Simplicity is something I value very highly in my life. And this time of year, my commitment to keeping things simple leaves me feeling like I’m an observer: watching the chaos of a storm from the cozy window of my own, simple life.
I will give some of the credit for my emphasis on simplicity to the families I took care of in my first few years of practice. With kids too young to yet be into the holiday whirlwind, I was witness to the stories other parents told of kids with mountains of un-appreciated toys, older kids who wanted bigger and better every year, and the frantic haste to get to every last store. Combined with clear signs of stress, fatigue and tension, I decided then and there that I didn’t want our holidays to fall into that pattern.
Simple for me means that I don’t add in more than I can give my full attention to. It means that I have a no-drama policy – both at home and in my practice. It means that we started our own family traditions on a small scale, emphasizing the joy in giving to others while being grateful for what we receive. All with a very conscious effort to focus on the people around us, gratitude for the life that we have, and appreciation and attention paid to every gesture of kindness – including, of course, gifts.
This weekend was an example of simple.
Yesterday at work I could probably measure my success by two simple factors: the number of times I laughed, and the number of hugs I got. My morning started with giving a report to a ten-year-old boy (and his mom, of course). As is always the case, I spoke directly to him about what I noticed in his initial assessment. I explained to him three simple concepts:
1 – your body is smart
2 – your brain and body need to ‘talk’ to work properly and
3 – if your brain-body connection isn’t clear, your smart body has a harder time working at its best.
With a wise nod of his head and a few insightful comments, he asked his final, amusingly off-topic questions: “Dr. Amy, do you live in a big house?” (this may have been my first laugh-out-loud moment of the morning) and “Dr. Amy, do you drive a ferarri?” (my second laugh). With a smile I replied: “No, I have a simple house, and no, I don’t drive a ferrari. I don’t really care that much about those things. The most important thing in my life is my family and spending time with them. We like to do things like enjoy nature, hike and travel.” He left with a pondering expression on his face. As for me, I was amused by his perceptions – and it left me thinking, too.
The truth is that the value I place on things is a far distant runner-up to the value I place on quality time and having experiences. Even if we had all the money in the world, we wouldn’t live much differently than we do now. We would travel more, give more, experience more. Don’t get me wrong – I like material things, too. I get great pleasure out of buying quality things for my kids. And I love the idea of building our dream home in the upcoming years. But without the context of who I would be enjoying those things with, they are empty for me. Things may provide some pleasure to me – but they are not what motivates me.
The other moments this weekend that filled me up included our annual Awesome by Design workshop. We hosted thirteen kids (age 4-10) for 2 hours in the practice, while giving their parents a few hours to themselves. We gave the kids the same simple message (repeat after me…) “My body is smart and I am AMAZING!” (really, what more do they need to know than that?!) Our games followed that same theme. Our snack was a build-your-own creation using fresh fruits, veggies and toothpicks. And our craft was a self-decorated portrait with the same message as above. It was seamless, fun, and full of laughter. The only complaint was from the kids when they didn’t want to leave.
On the home front, the remaining focus of the weekend was on food. While I place a very high value on health and nutrition, I also feel that when I make good quality meals for my family, I am nourishing them in ways that surpass the calories and nutrients. I feel a deep contentment to know that with two crockpots going, there will be delicious soups for the kids’ lunches this week. And it never ceases to amaze me how fulfilled I am by the simple act of putting food on the table. With three lovely family meals together (steak and veggies; eggs, bacon and fruit; and chicken with roast veggies), I am filled up in all of the ways that matter.
It seems that at this time of year, we go somewhat into hibernation mode. We stay put more often – and are happy to do so. It just so happens that sometimes that lends itself to wonderful little moments of joy. Like the surprise evening finale of our kids dimming the living room lights to put on a play for us with masks they discovered downstairs. With the assurance that they will be planning lots of performances for us – complete with giggles and silliness – what more could we ask for? Live theatre from the comfort of our own home. Perfect.