In Tasmania, we had a really different experience of the first two years of the pandemic from a lot of the world. We live on an island. We had a moat, and we used it. We shut ourselves off from the rest of the world and went about our business.
But we couldn’t keep the virus out forever, and one Friday night, a Covid-positive person got off a plane, lied about his status, and visited a few friends and acquaintances before being caught by police and put into isolation. But we didn’t know where he’d gone or what he’d done and to make sure that we didn’t all get sick, we all went into lockdown for a three-day weekend.
It was a delightful weekend for me. I slept, worked on a puzzle, wrote a bit, hung out with Moz. There was nothing else I could do. Life had become simple. Completely simple. What was the plan for the weekend? Stay home. See no-one. Do nothing.
I’ve been reminded about that time lately. First, when I got Covid and had to isolate for my seven days, and secondly, just recently when my parents came down with it and I went down to help them out (fortunately being immune from my own dose).
I hated being sick, and I hated that my parents were sick too, I would never recommend that anyone try to get sick with anything, let alone Covid, but one good thing about the seven-day isolation period is that you know exactly what you’re going to be doing for the next seven days. And that is nothing. No parties, no church, no work meetings, no walks on the beach, no grocery shopping. Nothing.
And it’s quite nice. It’s nice to look at a completely simple week. All decisions made. All plans cancelled. No guilt. No concern about what others will think. You are required, by law, to stay home and do nothing.
But if it’s that nice, why don’t we do it more for ourselves? Not get sick, but just take time out.
I’ve heard it several times, people wishing that they could have knee surgery so that their life would then be simple, confined to the hospital bed for a while. Or people wishing they could come down with Covid so that everything could stop for a while.
People! You should not be feeling this way! If this whole conversation is resonating with you, that’s a sign that your regular, everyday life needs to change. You are doing too much. It is time to simplify.
“But no,” you say. “I’ll feel so guilty! I’ll be letting people down.”
Maybe you will let people down. But trying to please all the people all the time is a recipe for disaster.
We want an outside authority to take away the choice so that we don’t feel the guilt for saying no. But what we need is an inside authority, an authority within us that has come from our own life choices that allows us to say yes and no with clarity.
This is really difficult. I’ve written a whole book on it, and I’m writing another, and I’m still finding it hard to know exactly where the boundaries lie. But I believe that being able to say no without guilt is foundational to mental health.
And to do that, we need to know what we’re saying yes to.
We need to know what our purpose is, what our priorities are, and then say no to what gets in the way.
It’s so much more complex than that, I know. But I wonder, as I speak to you today, whether there is a niggling in your mind drawing your attention to some activities that you know you could do without. If there is a place you can see where cutting down, or cutting out, would leave you with more simplicity and peace.
Skye Jathani, of The Holy Post, said that in Jesus’ parable of the sower, the soil that was good was good because it was just soil. It didn’t have anything added to it – no rocks, no weeds, no birds. Just soil. Taking things away and simplifying can make our lives good soil where good things can flourish.
Is your life feeling over complicated and over full? What are three things that you could say no to in the next week? Or are you feeling like you have a good balance of work and rest in your life? Let me know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, find me on Facebook at Ruth Amos Author, or tweet me @aquietlifeblog.