Back in the mid-90s, a book hit the bestseller list and was a run-away success, selling millions of copies and changing the lives of readers all around the world.
The book? “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.” The author: Sarah Ban Breathnach. Almost overnight, it made Breathnach a household word for women who longed to learn how to live a more authentic, simpler life.
Why do I bring up a book now almost 20 years old? Because Brethnach was recently interviewed by Oprah, because, it seems, she failed to follow her own advice. Seduced by her new-found wealth, she went on a spending spree that included air flights on the Concord as a matter of course and buying a historic chapel in England to turn into her personal writer’s garret.
Her espousal of simple abundance became conspicuous consumption. And now, she sat before Oprah contrite and totally broke — a sadder and wiser woman — full of remorse at not having followed her own advice. Oh, and by the way, she noted, her new book about her experience was just being published.
Although I found it ironic, I wasn’t surprised. I guess it’s hard to lead a simple life when one is being seduced by an abundance of money.
However, there was one reflection in Breathnach’s book that made an impression on me all those years ago. It was the reflection that happened to fall on my birthday and was entitled “Bloom where you are planted.”
Comparing gardening to life and the act of creation, it struck a chord in the gardener in me. I found personal meaning in the simplicity of planting, watering, weeding and nourishing.
So, in what ways have you found meaning in living more authentically through simplicity?
Ellen Carter, Schererville: I’ve reached an age where I found I no longer needed a lot of “stuff.” I literally woke up, looked around and started tossing. I don’t need to cover every inch of my tables and shelves with dust catchers. I don’t need four sets of dishes. I don’t need 100 pairs of shoes or a closet crammed with clothes I haven’t worn in years. It took me several months to clear out the lot but, in the end, I find it amazing how much bigger my house became.
Cate Bohlen, Highland: Years ago, I simplified my life by learning to say “no.” I never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings so I agreed to everything — chairing fundraisers, school projects, room mother, library volunteer, dinner parties at my house. I couldn’t say no and I was exhausted. One day, while complaining to my sister, she told me to grow a backbone and just say no. Trust me, that simple little word was liberating.
Seth McAvey, Lowell: I was a workaholic, becoming a stranger to my wife and children. In typical business mode, I began scheduling family time in my calendar, along with a weekly date night with my wife. After a couple of months, those times came to be so important to me that I no longer see them as appointments, but rather priorities.