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Choosing to be stupid

Because I like living my life with as few complications as possible, I have a particular interest in simple living. I read everything I could on the subject, but grew frustrated that all the simplicity books on the market – every single one – have erroneous views of what I think true simplicity is.

These books all advocate variations on the same theme: to live simply, you must be green, vote left, worship Gaia, do yoga and meditation, eat organic vegan foods, raise your consciousness, acknowledge your “inner universe” … you know the stuff. Much of it ridiculous, much of it extreme and, frankly, much of it stupid.

So as a practical constitutional Libertarian stay-at-home gun-toting homeschooling cow-milking rural-living Christian mom, I got fed up and decided to write my own book. So there.

During the writing of it, I realized that simple living can be crystallized, distilled, condensed and reduced down to three words. Three profound, easy-to-remember words. Got a pen and paper? OK, here they are:

Make good choices.

That’s it. Almost everything in life – the good, the bad and the ugly – can be reduced to the choices you make. Let’s consider some examples.

If you choose to ignore red flags, marry someone who drinks heavily and knocks you around, have kids with the loser, divorce, sleep around and have another kid out of wedlock, marry again to someone with more kids, have yet another kid, get divorced … well, don’t be surprised when your life gets very, very complex.

We have a doctor friend who donates time each week to a free medical clinic. Ten percent of the patients he treats are folks who are temporarily down on their luck due to a job loss, medical expenses or other hardships. But 90 percent are living a rough life because of their own stupid choices such as drug use, excessive drinking, unsafe sex, bad personal habits or violent lifestyles.

A few years ago, a friend lost her husband to a malignant brain tumor. Clearly she didn’t choose to be widowed at a young age with two children under 10. But here’s a concept: Her grief is mitigated by the fact that she chose a good man to father her children. She chose to treat her husband with love, respect and devotion during their marriage. Now she has no regrets for how she treated him, and can share wonderful memories of him with her kids. How simple is that?

I knew a young woman (24 at the time) who wanted a baby more than anything. Not a husband, you understand, but a baby. She thought it all out carefully. She chose a nice (ahem) man to get her pregnant. She chose a high-quality day care. She chose names. She chose a modest apartment to rent, one she could afford on her salary as a secretary. Choices, choices, choices.

Her daughter was born in 1994. Now 14 years old, the girl is surly, demanding, smoking … and sleeping around, desperately searching for a father figure. Her mother is at her wit’s end with stress and bills. She has no health insurance, no savings and is still renting the same modest apartment. All because she chose not to bring a father into this child’s life. How stupid is that?

My mother grew up with about the worst childhood you can imagine – utter poverty, brutal drunken father who raped some of her sisters, indifferent mother, starvation as a child … the stories I’ve grown up with would curl your hair. My mother chose to leave that environment, educate herself in nursing and become a professional. Good start.

Then she began dating a doctor. She was madly in love with him, she says. But this doctor – like my grandfather – was a drunk. One evening after a date, the doctor escorted my mother back to her apartment, threw up in her kitchen sink, and passed out on the sofa.

As my mother cleaned up the mess, she thought, “If I marry this man, I’ll be cleaning up his vomit for the rest of my life.” She said she never wanted to see him again.

Two months later she met the man who would become my father. They married a year after that. My parents still hold hands after 50 years.

See how it works? My mother had the foresight to look down the long path of life and consciously choose not to marry a man like her father. Instead, she chose carefully the one who would become her life’s partner. I tell my daughters this story as an example of how our good choices impact our lives.

People often tell us how “lucky” my husband and I are. They are partly right – we’re healthy, and we thank God for that. But mostly they are wrong. We aren’t lucky … we (usually) made sensible choices, and then worked hard to make our choices succeed.

My husband had a rather wild, destructive adolescence. He chose to join the Navy, straighten himself out, then go to college and get his education.

We chose to marry each other because we each recognized that the other person would make a balanced life mate and a good parent. We chose to treat each other well. We chose to raise our children with strong morals and discipline and love and laughter. We chose to start a home business so we could always be together. Choices, choices, choices.

Many of these choices weren’t easy, but we knew they were right. With the exception of our health – out of our hands, except what we do to maintain it – most of our blessings are because we’ve made smart choices.

So can you. No, you can’t do anything about illness, accidents or natural disasters (the list goes on). But there are so many things within our control that can influence how simple or complex our lives will be. Many of these choices affect how we will weather those crises that occur outside of our control.

This isn’t rocket science, folks. Don’t be stupid. Make good choices.

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