Being a macho kind of a guy, I have always subscribed to the lyrics of a song sung by good ol' country music boy Toby Keith: "I ain't as good as I used to be, but I'm as good once as I always was..." Sadly, I have reached a stage in life where I have to admit that I am no longer even "as good once" as I used to be. So why pretend otherwise?
The older I get the more I admire simplicity. Increasingly, I have the urge to simplify my life, in fact I crave it. By that I mean I only want to spend my time on what is important for me. The first question is: What is that? And the second question is: How can I do it as a caregiver who is required daily to multi-task and juggle more than one ball in the air at a time?
Sometimes living a simple life is actually not that simple to achieve. As soon as we do something meaningful and hopefully successful in our lives, a once simple idea becomes more and more complex. Somewhere along the road we need to simplify again. If we forget to simplify, life gets more complex, confusing and most likely stressful.
Simplicity, I believe, is what is left when we have taken away all that is not necessary. Simplicity is all about essence...and purpose. It means to simplify as much as possible — but not more — to reduce it to it’s essence. But how do you know what is essential for you? And what is your purpose in life?
The most simple answer: "It’s what is most important" and nothing much else. Personally, "focusing" is the key for me. I stay away from distractions as much as possible as I focus on one task at a time. It is when I am distracted that I forget something and subsequently get into trouble. In fact, short-term forgetfulness has become the bane of my existence. It is routine for my wife to say, "We talked about it not long ago" or to add chastisingly, "I reminded you just a few minutes ago..." In response I make the oft repeated request: "Don't tell me about it. If it is important, write it down for me. Don't overload me with verbage...It tends to go in one ear and out the other." By degrees, she is catching on to the fact that I ain't as good as I used to be!
Tolerance for irritations, large and small, tends to lessen with the passage of time. I struggle daily to not sweat the small stuff. I do not always succeed.
I am victimized by forgetfulness...It adds stress and anxiety to my bi-polar existence and I desperately seek solutions. The older I get the more too much repetitive information piled on me in one swell swoop overloads me and drives me to distraction.
Clarity helps in staying on what is important and avoiding what is not is very important. Clarity creates simplicity. In order to become clear on what I want or need, I engage in self-reflection through my writing. Quite honestly, that is my purpose in constructing this post and thanks to readers who are good listeners and stick with me through to the end.
To reduce unclarity(?) we can also set goals that express what we really want. A clear goal helps a lot to get to and to stay on the right track. The moment you set a goal you make a decision about what is more important to you. But how do you do less and get more?
Doing less may seem pretty hard at first. After all, there is all this stuff on your to-do list, right? The only real thing to ever worry about is not how much you’ve managed to do, but have you done the things that are your top priorities? That’s all you have to really care about.
To make things simple, we can start to systematically get rid of the tasks that just don’t fit in with what matters most. So you won’t lose much by doing less. In fact, there is the possibility of gaining something.
For the better part of my life I was motivated by the false impression that I needed to be all things to all people. In all honesty, I do not know where that came from...Perhaps it was the result of an attempt to overcome inadequacies in my own life. Nevertheless, in retrospect it was an impossible load to place on myself and more often than not I paid a price for the thankless burden of spreading myself too thin. How I wish now that I had some of that time back and to be able to apply it where it would do the most good in my own life.
People say nothing is impossible but, like Alan Alexander and without apology, I now try to do nothing every day and have learned to to say “no” more often than I used to. When I feel the overwhelming urge throughout the day to take a nap, I give in to the impulse whenever time and circumstances allow. For instance, after a late lunch today I fell asleep (I call it passing out) with my empty plate on a TV stand in front of me and my dog Lucy on my lap. Seeing the two of us snoozing peacefully together, Rosanne also nodded off. We all woke up some four hours later, far too late for me to go out for some much needed groceries. But who cared...tomorrow is another day.
All the time management in the world will not help if I simply have too many commitments to fulfill, and I am too tired to accomplish them. Saying “no” with confidence, possibly with a brief explanation, will probably get more respect than saying “yes” and not being able to adequately deliver.
And something else...More and more I find myself welcoming silence into my life, I am reminded of the Zen saying: “Do not speak unless it improves on silence.” Have you ever noticed how energizing and refreshing it can be to do absolutely nothing by spending quality-time with yourself? Taking time to reflect and to smell the roses...Letting the mind wander in wonderful and amazing ways.
“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self,” said May Sarton. Solitude means to deliberately spend time alone. Use it to do deep self-reflection and to clear your mind of all the negative impressions life constantly throws at you. That way you create space for self-refreshment and self-renewal. At least that has been my experience.
As I say, to live a simple life is not an easy task in today’s world of constant distraction, information-overload and commitments that are often beyond our control. It needs some work and self-discipline, but for me it is a matter of self-preservation as I spend the rest of my days doing what I am purposely committed to do. It is as simple as that!