Tag Archives: Simplicity

Embracing Simplicity

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” Albert Einstein

Over the past couple of years I have often felt like my life has been aggressively and almost completely stripped back. The core of my life is still much the same as it has always been. Yet I often feel like a tree that has been radically pruned. With so many of the branches of my identity and the things that I used to do being brutally chopped off and left to die. Leaving something quite exposed and bare, with many stubs where branches used to be.

When you spend most of your day lying down, and the time you can be upright is exceedingly limited by various intense and horrible neurological symptoms, you find that your life becomes extremely restricted. Everything becomes immensely simplified in many ways (even though there are also many complexities to contend with too). Life mainly consists of things you can do lying flat, or the few limited things you can do whilst upright – although still feeling very ill.

It’s been a very challenging journey to embrace a more simplistic life. 

It doesn’t help that we live in a society that often glorifies busyness!

Our Western society is full of people who often seem to wear badges of importance – based, in part, on how busy their life is. Most people are forever expressing how immensely busy they are. This makes it extra hard for those of us who are ill long term, because we have to instead embrace a new identity that can no longer be defined by our busyness. Suddenly we can feel somewhat detached from normal society – a bit of a ‘nobody’.

Everyone around us seems to be carrying on with their ‘normal lives’ whilst we feel like ours is stuck. 

We live in a never ending state of limbo, not knowing if or when it will change.


In my 2015 post Is Busyness a Choice? I spoke about an article by Scott Dannemiller called ‘Busy is a Sickness’. In it he wrote:

“… we are defined by what we do. Our careers. What we produce. It’s the first question asked (of us)  The implication is that if I am not busy doing something, I am somehow less than. Not worthy. Or at least worth less than those who are producing something.”

I really do believe that this is a massive problem for those of us who face long term debilitation. 

We not only have to take a very humbling journey of coming to terms with it ourselves; we will also often have to face others’ questions, attitudes, and sometimes prejudice – as well as naivety and ignorance – towards our disability and inability to do what we once could do.

We find that we begin to lose much of our identity, because it feels like we are not doing much anymore. Rather than being an active member of society – we feel pushed to the side lines, often misunderstood and sometimes even forgotten about.

We are suddenly not so sure who we really are any more and our condition begins to knock our confidence – until we perhaps no longer feel like we ‘fit in’ with normal society like we used to.

Over time, we realise that we have to go through a deep and painful process of grieving and letting go of who we once were. And much of what defined us. 

So that instead we can truly embrace who we are now – in this season. We actually have very little choice in the matter – if we cannot change our current circumstances ourselves then we have no option but to accept it and find a way to live the best life we can amidst all the restrictions.

I learnt over time that I had to stop torturing myself with what I could be doing IF I was well. I had to give up imagining how different life could be if I was healthy. I had to refuse to compare myself to what ‘normal’ people were doing and instead embrace the quieter and more simple life, of mainly being at home, often lying down. I had to see the opportunities that could be found here instead.

We must learn to establish a daily discipline of choosing to see the beauty and wonder in simplicity. To somehow embrace a simpler life. The more I go on that journey – the more I see that there are still so many things to be thankful for and enjoy here.

Despite the restriction, debilitation and pain. 

Really it is all a matter of perspective. As many things in life are. 

Attitude is everything! 

Since I have battled this chronic illness I have realised more than ever that we are often fed a lie by society and the media that our life should always be lovely, fun, immensely satisfying and great. Everything should be as perfect as it can be – and it will be – IF you have enough money, health, great jobs, nice homes, loving families, expensive holidays and up to date gadgets etc. Then we will all be perpetually happy.

BUT it’s just not true!

Hence why there are so many miserable, struggling people who actually have all those things in abundance. Sometimes it’s the people I know who have the most of all those things who are the least happy. Mainly because that mindset draws you into a never ending cycle of desiring more and more – which only leaves you increasingly discontented in the end. Because there is always someone around who seems to have a better lot in life and appears to be happier than you.


