Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Simply the best

It’s that time of year again, to reflect on the year gone past and what’s in store the year ahead. To say that 2016 was a bummer for many people is an understatement. For some of my friends, their world turned upside down when they lost loved ones too soon. For millions around the world, the prospect of war, famine, natural disasters and political upheaval looms even larger on the horizon, with no end in sight. On a personal level, many of us seniors are battling with health issues, not to mention financial and family conundrums. And so as I consider my own situation heading into my sixth decade, how do I want my life to shape up?

A run in with my local phone service provider not only got my heckles up, but sort of helped me focus on what’s important. So many phone service providers. So many plans to choose from. Voice. Data. Voice + Data in innumerable combinations. Daytime use and nighttime use. Weekday and weekday charges. It came to a head when they kept telling me that my data had run out and I needed to upgrade to another plan. So I said to put me on the plan that my other friends have, at the same rate as what I’m paying now but with more data.

“No mam,” they replied, ever so politely. “We no longer have that plan”. They offered me myriad other alternatives. “Unlimited calls.” No, I don’t make calls. “A free phone.” No, I already have one, why would I need another? Of course all of this came at a higher price which I was not willing to pay, since I didn’t need the extra features. Or phone. So stalemate. I was dismayed that this phone service provider, of whom I have been a pioneer customer since its inception, chose not to listen to my needs or try and meet them. But instead, was only willing to slot me into one of their pre-existing cookie cutter niches.

And so I went to check out other service providers, something I don’t normally do because I value loyalty and thought others did too. And they had a host of plans for me to choose from! The difference was they catered to a whole spectrum of customers. So immediately there was something that I could use, with more data at less cost. They’ve kept it simple, without throwing in a lot of unnecessary fluff. And they’ve made it simple for me to make my decision to switch providers.

And so on to the goals of 2017 and the rest of my life, hopefully. Simplify. First, with stuff. I used to be one of those giddy-headed young women who had to have the latest bag, or prettiest bling, or trendiest clothes. With the transition from full-time work in an office where I had to dress up somewhat to a home office, my wardrobe has shrunk. But it can still be pared down even more. I once made the acquaintance of a refreshing young woman who said she kept her wardrobe at just 17 outfits. She did buy new stuff - she just sold off or gave away a piece before she accumulated anything else. Truth be told, she inspired me, especially since she was young and into fashion.

Now surely I don’t need more than, say two pairs of pants, a skirt, maybe four tops, two dresses? A jacket. Plus something more formal and some gym clothes? That’s it right? We only have one body. And maybe two pairs of shoes and sandals and sneakers for the gym. Now I don’t mean that less should be boring. I think these things should be of the highest quality that I can afford. After all, I’m dressing for myself, not to please others.

I never really knew my grandmother very well, a matriarch who lived into her nineties. She had ramrod postures, dressed immaculately and had perfectly groomed hair and flawless skin. I never saw her in anything except dark, neutral tops and pants. A single pair of tiny gold earrings was her only adornment. And yet I thought she was the picture of understated elegance. Surely I can emulate that look?

I’m looking at where else I can simplify my life. No more buying and accumulating stuff for sure. Long ago, I already told friends and family to stop buying me gifts that I have to display or store away. Things that I can consume I happily accept! I can eat more simply, but make sure that what I have is the best quality I can buy. I should cut out complicated extraneous noise - from the chatterings and grumblings of people around me, the TV and the internet.

It’ll be interesting to see how I apply the concept of simplicity to my travels. No more grand excursions across a few countries and regions. No more dashing round trying to cover everything on the itinerary. I’m dreaming of just heading somewhere, taking out a long term lease and just getting to know one neighborhood. And know it well. Have coffee every morning at the local cafe, hang out at the parks, maybe volunteer my services somewhere so I get to feel the hum of the community.

A line from my school hymn has been resonating with me lately, "Teach us delight in simple things ..." I'd love to be able to capture that joy and exuberance that young children have at the simplest things - a splash in a puddle, a cuddle and giggle - before they turn into cynical teens. I remember when I used to ride in my mum's car to school, with the window down. We only had one little flyover (it was more like an overhead bridge!) and I would urge her to drive faster so that we could careen down the slope. I'd stick my hand out of the window, flying my handkerchief, and that just filled me with - joy. Of course my mother couldn't understand why my handkerchiefs kept disappearing! Compared with what we have today, life was much simpler back then, and yet we were probably happier. More contented for sure.

Of course, with all resolutions, this one could go flying out the window come January. But I think it’s doable. And it’s a long term goal I want to hit eventually anyway. What are your goals and dreams for 2017?

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