In one of my favorite novels of all time, The Sportswriter, Richard Ford punched me in the gut with a line that I have thought about at least once every single week since I first read it almost 20 years ago:
“You can never completely count on things out here. Life is counterpoised against a mean wind that could suddenly cease.”
Needless to say, we are currently living in a world where the wind has suddenly ceased.
Gone are the aspects of our lives we’ve taken for granted like career goals, vacations, “me” time, school for our kids, spending without care, and ability to go out into the world unencumbered. We have no promise of when they may return.
It is disheartening and frustrating and scary and every other emotion each of us is feeling right now to have to accept that all of the elements of our lives that we have counted on are gone.
If you’re like me, you fought that realization as long as you could believing things will go right back to normal any minute now. But, they don’t and they won’t.
So here we are, and we try our hardest every day to try to get from here to the there in our mind that makes us feel safe and comfortable.
But, there is no there. There is only here.
I remember seeing a cartoon in The New Yorker that depicted the exterior caricature of a prison with a sign reading: “The Imaginary Prison Where You Will Finally Read All of Those Books.”
For minimalists, we’ve longed for this “quarantined” type of slow down, forcing us to focus on our homes, our selves, our health, our families, and our communities.
Here is the there we’ve always wished for, and we can do our best to make sure we don’t waste it by practicing the most basic tenets of this way of life.
You don’t need it.
When pennies need to be pinched, the lens of need becomes increasingly narrow. Even our daily consumption of toilet paper has become a cause for debate.
With nowhere to go, there’s no reason to put off anything that we’ve meant to do. I’m writing more…can’t you tell?
Stop the deliberate reaction overload.
We can avoid the inevitable reaction overload by stopping the constant beeps and alerts on all of our devices and focus on slow media like books and records … or no media at all.
My here will not be yours. We can’t compare them because our heres can’t be shared in texts or posts or videos. We only realize and know our own reality.
Prepare for the worst.
I have no idea what the end game of the current pandemic will be or when it will occur. There’s some level of freedom in the uncertainty that everyone is in the same boat. We’re equalized in our helplessness and anxiety. Allow the worst-case scenario in terms of timing to be what you prepare for. Another year? Ok. Let’s do it.
This is the moment.
Again, I cannot tell the future, but this moment does feel like the kind that comes along so rarely. It is a time where we are truly tested. Our systems are shocked, and we can rise to the challenge or not. Challenge yourself to become even stronger in whatever values you hold dear because you will be different after all of this. Will it be for better or worse?
About the Author: Greg Behr is a practicing minimalist living in Chapel Hill, NC. He brings his philosophy on less is definitely more to his roles as a father of two young daughters, husband to an amazing wife and co-owner of a successful strategic communications firm, GBW Strategies. He writes to keep his sanity and share his best practices via his blog on Medium.