Giving thanks on Thanksgiving is one of my favorite American traditions. I think it would make a fine global tradition. Okay folks, let’s pick a date that makes sense for everyone. The day after Thanksgiving I reflected on how much I enjoyed the day, yet nothing I’d done was exotic, expensive, or complicated. Several people have complimented me on my attitude amidst my financial troubles. I give credit to living simply, frugally, and consciously; lessons I’ve learned from several sources; my parents, an excellent Nine-Step program, various bits of wisdom floating through culture. They add up to an appreciation that is priceless.
Ironically, or maybe because of it, I recognized this on Black Friday. Shopping was being celebrated across America, on an unofficial holiday that is the antithesis of appreciating what we already have. A pair in contrast: Thanksgiving, thanks for what we have; Black Friday, getting more – though, every purchase is a gift for someone else, right?
Thanksgiving was a day of cooking, eating, and drinking. I enjoy cooking. It isn’t a chore, it is a joy. I cook simply: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, and spice cake. I eat slowly, and enjoy. Cook’s bonus, nibbling throughout the day; from prep, through tasting, through dinner, then nibbling on bits as leftovers are put away. Drinking wasn’t more complicated than brewing a pot of tea, uncorking a bottle of wine (probably the most expensive part of the meal), and then brewing another pot of tea (loose leaf from my friends at Dandelion Botanical.) It was a one man show, which meant visiting the kitchen for fourteen hours of cooking and cleaning. (I’m still proud of my kitchen sink sculpture and share it here again.)
Most days aren’t spent in the kitchen. That was a feast day. Most days that time is replaced with doing work I enjoy, enjoying where I live, being glad to be part of my communities. One handy thing about being a gregarious moderate is that I know right and left brain types, liberals and conservatives, optimists and pessimists and those who see both sides, rich and poor, mainstream and highly unconventional folks. Conversations can be fascinating. I purposely chose Whidbey and this house, my home, because a life is quiet and simple here. A walk down the street is a walk that some fly thousands of miles to enjoy. A walk down the hill gives me a million-dollar view and access to untrammeled nature.
My consulting, my writing, my photography, my teaching, are all things that take very little in terms of equipment, and connect me with my passions of people and ideas. Listening, then helping, someone with their project and their passion is immensely gratifying. Providing a simple perspective on nature and culture is natural for me through my words and photos.
For years I did things that should make me happy. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that the happiness was internal and could be found by being aware of my emotions, and allowing intuition to chart a course that follows them whether logic applies or not.
Welcome to the theme of my book about Scotland. The book looks like it is only about walking across Scotland, but the story is really about the internal journey. Here’s an excerpt where I learned a simple way to find joy.
“A smile could turn into a chuckle and a laugh and, as long as I stopped before hysteria, I’d found that I’d enjoyed a bit more of the day.”
A similar thing happens when I dance. When I dance, I smile. I recognized that soon after moving to the island. I enjoy introspection for awareness, understanding, and growth; but, I realized that there was no need to analyze the feeling. The trip to joy was surprisingly short. Why purposely lengthen it and turn an easy celebration into a momentous feat?
Entertainment doesn’t have to be expensive. Even movies and games don’t have to cost much. DVDs, Netflix, Yahtzee, old computer games, books, and music don’t cost much to buy and last so long that the amortized costs are incredibly low. I’d even go to the movies here on the island if the price of gas wasn’t so high. One downside of moving out of Langley is not being able to walk to The Clyde which only charges a few bucks for new movies, and a dollar for popcorn. And, of course, the cheapest and most valuable entertainment is spending time with friends.
There are plenty of other affordable luxuries. Seeds don’t cost much, and can produce many kinds of value – as long as the slugs, bunnies, and deer don’t harvest first. Meditation is free. Running and bicycling are somewhat expensive, but not really compared to golfing, skiing, and boating. Karate, at least the way I practice it, is as cheap as meditation. Sleeping in is wonderful. A fire, either in the fireplace or outside (where legal of course), creates ambiance and warmth; and can be a focus for socializing or reflection. Even a candle can suffice. Light a candle at dinner for two, or light a candle as a sign of hope, or just light a candle to light a candle.
Mix and match out of that string, add things I didn’t include, (oh yeah, I just remembered affection and intimacy and such, but that’s another story), and it is easy to fill a day.
I buy lottery tickets. Like I say, I am an optimist. When I had a lot more money I dreamed of winning the lottery and buying this, doing that, giving here and there. As I’m passing through this time I realized that what I want to buy with winnings are certain feelings. Yes, I’d pay off the mortgage; but the main benefit would be the relief gained from security. Yes, I’d renovate the house and car and computer, but the main benefit would be the feeling of ease to get things done. Yes, I’d give here and there, because there are people that would appreciate good news. I’d probably even host a dance party because that would be a lot of fun, and that’s a good enough reason.
We live in a society based on money, but after the essentials are acquired, there is a lifetime of luxury available that doesn’t cost much at all. Enjoy.