the simple minded suburbanite


Follow Your Bliss
November 23, 2009, 12:25 am
Filed under: suburbs, voluntary simplicity | Tags: , , , , ,

I found some daily musings I wrote last spring, back when I was toying with starting a blog.  Back when I wondered if I would have enough material.  Ha!This is one of them….

May 22, 2009 Follow Your Bliss

The mythologist and scholar Joseph Campbell author of a Hero with a Thousand Faces and co-author with Bill Moyers Power of Myth, among other books, interview and lectures said (somewhere, I don’t know where) now famously, “Follow you bliss.” So what is bliss? I, personally find it in all the wondrous places you might think that evoke poetry, misty eyes, and fluttering hearts. My spirits rising above me, floating in the trees as I quietly walk a forest path. My senses hum with the smell of earth in my hands as I plant our spring garden with my little boys at my side, spraying the hose, digging the holes for Mommy. A fresh sheet of paper. A glass of wine on the deck with my husband. A full sheet of paper.

But I gotta admit I also experience bliss, or at very least a quick tickle in my soft spots in other earthly things as well. I’ve got the sexiest damn pair of red shoes that ever walked the earth. They instantly take off ten pounds and I feel like queen of that tropic island Wonder Woman was spawned upon. You know the one where they capture the men and simply pick one for their sexual pleasure and the minor consequence of reproduction? And can I tell you how many hours I spent just sitting at my kitchen table after we re-did our kitchen, just staring at the cabinets and the counter-tops and the new floors and breathing in the fumes of fresh paint? And please, if dining out could be a sport…I’d like to be the gold medalist, MVP, World Cup holding champ. Does this make me materialistic? Does this make me bad or not spiritual? Can I be both spiritual and enjoy the material pleasures of life?

Elizabeth Lesser’s book The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure references Campbell’s bliss statement as well, but also points out that Campbell referred to bliss in the context of sacrifice. Sacrifice? Oh, God, no! Run! There’s nothing more I dread in life than a life depleted, bound, stripped. No. She goes on to say “While spirituality is about bliss, it also is about balance. Without some degree of sacrifice for the greater good, spiritual self-discovery eventually leads to plain old self-indulgence.” Okay. I think I get that. For example, I know many women in the suburbs who spend the majority of their day exercising, getting massages, nails, hair, shopping, decorating, and coordinating the hired care of their beautiful homes. They might say they love their life this way. Is this life blissful? They might say they love it and it makes them very happy. Is it spiritual? They may say, yes, some of them attend church and volunteer in the community. It’s not for me to say. But I guess the balance thing comes in for me here. And since, I shouldn’t say what I might guess about some of these women that perhaps their lives aren’t as balanced between the materials rewards of the world and say the more organic forms of happiness like discovering your talents and how they fill you up as you learn from others. Or how these talents and learning can attract others of similar passions. Or how these talents or callings can lead you to spreading that joy to others. Or the ecstasy of being. And presence. And not “doing” at all. I can only observe them and think what I would prefer for myself.

 I recently did an interview with a woman who practiced and taught others about the principles of Voluntary Simplicity. The concept is as it sounds. You chose to simplify your life in ways that suit you and your family so that you have more time and money to dedicate to the authentic ventures in your life. One of the things she said that struck me as so honest and so true was something to the effect that she didn’t go to fancy restaurants like she used to but still felt a bit of envy when she passed them and saw the fancy cars. And she still likes to look pretty and get dressed up. So, she doesn’t completely deprive herself of material pleasures. She doesn’t deny her desires.

I get this. I see some of the kitchens in the homes around me and I’m like “Wow!” I love to cook and I imagine myself entertaining in an evening gown, surrounded by all of my favorite people and a few new additions. Yet, when it came to doing our own kitchen, we were only able to do a few updates. We had a flood in our home that came on the heals of my husband’s layoff. We could have gone into our home equity to finance a Mack-daddy reno but, we decided it was best to do what we could given the insurance policy and our savings. That resulted in keeping and painting our cabinets, shopping at Sears scratch and dent for appliances. We kept our microwave, kept the dated lighting fixtures, saving thousands of dollars. We chose not to sacrifice the financial integrity of our family nor my husband’s heart health for a supped-up kitchen. Do I still want new lighting? Yes. But it’s time will come. Or not. And going out for dinner. We do it occasionally. And we go to a nice place usually. I insist on going somewhere we haven’t been before because, for me, it is also about the adventure and the exploring and it makes me feel like I am getting away with my husband. But we do it every couple to few months; we trade babysitting with friends, and we eat Campbell’s soup and grilled cheese throughout the week. I’m fully aware that this money spent on dinner pulls away from new lighting, they kayak my husband has been saving for a year, and the tree house we’d like to build, but it’s all about balance. My red shoes. Girls! They were worth every penny and I wear them every chance I get! I’ve never had a moment of buyer’s remorse. They don’t pull from the time I spend in my garden with my boys. They don’t take me away from my writing or my pleasure in reading. We may have to eat a few more cans of soup because of them, but, I personally enjoyed watching the boys spell funny words in their Alphabits and stretching the toasted sandwich halves to see who could get the longest stretch of Velveeta. Who knows, maybe I’ll really achieve true bliss one day and where my red shoes to dinner with my family as we dine on condensed soup in my kitchen under the ugly lighting. This could be the ultimate form of self-indulgence.

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