the simple minded suburbanite

#1. Generosity. 5 Transcendent Principles
February 15, 2012, 1:27 pm
Filed under: authenticity, culture, gratitude, suburban, voluntary simplicity | Tags: ,

“…we find fundamental richness everywhere.  It is not ours or theirs but is available always to everyone. ..this wealth is the nature of everything.  It is like the sun in that it shines on everyone without discrimination.  It is like a mirror in that it is will to reflect anything without accepting or rejecting.”  Pema Chodrom, When Things Fall Apart.  5 Transcendent Principles

We give away old clothes, spare change, food.  We share time, our stories, our pain.  But to truly be generous we have to give what we most want to hold on to.

I had lunch yesterday with some acquaintances.  Lovely ladies, loads of fun.  As the lunch progressed, I noticed a pattern in the conversation.  Whenever a subject was brought to me to speak about, “How is your work?”  “Where are you going for spring break?” “How are the kids?”, one woman could barely wait for me to finish my sentence before she would jump in, “We’re going to Costa Rica.  We’ve been to Austin.  I am so busy with tennis.  Lilly is doing so great in school.  Fantastic grades!  Ryan is playing traveling baseball.”  And on, and on.

I began to question myself.  Was I boring?  Do I brag or ramble on too long?  Have I somehow challenged this woman?  Maybe she really doesn’t like me and doesn’t really care what is going on with me (can I say that we had already spent much time talking about her, as well as catching up with everyone else around the table.).  I decided that none of this mattered:  my hurt feelings, my egoic need to share what was going on with me, my perception of the situation.  Instead, I decided, the only thing I knew for sure was that this woman had a need to talk about herself and did so in place of listening to anything about me.  Fact.  No judgement.

I turned my body in my chair toward her.  I leaned my elbow on the table.  I nodded.  I asked questions.  I confirmed.  “I’ve heard wonderful things about Costa Rica.  You’ve been there before, haven’t you?  What do you like about it?…You must be so proud of Ryan. I bet it is a challenge for him and fun for your family to travel with a group of fun parents and kids.”  Generosity.  Generosity despite having an urge to push up against.  Generosity to give something to someone despite having my own need to be received.  I truly took an interest.  It was not false.  It was not pitying.  I opened my heart and my ears to her and accepted the situation as it was and felt I had a much more rounded experience at lunch after I gave her what she desired than I had while I was trying to get a word in edgewise.  It felt even better than paying for her lunch because I gave of myself and gave her what she deeply needed and it took nothing away from the fundamental richness of the world around me.  It’s all still there.

Have you ever given something very difficult for you to give and found that you didn’t end up missing it?


We’re Doin’ Just Fine…More or Less
July 9, 2011, 7:38 pm
Filed under: budget, gratitude, parenting, suburbanite, voluntary simplicity | Tags:

“Everyone has more than we do,” mumbled my 12 year old.  12 year olds have a sensational ability to make huge leaps in logic.  In less than 30 seconds, he went from begrudgingly turning off his Xbox (but it’s not XBox live!) to donning his Nike tennis shoes (but they’re not Nike Shocks!) to heading out the door to weed the flower bed, one of his chores (only $12 a week!  I’ll be dead before I can afford an IPad!).

I take most of his pre-teen grumbling and complaining with a grain of salt.  My husband and I counter such nonsense with pointing out how fortunate we are, we have a family who loves each other, we have all we need and much of what we want.  We state what we’re grateful for each night before bed.  Our kids work and save birthday money, summer allowance, and the occasional cash from odd neighborhood jobs for the gadget of the year and I am proud to say that we whip out the same Nintendo Ds we bought 6 years ago for road trips (Lite?  3-D?  I say, Nintendo BS).  They’ve never been the kids who beg for toys in Target or whine for bubble gum in the grocery check out.  They understand that, as a family, we choose not to spend our money “that way”.  We prefer the stability of a home that is not under water, the thrill of the occasional family vacation or excursion, and the dreams we have for our kids’ futures as we squirrel away loose change for college.

But, I gotta say, I lost my cool.  He not only said it once, under his breath, but confidently repeated it to me with a full on look into my eyes when I asked the motherly, “What was that you said?”  I didn’t lose my cool right away, I lost it after I started into my usual, “There are so many people who would love to have what we have” speech and he, as respectfully as possible, said, “I know that, but I’m talking about everyone around here.  My friends!  Our neighbors.”  I’m not proud to say, I yelled.  I stomped around.  I flailed my arms. “$120 Nike Shocks!  Are you kidding me?  You’ve gone on a run all of 2 time the entire summer!” I had had it!

