Monday, January 18, 2016

Go Ahead--Complicate Your Life

The start of a new year often finds us resolving to simplify our lives, particularly if we’ve just come through a whirlwind of holiday activity. Magazine articles and blog posts promise to help us purge our belongings, simplify our schedules, and/or cut our wardrobes to 33 items. I feel the pull towards simplifying, especially when I’m cleaning my house or when I’m on the phone for the third time with a large Phone/Internet Company Who Shall Not Be Named trying to get a DVR replaced. The idea of scrapping it all and moving to the woods  becomes almost irresistible. How simple life would be, just me and the trees.

I agree that many times we make our lives overly complicated and stressful, and that there is a real need to slow down, pare down, and simplify.

However.

Some of the best things in life are complicated. Falling in love, having a baby, adopting a puppy, starting a business, buying a house—or a horse. Yes, we can make our lives too stressful and complicated for no good reason—but sometimes we have good reason. Those complications bring us both joy and meaning.

So if you’re contemplating an action you’re sure will bring complication into your life, I say: Go for it! I think what the simplification gurus are really aiming at anyway is this: Simplify some areas of life in order to have the mental and physical capacity to enjoy your complications. The goal is to discover what is the right level—and right type—of complication for you.

For example: Owning a horse is a complication. It’s an expensive and time-consuming hobby, and involves a large and sometimes unpredictable animal. Still, I wouldn’t trade the experience for any amount of simplicity and serenity. Tank is just one of the complications in my life I treasure, so I feel I can offer a little advice about allowing complications into your life. So here goes.
  • Will the complication bring you more joy than stress? Will inconveniences or sacrifices be worth it? In my own case, hearing Tank whinny when he sees me is worth the new shoes I don’t buy or the sleep I’ve lost when he was sick.
  • Simplify your life other areas. At home, plan simple meals, or let cleaning standards slide a little. Other hobbies and interests may have to be put aside for a while. I have several hobbies I’d like to get back to, but I simply don’t have the time to pursue all the things I’m interested in. Right now, Tank is number one because I won’t have him forever.
  • Establish routines to streamline your regular activities, but also become mindful of whether or not “the way I’ve always done it” is still right for you.
  • Ask for help, and make sure you accept it when it’s offered. I find this hard to do, but when I’ve asked for help, my friends and family have willingly pitched in—and I’m so grateful for that.
  • Prepare for the complication as best you can. How big is it, and is it temporary or permanent? Having a baby or starting your own business is more disrupting for a longer period than, say, planning a two-week vacation, and you should prepare accordingly.
  • Finally, take time to really enjoy your complication. If it’s not adding meaning and joy to your life, why are you doing it? Shake off any guilt that might arise. You want this, you’ve prepared for it—now enjoy it.

What are some of your favorite complications? How do you simplify in one area to make time for another?

One of my favorite complications

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2 comments:

Laure Ferlita said...

You enabler, you! Seriously, great article and well said. I think my favorite comment is "...take time to really enjoy your complication." How often do we waste time with wondering if it was the right decision, feeling guilty and agonizing over what's done rather than just enjoying the fact that it is our complication and the time for agonizing is over.

My favorite complication would have to be the fuzzy, little tyrant that revels in tearing up things and ransacking desks and knocking things off from counters and such forth. My other favorite complication is gathering...art supplies, paint, pens, palettes, sketchbooks, papers, stickers, did I mention paint? Oh and ink. Yeah. That. The complication actually isn't the gathering. It's the storing it, organizing it and using it all up before I'm 237!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Laure--Thanks! I think our complications CAN bring us plenty of happiness if we let them and don't waste time feeling guilty or wondering if we've made the right choices.

I love your complications, too--my gathering of art supplies isn't as large as yours, but then I haven't been gathering for as long as you have. And then there's my own fuzzy tyrant...