I've been stitching up a soft felt Quiet Book for R's birthday and funny enough the process has been giving me much needed quiet time of my own. So I've been doing a lot of thinking, and because of the times we live in, I've naturally been drawn to thoughts of groundlessness and instability. One of my favorite quotes comes from the Tibetan Buddhist Chogyam Trungpa and it says: "Chaos should be regarded as very good news." A very counter-cultural idea but one that I try to embrace daily.
Stitch by stitch I've been mulling this over, and I've realized that the very task I'm doing is the antidote to at least economic chaos, or recessions, or downturns, or whatever you want to call it. Simple, handmade acts of care, the aesthetic more wabi-sabi than Pottery Barn or Target. A desire to mend and make at home rather than buy into the consumer machine that takes your money and spits you out. Prioritizing celebrations of life not by buying presents and color-coordinating the perfect party set-up, but by crafting soft and slow days with homemade cakes and special meals and presents made by hand.
This is what I mean by recession-proofing your life. A luxuriously simple life naturally provides a safety-net from economic hardship. Money might get tight, but a back-to-the-land, made-by-hand mentality doesn't require all that much of it to begin with. And I am not talking about frugality here. I hate that word. There's nothing luxurious about living frugal, and I want some luxury.
When I think about simple and beautiful living, I think about the adobe homes that dot the hills around Santa Fe, or the traditional Japanese-style Tea Houses. I think about tromping through the woods, foraging for plants, and a kitchen full of drying herbs. I think of my homemade morning mochas, my beloved book collection, fresh-baked bread, and early-morning walks. What else??? The wood floor with my cats stretching lazily in the sun, chocolate, candle-light, the smell of black walnuts, making salve by hand, crafting while listening to podcasts, soft slippers in winter-time, the wrap that my mother crocheted for me, and lots and lots of time.
See what I mean? A recession can't take these things away.
But of course, a recession can take some things away. Things like costly homes, shiny cars, shopping sprees, and dining out. It can pare us down and strip away the excess. I could keep on writing my own thoughts, but I can't say it better than this passage from my favorite book The Simple Living Guide:
"Simplicity is not just one thing, one path. There is not an easy recipe for simplicity. There is not a perfect way to live simply. There is not a certain amount of money that you need to live on in order to be a bona fide graduate of simplicity school.
You don't flunk if you own a car; you don't earn honors if you plant a garden. Simplicity is not so much the outward trappings of your life; it is the inner you making decisions. Not the outer you, the one that says you need a certain car or certain house or certain clothes or certain job or degree in order to look good in the world. Not that one, because that is the one that lives far from your essence.
That is the one so many of us in Western culture have been trained to follow. The one that gets us into debt and overcommitting our time trying to maintain that outer image. The one that keeps us up at night worrying about how we're going to continue maintaining this image that takes so much money, energy, and time. The one that overrides the quiet voice of our essence that is begging to be heard.
Simplicity is the first step we can take to quiet that loud, outer voice. We can't hear the inner pleas when we work 40 to 60 hours a week at a job we'd rather leave, when we're busy maintaining our expensive cars and houses, when we spend countless hours shopping for more outer trappings, when we zoom from one appointment and commitment to another, and when we drop, exhausted, at night in front of the TV because we have nothing left. We can't hear anything then.
Simplicity means stopping for a moment and asking what the heck we are doing with our lives. Simplicity asks whether we need to follow the status quo just because everyone else is doing it. Simplicity asks: Is this right for me? For us? If not, then simplicity gives us the inner strength we'll need to say no.
Maybe you say, "I don't want that promotion I've been working toward for so long. I just thought that was the way to go: Work hard and get promoted, then you've supposedly made it." Supposedly made what? "Maybe I don't want to work the increased hours the promotion will demand. Maybe I'd really rather figure out a way to work part-time so I can be with my kids more, or so I can read all those books piling up on the shelf, or so I can ski more, or see my friends more, or have time to work at the soup kitchen....
Thoreau says: "We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn....The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive."
+ Swoon +
You might have clicked on this post expecting a real how-to guide on recession-proofing your life, and at this point, you might be a little disappointed. Where's the bullet-point list? Where's the how-to? So here it is:
Dig deep into your self to find your true values, and match them against the life you live.
Get rid of the things that don't line up.
Figure out what simplicity means to you and your family, and begin carving a path towards it.
Walk that path every day.
Make your home your North Star, and orient your family life around it.
Make things by hand as much as you can.
And bake cakes often.
And then let the recessions come and go as they please, because you and your family will be just fine.