Recently I read an article about “simplified complications”. It really got me thinking about my life presently. I combed through the events of my daily routine asking in the process— what parts have selected complications and which ones can I eliminate to simplify life? Simplifying things would mean removing what no longer serves me and those situations or people that take energy away instead of rejuvenating. This is not always easy because of obligations and situations that can’t be avoided. In fact, avoidance would actually complicate things.
When we avoid the unopened mail for weeks and confound our lives by missing payment deadlines, that adds to the complication. When we have a closet filled with outdated clothes or ones we no longer fit or avoid returning the call of someone we know eventually we need to speak with… these avoidable complications become major annoyances. I’m notorious for letting mail pile up. But now it’s mostly junk mail. I’ve learned to simply or remedy a major mail dilemma by putting all my bills on auto-pay. This way I don’t have to think about them and my life is simplified exponentially. As for the junk mail, I have a designated day that I devote to go through and weed out. These are simple solutions to selected complications that we ourselves cause. But there are some that are unavoidable; the ones we call in that are necessary.
How do we distinguish between selected complications and avoidable ones? Selected complications are the ones you invite willingly and lovingly into your life. For example, my 92-year-old mother came to live with my husband and me a few months ago. As unprepared as we were, we discovered quickly the tireless energy necessary for her well-being which includes the preparation of three special meals for her, a daily hygiene routine, and taking her to and from dialysis three days a week. Although this has had a major impact on the free movement of our day, we know this was the best decision to make. Add that to picking up grandkids from school twice a week, attending baseball practices, helping with school projects, or counseling off-springs and friends, which take out a large chunk of our time from an already busy schedule. We don’t have to do these things, but they are choices that bring us simple pleasures, not to mention add more meaning and purpose to our lives.
When we invite these “simplified complications” in, it is really important to know what that looks like to you. Each person sees this differently. Everyone has their own take on what complicates their lives and which “complications” actually give them pleasure. I know someone who looks as if she runs towards the fire. She goes about biting off more than what I would be able to effectively do. And yet, she thrives on these things. For her, these “are” simplified complexities. She enjoys every bit of her “fired” up life. One might look at my own life and ask why I’ve taken on a business after retirement, or why my husband and I make it a point to engage so actively in the lives of our family and friends. We move in the direction of what makes us happy and brings us joy. But I can’t tell you how many people have said to me “Boy, I couldn’t do what you’re doing.” Or asked, “why are you concerned about a business? You should be enjoying your retirement.” But these are things I’ve chosen; they haven’t chosen me.
Even, so, there are still areas where we need to do a little uninviting. For my husband and me, it’s making sure we spend quality time together and alone each day. We “uninvite” distractions by incorporating daily talk time into our lives. We enjoy the simple pleasure of time taken to visit each other in our respective home offices (which happen to be in a common area of our home.) It is equally important to have alone time. We both need time to think, read, plan and/or just “be”. Waking up early enough to get that alone time is paramount to living with simplicity.
Simplified living is also removing the distractions that we can control. For example, identified days for opening mail, and returning phone calls help put everything into a doable plan. We can also simplify our lives by letting go of old beliefs or traditions that complicate them. For Thanksgiving this year, we will not be bound to the traditions of too much food such as a turkey stuffed with dressing that no one even likes, or mashing 15 pounds of cooked potatoes. Instead, we’ve bought groceries that lessen the preparation time, taste delicious, and yet offer us more time to spend with our family without being exhausted when they roll in mid-day.
The key is balance, operating from love, and seeking God’s guidance in what we do. The fact that there are opposites and reactions is the perfection. Lives that work productivity and effectively, tend to be those that balance the simple and the complicated. These people understand the difference between avoidable, unwelcomed complications and selected ones and they strive to get better at distinguishing the two. They also tend to view their lives with gratitude and grace. Whatever we choose, may we choose wisely and lovingly-making simplicity the priority without letting the effort overwhelm us.