There comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to decide it’s okay to take the easier route, plus some shortcuts for the sake of one’s mental and physical well-being. In my case, I have made a lifelong journey out of doing things the hard way; or the long way; or the complicated way; and the just plain way too much effort way. It’s like if there’s an easy way to do things, I avoid it instinctively — like I can’t help myself. Not only am I genetically wired this way by a mother who didn’t have any other choice than to do everything the time-consuming way, due to lack of resources, but I also have more time than money, and cutting corners is usually a benefit of those who have an abundance of corners to begin with. Genetics aside, it has always seemed very practical to me to “waste-not-want-not.” If it can be made for less than I can buy it, I figure I can make it, if it can be salvaged, I can save it and find a use for it someday, and if it can be purchased used, I can save some money, while at the same time, help save the world against the mass amount of consumer non-essentials that are thrown away daily. I think my husband regularly shakes his head at my ways, as though I’m on a mission to make my life more difficult. He’s always reminding me to “just do what’s easiest for you” and “don’t make more work for yourself”; not realizing that this notion is as foreign to me as hiring a handyman is for him. Additionally, I don’t particularly like short cuts; I like knowing how things operate and function, and I completely appreciate all too much the generation I came from, rather than the generations I’m seeing overtake everything that was and make it a less-than-unauthentic-microwaveable-insta-plastic-ingenuine-imitation-version of the real thing. Gosh I sound old. Okay, where am I going with this…?
I’m tired. I’ve been a wife and a mother for nearly 20 years. About this time in my life I’m finding that some shortcuts and basic household tools are becoming more and more necessary to my everyday survival. As I consider my time and my abilities, I’m noticing that here in my household it seems life adds more work for me all the time, while quite honestly I am operating at a fraction of the energy and stamina I had years ago, yet I tell myself, “proceed, good and faithful soldier”. But this Christmas, I drew a line. I decided to get an artificial Christmas tree.
There are two camps on Christmas trees. I know this because I was in one camp and now I’m in the other. There are dozens of reasons I have never considered an artificial tree in the past; almost all of them have to do with my heart rather than anything logical, and most of my reasons hinge on traditions that I don’t want to let go of. It’s true that it’s important for some traditions to be passed down. And I’d hate for our son to be the man of his own house someday and be unaware of the steps it takes to bring a live tree home from tying it to the roof, to getting it to sit squarely in the stand just right. But we’ve done our job for years, and the simple truth is this: I’m so done cleaning up dry pine needles. I can’t even touch the tree or enjoy it after about December 20th because it’s so dead. So this year, we welcomed our first artificial Christmas tree into our home. It’s glorious! It’s easy! It looks so real! And if you remember my vertigo episode from last Christmas, I hope you’ll appreciate that it came fully lit! I’m not completely an artificial tree advocate; I certainly can appreciate a real Christmas tree. But I think Clark Griswold exemplified the truth behind a real Christmas tree: it’s the experience. It’s the family time. It’s the good old-fashioned way. But maybe, just maybe, eight foot live trees were meant to stay outside…
And I don’t miss the work.
On another note, I’ve mentioned that quite often standing is a problem for me, which means my kitchen is regularly a problem for me. As the main laborer of meal production, most of my time in the kitchen is spent standing. I get really
cranky tired agitated quiet when I’m in the kitchen because standing usually makes me quite uncomfortable. Due to MS/dysautonomia/pots/autonomic dysfunction (sorry, it’s one of those, and all of those), my heart rate increases dramatically when I’m upright and on my feet. For me, this causes a general feeling of awfulness including chest pain, rib pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, brain fog, dry eyes, and slurred speech, along with general weakness and clumsiness. I know that sounded terrible, but I’m used to it, so I accept it and deal with it. The simple solution is sitting. But sitting on a chair in the kitchen is soooo annoying. For one, it’s in the way, for two, when preparing a meal I am constantly having to move from one side of the kitchen to the other, so actually a chair is useless if I have to get up and down a hundred times. But then I had a thought, what if I had a rolling stool like doctors have? I looked into it on Amazon/most amazing store ever, and found a bar height rolling stool just like I needed. However, simply purchasing it on the spot would be way too easy and contrary to my typical pattern of putting it in my cart and considering it for months until it falls out of my cart. The truth is I didn’t order it for two months because I didn’t want to pay the fifty bucks for it. After some time, I realized that this is a need, not a want (why do I insist on doing things the hard way?!) My stool arrived and assembly was so simple my youngest daughter did it for me. I think this chair is the most popular chair in the house. Someone is always sitting in it or playing on it which makes me smile, but when I need it, they quickly get up. It’s pure craziness I didn’t do this sooner.
About a year ago, I was contemplating the difficulty I have vacuuming. To an average person, the vacuum does all the work, but to those of us with mobility issues, the constant maneuvering required to push a vacuum around is exhausting. Always, I start out strong and stable, yet finish weak, limping, tripping over the cord and just about everything else, and needing to rest. No exaggeration. So I ordered an iRobot Roomba robot vacuum, somewhat on a whim, at a time when I was visiting the land of “mandatory simplification”. Mission accomplished. This little robotic vacuum does everything I hoped it would. In fact, if I desire, it will even work while I sleep. Our little helper needed a name, so one of our friends from church named it Josh. She has autism and is very attached to our other friend Josh so the name choice was obvious to her, and also to anyone who knows her. She gets a kick out of it to this day, although I’m not sure what our friend Josh thinks about our vacuum being named after him. Since we have dogs, Josh isn’t a total replacement for regular vacuuming, but he does an amazing job 75% of the time. Occasionally in my house, you will hear one of our family members yelling at Josh to get out of their room, or stop running over their toes, or stop following them, but aside from that, Josh was some of the best money we ever spent.
Although I can blame part of my quirkiness on genetics, or conditioning, or whatever, unfortunately for many of us it’s about money. Most of us have needs that would simplify our lives that we just can’t afford, and when we’re raising a family, it’s all too easy to set our needs aside and put everyone else’s needs first. But it’s also easy to make excuses, and put things off, all the while suffering for years because we never gave ourselves permission to be kind to the body we’ve been given. If at all possible, sometimes it’s critical to put our own needs first. To recognize the areas that cause us an enormous amount of trouble, and those tasks that are altogether too difficult for us, even if they are effortless and inconsiderable to others. I’d like to rewire the parts of me that don’t feel deserving of simplicity, and the voice deep inside me that shames me for taking the easy way out. It’s time I acknowledge who I am, and who I’m not. What my abilities allow me to do with ease, but more importantly, what disabilities I must accept and learn from in order to maximize my energy for the things and people who matter. It’s time I get out of the way of my own progress, and pave an easier path that no one can create for me, but me, when I’m standing in the way and tripping over the solutions.