One of the things I really believed in is the idea of simplicity, that life should always be moving toward more simplicity rather than more complexity. — Yvon Chouinard
I’m trying to lead a simple life. There is, however, a force in me that continually grasps at doing more, and being more. There exists a duality, one that oscillates between a Thoreauvian simplicity and a desire to be a prolific contributor and thriving experiencer. I wish to ride gravel roads and switchbacks that climb into the clouds. I wish to run beneath a forest canopy and along open dirt roads exposed to the sun and weather. I desire the act of turning pages and the pause at the end of a thought. I wish to craft sentences, putting together ideas that help those who come upon them. I hope distilling my reading and thoughts refine my way of living, and in-turn help another live a simple, aware and deliberate life.
However, my fault lies in trying to control too much, then worrying when elements of life aren’t under my influence. I have spreadsheets on my computer, my phone, in the cloud, scratched in paper notebooks; personal expenses, collaborative budgets, projects ranked by priority, lists of humble adventures, and lists of consumables along with costs sorted by the essential, functional essentials, and luxuries. I check these files daily: updating, tweaking, adding, subtracting, re-prioritizing, and attempting to account for every dollar coming in and going out. Susan has taken on the task of managing our collaborative budget to determine if we can live on a combined budget of $2,000 per month. Update: turns out we can’t.
I waste time tracking time. I block time for writing then use it to change my time-blocking schedule. I read books on altruism then create lists of how to make better use of my time and skills to contribute in a more meaningful way.
I think about inner peace and how that needs to be part of my work, our dirty good work. I cannot help others find inner peace if I don’t have my own peace within. We certainly won’t see world peace until we all achieve inner peace. I read in Thomas Merton’s, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, mention of the violence of non-violent acts of activism and overwork. Interpreted, we spend so much energy trying to help “everyone,” or trying to achieve more and do more, that we’ve created individual breeding grounds of stress and anxiety. This is creating an emotionally and physically destructive force against ourselves. How can we not expect to see collective dissatisfaction, depression, and hostility in the world when the root, our roots, are rotting for lack of proper nourishment?
So, I attempt to account for everything, driving Susan mad. I speculate every scenario. I create volatile savings. I juggle enough projects to earn enough money to get by while striving to save time and energy to pursue what I’m living for. All-the-while feeling guilty and selfish for making this choice, for having this as a choice. Yet also reminded daily I live permanently folded at the pelvis in a van to afford what is on my functional essentials list, and to write.
Life is a messy juggling act, but I wouldn’t have it another way. What I can learn, however, is releasing control (or the illusion of control I’ve created). Flipping through spreadsheets, budgeting, and accounting for possible scenarios may seem prudent, and perhaps for many it is, but for myself it seems to be making life more complicated than it needs to be. In trying to control time, I lose it. In trying to juggle too many income streams I lack efficiency and don’t do the best work I’m capable of achieving. Quality needs to trump quantity. Impact on individuals needs to be the measure, not the digits displayed on my PayPal, Instagram, or bank apps.