“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates
Sometimes I look at my cats and think, “Man, you live the good life. As long as someone feeds you every day and remembers to scoop out your poop, life is good.” You can learn a bit about appreciating life’s simple pleasures from watching a cat.
I don’t think I really knew “busy” until I went back to work after having my son. After a few months of monotonous and somewhat luxurious (in retrospect) days of getting to know my son (and Netflix), suddenly much of my free time on the margins of the day became dedicated to preparing for someone else to care for my son. Pumping breast milk, preparing bottles, packing diapers (and burp cloths…and bibs…and changes of clothes). In the beginning I worried I’d never keep up with it all. But, after a little while, we got into a groove.
During that time, I also came to new terms with the meaning of “prioritizing.” Things that were important before our son arrived, even things I swore I wouldn’t let fall to the back burner (I could do it all!), eventually did. I’m still looking forward to a time when I’ll be able to cook a meal that takes longer than thirty minutes.
As I’ve come to these realizations and made changes, I’ve found comfort in reading the experiences of others, especially other moms. It’s helpful to hear what works and doesn’t for other families. I’ve also found an unexpectedly great parenting and life resource in Brain Pickings, a treasure trove of wonderful insights from philosophers, artists, writers, and other creative thinkers. Maria Popova has a knack for taking sometimes centuries-old writings and making them relevant to life today. Her summary of the philosopher Seneca’s writings on busyness and the shortness of life are particularly fitting for the theme of busyness, priority-setting, and minimalism in life. Maria quotes from Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life:
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
This week’s photography challenge was to share a minimalist photo. I immediately knew which photo I wanted to post, but it’s taken me several days to be able to explain the value of minimalism in my life. To me it is simplicity. But simple isn’t easy. One of the biggest surprises I’ve found about trying to simplify my life is that it’s a continual process and requires constant evaluation and change. Which is what I think Seneca is getting at when he highlighted the importance of being mindful not to waste our time. It requires diligence not to get swept up in the momentum of busyness.
So I’ll be keeping minimalism in mind and trying to channel Seneca.
The Daily Post – Weekly Photo Challenge