I come from simple stock. My mom always wished she were Amish, said she was born in the wrong generation. My grandma, the most practical, beautiful person I knew, grew up during the Great Depression. My mother-in-law raised four kids on a limited budget and crafted a beautiful home (and a thousand gifts) from what she had. I learned from my mom that thrift stores have treasures, learned from my grandma that the old things are sometimes still the most beautiful, learned from my mother-in-law that even what we could throw away may end up being useful.
These women have taught me how to make do with less, how to make more with less. How a simple, home-cooked meal served up on a table with a tablecloth and shared with people you love can feel like fine dining. How lighting a candle in a room makes habits into romance. How doing dishes together helps you remember you’re not alone. How creating things with your soulmate refreshes your love, no matter how long you’ve been married.
They taught me how every moment with the people in your heart is an opportunity to live your dream.
I have things, but I don’t have everything. We live in someone else’s house, drive two cars that make funny noises, and work hard just to make ends meet. Our home is made up of a collection of hand-me-downs and Craigslist finds. I buy most of our clothes at thrift shops, and we cook most of our meals from scratch.
Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined being content with this. I think I thought we’d have a home of our own, that we’d be making twice what we make now, that when I “grew up,” I really could do and buy anything I wanted.
But this summer, I have found myself more content than I’ve ever been in my life. I love where we are, love Charleston, love that my husband comes home at regular hours, that I get to travel and take pictures, that we have a fig tree in our back yard, that the sun goes down so tropical here. I love that I can imagine up meals with what we’ve got in our cupboards, that Pete can fix things around the house and I can help him, that we live near the sea and when it cools down here I come alive.
We discovered something on Labor Day weekend. We’d intended to crash, and do nothing. We put the to-do list away, and started on that scheduled plan – and then we sort of lived into painting the guest room, cleaning the garage, making pizza, cleaning the house, and going to the beach. When we went to bed Monday night – me with a hundred pictures on my camera that I’d CHOSEN and not just snapped – we realized we’d actually lived all weekend.
And we had still “got things done” and while just hanging out with no to-do list running us. We always have “less” energy and “not enough” time, but we had filled up our hearts just living together, and we found we had just enough. It was simple, childlike living, just doing the next thing instead of looking at what was coming at us or what we needed to do and stressing out about it.
I often worry that I don’t live simply enough, especially when I see others selling off their goods to get out of debt and giving everything to care for the poor. I have more than they have, perhaps too much, I think. But I’m realizing that what my mom and grandma were teaching me wasn’t that austerity or asceticism.
It was this simple, real-life-and-not-Pinterest lesson that you can go looking for life on the other side of your life plan, or you can open your hands, your eyes, and your heart to engage life right where you are. Love isn’t a to-do list. It is knowing – and being known.