Happy to Live in the Present

I had hoped to give an update on our first 30 days of life without the internet today but that life is proving to be fraught with many an [unforeseen] obstacle and that post is going to need a bit of revision. In the meantime, I combed back through my archives and found this tidbit instead. I thought I could use the reminder that though we can’t change the past, we can change our mind.

We all know someone who is backwards focused, always looking into the past and presuming how their life (or yours) would have been vastly different…if only. If only they had married Bob instead of Bill. If only they had finished that degree. If only they had selected a different career path. If only…

A few days ago I was chatting with someone who knew me when I was in college. “You should have just gone into journalism,” she said. “You write for a living anyway.” Perhaps it was a harmless observation, but knowing my friend, I knew she thought I could have “done better” with my life. This is, by the way, the same person who once asked me why anyone would bother to write a book if it wasn’t going to be a bestseller.

When I studied journalism 25 years ago, the word “blog” hadn’t even been coined. As I learned the fundamentals of newspaper reporting, I became keenly aware that I had little interest in journalism as a career path. I loved research and the art of crafting a good story. I did not love the ins and outs of the newspaper business. So I changed majors.

Like 49% of American college graduates, I don’t even work in my field of study (which ended up being business, by the way). I do write for a living. I write grants for non-profits. I also write in my journal and on this blog, and sometimes I even write short stories – despite the fact that they will never be bestsellers. I didn’t need to become a journalist to write. I didn’t need to become anything. I was already a writer from the moment I picked up a pen and told myself I was.

Backwards focused people nearly always think the grass is greener on the path not taken. Though a million thoughts crossed my mind that day, I knew it was an unwinnable argument so I opted to steer my friend to a different topic. She will always see my life as one of missed opportunities. But I’m not so certain that I’m the one who missed out.

Everybody knows how sweet it is to savor life’s simplest moments when we pause to take it all in: watching the sunset; taking a walk with a friend; or having a hot cup of tea on a winter’s day. Far too often, however, we’re pulled away from the present to fixate on the past, or worry about the future. When this happens, we’re not able to fully experience the richness, and subsequent happiness, that is often right under our noses. ~ Kim Pratt, LCSW

In my daily life, I try to remember to be mindful. I can’t do that by dwelling in the past. No choice that could have been made in the past will ever compare to the one that can be made right now; to be present and grateful for this very moment.

Crazy Things I Heard This Week

We pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe minimalism, frugality, and simple living. It’s so much a part of who we are and what we do that we often forget that there’s an entire world out there full of people who are not minimalists or frugal or even concerned, for that matter. I don’t know why, but when I hear people say something that celebrates excess or consumerism or wastefulness (of money or resources), I’m taken aback…so much so sometimes that I just stand there shaking my head. This week, my head was on a swivel, it shook so much! Some things were truly funny, some were unbelievably strange, and a few were just plain wrong; so, if for no other reason than to rid my own mind of the nonsense, I want to share with you some of the crazy things I heard this week.

Crazy Thing #1

My cousin recently went on a cruise to the Caribbean with a couple he has known for a while. I don’t think he considers them to be close friends; just social acquaintances from his Bridge Club. When my cousin picked them up to head to the airport in his 10-year-old Nissan, one of his companions offered him this nugget of wisdom: “If you didn’t travel so much and eat at fine restaurants all the time, you would have the money to buy nicer stuff.” He actually used the word stuff, as if it was truly something to strive for. My cousin is in his early 50s, debt-free, and retired. His friend is not.

Crazy Thing #2

My aunt’s taxes on her 26-acre property were due at the end of February. The total bill was just a little over $500, which she opted to pay in monthly payments. When my mom asked if she just didn’t have the money, my aunt replied, “Oh, I have it, I just don’t want to part with it.” My mom then proceeded to tell me that when my uncle was alive, he would always borrow money from my grandfather, even when he had the exact amount of money he needed in his own wallet. Why? Because he just didn’t want to part with it! Hmm…I guess that’s one way to save your money!

Crazy Thing #3

Angie’s mom’s friend, Betty, is retiring this year. She’s 64. When Angie asked her mom what Betty plans to do after she retires, she answered, “She’ll probably do what all retired people do – go through her closets and get rid of stuff.” Good to know that’s what all retired people do. I feel retired already!

Crazy Thing #4

Betty’s husband, Bob, has been at his job for 30 years. His employer told him that he could have anything he wanted for his work anniversary – a vacation, cash, whatever. He picked a $25,000 ATV. A four-wheeler! Betty and Bob owe more than $60,000 in credit card debt and were once featured in one of our most popular posts, She Spent $1,700 Where?? As you can see, not much has changed in their life in the past two years.

Crazy Thing #5

A doctor in Texas told Angie’s parents to drink a shot of top-shelf tequila every day to prevent and reverse diabetes. I feel so cheated! My doctor just told me to eat more plants.

Crazy Thing #6

The lady who does my mom’s hair has a 48-year-old son who lives at home. He’s an average guy with a normal IQ who loves beer, motorcycles, and hanging out with his friends. In other words, there’s nothing stopping him from making it on his own. Except for the “contract”. Apparently when he graduated from high school, his mom offered him a deal – live at home and you’ll never have to work…or cook a meal for yourself…or do your own laundry. Sounds like a plan, right?? Except that he’s also prohibited from travelling anywhere or having anyone stay overnight. Not only did he agree to this, he signed an actual contract. Well, that’s certainly an approach to simple living I’ve never considered!

Crazy Thing #7

A friend of ours got a $600 income tax refund. Her stove recently went out and needs to be repaired or replaced. Logic might seem to dictate that part of the refund would go toward the stove – which most folks consider a necessity. Nope, she’s buying a Shou-sugi-gan torch. Not to be confused with something that flame grills veggies, this is a woodworking tool…and the latest in a long line of “cool looking” gadgets that will “make life easier” for her. I imagine it will go on the shelf in the garage, right next to the shrimp deveiner, the digital meat thermometer, and the 6-bulb garlic press. But hey, who needs those things anyway when you don’t have a stove??

I would worry about offending the real-life folks who participated in these crazy scenarios, but as Angie just told me:

Crazy Thing #8

No one in our family reads this blog because it’s not political and it doesn’t have anything to do with dogs.

What is the craziest thing you heard lately?