Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fall Into Reading--Simple Abundance

Ok, theoretically, this is cheating. Since Simple Abundance is a daybook, I had to read ahead almost two whole weeks to finish it in time for it to count for "fall." But that felt authentic to me, so I did it anyway.

I started this in spring, even though the author tsks-tsks at readers who don't start at the new year. I figured if I didn't start Right Then, I never would. And I actually went back and started the readings from the beginning, as she suggested, as well as keeping up with the daily readings day by day.

This book had a real emotional undercurrent for me as the copy I read belonged to my late sister-in-law. Labor Day of 2001, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She went through treatments and was in remission for a time before it finally took her life in 2005. But her transformation in that time was incredible.

She and I were opposites in many ways; she had a "Martha Stewart doesn't live here" plaque in her house. In my house, it would be ironic--to be read with the unprinted "just in case it wasn't BLATANTLY OBVIOUS by the messes and lack of decor!" In her house, it was a point of pride, to be read with the unprinted "all evidence to the contrary." She was a chef extraordinaire, sewed most of her own clothes and lots of the home decor, and was a whiz at decorating. But what we had in common was a tendency to clutter and slobbishness, and we always vied for the "last to dinner" spot at family events.

Well. In between rounds 1 & 2 of her cancer, she had an epiphany. She might die, and if she did, her house and family would fall apart without her. That was clearly unacceptable. So, she up and joined Flylady and another online housekeeping support group, read Sarah Ban Breathnach, feng shui'ed her house, and changed her life. One of her last Christmas gifts to me was a Control Journal, which she beseeched me to use, since I (at that point) had one little boy and the schedules weren't totally out of control yet. She re-did one bathroom and picked all the stuff for another. She painted her office in auspicious colors, and got very friendly with her label maker. She created information centers for both sons and household matters. She trashed or organized just about everything, redecorated the entire downstairs, and built the six raised vegetable gardens she always wanted to thwart the bunnies while she grew her own everything.

And then the cancer came back. The relapse was swift and awful and took her from us in less than four months. But the house stood as a testament to her amazing skills, her love for her family, and the work she had done to prepare them to keep things going in the case of her untimely death.

Where was I? Oh, yes: Simple Abundance. For what turned out to be the last two years of my sister-in-law's life, this was at her bedside. I know it spoke to her in much deeper ways than it is reaching me. It is a guide to "excavating your authentic self," mostly through the pursuit of a more comfortable home (And I mean comfortable, not as a euphemism for "expensive.") but also through the process of changing your thoughts about what "abundance" might mean for you.

Some parts of it were great kick-starts: reminders to go through the closet with more than "have I worn it?" and "does it fit?" in mind, but also "is this who I want to be?" Reminders for me that when I am done with something I need to send it to the universe where it will do more good. Reminders that God or the universe is out there, listening to what I need, and providing, in big and small ways. There were some great quotes ("The goal of all work is to be happy at home") and good sourcebooks quoted (The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, among others).

I couldn't live it, though. Some things just didn't resonate with me. I never take baths, for example, because that would mean cleaning out our tub before and after, at which point the relaxation from the bath would be moot. I don't drink tea as often as the author appears to. Haunting antique shops and second-hand stores is not in my near future, unless it's a consignment shop for kids' stuff. Maybe I'm not ready for the Simple Abundance lifestyle, even though the tea and antiquing and baths are clearly just meant to inspire the reader to figure out her own authentic pleasures within her means.

Or maybe I still see this too much as my sister-in-law's book. It was a teary morning when I reached the page that was the last one she'd marked. But I will definitely be keeping it as a resource, for general inspiration, and to have at hand when I need to be reminded of some of its lessons--or just reminded of my sister-in-law.

No comments: