February 24, 2011

It's Really NOT That Simple

“Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”

 Charles Dudley Warner

Thank you Charles...Y'know, it is too bad that you are no longer with us. Because I would like to ask you a deep-ish philosophical question. What exactly is ENOUGH baggage I wonder? How does one travel through life, experience it, take a little, hopefully give a little more...and move on with just ...ENOUGH? I am a borderline hoarder when it comes to deciding...what is important for the journey, and what is best left behind. I love it all, I have difficulty separating that and those I meet along the way...from my life itself. Each makes my experiences richer, warmer, sweeter. Each eases the way, offers comfort, or at the very least teaches me something-even if it is a lesson not easily learned. Admission: I have always been a pinch envious of those who possess the ability to get in, get out, get on. I get...attached to people, sometimes to things, and that gets...complicated....Which reminds me of the numerous moments along the road of life, that I have heard people say...

"Remember when life was simple?"...

Has anybody ever asked you that? This question frustrates me to no end. I think...because the answer is a definitive, almost defiant "NO!"  No I most definitely do NOT remember when life was simple.

And? I remember. I remember my own experiences vividly as far back as four. I remember...my eldest sister Cynthia coming to my friend Sherry's house to get me for dinner. (I also remember that at a later date, that same friend Sherry cut my hair with  lemon colored, plastic, play-dough scissors to BOTH our mothers' chagrin.) Anyway, I remember Cynthia bracing her weight on the curved and tassled handlebars of the heavy iron tricycle that was handed down to each of us, me being the last in the line of the hand-me-down trike. Clearly, I recall the platinum grape purple paint that framed in chipped fragments the gun-metal naked state of the trike beneath. Explicitly my mind paints not only the colors, the weight, the textures, but the scents, and the tones that played a role in each memory snapshot encapsulated in my mind's memory. I remember Cynthia's auburn-brown hair, unwieldy and long, tickling my chilled round cheek. The fall air that smelled of baking meatloaf (eww), and damp earth. There was a chilled wind whistling at our pink ears. The axles creaked on my slightly rusted mode of transportation and the crushing sound of molasses and crimson hued leaves as they fell victim to the rubber nubbed tires.  Cynthia took a deep breath as she pushed off with her long, grasshopper-like, bell bottomed clad leg, and rode me toward home. No, my unfamiliarity with simplicity, is not for lack of memory from the days when life was allegedly "simple".

Perhaps it is instead a matter of personal perspective? This is not to say that I consider myself to be complex in the least. As an individual, I am quite simple. My basic needs are not at all outside Maslow's little hierarchy pyramid. My intelligence and ability are well within the bounds of average. There is nothing particularly complex, superior, or unusual in my physical, emotional, or intellectual capacity or property. Pretty much,I am the basic model. So I guess, when I look with an untainted eye...at the world around me-and those that inhabit it...I DO see simplicity of motivation. Even more than that however, I see complexity of thought, and action. Mostly I witness, often firsthand, the ultimate frustration of ceaseless interaction. My eyes have seen the devastation that can occur when one need, is ignored by another desire, or when one ambition is quashed by another dream. The source of action may be simple, but the chain reaction that is set off by said innocuous, basic action, incited by said basic need? Not necessarily, or even usually. How easy it is too look back judgily (Making up Words 201)on different phases in your life, with your new set of goals, and your suitcase bulging with wisdom gained through each of your past experiences. How shortsightedly common  to glance  back over your full grown shoulder and look , on the days when you were concerned with getting home before the streetlights came on, or the days when you hoped against hope that you would get a bike without a  techno-colored, flowered banana seat as your summer transportation. How forgetful, to analyze the time when you were utterly vexed by whether your friends would approve of this outfit, or that boy. The numerous problems and people that troubled you then, and they DID trouble you? They were not simple. Not then. It COULD be that in your perspective, all of it has always been simple....Possibly you are NOT playing a game of Hindsight's Always Easy Peasy.  In that case, maybe simplicity IS a matter of perspective. Perhaps it is your way of viewing the world...and if that be the case? Switch me glasses please? Mine are dark and twisty (thanks again, Meredith Grey.)

I am beginning to believe that the ability to be simple, and to be satisfied with simplicity, is both nature and nurture. What each of us requires in life, to give and to receive from each other...it MAY all be very simple. But conveying, expressing, defining, answering, and obtaining what it is that will satisfy our own needs...not to mention satisfying someone else's needs? This is where simplicity gets tangled and mired in complexity.The nature of our beasts is that no two peoples' lives can stay frozen, united in precisely the same place for very long. Then, what one wants, or needs, or expects-is bound to be at odds with the other. Then there is loss, regret, misunderstanding, pain, neglect. These emotions are anything but simple. Multiply that aching and confusion, that frustration for all the people in the entire world...WHAT...may I ask...is simple about that? Then there is the nature aspect that some of us...are a magnet for complexity. Take a concept that is basic in it's nature...like "love,"  or "friendship."Some of us are hardwired to over-think, over-feel, over-love, over-believe. We saturate every relationship we have with all our energies, and passions...and nurturing...We pour all we have (good and bad) inside of it, and we trust it to hold up under the weight. Some of us lack the capacity to moderate when it comes to our brains, some our hearts, some both. Put THOSE of us alongside someone who doesn't dwell, or ponder...to someone who feels when it is convenient, to someone who doesn't share, or nurture naturally...Someone who thinks that over time, feelings should just be KNOWN. Individuals that maintain that once a relationship is substantiated...it should no longer require nurturing,or affirmation...That the love in all its shapes, should no longer require- it should simply maintain. Put the All or Nothings in a world of people like that...and the result will be messy and  could be devastating for the one, while the other remains oblivious... and ends up bewildered. And that is just two personality types. There are lots of them: Type A's and Type B's, Stress Hounds, and Care Free's, Clean Freaks, and Slobs, Workaholics, and Slackers. To me? Figuring out how to make it all work together, without halting all progress...individual and universal...is quite the opposite of simple.

The long and the short of it is...I always over pack for trips. I never really know where I am going, who I might encounter, or what I might need when I get there. What is life? But one Odysseus-style journey. Thus, I don't cast things, people, history, aside with ease. When encountering mermaids, cyclops, hell, and cattle...when at the whim of the fates, and the tantrums of "the gods"...how am I...how is anyone, to know what "enough" baggage is??

Life simply...is not that simple.

Believe it or not, I researched this. When I was "researching" I found volumes of wisdom imparted by undeniably wise people about the beauty and purity of simplicity. I am going to have to take their word for it. In my lack of wisdom, my experience has proved otherwise.

"There is a certain majesty in simplicity which is far above all quaintness of wit."-Alexander Pope
 "Nothing is true, but that which is simple."-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe