Really, I'm not just being a sarcastic smart aleck... I actually think that resolutions are, in general, a really bad idea. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed a little theme repeating itself over and over... (yes, the phrase "repeating itself over and over, is soft of like the department of redundancy department, but bear with me here).
I tend to believe that people in this culture have a pathological fear of their own humanity. I don't say that to judge, gawd knows I'm an expert at the art of self avoidance.
But the older I get, and the more I slow down, the more it becomes strikingly apparent to me that so many of the people I admired in my youth, really were just more adept at the art of hiding their humanity than I was. You know the people I mean... the ones who seam so god damned "normal." The ones who have nice sterile little lives that seem to be bereft of untidy emotions and unfinished business... the Marcia Brady's of the world.
So as I've been cruising the blogosphere these past few days, I've had to bite my proverbial tongue many times at the long lists of goals and resolutions that I see splayed out across the interwebs.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the idea of making positive changes to one's life, it's just the "I'm gonna hold my breath and force myself to do this thing" approach that makes me crazy. It's not that I am immune, I'm just old enough to have tried and failed the "resolution" approach many, many, many times.
The way I see it, people pretty much always do what they want to do. So whatever dysfunctional things you're doing must be serving some sort of purpose in your life. And until you uncover what that purpose is, there is just no way that you're gonna be able to muscle your way into changing your behavior. Oh, you might be able to maintain it for a while, but unless you really deal with the emotions underlying it all, you're doomed to failure.
It's sort of like practicing "tantrum yoga"... you know, that's where you hold your breath until god gives you your way. It just ain't the path to enlightenment as far as I can tell.
Anyhooo... lots of people are resolving to simplify their lives right about now, and while that's great, it's just that... well... so much of what I see people touting as "simple" just isn't.
First we have the arts and crafts approach...
Now, I have nothing against arts and crafts, and I do believe that there is much to be gained in doing things for yourself rather than relying on some poor slob toiling away in a deathtrap factory somewhere in China. And while it is great to "re-use" things that might otherwise end up in a landfill, so many of these projects just seem like crazy make-work propositions which serve no useful purpose other than to keep the doer occupied and paint a lovely and meaningless picture of "living a simple life."
I dutifully cut out squares and planned my pattern, and after a few months of painstaking work discovered that all I had accomplished was to drive myself stark raving mad.
Here's the thing... I didn't need a quilt. Plus, if I did need a quilt, I could actually purchase one used from the thrift store for less money that it was costing me to buy the thread for my interminable quilt project! But, oh how I fought and fought with it... how could I just give it up? I mean, it was so green, so hand made, so utterly and completely simple... wasn't it?
When I look back on it I can see that I really wasn't very interested in quilting at all. What I wanted was the pretty picture of Laura Ingalls Wilder sitting there in a tiny cabin spending hour upon hour in quiet contemplation. But the only purpose that my quilt was serving was to keep me busy and occupied and to give me one more thing that I was supposed to be doing. Seriously, how is this "simple?"
So as you peruse the many patterns for making bracelets out of pop can pull tabs...
or baskets from braided bits of old magazines...
or coasters from... well really, you could make a coaster out of just about anything, couldn't you?
OK... so next we have the "I'm swearing off _____(fill in the blank with the societal evil of your choice)" approach. This is very closely related to the "I vow to commit to _____(fill in the blank with the wholesome and virtuous behavior du jour.)"
Yes, folks, it's January, and all over the world television sets are being packed away into closets, sugar and cream are being banned from kitchens north and south, exercise equipment is flying off the shelves, and people everywhere are working hard at packing themselves into tight little boxes.
You see, it doesn't really matter who cements the bars in place... prison is still prison. So if forcing yourself to follow a whole pile of rules is your idea of simple, then bring on the hair shirts I say!
OK, I could go on and on, but I think you're probably getting my point. The whole object of simple living is to make your life more SIMPLE, as in easy, or less complicated. But so many of us are, on some level, wedded to our complicated lives... and it's not because we have no say in the matter... it's that the complications serve us in some way, shape or form.
So here's what I think. If you really want to simplify your life, start by sitting quietly and doing nothing. Don't make it into a "task" that you must accomplish, just look for opportunities to do nothing, and take them when they arrive.
Here's an example. I've been having a lot of work done on my teeth. I broke a tooth and it finally got me to drag my sorry ass into a dentist's office after nearly 15 years of avoiding it. At some point when this whole little dental adventure is complete, I'll write and tell you all of the gory details, but for the moment, suffice it to say that lately I've spent a large number of hours sitting in a chair and waiting.
You see, it's not really that we're addicted to FaceBook or Twitter, or television or Netflix or texting, or computer games or any of the bazillions of other distractions that the modern world provides... we just hate the thought of having to be with ourselves for any meaningful period of time.
It's often said that simple living is about "making do with less" and I think there is some truth to that statement. But unfortunately, "making do" often turns into "making work," which really doesn't help to simplify anything. I guess I just think we need to focus more of our energy on the "less" part of the equation and let the "making" take care of itself.