I know a lot of people say life is too short to be unhappy but life isn’t short. In fact, it’s very long. The longest thing you will ever encounter while you’re alive. That’s kind of what defines it. Which makes me think, why would you want to spend the longest thing in your life being miserable?
I read The Myth of Happiness: Why What We Think is Right is Wrong by Jennifer Michael Hecht awhile ago but I’m still thinking about it.This kind of book is right up my alley. She takes something in our modern life (happiness) and places it against a historical context. I love doing this. As my husband says, “Let’s just take a step back and look at the big picture.” It seems like every time you take a big picture view about something it becomes very clear where we’re doing a lot of dumb stuff that doesn’t make sense or where we’re doing things that have a long tradition and therefore provide a valuable service to us all.
Hecht goes through lots of different categories, and while I didn’t always agree, she brought up a lot of good points. What I loved most of all though was just the questioning of “What really makes us happy?” Some obvious things come out like family, feeling fulfilled, close connections with people…but I’m realizing that for myself I really seek and crave simplicity. It’s so odd too because when I think about myself throughout my whole life, I haven’t been a simple person. I was a childhood hoarder, I collect animals, I collect children, I used to be called hyper and crazy and loud. I loved Victorian knick knacks and all I wanted to do was be social. So why am I constantly trying to simplify my life?
I wrote a blog post on the book Simplicity Parenting which really helped me understand my ultra sensitive son. He is very sensitive to stimuli and would break down in hysterical tears a lot over things like loud noises. He can’t handle weird textures or messy rooms or lots of choices. Even choosing between two things can be too much and he almost always defers with an, “I don’t care, it’s up to you.” As he’s gotten older an odd thing has happened. When he gets overwhelmed and over stimulated he doesn’t break down crying anymore. He gets crazy.
This was a huge epiphany for me. I had felt so long like there was this huge conflict between who I was inside and how I behaved for most of my childhood. People would tell me I was hyper and I’d think, “No, I’m not. I’m really shy and quiet.” Or that all I cared about was my friends and I’d think, “Not at all. I really don’t like spending time with these people.” I was always wondering, like my parents, So why do you do it then?
I was like a kid who is hopped up on sugar, greedily shoving more and more into my mouth because I didn’t know how to stop. Once you manage to get all that sugar out of your system, you look at it fearfully and say, “Keep that away from me!” There are things like going out to parties that I enjoy but I actively avoid because I don’t trust myself. I’m exactly that person who will do stupid things completely oblivious to the fact that they’re being an idiot. Some sensitive people have panic attacks, others get kind of manic and crazy.
That makes me sound like such a weird person but I’m completely OK with that because I know a lot of other people are just like that too. So to all those introverts out there who feel like there is a huge disconnect between how they act and how they feel, I have this tip for you. Simplify your life. I just took another car load of stuff to Goodwill the other day and it felt so good. It tires me out in the mornings picking out an outfit. I don’t like choices. This is probably why I don’t enjoy shopping. I do opposite shopping, where I know what I want, and then try to find it. I’m currently trying to reduce my wardrobe to a capsule, which most suggest is around 32 items per season. I’m down to right around 100 items total.
But it’s not just things around your house you should simplify. I love how Marie Kondo says in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m done doing things, being with people, buying things that don’t give me joy. Because doing otherwise literally makes me act crazy. Life is too short, and long, to be a crazy person.
“I know myself and that is all.” – This Side of Paradise