Lessons learned


This is Tracy, the fourth blogger to write here. In 2014, my husband Bob gave me “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” for Christmas, and so I rolled into 2015 with renewed motivation. While organizing and paring down our stuff was the main goal, I felt doing this would open up time for other things which were important to me, like being able to things with my family which didn’t involve donation boxes and junk drawers. In short, I wanted to better manage my life.

I’ve struggled to write this update, not because I didn’t want to, but because I think I’ve gravitated from what I wanted in 2015. Most people’s ideas of what makes them feel happy and fulfilled are always evolving, I think. And as life hurls its assorted challenges at us, we change whether we want to or not. My Simple Year project had four specific goals (HERE) but the overarching idea was change. In the past, I’d tried to make these changes, but they didn’t stick. This time, I hoped to be helped along by the expectation that I write regularly, sharing my successes and failures.

When my year ended, I felt satisfied for the most part, and admitted to myself something I knew but didn’t want to acknowledge: you’re never finished. My project actually had no beginning and no end. Instead, it was a cycle which called for ongoing maintenance and occasional rebooting. Blogging about my experience was a great element, because it kept me on track, and needing content motivated me to plug away. I have no doubt I accomplished way more because of the blog.

Even without writing on a regular basis, I still returned to my goals in fits and starts. But without an audience, I floundered. The regular donation pickups dwindled. I got lazy with meal planning. Six months after my last post, Trisha asked if I wanted to write a guest post. I felt stalled and frustrated because my momentum was gone. The timing was perfect. And again, I tried and failed to regain my earlier productivity.

In April 2017, a new guest post opportunity lit another spark, but it again reinforced that my project wasn’t really a project. It was a different way of life I wanted to embrace, or thought I did. When I wrote that post, rambling on about lists and habits and routines, I wish I’d been more appreciative of these mundane challenges.

In early February of this year, Bob was diagnosed with colon cancer. There was no history in his family, and he’s always taken good care of himself. We were stunned. After several stressful days and numerous tests and doctors’ appointments, we learned his cancer was Stage 1. He had surgery, and within six weeks he was back at work. We felt lucky and grateful that his cancer had been caught so early, and was relatively easy to resolve. So many others don’t get such a prognosis. And yet we were all very shaken by the experience. For the next few years, he’ll be monitored closely, and there’s always a brief streak of panic and a “what if” whenever he gets checked.

Two weeks after Bob went back to work, my mom passed away. Even though she’d had health difficulties for a few years, I was again knocked sideways by the unexpected news. Though I hadn’t been able to make the three-hour round trip, we talked on the phone a lot more than usual. I relied on her knowledge as a nurse, for practical advice, but also when anxieties were running high and we needed to be talked down. Emma was on vacation from school, and I’d planned for us to visit the day after Easter, which ended up being the day of her funeral.

My life will never resemble the organized ideal I’d been seeking, and I don’t feel mad at myself or frustrated or disappointed. I just don’t care. Last week I called a plumber about a small leak. It ended up being a huge leak, and required cutting holes in walls in multiple rooms. The plumber approached me almost timidly when he initially found the problem, as if he feared my reaction. He was clearly surprised when I shrugged and told him that it was fine, it needed to be fixed and no good would come from me throwing a tantrum.

My husband’s illness and the unexpected loss of my mother left scars, but I’m trying to look at them as tests we were given and didn’t fail. We don’t fret over the unimportant. We think about things we really want to do, and try to make them happen. I say no to things I can’t or don’t want to do without an ounce of guilt. Unlike the changes I tried to make during my year, these changes were forced upon me. I didn’t choose them, but they have been good for me so far.