Moving back into my little house in my little city, I was reminded of a story my mom told my sister and I when we were children about Nasruddin, the wise fool found in much Eastern folklore and especially popular in Sufism.
One day a neighbor approached Nasruddin, lamenting the fact that his house was too small for his large family and asking Mulla Nasruddin for his advice.
“Yes,” replied Nasruddin, “do you have any chickens?”
“Yes,” said the man.
“Bring them all into the house,” Nasruddin told the man. “And if you have any geese or ducks, bring them in too.”
“But, it’s already so crowded, I don’t understand how this will help.”
“You asked for my advice. This is it.”
The man went home and brought his 10 chickens into the house. The next day he returned to Nasruddin.
“It’s awful,” he said. “They’re dirty and loud and it’s more crowded than before.”
“Good,” Nasruddin replied. “Now, do you have a donkey? A horse?”
“We have a donkey,” the man said.
“Wonderful, bring him into the house as well.”
“But…ok” the man replied.
The man returned the next day, looking more exhausted than before.
“It’s worse,” he said. “Between my wife and kids and in-laws and the donkey and chickens, it’s just much, much worse.”
“Wonderful,” Nasruddin replied. “Do you have any goats? Pigs? Dogs? Cats?”
“Yes, we have all of these animals.”
“Terrific. Please bring them all into your house.”
“But, I don’t see how this… ok.”
The next day the man returned, looking worse than ever.
“I haven’t been able to sleep” he told Nasruddin. “And now my family is all mad at me for bringing in the animals. Everyone is fighting more than before. The animals are eating all of the food. There’s not enough room for us in our own home.”
“Great,” Nasruddin smiled. “Now go home and put all of the animals back outside.”
Wearily, the man agreed and walked home.
The next morning the man reappeared, smiling.
“Mulla, your plan worked perfectly. Last night we all slept, no one is arguing, and everyone is very content in our little home.”
I’ve always loved this story and think of it often. How easy it is to take our lives for granted until that which makes them up is changed or removed and we are left realizing how good we had it.
Before moving to LA, I never gave my driveway or washing machine a second thought. I was bored with low overhead, believing that my life was too easy and that I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. So, I traded my home for shared walls, shared laundry, and street parking, increased my overhead by half and made the move.
It was fun, it was new, and it was a change, which is maybe what I needed most of all. And then it was old, the same, and normal. And so life goes. I came to realize how mellow I am and how mellow the life I love is. I cook. I blog. I work. I go to the movies. I visit friends.
The museums and concerts in LA are great, as is the shopping. There is more of everything to choose from. The food is amazing. But, when it came down to it, too much choice actually made me slightly catatonic and I began to crave routine and simplicity over excitement.
Now, back in my funny little desert city, with it’s empty streets, quiet night life, and my own personal driveway, you’d think I’d won the lottery. I’m perfecting my yogurt recipes, riding my bike, and relishing not having to work as much. Sometimes it takes giving something up to realize what you had and to remember that simple can be great.
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