The other day I walked in the park.
As I ambled by the swings and slides, a woman who looked like she might be a grandmother was with her granddaughter. The child was perhaps four years old. Her blonde hair tousled in the wind as she bent down and picked up a frayed, sad-looking dandelion.
“That’s beautiful,” I said as she held it toward me, beaming.
Then she began stomping on the ground in her purple-and-pink glittery sneakers, looking down at them, trying to make them “do” something.
“No more light,” she said.
Her grandmother came toward me and smiled. “They used to light up more but I guess they’ve lost some of whatever it was.”
I told her to have fun and walked away thinking, how often have I lost my light, whatever it is that I once had. And what has been causing me to lose it?
Perhaps the clutter of many things. Holding on to worries. Agendas. How I think life “should” be instead of accepting how it is. In other words, not letting go, not simplifying.
When I was in the workplace, there was a saying some of you may know: KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. If I’m going to be totally honesty here, I have a personality that makes things harder than they should be. I tend to make things more complicated.
I used to get frustrated with that part of me. Now I have come to accept that it’s all part of the unique package that makes me who I am. I am someone who still likes to hold on, someone still learning to “let go” and simplify — and someone who is still trusting in faith there is a Higher Power who moves life along in divine right time and flow.
I am also gentle, or at least learning to be, with all those parts of myself, as I would with a young child. As I might with that little girl in the park.
Would I have yelled at her and told her, “That’s an ugly dandelion!”? Never. Then why would I berate those inner child parts of me that need love and even more love? Especially those parts that delight in the simplest of things?
The older woman I am becoming also needs that love, especially as she is often — not by choice — having to let go and simplify her life. In fact, children and the aged both dwell in a certain simplicity that no longer requires agendas, pride, ego, money, promotions, “things” or whatever it might be. They are content with what is, in the moment.
To be truthful, I am still coming to terms with the losses of my life’s journey as I age. A friend of mine told me he feels like he’s lost his mojo. I understand. And one better, I often feel, as the Mad Hatter said to Alice, “You’re not the same as you were before. You were much more… muchier… you’ve lost your muchness.”
Sue Monk Kidd, one of my favorite writers, says this:
“Finally, I began to write about becoming an older woman and the trepidation it stirred. The small, telling ‘betrayals’ of my body. The stalled, eerie stillness in my writing, accompanied by an ache for some unlived destiny. I wrote about the raw, unsettled feelings coursing through me, the need to divest and relocate, the urge to radically simplify and distill life into a new, unknown meaning.”
Like Sue Monk Kidd, I am learning to radically simplify, to distill life into a new unknown meaning.
At the heart of it, I believe that’s why simplifying poses such a challenge — we are face-to-face with some “new unknown meaning.” It isn’t how it used to be. We start as pure beings, simple and free, then gather a lot of “guck” along the way.
Now, in our later years, we are being stripped away to uncover the beauty that has been there all along. We simplify. And while it may be challenging, it is also freeing.
Even my prayer life has entered into simplicity. I am breathing in love, breathing out love. And like writer Anne Lamott, I am saying these three simple prayers:
Help me. Thank you. Wow.
I am learning to be like a child again, delighting in a dandelion. And learning to accept and love the older woman, finding it’s OK to lose some of my muchness. To stomp on my sneakers to discover perhaps a new and more engaging light.
When I simplify and let go, it opens up space to be free. To dwell in the now. To be the soul and body I was created to be.
And that simply makes me say “Wow!”