“It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life” – J.R.R. Tolkien
I first heard this J.R.R. Tolkien quote during last year’s holidays. For the past year, it has served as a small anchor for my perspective, and I feel that sharing my thoughts about celebrating a simple life is fitting for this time of year.
Simple is a complicated word – at least it has been in my life. Perhaps you can relate? I don’t believe it’s complicated because simplicity is unachievable in the way that perfection is. Rather, simple feels unattainable because of the complications people put on it. In one sense, simplicity is something that can easily be synonymous with mundane and average. In another sense, simplicity is relative; therefore, attaining and maintaining it in one’s own life comes with no specific guideline.
Two weeks ago, I talked about the importance of choosing fear. Celebrating a simple life is also a choice – and, one that is vital to my every day life. Initially, the choice might not be the easiest, though with time, grace plays its part.
For me, a simple life is not defined by what the lives of others look like. It embodies unconditional love, and healthy (though never perfect) boundaries. It looks like the reflection in the mirror staring back at you or me, in all of the nakedness that comes with individuality. It is a belly laugh; a firm handshake; a conversation that is both heard and listened to.
A simple life is a slew of words on a page, the smell of an old library book with dog-eared pages, and a cup of coffee in the morning. It is a candle flickering on a table; wooden floors creaking beneath feet fitted with fuzzy socks. It is a piece of wisdom handed out generously with a side of reality or even patience.
A simple life can be drawn within or outside of the lines. It is in all of the natural, inevitable stillness and chaos of life. It is not stilted by trauma, and knows more than one definition of success. A simple life looks like Sunday morning – like a sunny day in Oregon, and a rainy day along coastal California.
It is a balance between the tiredness brought on by honest work and the rest acquired by means of a sabbath. It is the gift of seeing the sun rise and set. It is unhindered pursuit, and a well-kept secret. It is the struggle of growth and the miracle of new life. It is the hope for a tomorrow, and the mustard seed sized faith to get there.
To celebrate a simple life is to be available to receive it. Money and status and superficiality beckon to be chased, but quiet simplicity yearns to be caught and received like a gift. To celebrate a simple life is to seek; to ask; perhaps to sit within the silence. It is moving in spite of fear. It is to reflect and to holdfast to gratitude as if tomorrow depended on it. It is to note the very human moments of every day life that stick within the depths of one’s mind whether he or she is aware or not.
I envision celebrating a simple life a lot like turning all of the lights off before singing happy birthday to a child who is absorbing the attention that comes with being celebrated.
The details of the celebration are in the sparkle of the candles and the sweetness of a dessert.
The simple life itself is the pure authenticity and uninhibited joy that exists within a child who is deeply, unconditionally loved – as well as in the contented joy that rests deep within a child whose definition of success and extravagance and enough is not wrapped up in the what can be but, rather, in the blessed what is now.
Simplicity scared me for so long – and, at times (especially living in a place like Los Angeles), it still does. It is by far easier to look to what others are doing, at what they have, and how one's self might be lacking. It is easier to let a dream become an expectation; and to let that expectation become one's only desired reality.
I am in the constant process of discovering that relishing in the simplicity that is my life, welcoming the quiet, and befriending the ambiguity of what’s ahead help me experience far more depth than I could ever attain otherwise.
And – to celebrate the simple things is to simultaneously welcome in a heap of gratitude and peace.
What makes up your definition of a simple life? How might a simple life be celebrated in your day-to-day?