Simplifying Life

 

Over the years, I’ve read commentary from people trying to simplify their lives. Sometimes they sell large homes and replace them with smaller ones. Sometimes they throw out favorite clothes and appliances and trade in their cars and buy more efficient, modern, and attractive ones. I tend to be the kind of person who holds on to things as long as they still fit or keep working. I have exercise clothes that I’ve had for over 20 years and a leather jacket that I never wear, especially in Florida, but I can’t bear to part with it.

But in the past year, I’ve noticed that I’m making choices that have little to do with practicality in the usual terms, or with efficiency or modernity. I’ve felt the need to shed certain attitudes, let go of some relationships, or eliminate practices that take up my time, my energy, and even my spirit. I’ve tried to be discerning as I let things go, because I might find myself in a pattern of removing not only activities but relationships that have become trying, but there is reason to maintain them. I’ve also realized that certain practices strengthen my life, and I want to pursue and deepen them. So, I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to …

First, anyone on this site can be assured that I’m not talking about distancing myself from you! Every person with whom I’ve interacted on this site, even if we strongly disagree with each other, is important to me. I may not agree with you, but I will always try to learn from you (and sometimes that’s not easy!). I also know that we may not agree, but we very likely share mostly the same values, and that factor is important to me in my relationships.

There is one relationship that I decided to end, and that is the one with my Torah study partner in Israel. No, I’m not talking about my work with @iwe! But I finally acknowledged that over time, my style of teaching/learning was very different from hers, and although we discussed my frustrations, I saw no way for us to make adjustments. So, after several months of agonizing over the decision, I asked that we part ways. It was a painful decision to make.

As some of you know, I had to make a challenging decision about my volunteer work with hospice. Fortunately, we found a very special way for me to serve them without direct, in-person contact: I make bereavement calls to survivors. It is a blessed match for me, and I am learning so much every time I make a call, even when I leave a voicemail; that may be my only contact with the person, so I want to make my voice and words comforting for him or her.

I’ve also made the decision to not read emails except from my closest friends. I’ve lost interest in the ones that insult President Joe Biden and his administration; I don’t find them amusing, nor do I get any satisfaction out of gloating over their mismanagement. At this point, they don’t have anything new to teach me, except for the devastating impact of leftism. I think I’ve pretty much got that lesson down pat. I even asked one person, as graciously as I could, to remove my name from her list. I think she was a bit put out with me, but I never asked to be added in the first place.

How have I challenged myself in my studies? My work with @iwe and his sons is always a delight and a profound learning experience. I’ve also decided to read the commentary of Nachmanides (Ramban) along with the weekly Torah portion and Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. It will be difficult at times, but it’s also fascinating.

I also started a group last year that I’ve called Teshuvah (returning is one meaning of teshuvah) where a small group of us have met monthly on Zoom; I asked participants to decide what they wanted to learn, and they chose the Jewish holidays. I did the preparation, and we’d have discussions about it, and we all loved it. We’ll be choosing a topic or topics for 2022, too, that we can explore to expand our understanding of Judaism.

Along with my bereavement calls for hospice, I will also be assisting in presentations for seniors who have not developed advanced directives. This step in our lives is so important that I’m very glad to be helping others learn about it.

Are these the only things I’m going to do? Well, I will walk three days per week and exercise in the gym three days per week. I will pray and meditate. I will enjoy my favorite cereal at breakfast and a glass of wine with dinner. I will continue to write for Ricochet; I’ve discovered recently that topics that I think will be helpful to others are showing up for me. I also find the act of writing deeply satisfying, as well as the conversations we have, and I’m writing with more ease.

And finally, I have no reason to rush through life or achieve great things or take on overwhelming tasks. I don’t think that is what life is asking of me; I just need to be prepared for change, to shift my perspective and notice how life is unfolding. I just want to learn and to serve.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

What steps have you taken to simplify your life?

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  1. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn: What steps have you taken to simplify your life?

    I retired.

     

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: What steps have you taken to simplify your life?

    I retired.

     

    Success! Good job!

    • #2
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: What steps have you taken to simplify your life?

    I retired.

     

    Success! Good job!

    As far as houses go, we have no plans to move to a smaller house.  If we get to the point where we can’t go up or down the stairs, we can:

    1. Put in those riding chairs, or
    2. Live in my mothers ground-floor suite.

    We both prefer the first option . . .

