The (Really) Simple Things

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What does simplifying your life really mean? One cancer survivor offers a different perspective.

We hear repeatedly about simplifying things: in our homes, our workplace and our lives. There is even a popular magazine named Real Simple, with instructions on how to simplify every aspect of our existence. The famous Marie Kondo has published books on becoming organized and purging unnecessary clutter. Some interior decorators swear by the uncluttered, simple furniture and decorations favored by the Minimalist movement, which embraces simplicity, balance, and the idea that “less is more”.

Indeed, simplicity has become a way of life as people - myself included - talk constantly about decluttering and getting rid of things and not needing as many objects.

However, there is another type of simplicity. I was recently sitting out on my patio, sipping my coffee with a newspaper in my hand and my cat purring in my lap. At one point, I stopped reading the depressing news, took a deep breath and just gazed at the solar dancing figurines I decorate my patio with. As they swayed and danced in response to the warm sunshine, I allowed myself to become mesmerized and true happiness filled my soul. I then realized something.

Before cancer and before I was forced to retire, I had a hectic schedule and planned every second. I felt guilty sitting and relaxing like this. I was always checking the time for my next appointment. Today — I just wanted to be!

I have been forced by my health to leave jobs where I had to be there at a certain time, and writing allows me that luxury. I don’t have to hurry through the newspaper, thinking I have to read it now or never. I can sip my coffee all morning long if I wish. Part of this is due to retirement; many of my friends and family have said they enjoy this idea of no longer being in a demanding workforce. But the rest is because of my cancer. This disease has taught me how to savor the moment.

There are many moments like this we can savor and cherish. Planting a garden and just digging your hand in the dirt, taking a walk and enjoying watching nature all around us, smelling the flowers outside, playing and giggling with children — these are simple things. We don’t need fancy cruises, or trips to Europe or to spend a lot of money on a vacation to be happy.

Unfortunately, many of us cancer patients have spent so much on medical bills that we cannot afford the expensive vacations. But we can love and appreciate the simple things in life. Cancer has taught me this, and I am sorry it took me so long to learn. I do not need to just simplify my home — but to simplify what is needed for my soul.