Combatting Confusion With Strategies for Simplicity

I’ve been in Costa Rica for awhile. Sometimes, I feel more at peace here than back home in Denver, and I used to attribute it to the slower pace of life that I lead here. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking that there’s more to it.

If you suffer from neurological symptoms of Lyme disease, as I do, then you know how easy it is to get confused by things. A desk full of papers waiting to be organized can leave you in tears. Making five phone calls to order five different supplements just feels like too much to remember, and God forbid, what do you do with all those receipts? Going into Wal-Mart is a nightmare. How in the world are you ever supposed to find toilet paper in a place with so much STUFF? How do you choose amongst two hundred different brands of cereal in the grocery store? (Oh wait, never mind, you don’t eat cereal, do you? Nah, me neither, although I do miss my Cheerios!). How do you find that new vitamin store in a city that’s so big and confusing?

It has often been said that it’s more difficult to immigrate from a less developed country to a more developed one, because the latter is more complex and complicated, and learning about how things are done can be a challenge for those who have lived a simpler way of life. I surmise that my life since coming to Costa Rica has been made easier because of this factor.

But that’s not all. I came here with three fifty pound suitcases, and, since I have not invested in building a permanent life here, I have pretty much been living off the contents of those suitcases over the last nine months. I don’t have a television, blender, stereo system, alarm clock or many of the conveniences I had back home. I have been listening to the same twenty CD’s and (gasp!) wearing the same set of jammies since I got here. I have one dish towel and one bathroom towel, with none to spare for guests. (So it’s BYOT, Bring Your Own Towel, if you come to visit me!). In my kitchen are four forks, and four plates. If I want to have a party, I have to borrow tableware from my neighbors. And, instead of nine hundred books on my bookshelf, I have nine. I don’t own a cell phone, fax, printer or any other piece of technology that most “normal” writers keep around.

Because I’ve scaled down, I’m less confused.

And while I sometimes long for my multitudinous collection of books or the latest nutritional supplement, my Lyme brain sighs in relief that there is literally less for it to worry about. It is liberating for a mind to not have to keep track of so much junk mail; to not have to choose amongst fifteen different pairs of shoes to wear; to not have to wonder where that favorite CD is because there just aren’t that many places for it to hide.

Beyond having to scale down on stuff, my foggy, froggy brain is soothed by the small size of San Jose; the short amount of time and energy required to get from place to place, and the willingness of locals to show me the way if I DO happen to get lost here. Add to that the slightly smaller selection of cereal in the grocery store, fewer mega-marts, and a society that spends more time in communion than in consuming (although thanks to globalism that is changing), and I can’t help but find my brain-knots unraveling.

I’m not writing this to promote life in Costa Rica. Indeed, as any country, it has its own drawbacks and life in a foreign nation, especially for a neurological Lyme disease sufferer, is actually confusing at the outset. Why I am writing this is to suggest to you one way to save your sanity, which is to simplify your life, however possible, because Lyme disease is depressing when every task feels insurmountable; when the little decisions don’t feel so little or are just too many. When I was at my worst with this nasty illness, I once recall spending three hours in a clothing store, trying to decide which winter coat to purchase. I left in tears at the confusion that assaulted me from having to decide from amongst too many clothing options.

Yes, too many clothing options can also happen in Costa Rica, but I think you get my point.

If you find your Lyme brain besieged by confusion, look for ways to simplify your life. Paperwork is a real hair-puller. You might consider, for instance, stowing all those medical records in the basement, where they will be out of sight, out of mind. Or how about having your bills automatically deducted from your bank account on-line, so that you can reduce your paper trail and don’t have to keep track of when you need to pay what? Think big here. Give your clothes away if it takes you an hour to decide what to wear in the morning. Stop filling your brain with so much information from books and the internet-or you’ll fret endlessly over which supplement to take and which therapy you should be doing (believe me, I know). Be content to try a strategy and stick with it for awhile. If your city feels large and looming, consider moving, especially if you have to regularly travel long, convoluted routes to accomplish your daily tasks.

And before you go to the big, scary mega-mart, ask yourself if you really need the next this or that to complicate your already complicated Lyme existence. Believe me, the stuff matters. Too much stuff equals too much stimulus equals Lyme craziness…