At midlife, I had been building and launching both my family and my career for over 20 years. I was stressed out from trying to make ends meet. My business supported employees and counselors, but during its last years, I reached a point where I couldn't make ends meet, so we went under. When I had fulfilled all my obligations, I went into solo practice, cut my office rent down radically, and by letting my website tell people about me, I cut my payroll to zero.
At the same time, our children were all disengaging from us faster than we were ready to let go. Their mother and I weren’t seeing eye-to-eye about the business, finances, parenting, or the marriage itself. We went to a great deal of counseling to solve these problems, but I was forced to accept divorce. I moved out of the home in town with my office in back where we'd raised our children, and moved into my “doghouse,” a hilltop getaway cabin in the woods behind someone else's locked gate. That prevented anyone from coming out to see me.
I had been exhausting my immune system by beating my head against the walls trying to make the children's mother love me instead of getting healthy myself. I believe those years of frustration and exhaustion gave me cancer. Before I had it cut out of my prostate (and it’s been all gone for fifteen years, thank God), I let it teach me to live one day at a time. That’s all we’ve got, really.
I thank God that the love of my life appeared from where I couldn’t have imagined. She also was adjusting to her empty nest, and wanted a quieter, simpler life as well. So we agreed that my doghouse would nurture and protect a new marriage for us at a very deep level. Because of its natural beauty and quiet, and the sweetness of our partnership in sharing everything and keeping stress levels low, we have had the means but not feelt the need to expand our three-room home. We just built a one-room loft cabin where all our guests and especially our children and grandchildren love to visit.
Now seventeen years later at ages 66 and 73, we love our quiet, simple life in the country more than ever. We wouldn’t trade this place for any mansion in any town or city. I just have a one-stoplight, 30-minute, traffic-free drive to my Louisville office, which leaves us with lots of time to enjoy life. I'm a junior partner in an office condo my son built for his insurance business, and he gives me exclusive use of a downstairs corner office with a private patio out back for seeing clients during Covid.
We feel we are rich in having everything we want. The key to our newfound wealth has been bringing demand in line with supply, not vice-versa. And to be satisfied with less, we’ve had to realize that less is more. More what? It’s more of the best things in life, which are all free. We don’t very often pay to go watch professionals play ball or laugh at themselves, and we don’t need TV or movie theaters to watch people dance, romance each other, or have adventures out in nature. We’re old-fashioned. We’d rather do these things ourselves, and thanks be to God, we still enjoy doing all these activities.
We eat outside often to remind us how low stress levels are for God’s creatures who keep it simple and harmonize with natural rhythms. If only for a few moments, being outside at sunrise or sunset inspires and relaxes us every time. Research confirms what our b0dies have experienced, that a quiet, natural environment gives a tangible boost to our immune systems.
We eat right, exercise, and avoid the stress of taking on problems we can’t solve. That lets us live active lives without taking medicines, supplements, or over-the-counter pain relievers. We take care of our secluded wilderness ourselves, because it’s free exercise, and we enjoy the place more that way. Our animals live quietly in the wild outside our doors, so we can treat each other like pets as well as partners. And with no animals as pets, we can leave home at the drop of a hat.
We keep some nights free each week, and save ourselves a Sabbath rest most every weekend. That empowers both of us to work three or four full days a week, not just for the money we earn, but mostly for the joys of learning, making new friends, and making a difference. We both volunteer in our church and our community. We have people over often for meals without hiring any help, and we host houseguests throughout the year.
We keep actively learning about life, right alongside the young people in our lives. More than giving them stuff from our wallets, we give them ourselves. To speak their love languages, we embrace technology. We keep up with everybody on various social media, and I keep sharing new things I learn through my blog and my podcast.
A few years ago, we were visiting the Kentucky History Museum. I was deeply touched by the re-enactment of life in Kentucky during the Great Depression. As she tended her garden, a simply dressed lady repeated a catchy little poem that everybody seemed to live by back in the 30’s:
"Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Or do without." Makes you appreciate what you have, she said.
Simplifying is hard for anyone to do. I was lucky enough to be pushed into it by my need to recover from business failure, divorce, cancer, and 35 years ago, from alcoholism. In the second half of my life, my recovering family has enriched my life as much as my church and blood families did in the first half, and still do now. So when you have to suffer losses like I did in life, maybe you’ll be wise and fortunate enough to let them trim the fat in your life, so you will have the heart to recognize the good life when you find it, in quiet simplicity.
Dr. Paul Schmidt is a psychologist wellness coach,
with indoor and outdoor offices in Louisville,
(502) 633-2860, mynewlife.com.