What would you give for a simpler life? I’m not talking about becoming more spiritual, though that would probably get you there. What in modern life would you do without if you could reduce your day to day stress?
My fantasy is that my Grandmother Mical, who raised eight children on a farm in West Florida in the first third of the 20th century, had a calmer life. She didn’t have to arrange play dates or drive to two soccer games on opposite sides of town every Saturday. She didn’t have to fight traffic. Or keep her cell phone on her at all times. She didn’t get instant world news so that she had to pay witness to wailing mothers in the streets of Baghdad or riots in Tripoli or girls in Pakistan maimed by hateful husbands.
Seems like not having the phone ring when you’ve just settled into a good book or supper or sleep or work would be heaven. How I’d like to live somewhere, maybe Canada’s Northwest Territory, where I wasn’t trapped at every traffic light for two minutes and ten seconds. I wish I didn’t know that there are cultures in the world where a man can throw acid in a woman’s face and face no consequences. Or a dictator can amass billions of stolen dollars while his people do without.
You no doubt have your own list of stressors. Do you buy into the theory that ignorance is bliss? Unfortunate, maybe, but knowledge can’t be wished away once you have it. You can’t unread Lord of the Flies or unhear the bombing in Iraq.
I know my grandmother had worries I don’t have. Her kids didn’t have vaccinations or anti-biotics or fluoride treatments. She worked far harder than I ever have, at least physically. She didn’t have a library at hand, much less the internet. She didn’t get to live in London for six months or fly over the Grand Canyon. But she knew what to expect, every day. She wasn’t overwhelmed by dread events in the world that hurt to know about but that she couldn’t do anything about. She, it seems to me, was in control of her world. That must have been wonderful.
Flawed as my notion of Grandmother Mical’s life is, I like the idealized version. I need to slip into her imagined shoes and can pears, adding red food color to please the children. I like to see myself feed the chickens, hoe the garden, and lay down my head at night tired, but serene.