Playing Houdini: Simplicity

In a moment of night bike-riding clarity, it hit me. A simple life makes me happy. While simplicity is relative, an understanding of what that means for me added a unique light to what my path called the future looks like.

It all started because I felt up against this impossible task of morphing these two worlds I live in… into one. Maybe Houdini could pull off such a request, but surely an ocean, about a dozen country borders, and a pinch of reality was a little too much for me. However, as often happens on my bike, out of nowhere, a bunch of mismatched puzzle pieces flooded in.

Simplifying our lives is not easy, especially when we don’t know how they got so complicated… or, even more, when we don’t even realize they are. Daily life, routines, and cultural norms make things so natural that it’s hard to envision another way. I think it’s worth mentioning that we can be perfectly happy but still benefit from making our lives a little simpler. This was the interesting realization to me; I loved to the max my life in MKE, so why would I want to change it? Well, I saw that all the things I loved could stay, just as they are, or the end result could remain the same, only tweaking a bit of the process. So, in my thinking about ways I can enrichen my life through a little simplicity, I’d also challenge you to think about, on your commute to work, ways you, too, could reduce a bit of the clutter.

What are some of the things that make me so darn happy?

The freedom my bike gives me

One of the most obvious answers was the hot-pink bike that I was riding on at that exact moment. Now, I don’t really like pink, the gears don’t always change so perfectly, and I can definitely tell I bought it used, but it sure more than serves its purpose. That bike gives me the freedom to not only transport myself for free, but it also gives me all these hours to think, breathe, and appreciate a whole lot of life happening outside that I never paid attention to before. Instead of feeling stress from a busy metro or plugging maintenance money into my car, I ride around this city and notice the guys cleaning parks, the thousands of people moving about their lives, the passing sounds and smells… I honestly feel like I’m breathing life at times, as crazy as it sounds.

In Wisconsin: a commitment to riding my bike more and not waiting for mini-camping trips to get me out in nature. With the Hank Aaron Trail, the Urban Ecology Center, and so many rivers, lakes, forests, and trails around me, there’s no excuse to not still get out there during the day-to-day hustle.

A wholesome diet

Being in charge of what I put in my body is addictive… and empowering. I buy fresh bread for-the-day from little shop near my house. Juice now means a combination of the fruits I bought at the market thrown into a blender with a little water or, for a treat, milk. Hummus now means soaking my own chickpeas and adding sauteed mushrooms, onions, red peppers, and/or garlic. Pizza now means Vicente’s delicious crust recipe and whatever veggies we have lying around. Even more, Vicente’s mother has openend my eyes to a whole new level of what “from scratch” means. This woman makes noodles, ravioli, sauces, soups, casseroles, and beautiful cakes all from whole, raw, unprocessed ingredients. I have found that there truly is very little I need that comes in the form of a can or a box, a realization that truly makes me feel powerful and enlightened.

In Wisconsin: I was always into health, now I can see my own past blinders. It was so normal to grab a cake box when making a cake… when, who knew, a cake only requires a handful of common household ingredients?! Or conveniently buying ready black beans, chick peas, etc…. those cans somehow add dozens of ingredients when all that’s needed is 24 hours and a bowl of water. This, therefore, simply requires my commitment to maintaining new habits. Thankfully we have a multitude of great summer farmer’s markets in Madison and Milwaukee that I look forward to frequenting again, but I also am interested in getting involved in some new things, like CSA’s, farm shares, and community garden initiatives.

Small businesses 

While at first a difficult transition, I have come to enjoy the lack of the Wal-Mart concept “we sell everything you need.” Now, I find it peaceful that I rarely step into a store bigger than a Jimmy John’s. Fruits, veggies, cheese, seafood, and spices come from the markets. Beauty products come from beauty store. Medicine comes from a farmacy that doesn’t also sell me produce. Clothes, scarves, jewelery, etc often come from a lady/guy on the street. The list goes on.

In Wisconsin: I have always chosen local restaurants, cafe’s, farmer’s markets, etc and preferred small businesses when possible. However, now that I’ve lived here and become used to shopping at different places for different things, my definition of “when possible” has broadened. I don’t need my grocery store to sell me everything and I will further commit myself to local businesses. The added euphoria of knowing I’m strengthening my community with every dollar will surely bring its own set of benefits.  Target… you might be my biggest temptation so I will need to stay as far away from you as possible :)

All in all, this one-hour bike ride filled my head with so many channels flowing from this concept of simplicity- what it means to me today, what it meant to me before, what I want it to mean to me in the future, what value it brings, and so much more. I guess when it all boils down, simplicity is the opposite of complicated, which can in turn relate to too much. Too much space. Too many ingredients. Too much stress. Too many options. Too much noise. Too many outside interests. Too many suppliers in the making of a simple product. Or, maybe it’s complicated because there’s not enough – not enough control over an important outcome, not enough time for the important things… whatever it is in your life, I’d love to hear about ways you’ve realized you can simplify.

I guess the goal would be for us to all be walking around as emotionally and spiritually light as possible.

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