Ok, I’ll admit it, I am an action addict. It is the real reason why I find the need to simplify a challenge and so important. For years, have been swinging from chaos and that spiraling, out-of-control feeling, to peace, simplicity and organization. Back and forth. I am just now seeing the pattern. When life gets too hectic, I purge. I drop out of my commitments, I disappear from social events and stop going to the gym. I pull back from my activities and focus on slowing down and reconstituting some order in my life. I stay home, I organize, I take naps, I look at magazines, read books and relax (well besides chasing my kiddos around and maintaining the home front.) Then, when I feel refreshed, peaceful and confident, I slowly begin to add activities back again. I pick up activities one by one until life is humming along again.
I seem to repeat this cycle several times a year. At least I am getting better at realizing when I am on over-load and I know how to make quick adjustments. Currently, I am in halt-all-external-activities mode. Today, the house is finally clean and more organized than it has been in six, seven, or eight months. I feel really good about it, like getting all the clutter removed has allowed me to take a big breath of air. I have filled my lungs to capacity and I feel strong and energized again. As I settle more deeply into this life of purpose and simplicity I will feel this way everyday! That’s my goal, along with about 100 other ones. Here I simply go.
It would be nice to go real simple. Simple as in organic gardening or joining the revival for backyard chickens and cloth diapers. I would love to have lettuce growing and fresh eggs to collect each day, but that may never happen. I can see myself being perfectly happy in that environment but here is reality: I live in a nice new neighborhood, enclosed behind a fancy metal gate, allowing in only the pre-approved. It is in the desired part of town where the affluent young families live. We never thought we would live here, but a foreclosure brought us in. Most people have pools in their backyards and if not pools, then patios, palm trees and water fountains. There is a small park with swings, grass and quiet streets shaded by rows of Palo Brea trees. It’s beautiful. To my right and left the neighbors drive their Jaguars and Mercedes, (I won’t tell you what is in my own garage) and every other house has the soccer mom SUV. I pay as much in HOA fees as I paid in rent when I was in college. So chickens? Never! It won’t happen here, and we won’t be moving to an older neighborhood with hand-painted fenced yards and permissible livestock, either.
We have to be reasonable simple, and it will look different for everyone. So right here, in north Scottsdale, I can find a way to live simply. This is my own journey of discovering what simple and intentional living will look like in the society and era I have found myself in.
Two miles down Horse Creek Road, turn left on a dirt road. It curves and you will see a blue-grey house on your left. Go down the long gravel drive and pull up before a large front porch with a white painted rail. In the corner, is a swing, and I am sitting on it. It is summer and I am looking out across the prairie grass. It is green turning tan and wispy like the thinning hairs atop an aging man’s head. The soil is poor and the grass never grows thick or high here, but it is tenacious and runs free over the rolling landscape. I am watching my one year old son climb up and down the one-step porch. Up is easy but turning around to go down backward has him occupied. A clump of yellow snapdragons grows by the step and we pause to listen to the bumblebees. He holds still, and we watch and listen. We spend a peaceful morning just listening to the wind through the grass, bees and my son’s delighted explorations.
That was one year and a vacation ago and I will confess that daily life does not unfold like that beautiful summer day. I recently took a pause in my schedule and realized it is time for me to change. I want to embrace a porch swing mentality. The porch swing way of beginning my days, of drinking in the pleasure of my children and the beauty all around me. The porch swing way of allowing peace to fill my heart and set my pace for the day. The porch swing way of being purposeful, which includes intentionally resting and enjoying what is around me. I am choosing a new way of living and I am inviting other moms and parents to join me. A life of parenting and living with intentional simplicity. In a driven, fast-paced society where it is commonplace and even applauded to be busy, involved and over-committed, I am stepping back. I am going backward, away from busyness, away from commitments, away from fear that we will miss out if we dare slow down. I am going to breath deeply and from here, proceed with calculated steps. I am going to build a life of peace and purpose one step at a time. It’s porch-swing parenting, a new way to live in a modern society.