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June 2007

When my youngest was but a bud in my belly, I had a life reading done. The woman who did the reading said that my soul longed to feel the details of my life again.  Something about that statement resonated though I honestly wasn’t sure how it translated at the time. Just in these last few years, my youngest being a full 6-years-minus-two-teeth old, I finally know what it is.


From the time I moved into my former home, I knew that something didn’t fit: I didn’t fit.  It was huge and required a big staff to keep it clean and running smoothly. With all these other people sharing my home, I felt dwarfed, depleted and not in control of my own living space. Other people do well in big spaces; I thrive in smaller ones.


Today my home is considerably smaller.  Because the rooms are more compact and closer together, the children are sleeping on their own and without fear. I feel contained and love taking walks, lying in the hammock, and generally enjoying the outdoors more.  When I was in a big house, I was always trying to scoot into smaller spaces, and holing up in my study where I felt relatively protected. Over the years, the need to simplify became more pressing.  A few months ago, I finally took the plunge.


Part of simplifying also meant streamlining the household staff.  I am happiest when I have the house to myself, with no help milling about.  I have two children so it is a relief to have help, but I don’t do well with them around me all the time.  Years of living abroad ruined my ability to share my home with too many people.  I value my own space too much and because I am an expert cleaner, my standard for order and cleanliness is high. Today, I find that part-time help suits me best.   I have one helper now who is great.  I have her three times a week.  She works fast, hard and very quietly.  She goes home at the end of the day to be with her children and I am happy to have my space restored.  My trusted driver also helps around the house and with my errands.  They are all I need.


With this simple and relatively spare arrangement, I notice that my children step up more.  They do things themselves much more than when there are people around who keep picking up after them, no matter how often you tell them not to.  My greatest burden when I had a full staff was trying to instill in them the importance of truth-telling, proper behavior, speech, cleanliness, etc. It is really difficult to have other people respect your values and I’ve come to realize that maybe it is asking too much.  If I want things done properly, I simply do them myself.


Now I have the house to myself and I am happy.  My life feels so much more private, too.  There is less stress for me because I do not have to absorb the energies of others. There is more work, that’s true, but I don’t mind it so much.  I like it that my children see me caring for our home with my hands.  I like it that I cook our meals and that we can just get in the car and eat out if I’m not up to it. I love waking up in the morning to see my older son reading, the table already set and the dishwasher empty.  It fills me with pride. I like seeing my children involved in the daily tasks because I know that they will grow up better men and, if they choose to marry, will be the kind of husbands who know how to help around the house.  Hooray!!


No wonder our Western brothers seem more competent than us, and their children more independent. I think that when you take care of your own needs daily –the cooking, washing, cleaning and practical caring for each other – a different kind of web is woven that is very inwardly strengthening. Though we are lucky that we can have help if we want them, too much dependence on them can turn us into lazy, helpless bums and our children into second-generation (a.k.a. lazier and more helpless) bums who think there are people out there born to serve them.  No thanks.  I want my boys to grow up differently.  I don’t want them to be spoiled brats.  Help is a blessing, but only if we know how to incorporate it mindfully into our lives, without giving up the will to work ourselves.


I love knowing that as I get older my life gets simpler, easier to feel and hold.  I love that my spaces are truly becoming my own.  It’s as if I am preparing for the next journey by beginning to focus more and more on what is essential.  At the end of the day, with my boys safely tucked in, I prepare a warm, soothing lavender bath that my aging body sinks into with intense gratitude.  Aaaaahhhhh. 


A life lived simply in this complicated, toxic world, is something to be truly grateful for. 

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