I got a text from a friend of mine the other day. It said, “I am so happy!” Technically, there was another word between “so” and “happy” which maybe would not be appropriate for a public/professional blog. We will just say that she wanted me to know that she was really, Really, REALLY happy. It is nice to hear about other people being happy, but what does that have to do with you. You don’t know her. People are happy all the time. Let me tell you a little bit about why she was/is so happy. I promise it will lead into the point of the blog.
A couple of years ago she changed her entire lifestyle. She and her now husband moved to France. Their reasons are not important for this blog—maybe another one, but not this one. The important piece is she made a change. Her life now is so different than what it was. She lives in a one room flat on the seventh floor of a non-elevator building in Paris. Two of them (both former professionals with Masters degrees) live in what I cannot even describe to you because, though I have heard it many times, my mind cannot or will not grasp it fully. It would be like a native Hawaiian who has never left the islands trying to understand and describe snow. I get this much. It is ONE room…a very small room. I guess technically two rooms because they actually have an in-unit bathroom, but they cannot always close the door to the bathroom depending on what is happening in the rest of the apartment Some of you may be thinking, “people live like that all the time. What’s the big deal?” Here are some details you need. This friend is also my ex-wife and mother of my three amazing (gotta do the father gloat) children.
In so many ways my ex-wife and I were well suited for each other. In fact being so alike turned out to be a problem that was not sustainable in a marriage. You see, our similarities even included the people to whom we are attracted, namely men. Oh yeah, in case you did not know (meaning you need to go back and read some of my other blogs on our site), I came out later in life as gay. So, yeah, we liked a LOT of the same things. For perspective: I am in the process of finding a new apartment. My ex-wife AND her new husband live in a one room apartment with and IN-UNIT bathroom. Compare that with the fact that I…just the ONE of me…am upset (no! REALLY upset) that I cannot find a one bedroom apartment in my price range that has in-unit LAUNDRY and room for my mother’s dining room table. My lifestyle is not new. Hers is new. Hers used to work well with mine. To be fair it shook out in different ways: mine in two full sets of china as well as our “everyday” dishes and all the accoutrements to entertain a crowd of friends; hers a self-standing lighted vanity the size of a full wardrobe and a beautiful role-top desk, but our lifestyles were similar. She has made a change. That change, in part, has made her happy in ways she has not experienced—if I were to guess and I know her pretty well—in decades, if ever! The change is she has simplified! I do not want to paint a picture that her life is simple. She lives across the ocean from our three children. They are mostly grown, but for a mother of her high caliber that is NOT easy! Her mother is aging. For a loving daughter, especially an only child, that is definitely complicated. There are plenty of complications in her life. Yet where she is able to, she has simplified.
Simplicity is a real thing that we regularly ignore. I talk with clients all the time who have trouble simplifying. I am not talking about major changes like leaving a career and moving to foreign country and giving up all the comforts of home. I am talking about not trying so hard to do so much that we do almost nothing. Some examples from therapy world. (I wonder if I should copyright that and create a role playing game that takes place in “Therapy World” or maybe Disney will buy the idea for a new theme park…) Losing weight, instead of a setting yourself a goal of 75,000 steps per day and only 100 calories, which you cannot possible achieve and therefore beat yourself up over the failure; set a goal of ONE less piece of bread or cake or candy and/or park three spots further away from where you would usually park. Then CELEBRATE the simple win, because you DID IT! Will you suddenly be at your perfect weight and level of physical health? NO! Will you be closer or at least not further away? YES! Celebrate that simple win. Then celebrate it again and again until it becomes a norm and you raise the stakes.
Weight not your issue? Ok it works the same with most everything else. Maybe you have trouble with obsessive thoughts followed by compulsive actions. Simplify your life around the area you want to change. Find it nearly impossible to leave your home without repeatedly checking to see if the iron is unplugged? Ok, how many times do you need to check it? Four? Ok, instead of trying to never check it, check it three times and celebrate the win.
We all have things we want to change. It is completely normal to expect changes to happen quickly and completely. However, it is not realistic. It generally takes us many many times to create the bad habit. It will take us many, many, many times to break it. So make a SIMPLE plan. Then celebrate the simple success. You mean your simple plan did not solve the issue…did not make the change you wanted? To quote one of my favorite songs from “Caberet,” “So What?” (Only an obscure example because your son did not just STAR as the EmCee in his college production of same, which you watched four times and were amazed and unbelievably proud EVERY time.) More to the point, of course it did not make the change you wanted. If it were that easy everyone would be conformed to the societal ideal. Do the simple change. Celebrate the win. Rinse and repeat! If you forget to repeat, start over…”no big!” (From my favorite Disney cartoon that the afore mentioned son and his siblings used to watch, “Kim Possible.”)
To sum up: Keep it Simple Silly(or what ever word gets your attention)! Do not make your plan to change overly complicated. Become your better you a little bit at a time! When it does not go to plan—because it will not always go to plan—SIMPLY be gentle and forgiving to yourself. Then start again…simply! You’ve got this!