I don’t know why I woke up on the reflective side of the bed this morning. Maybe because lately, it’s a morning like every other, and I’m liking it. Lying in bed waiting for my eyeballs to start focusing, a dog on my chest and another on my head, it occurred to me that this time last year the pain in my chest would have been stress, not a furry elbow.
This change we’ve made has been good in more ways than one. Yes, I’m feeling better about everything – we’re both happier and I’m getting the opportunity to work on all those things I wanted to do but never had the time for – but it’s also really put the meaning of “value” and “happiness” into perspective. I’ve had the chance to think (a lot) about money and its relation to happiness. Right now we have roughly half as much money as we had this time last year. I was guilty of always saying, “If only we could win the lotto.” In fact I was buying lotto tickets for every draw. Somehow I thought that if we only had more money, I’d be happier. Well, I still buy lotto tickets, but if I forget I no longer feel like I may have just thrown my life away.
More money. Just stop and think about it for a second. You need some, that’s a given. You need to be able to afford rent or mortgage, lights, heat, food… I would even venture to say that the internet and phone are almost necessities as well. But beyond that, what do you truly need?
It was nice to be able to go out to dinner whenever we didn’t feel like cooking, to buy expensive concert tickets, to go shopping for one thing and spontaneously pick up a few others while we were at it. But did any of those things really make us happy? Maybe for an hour, or in odd cases, a day, but eventually we always went back to feeling stressed about money, and stressed about life. No matter how much money we had, we always needed more. We were happy at times, but in reality our overall state of being was one of discontent.
Now here we are. Half as much money, and we truly are happy. Sure, it would have been nice to buy tickets to see Black Sabbath. Of course there are nights when I resent having to come up with yet another meal. And if I do win the lotto I’ll buy tickets to go back to Iceland in a heart beat. But in general, on a day-to-day basis, we wake up feeling content and we go to bed feeling content. We are getting by just fine with the money that we have, and when we need more we are resourceful enough to find a way to get it. Being frugal, decreasing our need to consume, has actually contributed to our overall state of mind.
Maybe this life that we’ve chosen isn’t for everyone, but the next time you find yourself worrying about money ask yourself some questions. Are you really and truly happier than you were when you had half the money you have now? If you’re not happier all the time, why?
Getting to where we are now is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. That said, it’s also been, without a doubt, the most rewarding. I’m working harder, I’m earning less, but this morning as I ate my homemade bagel and one of the eggs that my hens laid yesterday, I realized that life doesn’t get any better. Everyone can always use more money, but everyone can always use more happiness, too. In the long run, I think that’s what we should all pursue first.