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    As far as houses go, we have no plans to move to a smaller house.  If we get to the point where we can’t go up or down the stairs, we can:

    1. Put in those riding chairs, or
    2. Live in my mothers ground-floor suite.

    We both prefer the first option . . .

    When we moved to Florida, we were pleased to know that most of the homes in this 55+ development were one level. In fact, our master bathroom shower is one that a wheel chair can be rolled into.

    But I got to thinking about many of the people in this development. Most are retired, and many of them are swamped with activities they’re involved with. It’s baffling to me to see people stressed out because they’re so busy! I’m not sure if their busyness has to do with a fear of being alone with themselves, or if they are trying to make up for lost leisure time. Either way, it makes no sense to me!

    • #4
  5. KentForrester Moderator
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    One of those Greek sages, I think it was Socrates, said that the unexamined life is not worth living. As usual, Socrates loved him some hyperbole.  It would take a day or so to deconstruct that sentiment, so I won’t do it.  You can thank me later.

    But if there was ever a person who personified Socrates’ wise words, it’s you, Susan.  When it’s time for you to leave this mortal plane, you will be able to leave knowing that you led an “examined” life  and that it was thus a life worth living.

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    One of those Greek sages, I think it was Socrates, said that the unexamined life is not worth living. As usual, Socrates loved him some hyperbole. It would take a day or so to deconstruct that sentiment, so I won’t do it. You can thank me later.

    But if there was ever a person who personified Socrates’ wise words, it’s you, Susan. When it’s time for you to leave this mortal plane, you will be able to leave knowing that you led an “examined” life and that it was thus a life worth living.

    Kent, you are very kind. There are plenty of people who would say I spend way too much time studying my navel. It is probably true that introspection can be an obsession. (Maybe another topic–you could share your wisdom.) I guess I can’t help myself, though. 

    • #6
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I forgot to mention practicing at the gun range every two weeks and practicing concealed carry draw with my purse. I want to get back to actually carrying.

    • #7
  8. WiesbadenJake Coolidge
    WiesbadenJake
    @WiesbadenJake

    Psalm 131

    A song of ascents. Of David.

    1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
        my eyes are not haughty;
    I do not concern myself with great matters
        or things too wonderful for me.
    2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
        I am like a weaned child with its mother;
        like a weaned child I am content.

    3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
        both now and forevermore.

    Trying to do more of this though I do think the wonderful is OK to pursue, but I think less globally and more about how I am interacting with those to my left and right.

    • #8
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    WiesbadenJake (View Comment):

    Psalm 131

    A song of ascents. Of David.

    1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
    I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
    2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

    3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

    Trying to do more of this though I do think the wonderful is OK to pursue, but I think less globally and more about how I am interacting with those to my left and right.

    A perfect psalm and comment, Jake. I’m afraid that my ego and desires still get in the way of compassion and wise decisions, but it’s a journey, isn’t it? And “wonderful” is definitely fine to pursue (I think), as long as it is done wisely. Thanks; I love seeing those times when my thinking is in alignment with others.

    • #9
  10. WiesbadenJake Coolidge
    WiesbadenJake
    @WiesbadenJake

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    WiesbadenJake (View Comment):

    Psalm 131

    A song of ascents. Of David.

    1 My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
    I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
    2 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

    3 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

    Trying to do more of this though I do think the wonderful is OK to pursue, but I think less globally and more about how I am interacting with those to my left and right.

    A perfect psalm and comment, Jake. I’m afraid that my ego and desires still get in the way of compassion and wise decisions, but it’s a journey, isn’t it? And “wonderful” is definitely fine to pursue (I think), as long as it is done wisely. Thanks; I love seeing those times when my thinking is in alignment with others.

    The world will never know I was here; but a few people will–they matter. Simplifies life. Susan, I so appreciate your thoughts expressed in your writing.

    • #10
  11. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I live in a retirement area where I get to see the tremendous achievements of retirees who had little time to accomplish some of their life’s missions when they were working every day. It’s always been the best part of living on Cape Cod. They are incredibly intelligent and creative people, and they come here from all over the country where they achieved all kinds of things. They bring a knowledgeable perspective to everything we undertake here locally. It’s the retirees who built our schools and libraries, our hospitals, and our towns. Without retirees, our political processes would completely fall apart. So would our churches. And all of our nonprofits.

