Stripped down to the minimum all humans really need is food and shelter and a means to obtain those things. Of course, in order to be human we also need love. In today’s world, in our country, we have distorted the priority of these three things, often placing status and money above family and experience. Many people spend their lives in a stress-inducing job, accumulating money to buy a large house, which needs filling with stuff that needs to be cared for. Often accumulating the money, the house, and the stuff leaves little time or money left over for recreation, relaxation, and experience. This results in a spirit that is totally depleted.
Three and a half years ago I found myself facing the devastating reality of a divorce. My life and identity had been wrapped up in being a stay-at-home mother, raising children, and creating a home. After my children were in school full time, I went back to school and later worked various jobs that paid for things like college tuition and debts incurred through my then-spouse’s “medical leave” from work. Without going into all of the detail, my life as it had been was over. My new job would be to dismantle what I had spent more than thirty years creating and I had no idea where or how to begin. I had a long conversation with a friend who had made many transitions in her life. At one point, when moving to a new location after her own divorce, she opened up her home to the Navajo people she worked with, inviting them to come and take whatever they needed. Some came and took only a coffee mug or a place setting of dishes, another a blanket-simply, they only took what they needed. She stressed to me that what was important was not the stuff. Go home, she said, and pray about it, you will get an answer. I did as she advised and the next morning woke up with clarity and peace. When it came time to submit my list for the division of property, it consisted of my collection of books, keepsakes from friends and relatives, my clothing, and a few items that were intended to be passed on to our children. It all fit into a small U-Haul pod with room to spare. The pod arrived in northern Michigan on a blizzardy December day and was put into storage until I could find a permanent place to live.
Eventually I did find a small, humble, home and I have moved those things into their new space. I pruned further as I unpacked and many things found their way to the local thrift store. Today I cannot say that I miss any thing I left behind. My treasure is stored up in my children, my grandchildren, my relatives and friends. I eat simply, have simplified my wardrobe, make time for exercise, and cultivate spiritual peace. I take time to enjoy sunsets, listen to concerts in the park, and appreciate the place where I get to live. I have joy, contentment, and an inner peace that I wish I had been able to attain a long time ago.
Many of the lessons we learn in life can only be learned by experience and most of us want to “do it by myself”, which is often the most painful way. Although painful circumstances forced me to change my mindset, I am grateful to have arrived where I am today. I am much more aware at this time in my life of what is important. I know now that it is not the job, the prestige, the money, the house, the clothes, the car, the neighborhood; it is the people we love, sharing a meal and conversation, knowing that you are loved, and realizing that today is the only thing we are given. We must simply make the most of that gift.