is the difference between complicated and busy? Great question. I'm not sure I have a great answer. To me, busy becomes complicated. In December, we were busy all the time. We were exhausted. Christmas became a chore. Many days I picked M up, rushed her to H's office, picking up fast food for her supper, only to rush to my next engagement. Some engagements were necessary (catering paid for our Christmas this year), others were not. I want to be the type of mom who bakes cookies with M, who sits down to do the puzzle, who tickles and laughs. When I'm always rushing to get the next thing done, I miss all those special mommy moments. I want lazy summer days with lemonade and grilled cheese sandwiches. I want memories with my daughter, not a hurried childhood. I want there to be time to play before dinner and bubble baths.

Here is the best question: What is the difference between complicated and messy? I truly have no answer for that other than this. My house is TINY. TINY. We live in a little townhouse, two bedrooms, one bathroom. My kitchen could probably fit in your closet--your LINEN closet. We have entirely too much stuff for our house. H and I are both collectors. His is Star Wars. Or whatever the newest thing is. Right now he's collecting a type of alcoholic mixers and the sugar that goes on the rim. He tends to jump on a bandwagon and ride it for a while, then he jumps on a different on. It's just who he is. I'm the collector of STUFF. Now that I've learned to knit, I must have 10 skeins of yarn awaiting my attention. I've got massive amounts of scrap booking and stamping goodies. I like to make things, so we have tons of craft supplies. With all this stuff, we sort of live in a state of some-what controlled chaos. If we are going to enjoy the things we do have, I need to purge the things we don't want or need anymore. I took a gigantic box of magazines to the art teacher at my school. There is absolutely no need for me to hang on to magazines from 2002. H and I were newlyweds in 2002!! By managing the clutter better, I'll have more time to sit with M, to paint, to scrapbook, to sew, to knit, to read a book! I'll enjoy what I have and I'll have time to do it. I won't feel like there is always something that needs to be cleaned.

I want that idyllic childhood for myself: bike rides, kool-aid, baseball in the yard until the sky is too dark, fireworks. I feel like all of these extra things in my life are prohibiting me from enjoying life. By simplifying, by taking away, by clearing off, by purging, I will become something new and something better. The person I want to be.


Maggie said...

Great post!

Kyla said...

Good for you, Natalie. I hope this simplification works out well for you!

Anonymous said...

I think your friend, Arizaphale, asked some profound questions...and you did a fantastic job answering them. You are quite right that it is rather complicated to simplify! I have many of the same issues, and you are an inspiration to me to try and find solutions to those problems. These issues really plague us as a society, and I find your ponderings fascinating! It is a great thing that you are dealing with this while M is still so young; she WILL have that idyllic childhood! Keep up the good work one thing at a time-

Stacy said...

You have put a lot of thought into simplifying your life, and through that, I think it will lead you down the path. I need to do this somewhat myself, where it is more focusing on what is important - family time. :)

Christina said...

What a great post! I agree with it very much, and find it quite thought provoking. I too complicate things unnecessarily..even the process of simplification! But I am trying to develop more routines and streamline things so I have more time for the things that are really important to me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Arizaphale said...

Thank you for thinking through my questions and clarifying 'simplify' for me. I loved Christina's comment that she can even complicate the process of simplification. I think this is a real danger for us all! :-D
One of the hardest battles and one I can really relate to is the cycle of credit card debt. Interestingly I think the process of getting rid of that complication is far from 'simple'!! It requires real thought and planning as well as self discipline and monitoring to implement. So in some ways life may become MORE complicated before it becomes simpler :-D (did that make sense?)
I have been thinking about this concept since you first posted about it and I think one of the things which makes our lives complicated is too many choices. Where to eat? What to eat? What to make? What to wear? What to watch? What to play? Where to go? The list is endless. Choice and the ensuing complication is a by-product of our privileged society. On the other hand, reduction of choice can also be a complication. I'm thinking for example of the reductions in choice that some health issues bring to our lives. Rather than freely and spontaneously undertaking some things (and I'm talking about physical activities with our children that are affected by things like excess weight or poor bladder control for example)we either have to take steps to compensate for the problem (more complication) or avoid it altogether. But again, the process of remedying some of these adds complication to life. Remembering to do your pelvic floor exercises, planning dieting, visiting doctors.

I guess that was my struggle with 'simplify'. It seems that the process is complicated :-) But all this analysis aside ( and I am rightly accused of over analysis by my family and friends) your goals are excellent, your motives are true to your heart and in the end you will reap the benefits of your efforts. I watch your journey with interest and admiration.