Lately, I’ve been digging deep. Looking for the answer to a question that seems to piggyback off of a world jampacked with too much of everything. I’ve come to discover a sense that we’ve all lost our sense of simple. Nothing seems easy anymore. Even the modest act of walking the dog. Simple right? No. In fact, in my family, we have successfully found a way to make even the act of walking the dog complex. Not as complex as mapping out the human genome, but seriously, I think we might be taking this a bit too far.

Here’s the thing, to get my family on board with everyone taking the time (key word here: time) to stop (second key word here: stop) and consider what it would take to get Sophie her much needed walk every day we decided to map out a schedule. Each of us on rotation with our scheduled day and commitment. Good idea, right? Sure, we all shot out of the gate on our first night on rotation dog duty with the best of intentions. My youngest even came back and said, “I like walking her every night. It makes us both happy.” This was his first night adhering to the commitment, mind you, but there was truth in what he said.

Now we’re grappling with schedules and nights we have other commitments. Sports requirements, homework, work, and meetings. We work and then we work some more. How did that happen? How did we come to think it was okay to spend our evenings working more, being with our family and friends less? (Not to mention how somewhere in the mix of the dog walking schedule, we’ve all already had to splice up the days and get someone to cover for us)
What I think we’ve all come to realize is that it really can be simpler than this. We all wanted a dog. We chose her. We took her home. We named her. We love her. And, with that decision, we signed up for walking her every day. It’s that simple. What we should really be doing, instead of reconfiguring the sky to make our star charts align, is lining up to volunteer to take her for her walk. Because it’s simply what she needs, and we are responsible for taking care of her needs. She is the answer. It really is that simple.

After thinking about the dog debacle, I had a look at my life and could see how the balls rearticulate themselves on a full plate each and every day. I set alarms for everything. Not even walking the dog could escape my calendar reminders because there really is too much swimming in my head to remember. When I look over my list of to do’s, to buy, to manage it feels more like one of those childhood puzzle boxes in an effort to jam, stack or juggle the balls into holes. Here’s the clincher, those holes keep changing shape. In fact, life’s plate seems to have taken on entirely new dimensions!

What I’ve come to realize in my time over the last decade of a full-time teaching career, making time for my writing career, while prioritizing family, is that I would have to get more creative. If I’m going to fit those balls in the holes I chose to carve, I have to remake them out of clay. I have to redesign them, make them more malleable, so I can mold them around my life. And once in a while, I have to be okay with dropping a ball or two. In learning the art of apology, I decide what’s most important and what comes first.

There’s no bending the law of physics. What goes up, must come down. But in the toss-up, I’ll hold on tight to a few, risk dropping a couple, and let go of the rest for the sake of simplifying my life. It’s forgivable even as a high functioning juggler, to bend and let the world bend with us. Mindfulness was born out of this kind of bedlam. It can help us cope with the many balls we opt to toy with, and knowing we’re not the only one experiencing this shift, we might also feel the nudge giving us permission to go back to simple. We can choose to decomplexify our life by saying “No” more often and being more fastidious about who we spend our time with, what we take on, and how much is too much. The plate can be redesigned even when it’s REALLY full, and I would wager our plates are not the amplest among us. I’m sure we could all have a ‘Plate Full” comparison convention and chart these things, analyze the data, and see who really holds the title of the Fullest, but in the end, it really comes down to one thing, the dog simply needs a walk.

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