“Perfection is attained, not when no more can be added, but when no more can be removed.” ~Antoine de Saint Exupéry
When I stop and think about the things that bring me greatest joy, they are always simple moments. Days like today spent at home alone with only my cats and books for company. Moments like this one spent on the couch with my computer, a blazing fire in the fireplace, quiet music playing, a glass of my favorite wine and a couple of cats curled up nearby. Although I’d love to have loved one to share moments like this with, I am increasingly learning to delight in my own company in these precious spaces of joy.
I can never seem to get enough of these simple moments. These times bring me more joy and more of a feeling of wholeness than any amount of striving for things, status, or external acceptance has ever done. With all that I’ve lost over the last year, perfection (for me) can still be found in these quiet moments. As I redefine my life and my goals, I am grateful for this reminder that what really matters is the quality of the essential things in life (for me) and not the quantity of things (or experiences) that I can cram into it.
“More is not more. It’s often less. I look at my energy as a tube of blue paint. If I’m doing too much, my blue is thin and watery. If I choose a devoted focus, my blue displays intensity and poignancy. It moves people. It attracts opportunities. I don’t have to do as much. Let go of something today. Choose devotion.” ~Tama J. Kieves
As an introvert, I have limited energy for spending time with other people. This has always forced me to make very careful choices about how I spend my time because I know I only have so much energy to give. When I ignore this limitation, I crash and burn in ways that just aren’t pretty or remotely enjoyable. But I have always felt guilty about this limitation, so I tend to push myself to maximize contact as much as I possibly can. I also tend to try to fill my alone time with “useful” activities with the idea that more doing is better. As Tama says, “More is not more. It’s often less.”
Over the last few weeks as I’ve let myself decompress, I’ve seen this time and time again. The days that I allow myself to just be without the long to-do list pushing me to action, I find that I have greater focus for things that matter and greater insight into the questions I am struggling with. Paradoxically, I get more done—and of greater quality—when I push myself less.
Why is it that this is so hard to remember? Even as I’ve slowly weaned myself away from the computer and the continual checking of emails, Facebook feeds, RSS feeds, instant messages, Twitter feeds, and discussion board postings and discovered the joy of spending my time more productively on things that matter, I so easily gravitate back to the obsessive checking of the computer because it feels so productive. After all, look at all the information I’m seeing and all the contact I’m having with others!
But all that “busyness” leaves me feeling more empty than time alone focused on things that really matter to me. So it made intuitive sense to me when I came across the following quote today claiming that busyness is a form of laziness because it keeps us from focusing on the things that matter.
“Paradoxically, having too much to do is also thought of as laziness. When you allow your schedule to become filled up with so many things that you can’t remember your personal priorities, such as meditation and self-care, this is considered a form of laziness.” ~Susan Piver
While we often tend to think of busyness as something that is outwardly imposed on us, the truth is that we create the busyness from our choices about our work, our lifestyles, the people we associate with, and the ways we spend our time. Often we do this to avoid having to face ourselves, and in so doing, we miss out on what our souls have to tell us.
“We fill the sacred vessel of our consciousness with so many distractions and so much noise that we can’t even hear the whispers of our intuitive heart or see the signs and signals that are meant to guide us, protect us, and ensure we are thriving.” ~Debbie Ford
By the standards of this culture, I have greatly come down in the world over the last few years. My income is a fraction of what it once was, so there are many things that I can no longer afford. My work is much less prestigious and doesn’t begin to make use of all my skills or knowledge. My house is smaller and older than what I had this time last year. My car is now eleven years old and is increasingly showing its age. I am single again and with much less chance of finding a mate than I once had. I have lost much of limited community I once had here and spend the vast majority of my time alone.
And yet, by my standards, I think I may finally be creating a life that suits me. I am still struggling after all of the losses and changes this past year, I still cry for dreams that have died, I still don’t know where I am heading. But I am beginning to see matters.
I am choosing simplicity. I am choosing a life that is so perfect that there is nothing to be removed. I continue to pare away all that is extra until only the most valuable things remain. I am choosing to create enough stillness and quietness that I can hear my own soul. I am choosing to live my life my way.
I am choosing me.