Less Is More
A few years ago, women who had embraced Simple Abundance raced to buy Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Something More. I hit the bookstore with the same toothy smile of anticipation as the twenty women in line ahead of me. As I worked my way through the book, I waited in vain for my body to pebble with the gooseflesh that announces one of my epiphanies. Breathnach’s premise that I excavate my past like a highly organized archeologist lacked appeal. I figured I’d uncover a noxious landfill with no value other than excessive gas. I have learned that being my best self does not require digging more up, but tossing more into the landfill instead.
Over the years, I have been steadily letting go. At age 25 I finally let go of the need to be manipulated by my mother, by taking a shaky stand over the phone. When I hung up freedom felt like nausea. Guilt was the first garbage I threw out … or up. Over the next ten years the garbage containers in the house filled with my throw-a-ways. I tossed the need to say “yes” to everyone and everything, the hunger to be liked by all; my need to take responsibility for everyone plus their dog and their cat. I gave up the idea that what I did had to be perfect; the idea that what I did mattered to anyone but me. A pile grew in the back yard as I emptied this trash from my life. My streamlined persona became noticeable and others tagged me with labels like rebel, introvert, anti social and made noises that indicated I was bucking the system.
I hid from their disapproval in Crohn’s Disease for a half a decade. In the process I let go of most of my intestines, all of my modesty, my idea that I always had to give more than I took. I dumped any thought that I was indispensable – the kids still grew up and the cats found another lap to lie on.
I eliminated the compulsion to host trés eleganté dinner parties that left me standing on swollen feet washing delicate china till 2:00 a.m. When my children begged me to make Christmas simpler so they could enjoy it, I threw out the social paradigm that it had to start in October and end with a bout of stress induced flu in January. From 30 to 40 years old I discarded so many of society’s upside down beliefs, I became a junk collector’s dream.
As forty slammed into fifty my refuse pile became a neighborhood eyesore. It was time to move. I heaped on the bustle of city life, the constant round of people, places, interruptions and noise. I eliminated a big house, abandoned, with relief, ornaments and furniture that sat for six years in storage. I gave away my obsession with time, and let go of expectations of people and myself, and refused to take ownership of their expectations of me. The crash of my short-term memory helped me to minimize multi tasking. Burnout forced me to walk away from duty to the church, begrudging contribution to the community and empty my life of people who had moved on while I insisted on hanging on. I left city life and returned to my roots, where I found the confidence to be still, to sit in silence, to quiet my mind.
A year later I eliminated a second home, the long drive between two provinces and the numb bottom that came with it. I’m one woman in one house with loads of time I won’t give away. But I will lend it – to meditation, quiet walks, writing and domesticity, a good talk with friends, a helping hand to family.
The bulldozer came and lifted the junk out of my virtual backyard into a garbage truck that trundled it away. I hope there is no one at the dump picking through the accumulation of misguided thinking I discarded, in hopes of taking something home. I lived too many years among the toxic waste of what society said was right or wrong. I am free, having tossed the belief that there is a right and wrong and replaced it with the knowledge that there are just different ways of doing and being. I am who I want to be not by digging down into the bones of my past but by paring my life down to the bone.