Follow Me on Pinterest



Monday, July 21, 2008

Looking Back On My Life With Money...and Without

I just finished reading Affluenza which I HIGHLY recommend. Run, don't walk to your library to check this one out! It covered quite well many aspects of our over consumerism, including the economic, social, environmental, even spiritual aspects!

Anyway, the book got me thinking about my own life. I have had the interesting privilege through my younger years to live in extreme poverty at times, and a life of abundance at others. I say this was/is a privilege as it gave me quite a perspective of both worlds that maybe not many get to see.

In the earliest memories I have of my childhood, we were poor. Although, then I didn't know it. For all the mistakes my parents made, the one thing they did quite well, was never let me or my brother know their financial struggles, or made us feel poor. We were on public assistance at times, without a home at others, but honestly it wasn't until I was older looking back that I realized just how poor we really were.

Later my parents divorced and my mother remarried. She married someone who lived in one of the nicer neighborhoods in the area we lived in and had the money to allow us to do things I always wanted to, but was never able to before. I took ballet, gymnastics, played ball on a team, all the things kids think they need to do in order to be happy these days.

Thinking about it now, that is probably when I started to realize just how poor we were before. Before that I had nothing to compare to, others around us were just as poor, I went to school in that community, and the other kids were poor, so I just had no idea how the "other half" lived.

Then my mother divorced again, and we moved from a luxury home in the city into literally a tin trailer in the country. You'd think I'd be devastated wouldn't you? Nope...those were truly some of the best years of my life! We didn't have much as far as food, money, luxury, but we had all of nature at our back door! My days were filled with catching snakes and lizards, hiking, fishing, and more! Our evenings were spent around various campfires of passer-byers. Each night we met new people, many who were budding musicians. Nothing in the whole world beats an evening around the campfire with an acoustic guitar, singing, and smores!

I appreciated that life then and I appreciate it now looking back. AS a matter of fact, when I finally settled down with my own family I longed to go back there to live, but they had turned it into a paid membership campground, with paved roads! They even filled in the pond I used to catch tadpoles in! We eventually did find a similar area to move to and still reside there today.

Eventually my mother did get on her feet financially and we sadly moved back to the city where she could be by her work.

As a young single adult I packed up and moved to Maui on a whim. I got a job right away and a nice house to rent. Eventually, we had to leave that house and affordable housing in Maui is not easy to come by! So my brother, daughter, and myself spent 3-4 weeks living in a tent on the beaches of Maui!

Again, some of my fondest memories. Sure, it sucked the nights it rained non-stop and the tent leaked! But those were some of our healthiest days and days of a proud feeling of self-sufficiency. We only ate the fish my brother caught, or the fruit we picked off the trees, we had many to choose from, star fruit, bread fruit, mango's and more! That combined with all the walking that was then pretty much the only transportation on Maui, made us definitely fit!

Eventually I did find another home....don't I mentioned, affordable housing in Maui is VERY hard to come by...I moved into a tree house!

Yes, a real tree house! No bathroom or running water, and to top it off, for a while I actually paid rent to live in it! Out back in the middle of the yard was a "solar" shower that all who lived there shared. There was a bathroom in the main house, that I chose not to use unless I absolutely had to, rather I walked across the street to a public restroom.

Storing food was an issue, so each day we ate fresh food, or sometimes would pick something up at one of the local restaurants.

While living in a tree house may not appeal to most, it was kind of cool at the time.

I guess my whole point in giving you my whole life story, is that it isn't where you live or what kind of house you live in that really matters in life. It's your attitude, perspective, and a feeling of happiness that you just have to be able to find, no matter where you are in life, that comes from inside, no amount of money or material items is going to give that to you.

I have been happy in a tree house or trailer, and even in some of our nicer homes. I have been depressed living in one of the nicer homes, in one of the nicer communities in San Diego County.

I have been happy living off the land, literally and not so happy living in the lap of luxury.

As a married adult with children, we have gone through plenty of lean times, and times of plenty as well. I can't really say I've been any happier during either, I've been a pretty happy adult, but those lean times are the ones we look back on later and laugh. Oh, we weren't laughing as we went through them, but it is fun to look back and remember some of the ways we had to get creative to make ends meet.

Actually some of our leanest times have been our best. Can't afford the TV? That is a good thing if you're watching too much, get out in nature and enjoy a hike or picnic. Have to quit sports or classes? Take up a free hobby such as hiking, walking, running, reading, sewing, gardening... Can't afford the latest toy your kids just have to have? Make it fun to find it in a way you can afford, garage sale as a family, trade or barter with another family who has what you want, or help your kids build a fort or tree house out of recycled wood and they will forget about the must have toy!!

I know my family is in some lean times right now as are many others. Those that aren't I suspect may be soon. Don;t let it get you down, don't let your kids worry about your worries. Just change your perspective a bit, get adventurous and creative with what you will do with the resources available to you, and I suspect you and your children will look back on those times with fond memories.

I honestly don't look back ever and wish I had been able to take more ballet classes or have the latest pair of 100 dollar sneakers. I do look back and long for those evenings around the campfire with new friends.

It's not the money or the "things" that your kids will remember when they grow up. It's the memories. They will remember the good ones and the bad. What kind of memories do you want to make? You never being around because you had to work 8o hour weeks to afford the latest Nintendo game, or the time you took to take your boy on a Boyscout camp out?

And don't misunderstand me, I am not saying you can't be happy or have fond memories if you are better off financially, or you can only experience joy if you're poor. I know plenty of wealthier families that are very happy because they choose to remember what is really important and use what they have wisely. On the other hand I know plenty of poor families who are just miserable because they are longing for those things which they don't have and feel they deserve, that they can't enjoy their lives at all as they continue to pursue "the better life."

So don't let your financial or living circumstances define who you are or control your happieness. Learn to be content with what you have and not long for that which you aren't meant to have just now.

No comments: