A couple of months ago I wrote a post about feeling dry. Parched, shriveled up. I always envision pictures of salt flats or deepest Africa, the ones with fissures running across the cracked earth. This dryness, to me, is the ultimate symbol of deprivation.
The contrast to this pervasive dryness is lush abundance, a rainforest filled with light and life, a painting by Ruebens, the fullness of a spring morning. Wetness and warmth and glowing rounded figures.
Just yesterday I wrote a blog for a client on using gratitude to boost mood (#irony). One of the experts I quoted identified the three pillars of grateful people, chief among them the feeling of abundance:
- Grateful people feel abundance in their lives; they do not feel deprived
- Grateful people are satisfied with simple pleasures
- Grateful people appreciate those around them
So what happens when grateful people lose that feeling of abundance? Can they maintain the other two pillars, or, like a three-legged stool, does that gratitude fall away into dust? What is abundance anyway?
I am a grateful person, not by nature but by practice (that continues daily). I know that I am lucky beyond measure with health, good people that I call friends and family, a daughter who is an amazing example of a human, a job that isn't just work, and all of the basic necessities of life. These things are enough. Of course they are enough.
It seems patently ungrateful to reflect on these things and then still retain that feeling of deprivation.
It's in the worry about building up a savings account after it was depleted to pay for The Child's trip to Paris. Or paying for tiny house parking in January. Or buying new pants for The Child five minutes after she gets new ones because they are instantly too small.
It's in the holiday season that is MERRY and BRIGHT with SHINY NEW TOYS. I don't shop unless I absolutely need something because once I enter a store I get caught up in the cycle of "I want." It throws me off the path. Makes me feel like less of a person because I cannot fill my cart with shiny, happy baubles. Baubles that I don't need and would ultimately not use, but still.
It's the conflict between what I truly believe (life should be filled with experiences, travel, good friends and food) and what it seems the vast majority of the country believes (life is about getting the latest. The newest. Shop every season for new clothes. Your kids should have every single thing they desire. You are a bad parent if you say no. Presents should be piled high under the tree). On good days, when I have grown and canned my own tomatoes or made my own farmhouse-style vanity from reclaimed wood from the rehab (that's happening!! Stay tuned!), or when I have spent the day with friends or with Sicily, exploring the city or on the road, there is no conflict. My heart is full.
But on other days, when I try to figure out, as my friend Luke puts it, how to stuff ten pounds of shit in a five-pound sack, it's much harder. These are the days when my now-obsolete laptop shuts off for no reason, or when the Seahawks are on national TV but we don't have cable so we can't watch. These are small things, first-world problems, really, that make me think that I need to spend some time with people who truly have nothing.
But then I feel awful because we have to choose between buying Sicily's art teacher a giftcard for the holidays so he can replenish the art supplies without using his own money and "adopting" a family from the local community center so they can have SOCKS FOR CHRISTMAS. Or putting together kits for the homeless, so when I stop at a light and see a sign I can hand out a bag with a few protein bars, some hand warmers, some socks, and a few hygiene items.
Abundance to me means enough to share, widely, and I don't feel that way right now. It makes me feel shrewish and ungenerous and cold in a season that has those feelings in spades. It makes me feel pinched with worry. It doesn't feel like "christmas" (minus the Christ part, for me) because I cannot give. And that, to me, is the height of deprivation.
I am not sure how to cultivate the feeling of abundance even when I am worried about bills and giving and the future. Maybe the answer is to not worry about those things which, after all, are ultimately not fixed with worry. Asking me to not worry is like asking the sun to please not set in the west.
What is abundance to you? Do you feel like it exists in your life?