I will call her Mrs. Denial. This hardworking American mother never bought herself a beautiful dress. She made do with what she had, what was passed-down to her, or what she found on clearance. The kids are grown and she can afford more, but still she does not buy the dress that makes her feel the loveliest. The reason she states are plentiful,”The grandkids may need something, the kids inheritance….” She sacrificed and continues to sacrifice because that is what moms do.
But is it right?
Sadly something happened in Mrs. Denial’s methodology, her children didn’t witness this as selflessness. Instead these actions made them see mom as not valuing herself. The message got mixed up, “If Mom can’t have what she needs or dreams–neither can we.” Today, her adult children all struggle with valuing themselves, and there may be a myriad of reasons why. Mostly, children emulate what they see and not necessarily what they hear…
I talk and write a lot about simplifying and minimizing what we own. I think that message is important–we can’t continue to consume at the level we are in our nation and in the world and possibly sustain it. I’ve wanted to live what I preach and I make do with what I have a lot. It is a game to me, “How long can I go without, how can I use what I have to get the job done, can I borrow it, can I buy it used….” I call it being resourceful and my children participate in the “game” with me and often it is very fun for all of us.
However, something has changed in the past few years and I’ve stopped consuming to the point that buying the shoes I badly need has become unbearably hard. I have the money and yet I haven’t purchased them…do I deserve new shoes when others have so little and think of the resources, the questionable labor…? Seems crazy doesn’t it–this self-created martyrism? But there it is in my head this very instant…and the thing is I think others who journey through voluntary simplicity or minimalism struggle as well. It is a tricky business owning and consuming things. The wants and the needs get confused, the voices of humanity and fairness echo in your head, and with so much vying for our money and time it is almost easier to completely deny ourselves than have to deal with figuring out what has true value or what is truly fair.
But shouldn’t we value ourselves?
If we cannot value ourselves then how can we value others in this world around us? Maybe it’s about making ethical choices in our purchases and finding quality and not succumbing to the quantity. It is the quantity that is the problem–we as a world own too much stuff, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t own anything? (And yes I know the idea of “owning” can be philosophized to death–so let’s skip that part.)
If Mrs. Denial had bought a beautiful, solidly made dress that made her feel lovely…maybe she would have smiled more…her children would have echoed that smile…maybe their stories would be different…a different legacy. Perhaps, some will think how stupid a dress is a thing and it can’t bring joy–no, it can’t…but sometimes our minds can be altered because of the way we perceive a thing…
It is a tricky business owning and consuming things, but I can’t talk about it anymore…I’ve got to buy some solidly made, lasting shoes…and I might just smile about it.