A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
– Henry David Thoreau
When I’ve spent time focusing on the things I’m grateful for – something that I’m trying to do more of these days – I’ve often focused on the things that I have. Family, friends, food and shelter are constant themes, although I’ll admit that books and a guitar make regular appearances, too. Sometimes, though, I still find that I suffer from twinges of wanting things that I don’t have, so one thing I’ve been trying to do is to see the good in the things that I don’t have, and the ways that not having certain things is beneficial. This involves a bit of a shift in focus, but it’s refreshing to reframe a few of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently and look for the good instead of the challenges.
At this point in my life, I’m grateful that I don’t have a house and the fees, work, and maintenance that that entails. While I’d love to own one eventually for a lot of different reasons, it’s a relief to not have a mortgage to pay, repairs to make, or appliances to maintain, and it’s nice to feel that we’re not tied down here right now, especially as we work on figuring out where we want to be and how to get there.
I’m grateful that I don’t have a car. While I appreciate not having the costs associated with car ownership, I’m even happier that I can get by with the bus, walking, or biking, all things that are better for the environment and they even let me get in some extra exercise, too.
Although J. might disagree with me at times, I’m grateful we don’t have a dishwasher. Sure, it would likely be easier and keep us from getting inundated with dirty pots that need doing, but I love the evenings where he does dishes while I cook dinner and we listen to music and have long talks with lots of laughter.
While I’m grateful that I do have a job, I’m also grateful that it’s one that allows for a good bit of freedom and flexibility, and summers off. This is one that I’ve struggled with quite a bit – there are times when I’d really appreciate something with more security and a better salary and benefits. But I’ve recently been reminding myself of all of the good that comes with it – time off, a bit less work-related pressure in certain areas, flexibility, interesting teaching assignments, and the fact that we still have enough to get by on.
The truth is that I don’t really need more than what I have right now, and not having these things does not diminish my life in any way. I’m grateful that I’ve learned to be without them, and that being without them is simply normal, even pleasurable, and not a form of deprivation. I’m grateful that I’ve learned that there alternatives to what 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 I suspect that many people do. It seems far to easy to think of all the ways that my life could be easier, if not better. Those moments when the dishes and laundry are piled too high and the grocery stores seems thousands of miles away and I have more work than I know what to do with seem to bring what I don’t have into focus more than anything else. But these moments are the exceptions, and I’m as grateful for what I have as I am for what I don’t. It’s a good feeling this gratitude, especially when it works more than one way.