Reminiscing recently about the daughter of a friend of mine, I noted that the thing that stood out about her the most was her purses. Now before you write me off as some diva, let me explain. This young lady, from middle school on, was granted every purse she wanted: Louis Vuitton, Coach, Dooney and Bourke. You get the idea. Her parents were blue collar workers who had worked hard to buy their own home and have decent vehicles. Her mom mistakenly assumed the way to bond herself to her daughter was to grant her every wish. I’m not sure this child ever heard the word “no”. $200, $300, $400 purses were the norm for this kid.
Of course, as is often true with situations where people live beyond their means, the house of cards eventually collapsed, divorce ensued, and the piper had to be paid for the years of living extravagantly. Purses were hocked, jewelry was sold, standards of living were scaled way back.
As I thought about this young woman recently, I wondered how happy and satisfied she is in her life. She has a high school education and lives in a small town with few opportunities for earning a solid living, much less an extravagant lifestyle. There are not many people in this world with whom she could connect who could support her in the way to which she became accustomed.
I, on the other hand, heard “no” often as a child. My parents made an art and science out of living frugally. My mom shopped rummage sales and my dad repainted used bikes for us. Our vacations were the spitting image of National Lampoon’s…barreling down the highway in the station wagon with the wood paneling on the sides. My dad getting irritated when we had to go to the bathroom because it slowed up some imaginary timeline he was trying to beat. We have tons of funny stories to share from those trips.
We also have stories to share about the things we created out of next to nothing. The rocketships made from trikes and dandelions, the secret hideaway at the base of the biggest tree in the woods, the imaginary friends who had great adventures with us. I was told recently that Steve Jobs did not allow his kids much access to “screens” as they were growing up because he believed it killed creativity. I am so with him on that!
I believe that less is more, that making do with what you have is a great way to live, that enjoying all that is free makes life much more pleasant. So, today, just for a while, turn off all of your screens, slow WAY down, and notice what’s around you. Right now, I’m sitting in a cute, little coffee shop called The Attic in Green Bay, WI. I’m loving on the pretty green color of the walls, the racks of used books for resale, the quiet hum of conversations around me, the amazing smells that dwell in a coffee shop. It’s the little things, when we choose to notice them, that make all the difference. And choosing to notice them is so much easier when we’ve heard “no” repeatedly in our lives. Go for the “no”, then rejoice in the little things.