When Grand Central Publishing gave the green light for a 25th-anniversary edition of Simple Abundance, I thought it would be a very straightforward and quick project. This clearly proved to be delusional, because the creative frenzy that followed was the hardest year of writing I’ve ever known. Its saving grace was that updating my book for the 21st century was also the happiest writing assignment I’ve ever had. In fact, the challenges I faced always faded at the end of the day, and each new morning meant a welcome chance to get it right.
Simple Abundance hasn’t been out of print since its publication in 1995, for which I’m eternally grateful. But the impetus to update came several years ago, when I started hearing from millennial and Generation X women who’d discovered for themselves the “pink book” their mothers had loved over the years. Something on its pages spoke to these young women too, creating a comforting continuity and respite from their relentless daily rounds.
But there was a problem: both they and I felt that more of my references should come from modern voices, and that some of the recommendations for seasonal activities dated both the book and its writer. No longer would readers send for a mail order catalogue or watch a VHS movie—it was online shopping and streaming video now!
Could I revise it for both its long-time readers and for younger women? While hearing from new readers who’d been children 25 years ago was delightful, it was humbling and eye-opening, too. It became clear that besides the obvious updates, today’s women—no matter their age—need a new kind of comfort.
Today’s rapidly changing, complex, and mostly alarming 24/7 breaking-news culture shocks us at every turn, regularly catapulting us into the realm of the unspeakable. From dawn to dark, we find ourselves embedded with reporters around the world covering every harrowing natural disaster or appalling terrorist atrocity.
Lassoed by our heartstrings, we helplessly watch strangers in danger, as these tragic events unfold in real time. Because we rarely can help, we become stunned by sorrow. What ought to be the task of shepherding our loved ones through ordinary days instead drains our energy, depletes our sense of security, and diminishes our capacity for happiness.
We’re distracted, bewildered, anxious, overwhelmed, and emotionally overwrought by our culture’s accepted “new normal.” Virtually every woman I know admits that she awakes already weary and on edge. And yet, as the unexpected happens (fires, floods, evacuations, and gun violence) with increasing regularity, we need—and want—to be prepared for each new crisis as it comes along.
Someone has to say it, so I’ll go first: this is not normal.
We are living through extraordinary times, and there is nothing normal about what is unfolding every day. And the only way to safeguard ourselves and those we love is by acknowledging that technology, while informative, must have its limits.
So how do we do this? The way women always have protected their own: by creating emotional, psychological, and physical safe havens that shelter what we hold sacred. In real time.
That’s why I’m back. I’ve approached Simple Abundance for the 21st century with a reader in mind not of 25 years ago but of today. Meditations have been refreshed, revamped, replaced. But the soul of Simple Abundance remains intact: all we have is all we need. All we need is the awareness of how much we’ve been blessed with every day. Talk about being timely and timeless. It’s always been about finding comfort, restoring passion, and becoming as prepared for the unexpected as possible through the grace of gratitude.
It still is.
Sarah Ban Breathnach is the author of Simple Abundance: 365 Days to a Balanced and Joyful Life, which has sold more than five million copies in the U.S. alone. An updated edition was published by Grand Central on November 19.