In 1978, back in Britain for a few months, we rented a gloomy old vicarage just outside Oxford. This was our sixth move in nine years. Uprooting small children and raising them in other people's homes quadruples the strains of parenting. I was shattered. I was miserable. 

One afternoon, I was stripping down the double bed, barely listening to whatever was on the radio. Then, suddenly, out of it came the sound of dripping rain so real I stopped flapping sheets around and lay flat on my back staring up at the ceiling. 

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Silence downstairs. (One was asleep under the piano she'd been banging for hours, the other deep in a book). And for a few moments I was truly there, in that dripping radio forest, with wet bracken and soft soil under my feet. 

And then I heard: "Simplify, simplify." I realise now it must have been a reading from Thoreau's Walden. But then I didn't know and didn't care. I just got up and switched off the radio. It really did work like the voice of God. From that day on, my life changed. I know what I care about. Everything else - I let slip. I barely shop, except for food and necessities. I have fewer possessions - and am happier - than almost anyone I know. 

Years later, in a Chinese restaurant called Blue Sky, I read the mesage in my fortune cookie. "You can have what you want most in the world, but to pay for it you must give up what you wanted second and third." Everyone else round the table looked glum when I read it. But I just thought, I know. I was so glad I'd learned the lessons all those years before. Otherwise, I'd have wasted so much of my life. 

Anne Fine to Annie Taylor

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Reader Comments (6)

It's amazing how such minor happenings in our lives can cause such grand shifts. I like this shift.
I keep coming back and reading this.
July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnja
Wow. Just wow.
July 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Coffee Lady
I love realizations like this. I, too, get lost in silence and unconsciously words pop up and then I start thinking and thinking until I realize things. I love those moments. <3
July 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebie
We'll kill ourselves trying to do everything. Letting things go can be so hard sometimes, but you are so right about picking what we spend our time on and leaving the rest. Thank you for sharing the lesson learned.
July 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth
Love this so much.
July 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

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