As 2016 began, I was knee-deep in my goals of slowing down + simplicity. I had begun an online course entitled A Simple Year, started a daily yoga regimen and even checked out a Pema Chodron book from the library. I had whittled down my wardrobe to only what I actually wore, jettisoned many other household possessions and pared down my distractions. Feeling very zen with my newfound minimalism, March rolled around and the test arrived.
Not on the agenda
This test was actually our Spring Break family vacation to Tahoe. I felt calm packing our SUV with our 3 young sons, not my normal “getting ready for vacation” MO. We made it to our friends’ Kings Beach ski lease without a hiccup and started getting settled. While we chatted, the boys threw snow chunks in the creek and my husband marveled at the golf course across the street.
A bit later, I still did not see my bag amidst the pile of stuff we had brought in. I casually asked my husband if everything had been unloaded. He thought it had and I walked out to the car to check again. When I returned and announced that my bag had not made it to Tahoe with us, a look of fear crossed my (normally very chill) husband’s face. “It’s not my fault!” he quickly noted, a defense mechanism he has mastered during the 10+ years we’ve been together. Because, this “simple year” I was trying to achieve was in contrast to the personality type and temperament I possess. Type A, anxiety ridden, can’t sit still, hot tempered – these are all the traits I was trying to quell by taking on simplifying techniques.
Does forced simplicity work?
So, what was my reaction upon the realization that I was on vacation with just the clothes on my back? Surprisingly, both to myself and the entire group, I was actually calm. “Oh, well.” I stated, “I’ll figure something out.” And that was it. All the serenity I had been clamoring to “get” had actually helped me to calm the eff down in this perceived crisis. Was it really a crisis? No. But in years past I would have made it one. After freaking out and yelling I probably would have used the missing bag as an excuse to buy a week’s worth of clothes and lay a heavy dose of guilt on my husband.
What did I do this time? After a brief moment of panic, I realized I could launder my clothes, borrow what I needed and simply make do. It was a real a-ha moment for me. I was the only one that cared what I looked like wearing my husband’s ill fitting t-shirts or borrowed sweatpants. Oh yeah, did I mention that I was the only lady in the house? That actually made it even better. Literally no one cared. At all.
The trip went on as scheduled and we all had a great time traipsing around in the snow, drinking wine and watching movies with our friends. What I took away from this experience has stayed with me: I don’t need much to be content. After returning home, I began to wear less makeup (most days none at all except mascara – always mascara), pack lighter for trips and generally focus less on what I want others to think of me. I gained something from that involuntary simplicity lesson – actual simplicity. What a gift it was.