Friday, July 31, 2009

Simplicity, Slowing Down and Value in Adversity

There are very solid reasons for making life less complicated. Less stuff => less to take care of.

Less mind clutter (old baggage, resentments, pain, regrets, etc.) => less to take care of.

Less available credit, less to spend, less stuff to have and take care of! => Freedom

I don't like that people are suffering in the economic downturn - yea, a Recession or worse. Yet, there is some good in it, as with all things.

How many of us have become more flexible?

I earn about 20% - 25% of my previous income. I made changes as you would expect. And yes, I'm facing hard choices about some issues. It's not easy. There are still days I let myself buy a $2 cup of coffee. But not often. It was just a bad habit when I used to hit Starbucks everyday. Yeesh, it put pounds on too, over the few years I let myself indulge. Sure it saved me during a divorce, and a couple of moves and really stressful jobs, but like a blanket I don't need it anymore :)

I quit because it became an albatross, not because I couldn't afford an overpriced cuppa joe. It feels like freedom, sweet and light.

The good news - wonderful news - is that I can get by with what I have, and continue to be grateful for what I don't have to worry about (a big house, big payment, etc.).

My kids are healthy and growing up beautifully, my parents are in great shape, and I'm healthy, strong and smart. Most of all I'm grateful and hopeful every day. Being blessed is a constant state, not just something that comes and goes.

I just have to open my eyes in the dark moments / hours when I wonder if I'm on the right path. I reach for my faith and friends :)

Right now I get to homeschool my youngest, explore worlds of fascinating detail with her. I write, consult and encourage people. I give back to the community. I work all the time, and take time to relax at the end of the day. I dance a little, and remember to have simple fun.

There are those who say we Americans have gone soft. I agree. But we also have an amazing ability to pull together, figure things out, be kind, do what has to be done. We come from hardy stock.

When I learned to ski years ago in Vermont, in a much younger body, I found muscles I had no idea I had! I'd danced for years, biked, hiked, swam. But nothing gets to those unused muscle groups like a new sport!

In the midst of adversity we get to exercise muscles we forgot we had. It's not easy watching people figure out how to down-size their lives, to shift their world view.

Many are being forced to do things they never thought they would consider. Yet we have to live life on life's terms.

Once I was lucky enough once to hear Admiral James Stockdale (ranking officer in Vietnam POW camps), when in AFROTC at UGA. We had him as a guest speaker at a military ball, and it was amazing. One thing he said then, which has since been made famous in Good to Great (Jim Collins) is the Stockdale Paradox:
You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can never afford to lose - with discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be." (quoted from The Survivors Club, Ben Sherwood - awesome book I'll review here soon)
For instance, renting seems impossible to some homeowners, but is often much less expensive than owning. Sure, we'd all love our hundred acres in the mountains, or a vacation home, or extra bedrooms. Some of us only want to keep the homes we are in. We may not know anyone who has had to give up the house. But it's happening all around us.

And it isn't the end of the world.

Hell, it's how we all lived for centuries, piled up three and four deep in the same bed. Most of the world (hello?) still does.

Yes, moving in with family is stressful, but it also lets you spend time with those you love. Personally I believe grandparents are there to counterbalance our parenting ;) They get to be more loving or more strict. Or both. They are the Elders. Maybe they don't want to live alone, really. Maybe they do, but they get to stretch during hard times too (grin).

What good does even a small sense of entitlement do us? Are we really entitled to big homes, fancy cars and toys, beautiful clothes and great vacations? I don't think so. If you have these things, great. Nothing wrong with prosperity.

But what do we really need? I say we don't need all that stuff. Even my extensive library of books - now trimmed to about a third of what it was (about 300 left). It felt great to give away volumes. To trade some in, to donate to the library.

How many pairs of jeans do you really need? as an old friend used to ask, right before I downsized in 1995 to a house less than half the size of my old home, gaining 3 acres with a stream, chickens, bees, a wonderland for the kids, and privacy. Totally worth it.

A lot of our wants comes from popular culture. We give "them" authority. But we should always question authority. Good solid authority doesn't have to sell you on what is real.

Real is having faith, giving to others, taking care of your family and loving every day you've been given. It's baking fresh, home made bread, and growing your own food, and learning if you don't know how. Real is canning, and visiting while you snap beans, making a chair with care, knitting while someone reads aloud.

Real is slowing down to chew your food. Or letting go of assumptions and seeing someone (or some thing) you know well from a new view.

Sure, entertainment is wonderful - I love movies and broadway shows! But it's a treat, like candy used to be, not an everyday thing you have to have.

Real life takes more time. Walking or riding instead of always driving, preparing meals instead of fast food, growing instead of buying, writing instead of talking, reading instead of watching, listening instead of talking, conversing with kids instead of always giving them the electronic nipple, watching sunsets and sunrises instead of hurtling through time and space. But look what we get. We get our lives back.

As far as getting ready for hard times - do it. Get your house in order. If you have to, move down to the smallest place you can stand, and get rid of the things that don't matter. Suze Orman says to get a cash reserve. Dave Ramsey says to pay off all your debts and don't worry about your credit score - don't owe anyone.

If you have to get off the credit "grind" then do it. If you can pay your debts, do it. If you can't, be careful in considering what next. Live in integrity, but take care of your own.

Here is a new website I found today, from someone who knows their stuff about surviving hard times. Check it out. I like Jim's style and there is lots of information here. You may not be ready to move off into the country, but there is good sense in being prepared for emergencies.

But it starts with a mind shift. If it were your last day on earth, what would really matter to you? That fancy car or truck, or just being with those you love?


1 comment:

Grant said...

You are truly gifted as a writer. This is better than most books I have read. I enjoyed it And learned something from it. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for touching me in a special way through what you say. Please keep writing and sharing. It's wonderful!