I have a little exercise for you. Put away your running shoes, it isn't that type of exercise. This one requires a paper and pencil. Quickly jot down the things that fill your time. Things like work, shop, clean, surf the web (damn you FACEBOOK) care for children, talk with husband. Now, write down what percentage of your time you spend doing each activity.
Ok, new sheet of paper.Now write down what you say your priorities are. Compare lists. Do you see where I am going with this? Of course you do. If your list is like mine God, family and relationships are close to the top of the list of things you believe to be important. Funny how my time doesn't reflect that.
How much of my day is spent caring for stuff, buying stuff, or working so I can pay for my stuff? Driving my kids to activities isn't really the same as being present with them. Occupying the same couch as Matt isn't the same as being invested. Calling my friends for dinner once a week isn't making relationship a priority. The list is pretty ugly in my life.
It came to my attention that I have achieved the "American Dream". House? Check. 2 cars? Check. Mini van full of kids? Check. Husband with a great job? Check. I am so blessed. But you know what? This isn't MY dream. I know everyone says it should be, and I am of course thrilled that I live comfortably, but I don't think that I have "arrived". My dream still feels unfulfilled. It is like being hungry and filling your belly with white rice. Sure, you might be less hungry, but your taste-buds long for more flavor, your body craves more nutrition. You see the variety of succulent fruit, savory herbs and flavorful meats. It isn't that you need MORE to be happy, you just need different.
What if I took the everyone-elses-dream and politely handed it back. What if I said "no thanks" to the life full of "white rice" and chose to live in a small house with very little stuff. What if I chose a plate with less food but more color, texture and flavors. What would people think? Would they feel bad for my kids, forced to share rooms with less toys? Would they think that Matt just couldn't hold down a good job that allowed us to live big? Do I actually give a rip what they believe?
Do to some possible big changes coming up in our next couple of months, I was thinking of the bare minimum I could have and be happy. How many outfits? Shoes? Pots and pans? How much space do I need? If I could be happy with 10 outfits total, and the same for my kids, how much time would I spend caring for clothing? If we had 1/4 amount of toys as we do now, how much more creatively could my kids play? If I have 1/10th the amount of space to care for, how many more stories would I read to the kids, puzzles would I build, pretend worlds would I discover? Could I give up the plate of filling yet predictably the same, empty carbohydrate rice and go for unknown, less full plate of pallet quenching munchies?
I came across a great blog about a couple who decided to each keep no more than 100 personal items. That includes things like a toothbrush and underwear. Cell phones. Computer. Could I do that? What would I learn about myself, my children, the condition of my heart?
I am not sure how we got to the place where more stuff or better stuff equals more happiness. Matt spends a lot of time and energy at work, but if we could live on half the money and he could work half as much and we had one quarter amount of the items we have now, could we be more present, more happy? Could we serve more, give more, love more?
If the American dream, keeping up with the Jones', isn't my dream for our family, what is?