Life Lessons from the Sims: Learning from Aspen

Sitting in the garden this afternoon, I begin to think about Aspen, now that we’ve been given notice that her time’s about up, and I reflected back on all I’ve learned from her. Sometimes, our Sims teach us so much about how to live. Here are some of the things that Aspen is helping me to learn:

Aspen

Once she’d identified her purpose, so many things fell into place, like meeting Niko.

  1. Once you discover your purpose, embrace it with a single focus. Aspen took a while to step into her role as heir–since Poplar is so much younger than she is, we didn’t know who would be heir until close to Aspen’s adult birthday. But as soon as we began to suspect that Aspen would be heir, she took direction of her life: meeting two mailman and choosing one for herself, while the other married her sister Madrona; having two children; continuing with her career; and acting as the center of the family. With all that life offers, it’s easy to be distracted. Sometimes, we can wonder what’s the best use of our time and our energy. But if we can identify our purpose, then we can use that as the rudder for all of our activities, to help us sort priorities, and to find fulfillment in even the little mundane acts, like washing dishes, if this fits into the purpose we’ve discovered for ourselves.

    Aspen

    We would have saved ourselves some tears if we hadn’t acted on that whim.

  2. Not every whim needs to be acted on. Sometimes, it’s fine to notice whims, consider their consequences, and let them pass. We acted on Aspen’s whim to flirt with her brother-in-law, Lamont, figuring that there was no harm in a flirtatious joke. Yet when that joke formed a romantic relationship between the two, there was harm indeed, and Aspen was hurt when she watched Lamont sharing romantic interactions with his wife, her sister. We had miscalculated the consequences, trusting that an innocent flirt wouldn’t lead to anything serious, that Aspen would understand that Lamont would naturally flirt with and kiss his own wife, and trusting that Aspen’s sisterly affection and open-mindedness would be enough to override any jealousy. We also trusted Aspen’s whims. The results showed us that sometimes our hard-coding can’t be easily overwritten, even by the best intentions and most open-minded of philosophies, and we learned that some whims are better left unfulfilled. Along with this, we also learned the next lesson:

    Aspen

    Wow! We learned so much!

  3. Mistakes are opportunities for learning. We were lucky that Aspen’s mistake of flirting with Lamont only brought sadness to her. And since she was the only one to feel hurt, she was also able to learn from this. We can gain so much wisdom from mistakes, especially when we look at them carefully and with self-compassion. Kimon Nikolaides, in The Natural Way to Draw, writes, “The sooner you make your first five thousand mistakes the sooner you will be able to correct them.” We need to feel free to make mistakes–when learning to play an instrument, to draw, to speak a new language, to cook, and to live. We need the freedom that comes from being open to making mistakes. For with mistakes, we discover and learn new things! Trying to live within the tight confines of a “mistake-free” life is crippling! It’s not possible to avoid mistakes–nor is it desirable. When we open up to the realization that we learn through what we call “mistakes,” soon we see that they are not “mistakes” at all. They are avenues that help us learn.

    Aspen

    Life within, life without.

  4. Let the energy of life dance through you. I’ve always loved to watch Aspen–she’s beautiful, and she moves with such a sense of who she is. When she was pregnant with Salix, she would dance in the courtyard, and I would see such unity: music, Aspen’s own energy, the new life within her, the evening air–it was all one. When Aspen was in labor with Sugar Maple, though she was in extreme discomfort, she stayed calm. She breathed through each contraction. The pain changed into simply waves of change, waves of energy. I learned so much watching her being at one with what she was experiencing. That’s a gift that Aspen has always brought me: this example of someone completely at one with the process she is in at the moment.

    Aspen

    “Hey! I’m glad you’re here!”

  5. Open up to friendship in all dimensions. I’ve felt friendship with Aspen. It’s a funny thing to say, and something that non-Simmers will probably not understand (unless they have the childish trait and have stuffed and imaginary friends of their own). But Simmers get it. Aspen’s been player-aware all her life. She checks in with me. She often looks through the screen, senses how I’m feeling, and then responds. At least that’s how it seems to me. When I was sad after Willow met Grim, Aspen was so considerate, checking in with me often, wearing our favorite animal hat, and sharing her special brand of cheerfulness. (If you’ve never felt a gloomy Sim’s cheerfulness, you’re in for a treat when you do, for it carries a special flavor of authenticity.) Through Aspen, I’ve learned to value even more my mutli-dimensional friendships: those online friendships I’ve formed with readers, bloggers, and fellow Simmers; my friendships with my own imaginary friends that populate the imaginary world which Jim and I have invented together; my friendships in spirit that I feel for my favorite authors and composers, Dickens, Jane Austen, Brahms, C.P.E. Bach (I don’t feel I can count J.S. Bach in that class, for can one be friends with divinity?); and even my friendships with those who appear in dreams. These friendships may be ephemeral–not made of the everyday matter of the mundane–and that just makes them that much more magical.

    Aspen

    She’s lived in such a way that she’s ready for the stage that is at hand.

  6. Don’t fear the Reaper. Because Aspen understands her own multidimensional existence, she is not afraid of meeting Grim when he comes for her. In this one life, she has lived in such a way, in the way that all the lessons above indicate, that her life is full and complete. She has done what needed to be done–and more. She’s tasted life fully–it’s lived through her. She’s experienced that dedication to purpose, and that acceptance of her own individual destiny. Living in this way, she’s ready for what comes next, the Reaper’s call. Aspen also knows that there are versions of her–and her sisters–which will get to experience other streams of time and space. The end of this particular instance of Aspen does not mean the end of Aspen. This is a lesson for us, too, for we are so much more in the totality of spirit and soul than this form of matter which contains us.

    Aspen

    Thanks, Aspen! You’ve been  a great friend!

What have you learned from one of your special Sims?

You are invited to share in the comments below. 🙂

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