By Hande Walker, MA, LLP
Recently a friend of mine asked what I missed about home when I shared my plans of visiting Turkey after not being home for a few years. I had this pressure to list all the cool places to visit and events to go to, or museums/historical sights to see, or whatever you are supposed to do when you go to a different country. I felt like I had to say that, but what came out of my mind was just the “simplicity of things”. Simply being in my childhood home with my family around. Going to the bakery in the morning to get fresh bread and stopping by the local butcher to grab something to make for lunch that day. Going out for a random lunch with my family and spending two or three hours sipping wine without rushing to my next destination. That is what I miss about home. Is that too unrealistic of a lifestyle to create here in the United States? How do you create simplicity in your own life? Why do I crave that so much but fail to make it my lifestyle here despite my longing for it? Now I get that sipping wine for 2 hours during lunchtime may not fit well with my work schedule for many obvious reasons. But is it possible for me to incorporate some of the simplicities that helps me feel more grounded and live in the present moment? I think I have to give it a try.
It is so interesting how I find myself getting “antsy” and even guilty when I spend a couple of hours doing simply nothing. I feel the same pressure or feelings of guilt when I visit home and when I have three hour long breakfast by the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul with my family I have not seen in a while. Why the guilt? Does it not sound so magical? Being in a city, my beautiful home, the city that lies on two continents. Why is there any room for negative feelings? It makes me ponder about the origins of this negative belief system. “I need to be productive in order to enjoy the beautiful things life has to offer”. Every moment I spend without doing something constructive, I feel this intense discomfort. Even if I am on vacation and don’t have anything else on the agenda, but to rest and enjoy life. It should not feel wrong, but it does.
I decided that I will not wait to be on “vacation” and create simple pleasures each day to look forward to, because I deserve it. My value is not dependent on the level of productivity I have each day. I come from a culture in which you eat food because it’s enjoyable, not simply to feed and nourish yourself or so that you have sustenance for the next couple hours when you need to get so much work done. You do not meet your friends at the gym and try to have a conversation as you are running on the treadmill (How does one even do that?) because that is the only time you get. You meet them for coffee and spend hours talking and laughing and somehow talking about things you have not thought about in a while. Because there is no stress or anxiety of having to be somewhere soon, so you get to dive deep and get curious, explore, contemplate, ponder, maybe cry a little, and feel alive, not just go through the motions and constantly feel like you are in a race.
There is a reason I chose to live far away from home and so far away from my family. I appreciate everything life has to offer in United States. I love the structure, organization, and the strong work ethic among many other things. But I find myself getting sucked in to the routine everyone around me seems to be complaining about, but maybe it’s time to stop normalizing working overtime and not getting enough sleep. I get that sometimes you don’t have the luxury to take your time and slow down, that you got bills to pay, meetings to attend, children to take care of. But maybe it does not have to be so black and white. I am thinking maybe I can take an hour lunch and meet with a friend I have not seen in a while. I can leave work at a decent time to go home and cook/enjoy a meal I make for myself rather than passing out on the couch after a long day of work and skipping dinner, because I sometimes don’t even have the energy to eat. And I read back that last sentence again, that is pretty sad; not having the energy to eat. That is not why I sacrificed being away from home and my beautiful family all these years. It is so that I create a life that I enjoy along with aforementioned qualities I love and appreciate about the American culture. I encourage you to also rethink and reorganize your own life and prioritize yourself, simply because you deserve it.
So, how are you going to simplify your own life?