I have learnt so much through my two-year journey about trying to be more grateful for the small, everyday things, whilst learning to let go of ‘the dream’ of ‘normal living.’ In doing that (which is a very raw and painful grieving process) I learnt I could find so much joy and wonder here too. And if I can find it here, then I will be so much happier – as well as more content and thankful – when I do hopefully get well. If I can learn contentment without having all the things the media tells me I need – then I will be happier for a life time regardless of whether I stay sick or get well.

It’s a lesson I have also had to embrace with regards how I parent my children. It truly is heartbreaking when sickness robs you of being the parent you always desired and planned to be. It’s a very difficult thing to face and unfortunately you can find yourself envying other healthy normal parents, which doesn’t help.

When I experienced a complete physical and mental breakdown at the end of 2015, it was the grief of letting go of being the Mum I was and wanted to be that caused some of the deepest inner pain. I am so very thankful that my girls are now that bit older and slightly more independent, which makes things so much easier for us as a family. And yet currently I can’t go out with them or do most of the fun or even necessary things we used to do.

I really am currently stuck at home, mainly lying flat, nearly 24/7. 

However, I have also learnt that sometimes my kids can learn better life lessons from us facing this as a family than they could if life was just ‘normal’ and great. I realised that if I can’t find a way to truly live here, in the midst of the disappointments, then how can I help them to know how to face their own challenges and disappointments in life? They will certainly come at some point. If as a parent I can’t come through the crisis, then what does that teach them? But if my children can learn how to endure life trials – from me and my husband – then they will hopefully be much more stable and wholehearted adults.

Adults who can weather the storms of life and stick out long term relationships much better. Meaning they may well be happier and more fulfilled adults because of this. It will also hopefully help them to grow in compassion for others, so that they learn not to ignore or avoid another’s pain, but instead look at how they can share it and help support another in and through it.

Compassion is a stunningly beautiful quality to have. 

As my body is so restricted on the outside, I actually often feel the energy of what’s within intensify. It’s like there is this ball inside me with a mixture of so many different emotions. I know I have to redirect the ones that want to pull me into a dark place and allow the positive ones to become increasingly dominant. So I am trying to focus my own pain on connecting and helping others in theirs.

I have decided that I must find a way to live like this – so that I can help another walk through their own deep darkness of facing this condition or similar debilitation.

It’s allowing the love, grace and compassion that is within me to break out to help someone else. It’s channelling my hurt into feeling another’s pain with them so that I can then say, “How can I help you today? What advice can I give you from the lessons I have – sometimes painfully – learnt over the years.” 

These are some of the simple things in life that I can still embrace and still do. And it’s when I am focused on things such as these that I am drawn less into only seeing the negatives of my current predicament. It is then that I often find the beauty that is found in simplicity. And it reminds me that even if my body remains debilitated, on the inside I can still feel fully alive.

So let me embrace the wonders hidden in the simplicity of my current circumstances. Because if I can do that – in this place – I will hopefully discover a deeper contentment and satisfaction that may well last a lifetime as well. So that IF one day I can leave this whole immensely difficult season behind for good, I will at least have learnt more lessons and disciplines through it that will become the firm foundations of my life tomorrow.

So that although I have had to experience a major pruning and cutting back that has left me looking exposed and bare today, perhaps in the end it will simply leave room for growth that will allow new shoots to form tomorrow. Producing a stronger tree in the future that is happier, healthier and bears good fruit in the right season.

None of us know what tomorrow will bring. 

But if we can all learn and grow enough today, so that we can somehow find the inner strength to face whatever might be thrown at us tomorrow, we will be able to take our stand in the crisis and allow this cry to rise up from within us to say:

 “However bad this gets and however long it goes on for… I am determined to find the best life that can be lived here – in all its gloriously redefined simplicity.”


To read more about my story of living with a chronic spinal CSF Leak click here.

Here is a brilliant 2 min animation about Spinal CSF leaks.

For more information about spinal CSF leaks please see the UK charity website at www.csfleak.info or the US charity website at www.spinalcsfleak.org.

