Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’
A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. – Henry David Thoreau
While I am always grateful for what I have, more and more these days I find myself being grateful for some of the things that I don’t have. I know for some of the people I know that this is odd. To be grateful for what you have isn’t all that exceptional, but to be grateful for the things you don’t have – other than, say, major health issues or a heavy mortgage – isn’t all that common in my experience.
I am grateful for not having a car, a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, or a cell phone. I’m grateful that I don’t have the financial burden of paying for or maintaining them. Although my hope is that this will change someday, I am grateful for not having a mortgage. I’m also grateful that I have ways to get by without them. That I can walk, or bike, or take the bus. That I can wash clothes in the tub, or a sink, or a bucket. That I actually rather like sudsy water and the act of making dirty dishes clean. That I have a landline, a laptop, and easy wireless access. That I have an apartment now and that someday, with any luck, I will have enough saved to get that mortgage.
I am grateful without these things, certainly – I have enough in my life, certainly, and so much that is better than a few appliances and techno-gadgetry. I’m grateful for family, for friends, for food, and for shelter (and, admittedly, I’m especially grateful this afternoon for books and a guitar). I don’t need more than what I have, and not having these things does not diminish my life in any way, or detract from my gratitude for the things that I do have.
But I am also grateful that I do not have them, which seems to me a bit of a separate thing. I’m grateful that I’ve learned to be without them, and that being without them is simply normal, even pleasurable sometimes, and not deprivation. I’m grateful that I’ve learned that there alternatives to what so many people seem to accept as a given, if not some inalienable right granted by the gods of credit and debt.
There are moments when I whinge and moan, as most people do, I think. Moments when the dishes and laundry are piled too high, the grocery stores seems thousands of miles away, and it would be easier to call home on a phone in my pocket rather than one across campus. But these moments are the exceptions, and are far from the rule.
There’s more that I would like to cut out, I think. More that I would like to be grateful about not having. I hope to make some of these changes soon. But for now, I’m grateful – grateful for what I have just as much as for what I don’t. It’s a good feeling this gratitude, especially when it works more than one way.
Recently, I’ve found myself complaining – here, in real life, even in yet-unpublished blog posts – about how I have too much stuff. This is, of course, true. Some of it needs to go. But, today, rather than seeing it as a burden, I want to see it as a blessing.
It’s a blessing because I have enough, and my life is comfortable as a result.
I may have too much bedding, but I always have a cozy place to sleep.
I may have too many clothes, but I’m always warm, and always have something nice to wear.
I may have two many pots and dishes, but I can cook lots of healthy, tasty food, and feed many people.
I may have too many books, but I have lots of interesting and useful things to read, and to loan or give to friends.
I may have too much stuff, but I have enough that I can live a comfortable life which is, sadly, not something that everyone in this world can say.
Things are still on their way out the door, of course, but I know that I have enough, and for that I am very grateful. At the same time, I hope that what I give away will be useful to other people, and maybe even help to make sure that they too have enough.
I’ve spent a lot of time complaining recently about the amount of work I have to do. Some of it is my regular teaching duties, while some is other jobs that I’ve taken on. One project especially has been coming in later than it was supposed to, crunching a lot of things together into these last two weeks.
It’s been hard. I am very tired as a result. We’re almost there, but not quite, and a few things have had to slip as a result. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s left me feeling off-kilter and cranky as a result. Hence the complaining.
Really, though, I should be grateful, and focused on all the good that’s come out of this for me. Because of this work, I’ve made enough money to cover my tuition this year, which otherwise would have had to come out of savings. I’ve had some great experience, and have a really great job listed on my CV. I’ve met and interacted with some fantastic people who I hope to keep in touch with. I’ve had the opportunity to work through some of my own research and get feedback on it. I’ve submitted a few necessarily applications for various things.
And most of all, despite the few things that had to slide, I’m grateful that somehow it’s all getting done. That despite the shifting deadlines, the late papers, the many things that needed to get done, I’ve managed it all. I may be tired, and a bit cranky, but I feel as though I’ve accomplished something, and that is a lovely feeling.
But now? Now I would like some sleep.