When I was a little girl, I was fascinated with the neighbor lady, Mrs. Frien. During the summer months, she did yard work in a two piece bathing suit and full-face make-up, complete with Candy Red lipstick and coordinating nail polish. My mother was markedly more modest. The only cosmetics she wore were a light dusting of face powder and just a trace of Merle Norman Barely Blush lipstick … on special occasions. (Clear nail polish was reserved for stopping runs in one’s stockings.)
At the age of 8, I thought my mother was a stunning woman (I still do) but she really needed to jazz things up a bit, and Mrs. Frien was my gold standard for fashion trends. One evening, as I watched Mother ever-so-carefully brush just a smidge of lipstick on her lips in preparation for a dress-up event, I informed her she was doing it all wrong and proceeded to demonstrate for her how Mrs. Frien generously applied lipstick to her full and luscious lips.
“Well,” smiled Mother, “when you get a little older, you’ll find out that sometimes less is more.”
The older I get, the more I want of less.
I first noticed an inkling of this change in my thinking a few years ago when I returned home from my first trip to Panama. I had witnessed such a contrast between wealth and poverty that when I arrived home I found myself struggling to enjoy my good fortune. Over time, I have stopped shopping for sport and recreation, I dine out less frequently, I’ve cancelled our cable network and all my magazine subscriptions, and I am increasingly aware of how much time I waste doing things that rob me of joy.
It’s not that I want to deny myself a few luxuries in life. Trust me, I still love my creature comforts. It’s just that I’m pretty much convinced that “more” is highly overrated and perhaps a significant hindrance in my ongoing pursuit of a grateful life.
Lately I have been working on a picture. It’s really a drawing of what I would like my life to look like over the next 15 years, because right now I’m living the life I created for myself and I’d like to make some changes. Up to this point, I’ve always thought in terms of “more” — more color, more vibrancy, more ideas, more people, more opportunity, more flavor –but the idea of less distraction and less demands on my time and energy is rather attractive.
In fact, I’ve started a list of things I can happily do without. Here’s what I’m making a concious effort to let go of.
… less conflict
… less drama
… less exposure to people who are drawn to drama and conflict
… less violence
… less television
… less exposure to media that focuses on violence and man’s inhumanity to mankind
… less arrogance and a propensity to make assumptions, my own included
… less time in front of a computer
… less tunnel vision
… less committees and meetings
… less technology
… less trying to be all things to all people
… less noise
… less criticism
… less wishful thinking
As I slowly and thoughtfully work on the drawing of my life, I find that I’m using a lot of erasers. The picture that is emerging looks foreign to me and, frankly, slightly less comfortable than the life I’ve crafted. I’ve had to ask myself more than once, “Can a life with less be enough for me?” I think it can. Perhaps not as flashy and fashion-forward as the Candy Red nail polish I love to wear on my toes, but still very appealing and rewarding.
Mother was right. Sometimes less is more.