Tag Archives: simple life

Confessions of a One Ball Bouncer

We used to work with an almost-empty-nester who was fond of saying she is a one ball bouncer. “I can’t juggle lots of things,” she would say, matter-of-fact. “I can do one thing well at a time.” I marveled at her insistence on this as I spun through my to-do lists. Baby bathed? Check. Hosting planned? Check. Events, service, work, school… the weeks piled up and overflowed. Time well spent? Check…ish.

Truthfully, though I attempted to juggle lots of balls, I dropped as many as I juggled. Sometimes disastrously. Like when I double-booked myself and stood someone up. When we couldn’t find matching clean clothes. When I dashed off an email forthwith and then realized a major faux pas in the first paragraph.

Meanwhile our friend smiled calmly and said no to things. A lot. This irritated me. I perceived her to have plenty of spare time while I, Bilbo-like, felt “like butter scraped over too much bread.” And yet she did lots of things really well—hospitality, homeschooling, multi-course meals. Her family was happy, her home serene. What seemed a luxury to me back then I now realize was her life-blood, and in fact, her life work.

Because of my own perennial struggle with procrastination and ADD, empty time in my day has a tendency to fill, not with meaningful moments, but with a lot of whirlwind. Instead of cleverly seizing available hours to catch up on emails or get ahead on housework, I tend to fritter. If time came to me whole, like an oak tree, it would leave my workshop in chips. In the same space, a thoughtful ancestor might have slowly carved out a canoe, smooth-planed and beautiful, and launched out to see the world.

Knowing my whirling tendencies, I try to pressurize my schedule. The more on the list, the more I’ll accomplish, I reason.

The more balls I’ll drop.

The more wood I’ll chip.

I want to learn the art of slowing time. How to sit still and listen, how to look away (from so many distractions) in order to see. I want to learn a radical contentment in the moment—to accept what’s given instead of grasping at more. I want to pare down—not that, not that, just this, this pair of eyes looking up at me, this opportunity to cheerfully give.

In Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry writes, “…you mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: ‘Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.’ I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.”

Hmm. I am not all the way capable of so much simplicity—just the one ball, gracefully bounced, just the one tree, sanded smooth. Still, those are the right instructions.

Take my one family, love them well.

Take my one kitchen, sing while I bake.

Take my life and let it be, ever, always, all for Thee.

Everything You Need for 5 Months in the Back of a Dodge Durango

There’s something about packing that really brings home the big truths about life: I do not need that many shoes. I have bottles of cardamom, turmeric, and coriander that I have used maybe once but that have been occupying space in my little cabinet for a whole lotta years. And I really do not plan to ever rewatch the entire Lost series on DVD; I already gave 5 years of my life to that crazy train!

What do you need when you’re leaving for 5 months on a cross-country trip? What’s really, really essential? Because whatever you pack you have to lug, in and out of cabins and cottages, in and out in snow, rain, 100-degree days. Whatever you pack you have to sit on, under, crammed between — you’d better like it if it’s going to be poking you in the ribs for days on end. And what, when you’ve not needed it or missed it for 5 months, do you really need at all?

We threw things out on the way, outgrown clothes (and yes, in 5 months, the kids outgrow a lot), holey jeans. We lost a one-eyed stuffed tiger that turned out to be super-important after all — the whole family cried along with Little Guy — and watched together the miracle when it turned up in a Pennsylvania hotel and got Fed-Exed back to us. We learned that you can spend hours with the same crate of Legos and make something new every day, that long walks are better than Yahoo, and that the same 30 recipes over and over seems like more variety than what I produce when I don’t have a plan.

We stayed in places beautiful, places dumpy, lived in others’ houses and saw what they treasured. We learned what we didn’t miss, to great astonishment. We didn’t miss tv. We didn’t miss the internet. We did miss some books, our laundry room!, the grill.

We came home, looked with new eyes. We are sorting, separating, paring down. If it can’t fit in the back of the Dodge Durango, maybe it’s not so necessary after all.