“It is not the man who has to little who is poor, but the one who hankers after more.” Seneca, Letters from a Stoic
I am so appreciative for continual growth and expanding understanding. As I have aged I have come to realize how incredibly unimportant things are. I no longer care about acquiring more. I find that spiritually, I just want to reduce and simplify and focus on what is important . . . other people, the world around me, my connection to source.
The other day I was talking to my husband about winning a lottery and he shared that he would never want to win it. His reasoning was that we don’t need it, what would we do with it? It is true, we no longer have a list of things we want to buy. We focus on what we need, and that lessens and lessens. I said that I would still love to win it, because it would be thrilling to think of all the ways I could use it to bless the lives of others. I would give it all away, to people and to programs that would bless the lives of others. We both tried to think of things that we could buy and in the end, there really was nothing we needed, and neither of us have wants that involve material things.
I cannot tell you how incredibly freeing this feeling is and how much more meaningful life seems to me, once I was released from those chains of selfishness. It seems that once I was off that vicious endless cycle, I was able to truly appreciate what I do have. When I did that, I could see that I had more than enough. I let go of listening to advertisements telling me I needed to get a newer couch, a bigger house, a fancier car. Every day that I wake up I take time to look around me, to acknowledge how blessed my life is, to know I have more than enough, and to appreciate and care for what I do have. I am no longer me focused. I am not one giant appetite of need that defines what my life is about.
What does that actually mean? It means that there is no need to use people, to manipulate situations, to compete with others. I am not striving. I am being. I am living present, here today. I have let go of the hold that anyone or anything can have on me because I am no longer motivated by acquiring.
Years ago, as a young mom, I had a conversation with a girlfriend who was very into money and she made a comment about us being the same. We both loved beautiful things. For her, that meant buying the best she could afford for her home and personal attire. It was not the same for me and I told her that. As a child, I had no idea that my grandparents were as wealthy as they were, because I did not care about those things. It never occurred to me I have a more expensive dress because I was not looking at the other girls’ dresses and competing. As a young mother, I loved beautiful things and would always strive to make my surroundings beautiful – but I can do that with a bit of material and other odds and ends. I don’t need a designer’s name to give them beauty. I showed her that the side table she so admired and thought were expensive were old cardboard storing barrels that I covered with material and lace, nothing more. She could never have had that in her home because she would have felt shame at using something so cheap. I felt pride that I had achieved the look, and it cost so little. I told my friend there was a limit as to how much I could ever spend on “things,” even if I was rich. I would never be able to have a figurine or a lamp worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, just sitting there in my house, because I could not be able to justify the cost when I know how much that money could mean to someone who needed it.
Still, as the years went on, I became much more invested in acquiring things. I remember making a list of the things we needed and another of the things we wanted, and my husband and I working on those lists. Telling you that today makes me feel sad.
I feel sad because having a nicer house or a nicer car meant nothing in my life or my children’s. I asked them how often they thought back on their lives and marveled over the great house we lived in or the great bedroom they had? I asked them when they thought about their friends, how much did how wealthy they were, impact their esteem and memories? I asked who of their friends chose them because of the house they had? I asked them what they could remember about the birthday or Christmas gifts they received when they were 8 and how that impacted their lives? I asked them how the type of car we drove made a difference in their lives?
Ask anyone these questions. And then ask them about the things that did matter when they were growing up.
Most people will share memories of experiences they had with people they loved. They will talk about the lessons they learned, the struggles and trials, the growing. THIS is what matters in life.
Today I am grateful that my life did not completely take away from me, the heart I had as a child. I am grateful that I woke up and remembered and healed that part of me that bought into the lie; the lie that things, that money, could ever make you happy.
Money and things are really so temporary.
I have packed up so many homes of people who have died. All their treasures and life time of “things” left after they are gone. Suddenly those treasures that defined grandma’s house and you loved to look at when you visited her, seem so cheap, and empty, and meaningless. They seem that way because things only have value when they are attached to a person. Grandma’s ring might not be worth anything, it might be considered junk by everyone else and be thrown away. We might keep it because it is a reminder, but it will never look as lovely on our hand as it did on hers. The ring is not beautiful. Grandma was beautiful. So often, when you pack up a person’s life represented by the things they accumulated, you find no-one who knew the person wants it and so it goes to the dump or to a second hand shop. How incredibly sad if that is all the deceased put into life, acquiring things that mean nothing to anyone else. How empty.
The only real thing about our lives is ourselves.
If we miss out on others because we are so busy acquiring new things, especially when we do not need them, we really have missed the point of life. Things do not comfort you or tell you that your life has value. It is the quality of your relationships, your ability to love and be loved, that feeds your soul and has the ability to deepen your connection to source.
We may be one of the last generations so caught up in consumerism. I see my children and especially my grandchildren, choosing life over climbing on the endless treadmill of stress where their lives are reduced to consumerism. No-one ever says of people when they die, “he was a real jerk but wow he had the biggest house, the greatest car, and an awesome kitchen blender.” None of our things will ever testify to our character and our capacity to love, only people do that. Given the choice of people or things, I pray we all choose people.