I know I have everything I need, but I don’t feel like it. I feel poor because my brand-new-nice-clean-comfortable mattress is on bed springs on the floor instead of on a frame. I think I need a frame to be a “real adult” (whatever that is), even though many people would be thankful for a mattress. Any mattress. Something to keep from sleeping on the floor or the park bench or the homeless shelter floor. Yet I need a bed frame.
I also need another chair. I can’t just have guests sit on the floor. None of my friends really care; some prefer sitting on the carpeted floor. But in the quest to become a “real adult”, I need another chair.
I also need new pots and pans. And dishes. The ones I own do what they need to do perfectly fine, but they’re chipped or old or not the right color.
It’s fall now so what about a new sweater? Of course, I have sweaters, but it has become somehow important to have one to go with leggings because the one I have only goes with jeans.
When I think about the homeless people in my city or the migrant crisis in Europe or children who go to bed hungry around the world, my “needs” seem really shitty to me. Instead of buying a new bed frame I could use that money to buy a mattress for someone. Instead of going out for drinks I could give the money to someone who is hungry.
Why don’t I? Why don’t we all? The amount of pressure in our culture to fulfill “needs” that aren’t really needs gets in the way. If we can afford to, we SHOULD have a nicely decorated place, and we SHOULD provide nice food for our guests. We SHOULD have bed frames and other non-dilapidated furniture if we can. It’s “embarrassing” not to conform to these unspoken rules, just like it’s embarrassing to dress out of fashion or have a bad haircut. No longer a student and married for five years, the expectations for my apartment seem to have increased exponentially overnight. I have to decide if it’s worth it to strive towards these standards. Do I let the rules tell me what I need and what I should spend money on? Do I have the courage to deviate? Truthfully, a lot of times I want to, but I don’t. The “needs” and “wants” I have keep me from feeling rich enough to give, rich enough to feel content with what I have.
The worst thing about the needs is they continue to grow and become more expensive. Five years ago, my husband and I were excited to have our own apartment. As newly married graduate students, we owned our own couch and had our own spot to have people over. This was exciting. Now the furniture needs to not have holes or crazy scratches and needs to match?! Having mac and cheese from the box and five dollar bottles of wine was fantastic. Now we need to cook healthy things that taste and look great? It’s a treadmill scenario; there’s no place I can arrive and say that I’ve achieved material success. The end point perpetually moves slightly beyond my reach so that I can never be satisfied.
I’d like to decide what my level of contentment should be and keep it from increasing every time my income grows or every time someone around me decides their level increases. I’m not suggesting there is one way to do this, but I think it’s important to think about. There will always be new products, new seasons of life, new standards. If we don’t think about it, there will never be a point where we are satisfied and willing to share with others. I want to let go of trying to keep up and instead be happy with what I have. I really do have a lot when I’m not comparing myself to the people just above me socioeconomically, and I’d like to enjoy my life instead of always wanting more.
Does anyone else feel this way? I’d also love to hear if anyone has any specific ways they’ve been able to become more content and more able to give, despite a constant barrage of cultural messages to have more.