I recently read a series of Terri Blackstock novels in which “the pulse” from a distant star immobilized all electricity, as well as all gasoline and diesel operated engines, on planet Earth. I know . . . sounds far fetched . . . but the story of one family struggling to adapt and survive was captivating. With no running water, no automobiles and no electronic communication, bicycles were coveted and any water supply was invaluable. Banks were closed, paper money had little value and bartering became commonplace. Suburban families dug up their front yards to grow vegetables and learned to raise rabbits and chickens.
The Brannings, our star family, had been quite wealthy but the stock broker father now had to find other ways to provide. It was literally do or die, so this family transitioned from a stressed father, pampered wife, haughty college daughter and three younger spoiled children to a unit working for their every meal. Tempers flared and frustrations surfaced as each learned to cope with primitive living. But, over time, the Brannings developed a cohesiveness and appreciation for each other that was missing in their previous life.
While we Americans may never be forced to make such radical life style changes, many have lost jobs and been forced to a lesser standard of living. Is this you? How are you handling your new “poverty”?
A “Simple” Challenge
Here is a challenge: instead of bemoaning your poverty, try embracing a new and simpler life style. It could turn out, like our fictional family, to be the best thing that ever happened to you. In fact, a simpler life style would undoubtedly make life better for us all.
Career Coach Dan Miller makes the following observation:
“The dictionary defines poverty as, ‘The state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts.’ The definition of simplicity is, ‘the absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.’”
Miller continues, “Could it be that whether we live in ‘poverty’ or ‘simplicity’ is primarily a choice of how we view our situation? Simplicity has many rewards that go beyond saving money. Among those may be the experience of living well.”
A Simple Life Style
Can’t afford to eat out as often? Have friends over for a potluck dinner, challenging them to bring any produce from their gardens. Plan some simple activities to have fun while getting to know each other better. When was the last time you played “Charades?”
Can’t afford to travel as much? Visit state parks. Take neighborhood walks. While doing so, take time to visit with your neighbors. Attend Little League baseball games even if no one you know is playing. How about sitting quietly with your spouse, learning to be comfortable with no TV of music or other distracting sounds? (For more read: 20 fun cheap dates ideas)
Simplicity is a Choice
Simplicity is not always our reaction to negative event in our lives. John Robbins, of Baskin–Robbins ice cream fame, turned down a family fortune in order to “live a far more simple and earth friendly life.” John and his wife live in a one room cabin where they grow most of their own food. Radical? I suppose it depends on your viewpoint. Robbins says, “It isn’t about deprivation. It’s about choice and self-determination.”
Henry David Thoreau once said,
“For my greatest skill has been to want but little. I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all of the marrow of life…”
Even if life has taken you to a lower income, you still have a choice: you can live in poverty or you can choose simplicity. One will keep you down and perpetuate a victim mentality. The other could allow you, like Thoreau, “to live deep and suck out all of the marrow of life.” Which will you choose?
photo by Express Monorail