Give me the simple life.

This is how my date with Dr. Bob made me feel.

This is how my date with Dr. Bob made me feel.

About ten years ago, I had a heinous date with a young anesthesiologist I’ll call Dr. Bob. Over the course of a seemingly interminable evening, young Dr. Bob lamented the state of his life:

Dr. Bob: I’m just so tired of people needing me all the time. I mean, I’m always getting these annoying phone calls in the middle of the night: “So-and-so is having her baby, can you come down right away?” It’s exhausting. I’m so sick of it.

Me: Um…you’re an anesthesiologist. Didn’t it occur to you during your 7 years of med school that people would be needing you?

Dr. Bob: Yeah, but I’m just saying I’m so sick of it. I’m not happy at all with my life right now. I’d rather be traveling or something.

Me: So quit. Do something else. Life’s short.

Magnet by the brilliant Anne Taintor

Magnet by the brilliant Anne Taintor

Dr. Bob: What are you, crazy!? Do you know how much time and money I’ve spent becoming a doctor? Do you know what kind of a lifestyle I’d have to give up? You totally don’t get it, do you?

Me: Check, please!

I went home, closed the door behind me with a sigh of relief, and realized that Dr. Bob had unwittingly just taught me about the vast chasm between “simple” and “easy.” Having invested many years and many more dollars becoming a doctor, Dr. Bob claimed to be extremely dissatisfied and not well suited to the medical profession. The simple answer, as far as I was concerned, was to change course completely and pursue a life that was both personally and professionally gratifying.

But changing horses in midstream, as it were, would invite a fair amount of upheaval and some anxiety, to say nothing of the logistical challenges involved. Such a bold course of action, saturated with the simple truth that life is too short to squander in unhappy pursuits, would not be easy to carry out, which is why Dr. Bob erupted in frustration.

We human beings have a persistent tendency to over-complicate our lives. But the expansive, 360-degree truth of who we are–who we are meant to be–is usually pretty simple, if we take the time to look for it. Oscar Wilde said it best:

Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.

Give me the simple life.

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10 thoughts on “Give me the simple life.

  1. Oh, Miss Metuchen ’98, you go right to the heart of the matter. Being a Virgo as well as an artist, I immediately equate Dr. Bob’s struggle with my own. Except maybe I didn’t spend as much money to be in my profession.

    But was he at least cute?

    • Well, Dr. Bob’s struggle is also Miss Metuchen’s struggle! I think it’s a universal struggle, finding a way to balance creative expression and financial stability. But what was so disheartening about Dr. Bob was his total unwillingness to consider that making pantsloads of money wasn’t necessarily worth years of disillusionment and frustration.

      He was cute until he came and heard me sing, saying, “Wow, I guess you are more than just a waitress.” Ugh.

  2. I am a FAN of your “voice”. I’m inspired every time I read it. I was just walking to the A train, thinking of this very concept of simplicity. In this town, you know that the mass just push and push and push. AND I know, as well as you do that that NYC only asks you to be where you are. We attach all sorts of stuff to this town. That’s why your statement to Dr. Bob was kinda obvious…You’re sick and unhappy? Um…try something else. This is a rare awareness for people I think. Simplicity takes a a very slow and deliberate confidence, and that takes practice. THANK YOU for being out there!

    • Oh, wow…thanks, Jen! Yeah, it’s really inconceivable to me that Dr. Bob was so unwilling to consider that maybe it’d be best to just cut his losses and try something different if he was truly dissatisfied with his life. He really became angry in a way I didn’t expect, which is really a testament to your contention that a lot of folks aren’t willing to consider just…starting over. It’s scary, it’s not “easy,” but it’s SO EVIDENT: miserable? Change something! When I start to feel downtrodden on this path of singing for my supper, I remember that dinner and think, “Hey…at least I’m not married to that guy!” (-: Thanks, as always, for reading and your insight.

  3. i think human beings complicate their lives so they’ll feel more important. a gratifying life isn’t necessarily easy since it usually involves the achieving of goals…and every goal provides inherent obstacles to be overcome and problems to solve. but once the goal is achieved, is there a sense of satisfaction? if we are actively participating in the setting of and pursuit of these goals, i believe there should be.

    in the absence of self-esteem or a self-reliant ego, one can complain about their difficulties and be reminded by others how “important” they are. “oh my goodness…that’s terrible…i really feel for you.”

    better to celebrate our efforts and keep the critiques “in-house” since we might have to look a really long time to find someone who will reward us with their sympathy/empathy.

    life is difficult? yep, that’s what I signed up for. it’s nice to complete a goal every once in awhile…especially the task of calling myself on my bullshit. GOAL!!!!!!!

    • Nice, DG. Yours is an interesting angle that I hadn’t considered, but which makes a great deal of sense: we complicate things to make ourselves feel more important. Speaking of completing goals, I also think we underrate the completion of very simple tasks. A clean kitchen, a made bed, simple though they may be, can give me a real sense of satisfaction. And the less I acquire, the less I find that I need. Simplicity seems to be the order of the day, more and more.

  4. Your writings are truly insightful. I get caught up in the “miserable doing what I’m doing” thing, and find my self thinking I’m stuck and afraid to make a change. I sometimes wonder when, how and WHO instilled that in some of us. I which I found it easier to live in “the moment” instead of dwelling on what ifs. By the way, the thought of having someone like Dr. Bob getting called in in the middle of the night to assist in a surgery on me…yikes!!!

    • I think sometimes we ALL let ourselves get caught up in the reasons why not to do something. I find, though, that just making a decision to do something different is really the hardest thing to do. The rest is just logistics! Dr. Bob was truly a date from hell. Thanks for reading & commenting!

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