Goodbye, Modern World

There are times when I grow tired of the pace of modern life, the constant exhaustion, calendars, reminders, appointments, the expectations and demands, the hungry, unrelenting consumption of my time.

There are times when I feel I will drown in the negativity of the world in which I live. Our privileges and blessings become sources of stress, things to complain about with good-natured (but real) exasperation when we make conversation: our homes, our jobs, our belongings. What needs to be fixed, what needs to be updated. All the small ways in which we are unsatisfied.

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One plus for modernity: even women can be doctors.

I think, sometimes, that even though we have it so easy, we make everything harder than it needs to be. And I dream of a simpler way. A quieter, more peaceful life, one that doesn’t feel attainable anymore. I’m stuck, I know, in this modern world, but I still can’t help wondering what it would be like, say, 150 or 200 years ago. Me, a stalwart frontier wife. Nowhere to be but in the moment and, every once in a while, at the market to barter a cow for some cloth. Think of the benefits!

If I were a pioneer woman, the following would not qualify as problems:

  • What to wear. Some stockings. A bonnet, clearly.  The beige wool dress or the grey one? Or maybe a pair of trousers? Nah, I’m not that forward-thinking.
  • My kids telling me they’re bored. Go churn some butter, children. Or run around in the woods- just make sure to come home before dusk or the coyotes will getcha.
  • Getting my feelings hurt.  I wouldn’t need to stress about why certain people never “like” adorable photos of my kids on Facebook and Instagram, but somebody else posts a picture of a loaf of bread and they all like it immediately. If I was a pioneer woman, in fact, I’d think a picture of a loaf of bread was pretty awesome.
  • Making Christmas “magical”. At Christmas my kids would be thrilled to get a rag doll sewn from leftover scraps of grey and beige cloth, or a piece of fruit, or a new hankie. They would ooh and ahh over their treasures and then bundle up to feed the chickens.
  • What sketchy ingredients the government allows in my food. My husband killed it. I skinned it and cooked it. It doesn’t get more natural than that.IMG_1565
  • My DVR will only record two programs at a time. Well guess what? When we’re sitting around the fire listening to the wind (or the wolves?) howling, we can only sing ONE hymn at a time. How’s that for inconvenient?
  • Getting in shape. In fact, I’d be furiously trying to fatten up before the winter. That sounds AMAZING.

I can think of several more compelling reasons why my life would be richer and less complicated if I were a pioneer woman, but I’m getting tired of bullet points. I wouldn’t complain about nonsense like my child’s teacher gave my “A student” a B; I’d just be happy that, for a few hours a day, a few months a year, my kids could walk five miles to the nearest schoolhouse and learn a little arithmetic. I wouldn’t be pondering whether having a fourth child might make it too difficult for my family to take cool trips; I’d be trying for my tenth little farm worker and thanking God for every day that passed without someone contracting typhus.

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If my girls got these in their stockings, they’d be like, “What the heck, Santa?”

Look, I know this post is ridiculous. I don’t really want to live that life. Access to doctors that don’t bleed you with leeches is good. Childhood vaccines are good. Dental care is good. Dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, all good. I like having a car, even if I wish I had the option of walking somewhere occasionally. My life is super-convenient. I have choices! So why am I overwhelmed?

Simplicity is a choice, too. Strange that it takes strength, in our society, to choose a life with fewer distractions and fewer obligations, to remind ourselves and teach our children that less can mean infinitely more. So in the words of Hugh Grant in Love Actually – which thankfully I was able to get On Demand this Christmas season – “From now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger.”

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According to my research, bear-riding was a popular past-time for pioneer children.

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