The other day, my kids were complaining about how hot it is in the house. They’re right. It IS hot. I’m pretty sure I saw a fly on my window drop to the floor, suffering from heat exhaustion. And my cats keep lying spread eagle in front of the box fan which not only cools them off but also has the added benefit of serving as a house odorizer.
But since my job was eliminated last year, I have to watch my pennies. Gone are the days of catered get-togethers at my house, lavish vacations, and travel for the sake of travel. And things like bottled water, Starbucks, and convenience foods disappeared, too. And yes, running the air conditioner all day is an expense that I can’t afford.
Even though I’m now “deprived” of many such creature-comforts, I’m more content now than I’ve ever been before. Uncomfortable is not the same as unhappy, nor does comfort create happiness.
I’ve rediscovered some simple joys that would have remained lost to me had my personal economics not changed. For example, the landscaping in my yard is finally complete. Thanks to generosity of neighbors who were willing to share their excess plants and know-how with me, I have year-round plants in my yard. My house, too, has a fresh coat of paint. With scrap lumber, I built some bird feeders. Quality dumpster-diving netted me a bird bath. An old, rusty shortwave radio antenna coupled with a bicycle tire and fins from a broken ceiling fan became a windmill.
Contentment is making the most of what you have. Too many times in my past I’ve said that I would take time to stop and smell the roses once some particular event in my life occurred. And those events came and went, and instead of stopping to enjoy, I set new milestones that delayed living–and enjoying–the present.
Today, my life has some elements that are uncomfortable…or, at least, less comfortable than they were in the past. And yet I’m content. It’s funny how I relearned to enjoy the simple pleasures in my life once all of the things that should have made me happy were stripped away.
Contentment comes from being grateful for what you have. Have you lost some of the joy of experiencing simple pleasures that you had when you had less time, less money? If you can’t afford a swimming pool, can you go run through a sprinkler? If you can’t take a vacation this year, can you fix up part of your home or yard to make it more of a relaxing, enjoyable place to live? If you can’t afford a new car, can you find contentment in washing and waxing the one you have? If you can’t take the family to Disney World, can you take a picnic at a local park and create some new memories?
Focusing on what you DON’T HAVE instead of on what you HAVE is tilting at windmills. Why don’t you build a real windmill out of the junk in your garage? It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s an exercise in finding contentment in the simplest things.
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Great blog piece Scott!