The Hubby and I have a family motto: Take what you can get and be content with what you have while you work for what you want. It sounds sort of Delphic, if you don’t mind my saying so. Especially in light of Delphic Maxim #73: Be happy with what you have (Κτωμενος ηδου).
What I have:
A pretty fantastic husband that loves me (and whom I love). Two healthy, beautiful, and bright children. Relatively good health. A roof over my head, which is mostly furnished. Food in my pantry. Employment for myself and my spouse. Good neighbors. Friends and family that give a damn. Clothing to wear, books to read, a beach to swim at. Most of the conveniences of modern life–electricity, indoor plumbing, personal transportation. The ability to vote, an education, freedom of religion, health insurance, a car to drive. Money in the bank to pay most of the bills. An interesting hobby (Civil War reenacting and Victorian era natural history), people that actually read the stuff that I have the capability and capacity to type (thanks First Amendment and WordPress!), Netflix & the internet (for entertaining the children on rainy days), all the yarn a hooker could crochet with (a crocheting joke), a sense of humor, a wonderful congregation that basically furnished our apartment when we moved into our new place and didn’t have the money to do so.
What I have is enough. My needs are mostly met, the needs of my family are mostly met, and a good number of wants and desires beyond our needs are met. My life is not perfect, but its good. And in fact, my life does not need to be perfect, because that would be boring. There is certainly stress, particularly since we are just now getting to the point where we can address our debts, and because we have some issues and concerns with the children and their education, with my health, with The Hubby’s job, etc. There are things we lack the money to do (sending our kids to a good school or being able to stay home from work to homeschool) or to buy (The Hubby and I are still sleeping on an air mattress for now–the car needs rear brakes and front tires first). What we do have might not keep up with most of our neighborhood (our pretty cheap apartments were here before the million dollar homes), but we are still doing better than a large portion of the population across the globe. There are places that lack access to clean water, where women can’t vote, where families are starving and where governments are brutally killing their own citizenry.
On being happy:
I’ve come to the conclusion that the modern expectation of happiness is unrealistic. It seems to be based in the idea of some sort of manic ecstatic state free from want or worry. Happiness ranges from serene contentment to fierce joyfulness, and everything in between. Happiness is not perfection, and it isn’t found in stuff. Happiness comes from within, and from the people we love and the things we do (though the things we do occasionally require “stuff”). One of the most interesting things I’ve discovered as a parent is that, by reducing the number of toys the kids have*, the amount that they play with the toys they have as well as the level of cooperation between the kids has increased. And you can guess that occupied, cooperative children make a momma happy.
Earlier this month I talked about maxim #133, which is comparable to this one: “do not be discontented with life”. Part of not being discontented with life has to do with being happy with what you have. This is where the idea of simplicity and gratitude come in for me. I think the first part of being happy with what we have originates in being thankful for it. The second part starts with recognizing, separating, and prioritizing our needs and our wants, and having the ability to use that information to simplify our distractions (mainly in terms of the stuff we own and buy, but sometimes the people that we associate with or the things we do when we are doing too much, etc) and live in mindfulness. Of course, a third part of being happy is not feeling guilty when we mess up at these two things, or when we maybe feel a bit of envy, etc.
Things to consider:
Lammas is coming up…and while there were probably other maxims that might have been a more obvious connection to the holiday, at Lammas, our family celebrates the Summer’s Bounty as a time of harvest and reward. Often we think of reward as a material reward, but finding contentment in what we already have (as opposed to what we covet) is its own reward. This Lammas season, what do you have? Does it meet your needs (or even exceed them)? Is it emotionally “enough”? Does your “stuff” perhaps overwhelm you? How can you change your relationship with your “stuff”?
*With the multiple moves, we halved (or maybe third-ed) the toy stash. We also put a good numbers of toys in storage containers and put them up, and only get one out at a time, maybe once a week for the afternoon. Its actually been awesome for mess clean-up (all the toys no longer get dumped out), as well as decreasing conflicts over toys.