I hope you have at least one thing to be grateful for today. I am truly thankful to all of you for being part of my writing and reading community. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, have a wonderful day.
I like Thanksgiving. Unlike the über-materialistic-buy-buy-buy madness of the four weeks that follow, Thanksgiving encourages us to focus on being grateful for the people and things we already have in our lives.
Who doesn’t enjoy gadgets and clothes and vacations and a nice house? But I don’t think they make us happy. Not really. (Okay, well, travel makes me pretty damn happy, but it’s best when I’m not alone.)
I’m most grateful for the things I can’t buy:
– My family and friends
– Good health
– The freedom to pursue the career I want
Seriously, that’s it. That’s all I need. I could even live without the last one as long as I had the first two. Though I’d rather not. 😉
My iPhone might make my life easier, and even more fun, but I’d never trade it for my husband or one of my kids, or even a friend. Honest!
You laugh, but the rat race that so many of us are on because we feel like we have to have that car or live in that house or wear those clothes—just to impress a bunch of people who don’t love us—forces us to give up our time with those who do love us.
When my first son was born I really, really wanted to stay home with him, but I couldn’t because we had bills to pay. It never—not once—occurred to me that we could adjust our lifestyle to lower our expenses so I wouldn’t have to work.
(BTW, I’m not saying that staying at home is the right thing to do, only that it was the right thing to do for me.)
I had quit my job to start a consulting business and wanted to continue working from home. We sold both of our newer cars and paid cash for an old van. I drove my husband to work on days I needed the car. We cut down eating out to once or twice a month at cheap restaurants. We budgeted everything down to the penny (still do).
Best thing we ever did. Tightening the belt doesn’t feel good—it’s hard to cut back on the lifestyle you’re used to—but it was worth it to be home with my babies.
It was worth it again in 2008 when I quit my 55+ hour/week job as a manufacturing engineer. That time was even harder because we had a big house in a nice neighborhood—the kind where everyone is trying to keep up with the Jones’—new cars, and a trip to Europe planned.
But we had learned our lesson. Since we’d been living below our means, we were able to get creative with our budget, postpone the trip to Europe for two years, and keep the cars and house.
The stress levels in our house plummeted. My kids finally had someone at home to help with their homework and pick them up from sports practice. My husband and I weren’t both getting home late and scrambling to put dinner on the table. We no longer had to spend our two precious days off each week running all the errands we couldn’t get done while working.
There’s something uniquely satisfying about stepping off the treadmill, backing away from the culture that tells us we need more, more, more to be happy, and refusing to be owned by the things we own.
We had less money and less of “the good life” and a lot more happiness.
Which would you prefer?
A simpler lifestyle requires less cash. When you need less cash, you suddenly have more freedom in the work you choose.
Sure, we all need enough money for the basics, and not everyone can afford a safe roof over their head or good, healthy food on the table. But if you can, I’d encourage you to think about what you’re truly grateful for this year.
Does the life you live let you enjoy those people and things that matter most?
If not, are there things you’d be willing to give up so that you can enjoy them?
I hope I didn’t get too preachy, but I feel very strongly about making the most of this life we’re given. At the end, none of us will care if we’re surrounded by cars and computers, wearing fancy clothes and lying on satin sheets. We’re going to want our loved ones at our side.
According to several articles I’ve read lately (like this one), gratitude is one of the keys to success. Not just saying thank you when someone passes the pepper, or being glad that you have a loving family and your health (though those are all good), but finding something each day about which you can be grateful.
Even the most wretched life has something good in it. You might need to look hard some days, but it’s there.
One post I read recently—unfortunately, I can’t find it now—took it one step further and suggested that we find ways to be grateful for those things that upset us. What??
For example, how can you be grateful to the man who cuts you off in traffic? And not just “I’m grateful that he didn’t hit me.” What if you thought of it like this? “I’m grateful to him for reminding me what not to do. I sometimes forget to slow down and not be a jerk on the road.”
It takes some practice, but I think when we approach the world in a positive light, our days are more satisfying. Finding a way to be thankful, even for those people or events that don’t feel like they deserve it, puts the power in our hands. It gives us control of our emotional reaction to the person, event, or day.
Of course, don’t forget the power of little acts of gratitude either. In our house, we thank each other for everything. Dinner is usually my job, but my husband and kids thank me every night for making it. And, you know what? It helps. Sometimes I get tired of cooking every night, but when they thank me for it, I feel appreciated.
And then I thank them for washing the dishes. 🙂
My son is responsible for bringing in the trash can and recycling bin on Tuesday after school. It’s a “chore”, something he’s explicitly expected to do. But I still thank him for doing it. After all, he’s helping me out.
I think the reason that success comes easier for those who show (genuine) gratitude is that everyone likes to have their efforts noticed. They want to feel appreciated. And if you’re the one doing the appreciating, they’re more likely to support you in your quest.
So, go get your gratitude on this Thanksgiving and every day.
And THANK YOU to all of my readers, students, friends (online and off), and family for sticking with me on this journey. You make it a joy.
Thanksgiving is becoming one of my favorite holidays. It’s a good time to be with family without the pressure to produce gifts, and there’s no insane two-month long build up that ends up being anti-climactic the way Christmas often is.
As my friend, Aaron, stated nicely in his own blog, Thanksgiving is an American holiday that anyone can celebrate regardless of race, religion, or social standing.
It’s also a great reminder to focus on the treasures we already have, rather than on those we want.
I’m grateful to the members of my little blog community for sharing your time with me. Thanks for making the long, hard road to publication easier and more fun to travel.
I’ll be back on Sunday. Enjoy your week and have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
(If you were looking for a more comprehensive list of things I’m thankful for, check out last year’s post where I attempted to get creative.)