    I see it as a confident and exciting time of life. It’s a time to build things.

    I think Susan will have great literary accomplishments.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I see it as a confident and exciting time of life. It’s a time to build things.

    There was a time when some of us saw seniors as a burden, just waiting out our time. Now, with the advances in medicine and aging, we have so much time to make our presence known! I’m so glad you see seniors that way, @marcin. Not all of us take advantage of our health and longevity, but many of us do with great joy! I’m sure you will, too, when you get there!

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I think Susan will have great literary accomplishments.

    I don’t know what that would be, but as long as my mind is working, I’ll write!

    • #12
  13. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    A couple of years ago I was decluttering and rearranging my study, and this necessitated getting rid of a lot of stuff I simply didn’t have room for (and, I might add, had no use for). I made more trips to the thrift store than I can count, unloading many boxes full of stuff, and I made a strange discovery: it felt just as good to get rid of stuff as it did to acquire it. Maybe better.

    Briefly I was seized with a vision of turning my study into a Japanese-style tatami room, serene and devoid of furniture or clutter of any kind. I pretty quickly abandoned that idea, because I need the study to be functional, and there is still a lot of stuff in it I want to keep. Oh well.

    Susan, your simplified life sounds busier than mine. You make me think of my mom; she has slowed down now that she’s in her late 80s, but for much of her retirement she has kept so busy that I wondered how she’d ever found time for a job.

    My worry is really kind of the opposite. I tend not to make very good use of my time off, and that makes me worry how I will occupy myself after I retire (now only a few years away). I hope I find the right balance: some way to fill my time with meaningful activity, but without complicating my life to the point that I might as well have just kept working for pay.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. (View Comment):
    My worry is really kind of the opposite. I tend not to make very good use of my time off, and that makes me worry how I will occupy myself after I retire (now only a few years away). I hope I find the right balance: some way to fill my time with meaningful activity, but without complicating my life to the point that I might as well have just kept working for pay.

    A couple of responses come to mind, BXO. First, most of my activities don’t take a lot of time. Second, I do many of them alone, so as an introvert I don’t have a serious drain on my energy! Third, many of these have emerged over time; I’ve stopped doing some things along the way, because I didn’t find them rewarding (such as being in a book group and not liking the books we read). Fourth, some only take my time only once every couple of weeks or once per month. The key is to continually find the balance of loving what you are doing, and letting go of things that don’t serve you well–that’s the problem for many people. And don’t forget to do fun things! It doesn’t all need to be “meaningful.”

    BTW, I agree with de-cluttering: I find it very satisfying (if a little traumatic at times).

    • #14
  15. JustmeinAZ Member
    JustmeinAZ
    @JustmeinAZ

    My simplification has also taken the form of decluttering. For quite a while now I have been having visions of both of us going at once and our various children coming together and exclaiming “What were they thinking!”.

    We both are quite the collectors of various things – me dishes, table linens, holiday decor and him guns, antique rusty things, old bottles, etc, etc,etc. I, for one, have realized that I really don’t need so much. I have some really nice stuff so rather than donate I have been selling on Nextdoor. Dishware, decor, even some of my jewelry. I’m making quite a dent and also meeting a lot of nice folks in the neighborhood. And it feels really, really good to see all my storage space reappearing. And as a bonus I don’t really want to buy much anymore.

    Now to just convince Mr AZ that he really doesn’t need two complete cupboards in the garage filled with bottles and Budweiser steins! He can keep the guns.

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    My simplification has also taken the form of decluttering. For quite a while now I have been having visions of both of us going at once and our various children coming together and exclaiming “What were they thinking!”.

    We both are quite the collectors of various things – me dishes, table linens, holiday decor and him guns, antique rusty things, old bottles, etc, etc,etc. I, for one, have realized that I really don’t need so much. I have some really nice stuff so rather than donate I have been selling on Nextdoor. Dishware, decor, even some of my jewelry. I’m making quite a dent and also meeting a lot of nice folks in the neighborhood. And it feels really, really good to see all my storage space reappearing. And as a bonus I don’t really want to buy much anymore.

    Now to just convince Mr AZ that he really doesn’t need two complete cupboards in the garage filled with bottles and Budweiser steins! He can keep the guns.

