I met a friend the other day for coffee. It’s a rare occurrence these days what with my Zero Money Initiative. I felt rather posh, actually, pumping the Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup. Simple pleasures.
My friend was in town with the sad task of attending to his late mother’s estate, so we talked about executor duties and sorting through a lifetime of accumulated stuff. But, he needed distraction from all that, so we quickly moved on to other topics.
What I discovered while talking to him is that I don’t know much about the wide world anymore. I don’t read the newspaper or watch TV. The only news I see is what zips by on Yahoo as I scroll through to my email. To keep my stress low, I avoid unpleasantness such as last week’s discussion topic at our Unitarian Universalist gathering on Human Trafficking. I have enough horror in my life as it is.
As my friend and I talked about Illegal Immigration and The Economy, I wondered for a bit if I was failing in my duty as a citizen, if I should try harder to keep up with current events. But, really, does anything change that much? There’s a war somewhere—probably more than one. There are groups and individuals doing horrific things to other groups and individuals. Congress must be fighting over something or other. And I’m sure we’ve discovered new and exciting things in space and in scientific research. People carry out kind and inspirational acts in obscurity. The environment is still threatened. Babies still get themselves born. I don’t think I’m missing all that much.
Talking with my friend did show me how the parameters of my life have shrunk. I move mostly within a few blocks of my apartment, with occasional excursions farther afield, and the now-rare trek to The Big City. I spend most of my time alone, with a daily dose of polite chit-chat at the Y or the library. I facilitate my two meditation groups and plan one or two deeper interactions with friends or family a week.
I exercise, eat, write, make a little art, watch some DVDs from the library, and read. I talk to my cats. I put gas in my truck and get groceries. I look at the stars at night, and I listen to the rain on the sidewalk. I don’t really go anywhere or do anything. And that’s just fine.
I used to miss doing stuff—going to concerts and plays, eating at interesting restaurants, taking classes. I used to worry about being “productive,” about contributing to society and finding meaningful work. I used to gobble up information. I used to crave interesting people with views and lifestyles different from mine. I used to want a lot more.
With a small life, much of the wanting falls away. At least it has lately. And without the wanting or the stress of a larger life, my rapid cycling seems to find equilibrium a little easier. The cycles still happen, and the symptoms are just as rabid, but I’m granted a little more time to breathe between swings. Who knew that simplifying to the point of nothing might be the best strategy?
Well, I guess those Zen monks knew. But, who wanted to listen to them?