I’m doing less and less these days. (In quantity, I must add. I dare not say I’m doing less “in quality.”)
Do it well and keep it simple. It’s so much better than reaching too high and failing miserably.
I shall elucidate: Picture me with four pots on the stove, veggies in the colander in the sink, meat thawing in the microwave, bread warming in the oven, sauce burning on the stove…and then correctly deduce my emotional state as losing my mind because my son is getting fussy and ready for his bath, but I have fifteen more minutes of chopping left before I can put the main dish in the oven to bake–you get the idea. I’m trying to cook something fancy for dinner, but if I’m interrupted (likely) or James gets home late from work (a frequent occurrence when he’s in a busy season), then the meal is ruined or cold and my mood is, shall we say, a lot like the dinner?
Here’s another example: A have a dear group of friends who often trek down to a local pub on Friday nights to grab beers after reading out loud excerpts of their fiction projects together. I haven’t been able to join them in months because I have a darling little human alarm clock who goes off between 6:30-7am every morning, without fail. I am now a dedicated morning person, weekends not excepted. I climb into bed early in the evening and have real feelings of affection for my new down comforter. I don’t think I used to love my bed quite as fiercely.
A third illustration: Walking around Seattle’s Green Lake with my stroller and baby in front of me and a good friend beside me is one of my favorite things to do. But meeting up with anyone requires me to arrive in a physical location at a specific time, and I can seriously feel the new gray hairs when I struggle to get my son and myself out the door. Friend dates have made themselves impossible to accomplish on a daily basis. The pressure and anxiety isn’t worth it.
I feel I should clarify what I’m saying here: This isn’t settling. This isn’t accepting defeat. This isn’t setting my sights low. Anyone who knows me knows I hold myself to ridiculously high standards in my art and professional work, as well as my community relationships. After that, everything else must be simplified.
If I cook fancy dishes, I resent mealtimes. If I stay out late and disregard my sleep needs, I wind up a grumpy basket case. If I book myself tightly with social engagements, I have nothing left for my husband at the end of the day and I’m shorter-tempered with my son.
You might hear echoes here of my post on Simplicity and Sunglasses.
Here’s where I’ve come out on the other side: I love early mornings again. I’ve found freedom in dinner-prep by doing spurts of chopping in the morning or afternoon. I can cherish outings with my friends as a treat, not a mandatory way to fill time.
It’s not easy. Life simplification can quickly swing to under-stimulation. When when I find myself surprised on a Monday morning by a peaceful, calm heart, I know I’m treading new ground.
Peacefulness is a victory that cannot be overstated.