We are in tough economic times, and combined with that, we've got terrorists roaming the country and news that the likelihood of another major attack within our borders isn't a matter of if, but when. When you add to that the stress of changing your lifestyle to one where you're living more simply, things can get dicey pretty fast.
It's not easy to take the road less traveled.
Family members and friends aren't necessarily supportive, and there are lots of folk out there who just don't get why you're not wanting to go to the mall, drive the latest model car, have an IPhone. Yes, Dear Reader, living simply will mean that some people will mock you, some will pity you ("the poor thing, she probably can't afford a smartphone"), some will start to avoid you.
I think this reaction is true whenever you change your life. I know this is all true when you're voluntarily simplifying -- when it's a proactive decision on your part to change and live more simply. It can make you sad for a bit. Why don't they get it? Why aren't they happy for me? It can be downright depressing for those who are having to be frugal because of economic downturns, those forced into simplicity. Why can't they be supportive? Why can't they be kind?
It's Tough For All of Us
On a good day, it can be easy to laugh at the lemming who feels sorry for you because you're not living just like he (or she) is ... you can just shake your head and go your merry way. Here in the South, we tend to add "God bless his heart," to this. It helps.
On a bad day, when you can't think of what to cook with that rice or the kids are whining about not having a Wii or the car breaks down and you remember what it was like to always be driving something flashy and new -- well, it gets harder.
It's especially horrible when you don't have the money to pay the utilities, or the mortgage, or the car payment, or the doctor bill. That's when you're cruising close to Despair. Dark, black despair that can settle down for a long visit.
So, what to do when it's getting to be very hard to live this way?
Dear Reader, I don't begin to think that I know all the answers to this question, and I welcome your contributions in the comments. Having been on this road for awhile, I'm sharing what I've learned so far when it's a Bad Day at Black Rock for me:
1. No second-guessing. For me, voluntary simplicity was - and is - the right decision and I'd be foolish to ignore all the lessons I've learned by living simply. I am committed to this lifestyle because it's wise and it's smart. I don't want to be a marketing pawn, etc. And, importantly, this is part of my Faith Walk. I'm here because I know it's where God wants me to be.
2. Pray. Every morning, I ask God for as much wisdom, discernment, grace, favor, power, love, and self-control as I can possibly handle. I ask for His Will, not mine, in my life. I thank Him for everything that I can think of that morning (which can be hard when you're burdened down), and I ask for help. Help! is a great prayer. Sometimes, I pray that prayer periodically, all day long, on a bad day. (Remember, I represented abused and neglected kids in CPS cases for three years, so I have had some painfully bad days.)
3. Laugh. This is a tough one when you're already bummed or hurting. But you've got to laugh -- it's powerful stuff. If you can't find the humor in your current situation all on its own, then get yourself an arsenal of Funny Stuff so you've got some weaponry at the ready for times like these.
What makes tears come to your eyes may not be the same as mine. I do not understand the Three Stooges, for example. For me, I listen to Bertie Wooster's antics in audiobooks written by PG Wodehouse; I watch A Fish Called Wanda, or Monte Python and the Holy Grail. The Spam skit can get me chuckling no matter how many times I've seen it -- and I'm laughing now remembering that scene early on in the Holy Grail, Repression is Nine Tenths of the Law, ("I didn't know we had a king, I thought we were an autonomous collective.")
Do Something Proactive -- The "So There" Secret Weapon
4. After undertaking one or all of the three steps above, then I find that it's important to get moving forward again, happily and peacefully, by actually taking action down your new lifestyle road. Not for them, for you. To get yourself back on course and not stuck fighting the bad vibes or muddled in anger, resentment, sadness, etc. Again, what you do and what I do may not be the same thing. Probably won't be. And, you'll get more options on this list as time goes on.
For me, I go buy daisies for my desk at the wholesale florist. I take my dogs for a walk at the park right by the zoo, because they are hilarious as they can smell and hear all the wild things and they're so brave and bold outside the big, tall, sturdy fence. Sometimes, I'll cook up something trustworthy and invite friends over for a movie. They'll bring stuff too, good folk that they are, and we'll all have a good time. And, sometimes, I take a drive through the Hill Country and listen to Christian stuff -- music, or teachings, or just a reading of the Word. Singing in the car is a really good way for me to get myself back into the fun of simple living.
Talk to Someone Who Gets It
5. Confiding about what's going on with a trusted friend can be very freeing, too. Just last week, I was honored when my friend Don talked with me about how some old friends who he treasured then and treasures now, are distancing themselves from him and he's hurting. It was comforting to Don when I shared how I'd had this experience, too -- and I think it helped him just to get it out there, outside his head where things can get disproportionate in importance. Maybe Don will lose some old friends, but in his new career path, he's already made so many new ones. So, find yourself some friends who know what it means to change your life, and share with them your difficulty. And, always remember -- I answer my email, so feel free to write (rkennedy at texas dot net).