Life is not simple but it need not be as complicated as we usually make it. Often, life is simultaneously both simple and complex. For example, the needs of the newborn infant are simple—to be held, loved, changed, fed and to sleep and to be given a safe place to do all of these things. At the same time, the requirements of the parent are complex—to provide the home and the safety the child needs, to do the changing, the holding and the loving. There is a lot more to successfully being a parent than there is to successfully being an infant.
As a general rule, life gets more and more complicated and demanding as we move through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. When you are a child, you are taught how to be in the world, how to socialize, how to take care of more and more of your basic needs. Later, there is the mastery of more difficult subjects and developmental tasks until we hit the incredible, overwhelming unpredictability of adolescence. The bewildering urges of hormones and growing bodies compete with continued dependence on parents and powerful impulses toward independence.
The “freedoms” of adulthood, we find, are both real and illusory. We gain autonomy but also responsibilities. We seek a way to earn our own livelihood and begin to establish our own home and lifestyle. Along with this comes the complexity of romantic relationships and the decision of whether or when to partner and possibly begin a family. Then the fun really starts! Taxes, insurance, cars and homes to maintain, children to raise, and adult relationships to nurture. None of these things are simple.
Yet many of us long for a greater degree of simplicity and sometimes, as we become older, we are able to achieve it by degrees. Don’t get me wrong. Old age is not simple and certainly not easy! But many of us do find ways to make our lives simpler than they were in our younger adult years. Our children (hopefully) launch into the world, perhaps we can eventually retire and our time slowly becomes more and more our own. We let go of “things” and people that we no longer need or that no longer serve us. Simplifying our lives is one of the greatest challenges and gifts of growing older. Let’s talk about how we may choose to simplify our complex lives as we age.
- What period of life was most complicated and demanding for you? Which was the least complicated and demanding?
- Do you feel you were prepared and allowed to grow into the complexity of adult life or was it thrust on you abruptly by circumstance or family disruption?
- Has your life become more complicated or simpler as you have become older?
- Do you desire greater simplicity in your current or future life and what would that look like?
- In what ways have you already moved toward simplifying your life? Are you satisfied with these changes? What additional changes would you like to make?