    Good for you, Justme! There’s something really liberating, like being free from one’s attachment to things. And making money to boot!

    • #16
  17. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    As far as houses go, we have no plans to move to a smaller house. If we get to the point where we can’t go up or down the stairs, we can:

    1. Put in those riding chairs, or
    2. Live in my mothers ground-floor suite.

    We both prefer the first option . . .

    When we moved to Florida, we were pleased to know that most of the homes in this 55+ development were one level. In fact, our master bathroom shower is one that a wheel chair can be rolled into.

    But I got to thinking about many of the people in this development. Most are retired, and many of them are swamped with activities they’re involved with. It’s baffling to me to see people stressed out because they’re so busy! I’m not sure if their busyness has to do with a fear of being alone with themselves, or if they are trying to make up for lost leisure time. Either way, it makes no sense to me!

    I pride myself on not staying busy.  In a way, I am making up for lost leisure time, but I’m doing so at a pace where I can enjoy it . . .

    • #17
  18. She Inactive
    She
    @She

    I long for the day that the house will be finished, and that there’s no longer any need for me to be the girl who has her own concrete mixer, or the woman who can–on command–turn up an 18-gauge brad nailer when Ron and John’s goes on the fritz, or the woman who has a bountiful supply of 12/2 and 12/3 electrical wire and who knows the difference between them and can (if she simply must) wire a four-way switch (and who–somewhere–has a box of surplus and appropriate parts to do so).

    To be clear, I promised myself that once I finished siding the house I’d sell the seven lifts of heavy-duty scaffold we’ve had for years.  And I did!  Simplify!

    My deal with Ron and John, who are the contractors finishing the inside of the house for me, is quite expensive.  But, as a late friend of ours used to say, “There are two things in life: time and money.  What you buy with time is money.  What you buy with money is time.” Hope I don’t run out of either, anytime soon.  (It’s a beautiful feeling, being upstairs typing this, and hearing productive hammering, nailing, and sawing going on downstairs without me….)

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    She (View Comment):

    I long for the day that the house will be finished, and that there’s no longer any need for me to be the girl who has her own concrete mixer, or the woman who can–on command–turn up an 18-gauge brad nailer when Ron and John’s goes on the fritz, or the woman who has a bountiful supply of 12/2 and 12/3 electrical wire and who knows the difference between them and can (if she simply must) wire a four-way switch (and who–somewhere–has a box of surplus and appropriate parts to do so).

    To be clear, I promised myself that once I finished siding the house I’d sell the seven lifts of heavy-duty scaffold we’ve had for years. And I did! Simplify!

    My deal with Ron and John, who are the contractors finishing the inside of the house for me, is quite expensive. But, as a late friend of ours used to say, “There are two things in life: time and money. What you buy with time is money. What you buy with money is time.” Hope I don’t run out of either, anytime soon. (It’s a beautiful feeling, being upstairs typing this, and hearing productive hammering, nailing, and sawing going on downstairs without me….)

    You’ve worked so hard to make all of these changes happen that when it’s done, I expect you’ll sit back, admire the work, have a sip of your favorite drink, hug your chickens and take it easy. You will have earned it!

    • #19
  20. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    She (View Comment):

    I long for the day that the house will be finished, and that there’s no longer any need for me to be the girl who has her own concrete mixer, or the woman who can–on command–turn up an 18-gauge brad nailer when Ron and John’s goes on the fritz, or the woman who has a bountiful supply of 12/2 and 12/3 electrical wire and who knows the difference between them and can (if she simply must) wire a four-way switch (and who–somewhere–has a box of surplus and appropriate parts to do so).

    To be clear, I promised myself that once I finished siding the house I’d sell the seven lifts of heavy-duty scaffold we’ve had for years. And I did! Simplify!

    My deal with Ron and John, who are the contractors finishing the inside of the house for me, is quite expensive. But, as a late friend of ours used to say, “There are two things in life: time and money. What you buy with time is money. What you buy with money is time.” Hope I don’t run out of either, anytime soon. (It’s a beautiful feeling, being upstairs typing this, and hearing productive hammering, nailing, and sawing going on downstairs without me….)

    You can have your own concrete mixer (though I suspect it’s a mortar mixer), but it’s cheaper and easier to just buy concrete from a ready mix company.

    • #20