I am feeling the urge to simplify. Not in a New Year’s resolution kind of way; no, I am not planning on giving up gin and tonic for January. (Why would I do that to myself?) And no, I'm not taking up the gym, as I re-joined in 2017 and funnily enough I quite enjoy it now. I can even be found weekly on the road to nowhere in spin class, wondering every damn time for the full 45 minutes what the hell I am doing there? I am not setting resolutions, I am not even doing the "reorganising the 6 dozen mugs which seem to be reproducing in the cupboard" type simplify. I won’t be culling the crap in my wardrobe, thereby creating a "mindful time-saving capsule wardrobe" style of simplify. No, the simplification I am talking about goes deeper than mugs and wardrobes. It is more than curtailing my spending habits, or deciding which possessions I truly value and get use out of. The simplification journey I am on begins with a different sort of cleanse.
I have become increasing uncomfortable over the past few years with the way society seems to be living on a consumer belt. We are constantly fed information designed to tantalise and tease us, inviting us to believe we need certain possessions, property, cars, holidays, clothing, accessories, etc. to be happy. We are often judged - and in turn judge - by the labels people wear, the food they eat and the homes and area they live in.
The more we have it seems the more we think we need, even when it comes to social media. How many friends do I have? How many likes on my comment? Who loved my picture? Then we have the endless fascinating and informative talks and inspirational videos which have drawn me in for hours at a time.
Don’t get me wrong; facebook, twitter, Instagram, messenger, snapchat, tumblr et al all have an amazing place in our world. We can share information, keep in touch, learn from each other, educate and reach out. I have been proposed to by strangers from a multitude of countries, none of who I have met! I have connected with teachers and educators I really admire, reconnected with old school friends and raised large sums of money for charities - All on social media.
But I began to notice in the past year or so I was feeling more and more disconnected, agitated, and unfulfilled. I started doing that thing we do when we are truly not living in the moment. I was using that phrase, “When I...” rather a lot. You know what I mean, “When I pay off the mortgage”, “When I finish my book”, “When I get myself back into my size 10 jeans.” Yes, don’t laugh, I was a 10 once, actually I was an 8, not that it is important. I don’t think size 8 jeans would make it past my ankles these days and frankly Scarlett, who gives a damn?
Because actually, I knew all the while I was scrolling, or commenting, that I really wasn’t living. I was becoming a voyeur. Watching life, participating in an experience which, whilst real in that I am speaking with real people and observing real things happening, in another sense I was a step removed from the face to face interactions that I truly believe we as human beings need to thrive.
For years I have bemoaned the online world the kids live in. Whilst we have to acknowledge that for now at least this online world is here to stay, it seems people have become crueller to each other, somehow desensitised to each other’s feelings, braver behind their screens than they ever would be face to face. I wonder at how living in the virtual world is affecting their ability to be rational, to deal with real day to day issues and develop the necessary empathy for others. I wonder how watching the world through a lens changes the way the brain processes the information it receives. I also am fearful that we may be beginning to feel that unless we are hooked in all the time, sharing our experience that in fact our experience isn’t valid. Why does it need to be seen by others to somehow validate it? “I had the best holiday ever, amazing sunsets, great food and beaches.” Share, share, share. Actually, I just want to be on holiday, not on my phone.
How had I got so hooked?
I started to feel claustrophobic, slightly panicked, overwhelmed and stressed. I had spent so much of my free time looking down at a screen and sharing my experiences and thoughts, that I could feel my goal of mindful living slipping away. More stuff, more possessions, more friends, more opportunities arising and less of the thing I really want, time. Just that, time.
So today talking with my husband about my revelation, I said, hopefully not appearing ungrateful, “If you see anything you think I may want, anything at all... Don’t’ buy it.” You see, Mr G is a generous soul, to a fault. If he feels he can add something to my life he always will if it is within his power, but I have realised over the Christmas season this year, which for one reason or another has been extremely challenging, that I don’t want for anything, I have all I need, and in truth I want less. I want less stuff to clean and tidy away, less clothes to choose from, less pieces of paper to find a place to file, and more time and space.
I want to slip into a life where I am experiencing the exquisite nature of this planet, the droplets of water clinging to the branches of the trees in the woods after a heavy shower. The bulbous beauty of the new moon high in the sky, the flow of the tides as I watch the Estuary on my morning dog walks on the beach.
I want to have time to experience fully the beauty of a conversation with a friend, who sits in front of me with a warm coffee in her hands.
I want to hold my husbands hand as we walk together without a phone beeping and pulling our attention elsewhere.
I need to take some time to select my food with care and attention, cook it with love and sit and eat with gratitude.
I want to have the time and space to cut my own grass and plant seeds in my garden.
I want space in my day to think and then craft those thoughts into words which soothe my soul.
I want to see and hear my children talk about their day and goals and be present fully with them.
I want to go to bed at night and not hear the beep of notifications from Instagram or facebook, instead listening to the soft, gentle notes emanating from the wind-chime tree outside my window.
The simplification decision in the end was easy. I paused, I watched my breath come and go, I allowed space for wisdom to arise. And in that space, wisdom reminded me that I am energy in human form and this human requires other humans, nature, and interactions with real, flesh and blood people. I need to listen to the rhythm of nature, follow the rising and setting of the sun, hear the grumble of my stomach and enjoy feeling satisfied when it is enough. Just that, enough. And everything else I could let go of.
Once this wisdom arose in my meditation, I could breathe a little easier. Implementing it is now the next step. A piece of advice I am known to offer when asked “What do I do to feel connected and to get to know myself?”, is this;
“If you have not time to look after yourself, to eat well, sleep well, exercise, have a proper conversation with those you love daily; if those things are a struggle for you, then let something else go, because your health, your family and your relationships are more important than money, hobbies, and any facebook, Instagram or twitter following you will ever have. You can never fully know yourself if you are too busy looking outside of yourself for fulfilment.”
So, I am taking my own advice. My personal social media will close within the next few days. I feel immense relief at this decision which tells me it is the right one. I will continue to run my business page which I will view once a day. I am contactable as always by email or phone or - better yet - face to face when I see you In the street.
Live simply, live well, you will never get this time back again.
Love Dawn x