Creating Space for Simple, Part I
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It is 1:30 pm on a Wednesday as I write this, and I am here at the desk below the wall art with the quotes and filtered photos of my travels. A candle burns next to a tiny green succulent and a gold clock, a gift from a sweet friend who remembered when I pointed to this clock in the Target aisle and said, “I’d like that.” A stack of notebooks and planners and a medical bill sit to my left, and a mug of coffee—Be Brave, the mug tells me—is close at hand. The day is overcast—white skies with the occasional patches of blue and sunlight. In a vase are fresh sunflowers on the white handpainted chest, paint smudges on the gold locks giving away my novice painting abilities. I have just finished a blog post about my 5 favorite books, and I thought about words and London and writing, and can this be my life always? Can my days be spent like this—simply?
Because that is what my heart craves: the space for simple.
For making muffins and reading a book on a slow summer’s afternoon. For iced coffees and a walk in the park and kitty snuggles. For time that is unscheduled, unstructured, free. For a clock that ticks away unnoticed because the focus is on what is, the Right Now: the way the pen glides smoothly over the paper, the way freshly ground coffee tastes, sweet sip by sweet sip, not focused on what is to come in an hour, four hours, 24 hours from now. I want to be open, to be aware, to notice the Now that I am in: the trees that have awakened from their winter slumbers, carrying in their arms wide green leaves; this candle that subtly fills the room with the fresh scent of eucalyptus—unnoticed until you leave and then reenter the room; the ink strokes on the cactus print created by a dear friend.
This is what I want more of: simple.
A week ago and it is a Tuesday and I am in London—my last morning in London—and the sun is bright, the brightest it’s been all week, and the sky is blue—who knew the sky could be this blue here, in the city of rain and grey? And I am walking through Regent’s Park, alone with my thoughts and my “You must be somewhere in London” playlist, and the park is alive with strolling people and tumbling pups and blooming trees and sweet springtime. My eyes are open to it all and my heart is smiling and that heart smiles turns into a real smile because this walk in the park, it is simple and it is life.
Like everyone our age and younger, technology has been a consistent presence in my life—first Nintendo 64 games, then computer games (Zoo Tycoon, anyone?), then flip phones and long texts slowly typed with the aid of autofill on keypads with three letters per number, then smartphones and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and emails always, always on and notifications always, always crying out for attention, and here I am at stoplights opening emails and in elevators scrolling through Instagram and in bed responding to texts before my feet ever feel the carpet beneath them in the morning.
And then I spend work days staring at a screen and time with this blog staring at a screen and then I look at the clock and hours have passed and I’ve yet to come up for air, to take a deep breath and notice the life that has been happening all while I have been staring and scrolling and tap, tapping away on this metal notebook.
This is not life.
I’ve been anxious lately, overwhelmed by all that I need to do that I have not done and wow, Ally, you are failing at all of this, Shame says. And I notice this feeling of overwhelm only grows the more I allow that finger to scroll and scroll, the more time I spend staring at that screen.
I want more space for the simple, more permission for peace. I want to get coffee with a friend without an iPhone serving as our third guest. I want a slow afternoon to read. I want time that is spent ignorant of what time it is. I want walks in the park with eyes open, not glued like a moth to the light of a screen.
Because technology is not simple. It is a gift, absolutely, but it has permeated into places in our lives that maybe it was never meant to be.
So here I am, writing in this notebook on a Wednesday afternoon, ready to reclaim my peace, ready to live a life, ready to create space for simple.
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