|Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash|
When I was a young mother, if you had asked what was most dear to me, what were my absolute highest priorities, I wouldn't have hesitated to say my husband and kids. There would have been no question in my mind that they were the center of my life.
I wouldn't have said my greatest concern was my house or its decor or the list of things I wanted to buy to "improve" it. I wouldn't have said it was food, or my next diet. I wouldn't even have said it was singing, or pursuing my next role. After all, I had chosen to home school my kids, and opera singing was now a hobby.
I wouldn't have said so, but that's where my thoughts, efforts, and money went.
I was constantly shopping or planning what to buy next. I ate junk to fill some sort of lack, but I was still dissatisfied. How could I be otherwise? My time and energy were spent on things that didn't really matter.
My problem was really a spiritual problem. I was constantly committing three of the seven deadly sins.
- I felt envy. I wanted what others had, and I would compete or go into debt for it.
- I was full of greed. I wanted more and more, and I didn't think much about sharing what I had.
- I was a glutton. I kept consuming, both food and possessions, even when I had enough, until I was sick of it.
Brooke McAlary, author of Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World, found herself in a similar situation. In a book of writing prompts, this one seemed to jump out at her:
Write your eulogy in three sentences.
It was a challenge to clearly define who she was, what really mattered to her, and how she wanted to live her life.
The book was asking me to fast forward to a time where my life had come to an end and fill in the blanks.... What did I want to see happen in those interim decades? Who did I want at the center of my life? What did I want to spend my time doing?... How did I want to treat people, my community, my planet?
And the bigger, unspoken question was: What kind of life would I need to live in order for people to say the things I wanted them to say about me?
So what do I hope to be remembered for? Certainly not envy, greed, and gluttony.
To be honest, I do want people to remember my singing voice with pleasure. But that's not tied to the operatic roles I sang or the amount of applause I got. It could be as simple as how heartily and beautifully I sang in the church choir.
I want people to remember my sense of humor, my positive attitude, how easily I showed affection, how well I listened. I hope they'll remember that I was generous and compassionate.
I want my kids to remember our epic read-aloud sessions, and how we enjoyed experiencing great books together. I hope they'll remember how often I enthusiastically said "Look at that!" about clouds or the full moon or a bank of daffodils or the golden canopies of a mature walnut orchard in November. I want them to remember that I was always their cheerleader, that I regularly expressed my pride in them and my gratitude for what they added to my life.
I hope my grandchildren remember that they always had fun at my house, and that I always paid attention to their interests.
If my husband outlives me, I want him to feel he has lost the person he most trusted, who knew him best, who brought out his best qualities.
I absolutely do value all of these things. But is enough of my time and energy going toward my family and toward humor, generosity, spontaneity, being in nature, reading good books, giving thanks, listening, learning, hugging, encouraging, creating, writing, and singing for the joy of it?
Are these important people, pastimes, and qualities getting the attention they deserve?
A healthy diet, an uncluttered home, an attractive capsule wardrobe, a good haircut, comfortable shoes, and Downton Abbey may have a place in my life, but they shouldn't be on center stage. And some things, like nail art, reality TV, luxury cars, and who won the Super Bowl, really don't matter to me at all. I don't need to spend any time, energy, or money on them.
Why not join me in this challenge? Write your eulogy in three sentences. Create this minimal statement of your deepest desires, and let it be your compass through life.
P.S. For more help choosing joy, gratitude, and contentment, you might like my book Minimalism A to Z, now available on Amazon in paperback and as an ebook.