Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Idea #2: Need Less, Redux 2.0

So there were two things I was going to write about last time, but I kind of got bored with myself and had to stop.  But the second one has been lingering around the edges and refusing to leave me alone, so finally, here follows more of me on Needing Less.

As I had mentioned, a friend had talked about how tired he is of his discontent, and how annoying it is that no amount of consumption seems to take the edge off said discontent and in fact, somehow seems to fuel it. 

This is the math at the heart of our economic structure: Earning --> Consumption = Stuff = Disappointment = Need to Earn More = More Consumption = Greater Disappointment = (insert infinity here). 

It's bad math, obviously.  Lots of studies like this one have shown that affluence and its attendant accumulation of stuff leads to depression and drug use in teenagers.  Earning more money generally requires time devoted to the earning of said money which generally requires time away from the people who give us pleasure and the things we've purchased with the money we earned to buy them.  It's actually most surprising that given how obviously stupid and backward it is, we all continue to participate in such a dumb system.  And yet...

And yet.

We all feel powerless to do otherwise, don't we? I can't really think of a way to undo our participation in it all - we do after all need somewhere to live, to say nothing of food to eat and perhaps an option or two for transportation. Opting out is unlikely.

But participating aware.  What if we did that? What if we undid the part of the equation where we add up a bunch stuff and wait for it to equal contentment?  What if we just stopped the math for a moment or two and wondered if maybe we already had what we needed?

What if we decided instead that we would only add to our lives things and people that leave us ...grateful?

Grateful.  Full of gratitude.

Not resentment. Not guilt.  Not ill-will or jealousy or dissatisfaction.

We have a boat. We have kept a boat through low income and infant babies and my inability to figure out how to dock it because we are certain that the cost is more than outweighed by the benefit of having a reason to be together, to learn new things, to explore, to meet people, to see our favourite part of this creation.

Last week we went to a social event with some other boat owners and it was so fun.  So much fun. I left feeling so thankful for being in a world I would have never known had it not been for my sweet sailing husband, so thankful that I get to meet so many other young families who think being together in damp, cramped corners and trying to anchor without tossing a spouse overboard is the stuff Good Life is made of.

But there was a moment or two when the joy could have been stolen. When I heard about one woman's much newer, bigger boat.  When I realized that one woman was so much braver than me, being crew for her husband racing.  When I realized that I was the only one who would have to have someone "catch" at the ladies' cruise...

But friends, Hell NO! I will not let guilt and jealousy and covetousness steal Joy! and Life! and Awesome! from me. I will not allow ourselves to believe that newer and bigger and better justifies giving up more of our life to earn more money to have more than we have so that I can....  so that I can what?  Feel better? Ha. I know the math and I know that's not how it works. Better is now. Better is already here. And if I'm not careful, Better ends up way behind me.

So I will need less.  Need. Less.  And then live with profound gratitude that what little I need has been provided so easily and that in fact, I live with more than I need most days.  And I will dance in thankfulness and insist that my husband dance with me and we will dance so often and so happily that we won't see the other guy's better sails or swishily kept bottom paint... we'll just keep on dancing in gratitude damnit.

In the new math, Contentment comes when we focus on Needing Less instead of on Wanting More. Rest comes when our eyes rest on that which makes us grateful.  Should a thing in your life bring you anything less than gratitude, give it away and let it distract you no more.  Life only with the things that make you thankful.

That's where contentment lies, I'm certain.

IDEA #2 (again!) Response: 
What do have that sometimes threatens to make you Want More and forget to Need Less?