by Laura Sillerman

Lao Tzu said we had only three things to learn in this lifetime: patience, simplicity, compassion. Over the years I have become a real worshiper at the shrine of simplicity and I long to simplify my own life as much as possible.

I realized that if I am such a believer, I should use the guideline of simplification in this most complicated of seasons. After all, helping others to simplify their lives is a true act of compassion. And simplifying my gift-purchasing is pretty terrific for me and the people who live with me as well.

For too long I spent too much time trying to find gifts that were unique, and uniquely me, to give to others. I think I wanted friends to open a package and say, “Oh, only Laura would have found that!”

Now I want them to open a package and say, “This is something I’ll use.”

For example,  though I am not the only one who can find a “Doorganizer” — canvas pocketed folder that hangs over a doorknob — that new-to-the-city friend who is always misplacing her keys might find it handy.

Getting to this powerful time of life has many wonderful aspects, not the least of which is realizing that you are not what you give. But perhaps I am a step closer to who I want to be: someone who is more patient at this time of year because she was compassionate enough with herself to keep the season simple.

How are you keeping things simple this year? Add your ideas in the comments section below.

Laura Baudo Sillerman, an author and poet, is president of a New York City-based charitable foundation and is a board member of Women’s Voices for Change.

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  • Dr. Pat Allen December 5, 2006 at 8:14 pm

    I grew up with the certainty that every well-brought up woman was expected to send Christmas cards, not only to the family-and-friends group, but also to all the people one had known who were no longer present in one’s current life. This was a non-negotiable responsibility.
    It is odd that I do love the photos and notes from friends and patients, especially the babies that I have delivered who grow more beautiful and interesting year after year. And yet, I do not send Christmas cards.
    I do not pose the family in July for that perfect photo to use on the front of a holiday card with a beautifully crafted message inside. I do not have a list of names and addresses on my computer of my 1.500 dearest friends, names that must be hand-written on the outside of the holiday card envelopes.
    I understood that this was actually a self-imposed responsibility and that only I could free myself of this burden.
    I applaud Laura’s advice and agree that we should no longer just buy, buy, buy, but rather simplify, simplify, simplify.