I like to think I live a simple life but in reality what does that really mean? This is something that I’ve been pondering extensively during Lent this year.
I’ve said before that we, as a family, try to be frugal in what we buy, the things we use, while looking closely at our needs versus wants. We very rarely buy clothes, we wear what we have until it falls apart. We grow a few fruits and veggies in our little garden and we try to only buy things that we really need, things that we’ll actually use [so not taking advantage of a bogof offer just because it’s there]. This avoids wasting resources and money. We have this beautiful planet to care for so we each need to try to do our bit, and I suspect that very few of us actually do all that we can. Surely it’s all relative though right? What I see as frugal, someone else might view as actually quite extravagant. It’s also dependent on where you live, here in the UK my life is relatively simple and non materialistic; drop my lifestyle and my little house into the slums of Calcutta however and I’d be living like a queen in comparison. There is a selfish element to our frugality too, the less money we need the less pressure there is on us to earn huge amounts so we can take simple jobs and work to live, not live to work.
Does living out a life of simplicity just stop at what we buy though? My lifestyle would probably seem really boring to those looking in, however we view it as simple, not boring and we live this way through choice. We rarely go out socially except very occasionally with immediate family. We neither of us smoke and I don’t drink except for a cheeky cider on special days. Our idea of heaven is to be at home together, so going out is not all that enjoyable for us. We are both real home birds and although not anti-social by any means, we tend to keep to ourselves.
As a couple, our whole approach to life is quite simple; slow down, enjoy the moment, appreciate what’s around you even if it’s howling wind and teeming rain. I love listening to the wind howling and the rain lashing the windows, especially if I’m just drifting off to sleep. If you’re busy rushing around [which is unavoidable sometimes] then it’s really easy to miss those simple beauties.
What about simplicity of thought? From a faith perspective I have also found it really useful to keep that simple to. After all God simply asks us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and [very importantly] love ALL others as ourselves. I’ve noticed that this only becomes tricky when I allow other stuff to get in the way. Things from my past, things that are man-made and not God given, expectations of society etc. All of these can create a very negative thought process in me which takes up way too much head space. While I’m busy doing the, ‘I’m not worthy’ number on myself I’m not being the woman that God wants me to be. So, I’ve learnt to keep it simple; to remember God loves me, that He sent His son to save me[us] and that His mercy and grace are freely given through faith and love. It really is that simple. People want to make it more complicated but seriously, it really isn’t.
I’m a bit of an Ignatian woman at heart, and I love the simplicity of their charism, primarily to, ‘Find God in all things’. He’s there in the beauty of the Mass, he’s there in the amazing sunrise, but he’s also there while you’re washing the dishes or sorting the laundry. It’s simple, you walk with God, He walks with you….all the time and everywhere, not just on Sunday and not just in church. That fits nicely with my other favourite saying by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Let’s be honest, that’s most of us. We’re not all going to be doing earth shattering deeds each day, not all going to be saving lives or finding a cure for cancer. However, we can all do those simple small things, smile at someone in the street, chat to the person next to you in the queue, hold open a door, hold a friend’s hand while they share a sadness or a worry. These are not big things on the face of it, but to the old lady who sees no one all day your smile or friendly word is everything, your friend will never forget that time you spent listening to them with love and concern. These are HUGE things to them but they’re simple to us.