I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Scarcity versus abundance

It's Sunday morning again, and I've been thinking this week about having enough. Enough of what, you ask? Well, just about everything. And what I really wonder about is how you determine that.

Some of us are old enough to remember our parents, who were raised during the Great Depression, admonishing us to finish the food on our plates, to think of the starving children in Africa, or China, or somewhere other than here. In America, I was taught, we are fortunate and have enough for a good life. But it's not true; it depends a lot on how you were raised, and what the fortunes of your family might have been. Some people don't have a place to live, enough to eat, or any way to change their circumstances. Right here in America. And some are fortunate but don't know it.

When I was little, I never even gave a thought to any of this. We always had a place to live and food on the table. It seems that if you never go without, you can't see what you've got. It's like air; if you always have it, you breathe in and out and never consider what it would be like not to be able to breathe.

Or like health. You don't even consider what it would be like not to be able to run and play, take long walks, pick up your kids, or grandkids, until one day when you just can't any more. The whole problem with health is that it is invisible until you don't have it, and regaining health is pretty basic to enjoyment of life.

As I've gotten older, I realize I've had my share of abundance. My health is good, especially when I compare myself to others my age. And I've got a roof over my head and enough good food to eat, maybe even too much food sometimes. But I don't always see these things, I take them for granted. I've got a TV and cable, a DVD player, I buy bird food and watch all kinds of birds dine on my front porch.

Today I'll get in my car and drive over an hour to Snohomish and jump out of airplanes for recreation. Although I won't do that as much as I used to, partly because of money and partly because I just don't have the desire any more, I know I'll come home renewed and refreshed. Last Thursday I hiked up into the High Country with my senior friends and saw a beautiful glacier and heard it rumble nearby. I carried a backpack filled with gear for possible weather changes. I came home from that hike renewed and refreshed. I've got a good life.

If I wanted to, I could compare my life with others and feel bad about it, because I don't own my own home, my furnishings are rather basic and bare, both of my children died before me and I don't have any grandchildren, never will have. My car is almost ten years old now, and my income is not great and is fixed for the rest of my life. It will dwindle in value and I'll do without things that today seem essential. I'm not getting any younger, and my good health won't last.

The point of this post is how important my mindset is. What I focus on makes all the difference in whether I feel blessed with abundance or cursed with scarcity. Nothing outside of me changes while the inside of my head goes around in circles. One day I get up and feel great, excited about life and what I've got ahead, and the next day I groan as the clock shows it's time to get out of bed and face the day.

I will choose abundance. I will be happy for today's blessings. Tomorrow, maybe, I'll feel differently. We all know people who see the bright side of life, and those who will never see it, no matter how much abundance flows into their lives. If my state of mind is what changes, rather than my circumstances, I'll choose abundance every time.


TechnoBabe said...

This post is very well written, DJan. You are wise to appreciate what you have and to know that your state of mind drives your satisfaction in life. I too am on fixed income and choose to be happy about finding ways to be innovative in stretching the money and appreciate my life today. I am so happy to not be working any longer. I like where we are living so much as you do out there. Simple things like playing a board game or listening to music or taking a walk are fun and enjoyable. I have done much traveling as you have and I am happy for those opportunities but now my life is not like that and I am happy it isn't any longer. So I guess you are right, we adapt to our current situation and circumstances and we do it happily if we want to be healthy.

Anonymous said...


#1Nana said...

I so agree with you...well. except for the jumping out of airplanes thing.

I try to live with gratitude, but sometimes I find myself focusing on what I don't have rather than all that I do have. It is a mystery to me how the belief in sufficiency actually creates abundance.

Good post.

Donna B said...

What an awesome post. My husband and I have been having similiar thoughts lately as he is on the "precipice" (as he thinks of it) of retirement. He makes an excellent salary and he has never really gone without at any time in his life. He was an only child growing up. He has six grown children and six great grand children. He hates the word "frugal". I, on the other hand, grew up in a family who learned to do without and didn't really know any different. I actually felt uncomfortable with some of the money he wanted to spend on things.

Retirement is like a young couple having a baby. They worry and stress how they will manage the expense of raising a child...but they find a way. We will find our way...he just has to make the leap of faith, and hold on to abundance...the kind that does not have to cost anything.

Linda Reeder said...

Growing up, my mother found a way to keep us fed and clothed and sheltered, but it was hard sometimes. We didn't have much, but we did have "enough". We all learned to be hard working and make the money last, to do without if we have to.
In my retirement years I am probably better off than at any other time of my life, due largely to being careful with money all along the way. While our income is still not large, we have no debt. We have enough. We live abundantly. And I'm trying to hang onto my health.
Good post, DJan. It's good to take stock now and then, and count our blessings.

Kathryn said...

This blog of yours speaks to me a lot. I know it's the blog written for yourself, but I guess I feel the same way you do in some ways at least. Abundance: I've been trying, and succeeding, to feel that I have enough. I really do have enough, and sometimes too much. It IS mind over matter, and it works. A focus on good healthy food helps too - getting rid of chemicals and additives demonstrates that less is more...and then it's easy to carry this way of thinking to other parts of life. I can't wait for retirement and the opportunity to put more thought into simplicity. Sounds funny, doesn't it?

Gigi said...

"And some are fortunate but don't know it" Such a very true statement. And one that, sometimes we all are guilty of, no matter our circumstance.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

This post hits truth in the nose. It's the dichotomy of human existence, the feelings that all of us in the western world feel from time to time, perhaps more frequently than we care to admit. Nicely done. Through your words, we get it. I get it.

gayle said...

I need to count my blessings because I do have a lot!!

Tiff said...

Great post. I once heard that if you had $20 in the bank and $20 in your pocket, you were in the top 3% of wealthiest people in the world. I love that you are appreciating what you have, it's so much better than focusing on what you don't have. :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

I was raised to eat what was put before me, because of the starving children in the world.. I asked if they are starving why don't you send them this lousy food. My Mother made us eat some of the most horrible concoctions.
I revel in abundance..and being able to have something on my bread besides butter and sugar..although I have the memory of how the sugar squeeked in between my teeth. I guess you never miss what you never had.

It is good to count our abundant blessings sometimes:)

Whitney Lee said...

This is exactly the right post for me right now. It seems that you've struck a chord with several people this week. Life really is all about perspective, and perspective is so often about choice. Like you, I often have to stop myself and choose to change my mind. It makes all the difference in the world.

You are right in that one could look at some of the facts of your life and feel that you've been shortchanged. They simply aren't taking into account the totality of your life. You really are fortunate to have your health, not to mention a seemingly fabulous and rewarding marriage (something the majority of folks do not have). You also have a wealth of love here in the blogoshpere. You are welcome to claim me and mine as yours:) A really wonderful post.

Jo said...

I have always preferred to look at the glass as half full rather than half empty. Sometimes I feel like the kid outside the candy store, looking inside at all the other kids gorging on the candies. But then I think, happiness doesn't depend on what a person has, but rather how a person feels. I love serenity, and I have had to struggle to achieve it. But I value it more than anything else.

"Renewed and refreshed..." I like that. Can I borrow it? It's wonderful.

CrazyCris said...

Very well put! It's the whole "glass hald full" mindset. Whenever I'm feeling particularly down I try and remember all the things I am blessed with: a loving family, good friends, health (mostly), a roof over my head, a decent education and a life lived that many people can only dream about... and I'm still young. I can only hope to pull myself out of my slump and make my way forward to more interesting experiences, new friends and new discoveries. Even when I complain, I know that compared to some I have nothing to complain about...