Minimalism probably doesn’t seem as though it can fix all of the problems in the world, but it helps me immensely. By regularly considering my own values and beliefs, and the things that are important to me, I can alleviate some of my stress and worry. Modern life is challenging for most, and the concept of a rat-race in which everyone blindly follows everyone else, trying to achieve particular milestones that society deems worthwhile, informs our everyday decisions and goals.
For the past two and a half years my life has been a rollercoaster of emotions, from bringing Ripley into this world, and having him so unwell, on life support and not know what would happen, to his ongoing issues with reflux disease, food allergies, and his ability to cope with this world. There have been so many times that I have wanted to scream at people who don’t understand, who seem to just not care about how difficult life has been, to remind people that we are still here, that life hasn’t changed much for us in this period.
When life is difficult, we often have to make tough decisions about our priorities and needs. Can we afford a holiday? Can we eat out? Can we take on a new job? The answers are usually No, No, No here, because we are already facing huge challenges just to get through each day. The independent person in me hates to write this and share how challenging this situation can be emotionally, but the reality is, our life is like having a newborn for two-and-a-half years. Waking up more frequently than some newborns, struggling to get out and about and enjoy everyday things that families enjoy because of the what if’s and the effort involved. Having to cancel seeing friends who have bought a farm because you’re sick, and can’t face the journey and the effort that goes with driving two hours. Wondering when or if life will ever get easier. Knowing that very few people appreciate the challenges that come with having a child with an invisible disability or illness.
My high school boyfriend had a neighbour with three children on the spectrum. Hats off to them, I remember thinking I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would be. Now, I think about the challenges we have had and continue to have (no diagnosis of ASD) and feel terrible for never offering to do anything nice for those neighbours.
For me, a byproduct of having to completely overhaul my life to fit in with my child’s needs (staying home and not working at all, never travelling, never spending a night away from him, having to manage all his meals and medicines), is empathy. I’m not sure if other minimalists experience greater empathy but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Today, I remind myself that if I experience less empathy towards my situation than I would like, then it only illustrates how disconnected people can be from each other (even close friends or family). I am also reminded that if I do not share, how can people know what it is like. I also know that many people are busy in the rat-race and haven’t had the epiphany I have had, by simplifying my life, living with less, and embracing minimalism, I have struck gold in peace and happiness. The only silver lining of this whole experience has been my relationship with minimalism. Knowing that the choices I’m making to live with less allow me to be there for my son, in the way that he needs.
If you know someone who is struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. We could all use a little empathy.