I know enough to step away…. so, I did.  I took a breather.  I calmed myself down.  After furiously scrubbing the kitchen and sorting all of the laundry in the house, I went onto the back deck and called my hubby, ran through all of the things I was planning to take away from son #1 to teach him a lesson.  My husband, may I say, knows enough to let me get it all out, spit out the venom, before offering perspective.  “It is his reality, and though he needs to be respectful of us, we do need to listen to his reality.  It’s how we feel often times ourselves, isn’t it?”

Shit.  I knew I married this guy for a reason.

I am not enough.  It’s the pressing, unwanted mantra that bumps around in the dark. It’s the self loathing untruth from which I’ve tried to free myself for most of my life.  And what son #1 said, it made me feel less than.  It made me feel that all the hard work that my husband and I have put into our homes, our family, our relationships, our careers is all for not because we keep falling short.  We keep falling short in the “stuff” aspect.  In all truth, this is one of the reasons I write this blog. Yes, for one, I want to point out the absurdities of the suburban, consumer-driven, self-indulging lifestyle.  But, also, it keeps me focused on what I know to be true, and I think everyone knows to be true when hard pressed, that none of that “stuff” really matters.  But, ya know, it takes alot of energy, consciousness, humility to believe it and stick with it in the Land of Rovers.  And sometimes, I think I’m the crazy one.

So, I took what my husband said to heart and changed gears.  My son is getting older now.  I explained, that Mom and Dad feel like everyone has so much more that us sometimes too but here is what is most important to us:  that our children dream big and work hard to get it, that our family finds joy in the day-to-day moments, that we embrace a love of learning and an openness to people and situations around us, that we be our true selves and support one another. You are not what you own, you are sooo much more than that.  I told him that what he said was a put down to a mother and father who love him and work hard to provide our boys with the best life we possibly can, that by saying words like that hurts us.  We are here to listen and to help with anything that comes his way because we love him.  And, if anything like this comes up again,

I will take all of his shit and throw it in the trash!

Author’s note:  I wouldn’t really throw it away.  Why, that would be wasteful and bad for the environment. I’d sell the crap on Ebay and get my hubby and I a nice little weekend in the mountains!  College?  Smollege!)

A Small Price to Pay
March 18, 2011, 12:15 pm
Filed under: gratitude, suburban | Tags:

Shirley pooped on the floor, again.  “Watch where you step!” I yelled to the kids as they tumbled in the front door, throwing backpacks, tossing shoes, and clawing their way to the snack basket.

But, my own brain, it surprised me.  I almost looked over my shoulder to see if someone was speaking to me from the foyer behind me.  “It’s a small price to pay,” my brain said to me as I bent to clean up the mess and proceeded to checked the bottoms of everyone’s shoes. “A small price to pay,” I said, this time aloud, and I paused from my eternal state of motion and gave small thanks to the universe for this sweet, old dog who is approaching 15years old and for the quiet joys she has brought to our lives.  Rescued from the pound, I taught her to eat from her bowl by putting one nugget of dog food in my hand at a time, allowing her to take it from me as I inched closer and closer to her dish.  I thought of  our first place together, a slapped up apartment with a view of the parking lot in which Shirley would put her paws up on the back of our pullout couch and rest her head, waiting for my husband or I to come home from work.  How when we pulled up, her ears would perk, smile-almost and she leapt down to meet us at the door.  I thought how she gingerly sniffed each of our newborn sons when we brought them home and how she followed me room from room while I paced and soothed them to sleep.

“A small price to pay,” I thought for all of her sweetness and all of her doggie patience as she slowing dropped a rung or two over the years as my life grew more intense;  she rarely asked for much other than the occasional pat on the head when I finally flopped down on the couch or a brief acknowledgement on the nights, while up with the babies, I would return to find that she had saucily placed herself on my bed pillow where I could NOT breeze past her.

And I thought of all of the other small prices I pay and how these little frustrations are so worth what I get in return. So, I turned to pick up the backpacks and put them in the closet and I lined up little shoes at the door. Tossed the granola bar wrappers strewn over my kitchen table.   I opened up the window, I mean it smelled bad in there!  and, once again, gave thanks and vowed to remember that all of my frustrations, my irritations, the tightenings in my chest are really small, small prices to pay…but that dump Shirley took, that was huge!

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