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The Art of Simplicity: The Big Clear Out

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci

Every year during the summer holidays I embark on a big clear out at home. In fact, I think many people choose the summer school holidays to sort through their ‘stuff’ and get rid of things.

I find it such a satisfying process! Although it is often both exhausting and frustrating when you are in the midst of it.

I got into the habit of regularly simplifying and clearing out, a number of years ago, when my children were small. For a few reasons we ended up moving house about 4 times in 6 years.

Moving house is a chaotic time but it can also demand much discipline. We had to decide what things we should actually move. Most of the moves we did ourselves and when you have to move stuff yourselves you choose to think more carefully about what you really want to keep.

Each time we moved we would have things stored in attics or cupboards that we had not touched in a couple of years of living in a new house. When you find you have not opened a box in that long, you soon realise that you probably don’t need it after all.

Going through this same process four times taught me the discipline of simplifying and decluttering. Which is something I have continued to put into practice, even though we have finally stayed in one house for 6 years.

The Big Clear Out copy

This summer we have been particularly ruthless.

My children are finally learning from ‘clearing out’ with me over the years, that simplicity often makes life easier. They hate tidying their rooms, but are learning the less things you have and the more organised they are, the easier it is to look after them.

We got rid of bags and bags of clutter, rubbish, junk and passed on decent items no longer wanted or outgrown.

Life is easier when you declutter and simplify. It takes time and discipline but it is worth it.

How many times have you lost something amidst the clutter of your home only to rediscover it when you finally get round to clearing out?

Simplicity can provide space for the new. When your life is too full of the old, there is no room left for the new.

We should certainly celebrate the old, hold onto memories and enjoy traditions. But we must find a balance of old and new that creates space in our life.

In the West we love to accumulate ‘things’
… And more things…
….And more things!

In the hope that it will make life better and happier.

And yet ‘things’ can also complicate our lives.

We instead need to discover a balance that works in our life. Reassessing what we actually need and what is just taking up precious space and time.


When your life is too full of the old, there is no room left for the new.


I have learnt that taking the time to consistently organise, sort through and make space, enables us to embrace change more easily and move forward into the future without having to drag too much of the past around with us.

“Resistance to change is universal. It invades all classes and cultures.”- John Maxwell

The Art of Simplicity copy

The practical discipline of ‘clearing out’ and decluttering is metaphorical of a similar process in our wider lives.

I often choose the start of the new year or the end of a school year to clear out and prepare for the new season ahead.

This summer held more significance for my elder daughter because she is moving on from primary school to High School.

Clearing things out and sorting through them can prepare you mentally as you look through old memorabilia, selectively choose which to hold onto and then make space for the new things you will inevitably acquire (especially when you have children around).

We have to choose what things hold real significance and sentimental value and what we perhaps need to ‘let go’ of because it is simply cluttering up our lives.


Taking the time to consistently organise, sort through and make space, enables us to embrace change more easily.


The wider life discipline of simplifying asks the same question:

What is cluttering up my life?
What do I need to cut back on to make room for the new?
How can I prepare myself for the season ahead?

Our physical reality is often symbolic of other things going on in our life. Physical actions can help us prepare for, face and work through mental and emotional change.

Decluttering and re-organising helps us to:
Celebrate yesterday.
Focus on today.
and
Make space for tomorrow.

I found the process of starting to help my Dad clear his house following my Mums death quite a therapeutic exercise. Of course you want to hold onto many memories and items of significance, but there is also something healthy in saying goodbye, letting go and recognising a new season ahead.

It is not always an easy process, and can take time to face, but is one that can be useful in so many different ways and can help us mentally accept and adapt to change whether it is happily welcomed or tragically enforced.

Time invested today to embrace the process of simplifying is not wasted time. It is preparation for the future. So that we can move forward and welcome change without too much baggage tied around our ankles.

There is a freedom that comes through LETTING GO.

“That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” – Steve Jobs


How could you make more space, room and time in your life?
Is it time for a big clear out?