I stumbled upon this stunning blog the other day. Really, it took my breath away. My eyes welled up with tears while listening to the background music dance with the poetic way this mom expressed her beautiful thoughts. The way she portrayed her “simple life” just struck a chord with me.
Obviously she lived on a farm because everyone who lives the simple life lives on a farm, right? Her magazine-worthy pictures on the site just oozed with family love and camaraderie. There is a shot of one of her six children giving a calf a bottle of milk. It just melted my heart. I sighed to myself and thought, “Ah… the simple life.”
When I clicked out of the site, the music stopped, and I was met with the whaling of little ones tugging on my pant leg asking for milk, a snack, and another piece of my sanity.
After feeling a bit discontented with my own non-farming life, I wondered, what does it even mean to live the simple life? Do I have to live on a farm to claim this highly desirable yet seemingly unattainable status? Do I have to home school; have five, six, or seven children; or make my own bread from scratch? Is there room for my not-so-large yet messier-than-most family to live such a life?
Truth is, the simple life can also mean something different than a lovely family with six home-schooled children living on a farm. I believe the simple life can indeed be attainable for anyone anywhere, whether we’re living on a farm or right in the middle of a bustling metropolitan area. I’ve come to realize that the simple life has little to do with possessions, circumstances, or number of children and everything to do with our inner thoughts and our perspective—our individual and unique lens we filter life through everyday.
The simple life is a way of thinking. It’s letting those thoughts change your life so you can say yes to the important and no to the distractions. It’s about contentment, avoiding comparisons like the plague, and being unexpectedly gracious and kind.
It’s being genuine, down-to-earth and letting your guard down. It’s identifying with people and moving closer to relationships and further away from superficiality.
It’s finding humor in the things you could fall apart over. It’s looking our hardships square in the face and shouting, “I’m blessed, I’m blessed, I’m blessed!”
It’s seeing the big picture when life so often is only pointing at a tiny piece of it. It’s bringing others up when it seems everyone is hurting, fighting an impossible battle.
It’s being true to yourself when there’s an opportunity to stand up for what’s right, even if it’s unpopular.
It’s having it fresh in our mind that today is a gift, a special opportunity to build another’s life whether that someone is our own child or a total stranger.
It’s forgiving when mercy isn’t warranted and remembering life is but a breath. Make it count; bring something beautiful to it that only you can give.
To me, this is the ultimate simple life: keeping first things first and not sweating the small stuff. It’s constantly remembering we are not the center of the universe and letting that reality drive us to be part of the larger community where we have something to give rather than only looking to see what we can receive. It’s letting technology aid these efforts, not hinder them. It’s choosing to be the victor and not the victim in any given circumstance.
Recently an old high school acquaintance contacted me over social media. He wrote me an unexpected message telling me that he had a horrible time in high school and wanted to let me know, thirteen years later, that I was the only one that brightened his day. He thanked me for “always having a smile” for him. I had absolutely no idea that I was contributing anything to him or anyone else. In my own eyes I didn’t do anything special, but to him it was what helped him get through high school. It was a gift to him I didn’t even know I was giving. Getting this message reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson:
Maybe all you did was stay in your pajamas all day and didn’t even brush your teeth, but you nursed that little baby from sunup to sundown. You’ve nourished another. Find peace and pleasure in such a gift. This is the simple life.
Maybe you’ve not met your quota at work, but during lunch break you listened to another tell her story, and you were there, present, connecting, enabling her to feel heard, important. This rare gift of attention, this is the simple life.
Maybe you’ve reached the end of your rope emotionally and physically and are just about ready to collapse when you hear the baby crying, again. Somehow when there’s nothing left to give, there you are giving, again and again. This, my friend, is the face of raw sacrificial love, the greatest gift of all. That smile at a stranger, that undeserved gesture of kindness, that moment in time, this is the simple life.
Perfection is an illusion. The simple life is not necessarily living a rural life or a solitary life or life in any specific set of circumstances. Instead, it is living like yourself in your own mess, but with a new lens that really sees and yearns to live out gratitude in spite of the circumstances, not because of them.
So go ahead and live the simple life, right smack in the middle of your very busy non-farming kind of life. As you live it out, you unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
QUESTION: What hinders you from living the simple life? What adjustments can you make to let your thinking change your perspective so you can live this simple life?
CHALLENGE: Imagine you are one hundred years old and looking back on your life. What will be important to you then? Make those your priorities now and let go of all the other distractions.
Images provided by Priscilla McConnell.