Un-Complicate Your Life
Better things don't have to be more complicated things, especially on the level of self care.
A lot of times we get all frazzled when people or governments or companies peddling their complex concepts interfere with what's really important, which tends to be pretty simple.
What's really important?
Feeling loved. Being as healthy as you can. Trying not to hurt other people. Having fun and seeking happiness. Finding the beauty in a moment. Healing. Being kind. Finding a balance of invigorating adventure and delicious comfort. Spreading your joy and light when you have it to spare. Feeling accepted and championed at a basic level in your relationships (sounds simple but our upbringings don't always make this easy to figure out).
What's not quite as important as the above?
The car you drive, if it gets you where you need to go; the house you live in, if it's warm and keeps you safe; the neighborhood or city in which you live, if you're not oppressed or in immediate danger; the way you spend the next hour or day or week of time, if you aren't hurting anyone; the ways you pursue real joy if you're not hurting anyone; the methods you use to feel healthy or inspired... we could keep at this. Judgments and opinions about things that aren't hurting you--not that important in the scheme of things. The school or job you go to, if you're learning and growing and sustaining yourself: also less important than just being open and kind and championing love.
Sometimes satisfaction and spirit come from a place of simplicity. A small moment of quiet when the baby is napping and you relax your shoulders and close your own eyes. A cheeky squirrel on the front lawn, looking right at you. The odd interactions between two birds on a power line. A letter or message from a friend about nothing in particular. The time and resources to make meaningless doodles on a piece of scrap paper. Your favorite song on repeat when you're nervous about what the day holds. A few bullet points of gratitude before your feet hit the floor in the morning or before your eyes close at night. A chat with your cheap, yet priceless house plants as you water them. Noticing how your feet feel on the floor or the grass. The last shower after a long work week. The shifting of focus from what you don't have to what you do have. The wordless eye contact with a stranger who gets the unspoken joke. The fact that you woke up today and probably will tomorrow.
We are so easily stressed and overwhelmed in 2020, due such a vast range of factors:
Politics are overwhelmingly complicated.
Technology and its effects on our brains and bodies is overwhelmingly complex.
Risks under threat of a global pandemic and the fight to stay informed and vigilant on a basic level: both incredibly overwhelming and more complex than I think we all agree they need to be.
Before COVID-19 changed the world, we were already stressed about careers, insurance, bills, taxes, health care, retirement, investments, government programs and forms, air travel, crime, nutrition, climate change, work/school deadlines, feeling under-appreciated and unloveable, missed opportunities, missed connections, bad timings, and sad newscasts: nothing simple about any of these things. Our still-evolving human minds aren't right-off-the-bat equipped to know the ins and outs of all these things at once. We know when we're hungry, and sleepy, and when we love/desire things. We know how to do one thing at a time. We know how to read and write and listen but we don't always know what to read, and write, and listen to. We know that love and connection is important. It just is. We don't need to be told that. We knew it when we took our first breath. Everything else? Well, like Plato and Socrates, we just know so little, and it helps to acknowledge that sometimes.
I try (and often fail) to make sense and joy of things, by peeling back the layers I don't understand to find something underneath that I do. Shane pushes me to do this in the moments I'm struggling and I can't quite express how valuable that is to me.
When the latest news or think piece on the state of the world is just too overwhelming to take immediate action on, I try to remember that it's not generally worth it to withhold love and joy from myself in solidarity with those who do not feel love and joy right now. I can be reverent. I can acknowledge the love and joy others innately deserve, but it's not my duty to suffer in the name of those who suffer. I am a more efficient resource to the world when I'm not endlessly suffering on behalf of the sufferers. I benefit others when I acknowledge the things I personally need to stay aligned. I don't need to get myself sick or injured to care for someone who is sick or injured. I don't need to be depressed or even understand the depths of someone else's depression/anxiety to simply care for someone else in a depressed or anxious state. In fact, I am of better use to an anxious person if I, myself, am not anxious. The anxiety and depression of others is 100% valid. But need not be echoed (or scolded) in order to be understood and helped.
It has been working for me with food, too. I have let go of complicated chemical ingredients and hydrogenated oils, lab-isolated sugars and cancer-linked preservatives. I was craving something sweet yesterday and found some Nature Valley mini chocolate granola bars in the pantry--brought over by a well-intentioned guest at scene study last week. There was, ironically, nothing directly from 'Nature' in the ingredients. Corn syrup, refined sugar, three types of oil, soy isolates...? I think it's OK to crave something sugary, but why does it need to come with all these extra cholesterol-rocketing additives? Luckily Shane had some dates in the fridge. Natural chewy caramel without the toothache. I ate two with some sour strawberries and my tastebuds exploded. Every 'convenient', 'pretending to be healthy' corporate food product has at least a few simple, satisfying alternatives. We just have to be open to them. Michael Pollan's simple "Only eat things you can pronounce" rule endures.
Looking to accomplish something but it feels too complicated? Simplify it and stop judging the results of necessary trial and error. I want to wake up earlier every day, so I try, and sometimes it works, sometimes it fails miserably. I'm just going to keep at it, tweaking my bed times and waking routine until something sticks. It's not too scientifically complex-- unless I have a class or a job to wake up for, my body will fight to get 8 hours of sleep. If I want to get up at six, I probably have to go to bed at 10. Simple, though not exactly easy.
What can you un-complicate in your day? Pick one thing at a time (we just aren't built to upend every habit in our life at once). Write out your short and long term goals and simply look at them each day. Ditch grand plans and expectations for simple, daily acknowledgement. And give yourself tools and tricks to remember what is truly important when you're bogged down with what isn't.