While I earn far less money than most everyone I know, I also know I’m one of the “richest” people I know. I actually quite often feel I must be the wealthiest woman in the world!
I must also hasten to point out that I’ve always lived what can only fairly be called a life of privilege. I was born into a family in which there was considerable privilege – large income, big house, family memberships in the local Yacht & Golf & Country Clubs. It’s also true that it was a highly dysfunctional family, and that these material “goodies” or perks brought us little or no joy or peace. That was good learning, hmm? A very useful life lesson, as it turned out. As I like to joke, I’ve been “downwardly socially mobile” ever since.
I could enumerate some things I’ve never had in my life, or things I’ve lost – and there are substantial things in both of these categories – but it seems to me it has been the losses, or challenges (and the associated suffering), that have helped bring me to this place of knowing my own very great wealth.
Currently, I am blessed to live in a small town set amongst stunning natural beauty; this alone makes me feel very privileged and rich. I’m writing these words at a beach and place of awesome beauty (alongside the Ottawa River, in eastern Ontario, Canada) and every time I come here (usually daily, on my regular walks), I am reminded that the best things in life are indeed free – and that we really need only open our eyes in order to have our souls and spirits greatly nourished.
Alright. To the list – in no particular order…
These are my most prized possessions:
- A deep & abiding love of Nature/the Earth – and the awareness that this Earth always has, and continues to, provide us with all that we really need.
- A strong (and mostly happy) spirit.
- Faith in the Universe and its seeming eagerness to look after me (provided I am prepared to meet it at least halfway, of course).
- Knowing I am loved and appreciated by a gratifying number of people.
- A wide circle of friends. (Plato said, “Your wealth is where your friends are.” Is this not so?)
- The joys of motherhood & the love of my children – two wonderful daughters who’ve given me more than they can ever know – and our good relationships with one another; not perfect, not without occasional stress and conflict – but a good steady and abiding love of one another in spite of (perhaps because of??) the mountains & rivers of trials and tribulations we’ve waded our way through.
- Memories of their childhood – many, many, many wonderful moments…
- Appreciation for the (thorny) gifts of my own difficult childhood and my so-much-less-than-perfect parents. In ways I’m sure they were never aware of, they gave me plenty of good fertilizer to help me grow into the person I now am.
- Strong convictions – very likely the result of my genetic heritage and my parents’ (sometimes inadvertent) moral guidance.
- A passionate and abiding love of books, reading and continuous learning.
- The freedom I now have (at 56), after a hard knock or two and lots of challenging times and soul-searching and solitude (yes, considerable loneliness at times, too), to “follow my bliss” and not rely on our culture’s mingy “recipe for success” (materialism, rat race and the more-more-more disease). I live more from the heart than from the brain – and this has been a very winning strategy for me.
- Work I am passionate about – most of which doesn’t pay in cold, hard cash, but which I believe in deeply, perform joyfully, and reap immeasurable benefits from in pride and satisfaction.
- My daily sanity and joy-inducing walking habit.
- My voice. I use it a lot, and am grateful for the strength and self-confidence that enable me to put it to good use.
- My love of music – the great joy of listening to it, & the deep, deep joy of singing.
- Frequent moments of feeling “full to bursting” with life – joy – gratitude – a full spirit.
- Faith in myself. Sure, it gets shaken sometimes (especially when I behave badly, which I definitely do on occasion!), but all in all, I like myself, trust myself (mostly), and know I’ve learned some pretty good coping and living strategies and an ability to bounce back from the inevitable knocks I take.
- Gratitude: it’s the bedrock of my existence. Only in losing what I once prized the most (my marriage and our full-time family life), was I brought to my knees and learned the incredible power of gratitude – which I make a point of practicing…actively…daily.
- My ability to admit to and learn from my mistakes and missteps.
Are you ready to gag yet, or feel like strangling me? Fair enough. I’ll add here that I also have my full, fair share of weak moments. Times of loneliness. Insecurity. Self-loathing. My sometimes ridiculous behaviour (things like my old Friday night “beer and Doritos” habit). Saying stupid and hurtful things sometimes. Offending friends and daughters and other loved ones. I never said I was a saint, did I?? Very, very human and fallible I am. Back to the list…
- Having learned to live much less from a place of fear, and much more from a place of faith and abundance.
- My ability to call for, and accept, help and support when I need it – when I feel like I’m drowning – which definitely does happen from time to time....
- My ability to not be taken in by the nonsensical and unreal worlds of television and advertising, a gift for which I am profoundly, profoundly grateful to my father.
- My ability to laugh at myself & just plain laugh & have fun, period.
- My awareness that the “little things” in life are really the big things, if you get my drift.
- My increasing ability to draw forth compassion – for everyone else and for myself, and a dwindling tendency to leap to harsh and negative judgments. Still a long way to go on this, but this is the work of a lifetime, I think. I’ll keep at it…
- The ability to stand like a flamingo in a dishpan of water, outside the back door, to get the sand of the beach off my feet, and get a chuckle out of the fact that the dishpan still has my daughter’s name on it (in permanent felt marker) from her early days as a camper. Dear brave little camper, she was, too…
Okay – now I’m being silly. It’s begun to seem as though I could go on forever! I never expected to call up so many items when I set out to write this – not for a moment. It’s kind of like the magic of gratitude. The more I say “thank you” for, and muse on what I have to be thankful for, the more the list grows and grows.
Don’t think I don’t know from heartbreak, okay? I’ve had my share of it.
But all these “prized possessions” of mine help me make my way through it. It isn’t always fun or easy, nor am I always graceful, exactly, but these things do bring a great deal of comfort.
Hmmm. I guess I forgot to mention my gratitude for a seeming ability to keep on changing, evolving and growing. I may be 56 years old, but I’m not a knee-jerk foe of life change, because I know change is inevitable, if for sure not always easy.
Karen Kaiser Clark said, “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” This seems like exceptionally wise counsel to me…
P.S. In terms of material possessions, I guess the ones I prize the most are my books (my so-beloved books) and my rain gear, Teva sandals, knapsacks, hiking boots and sleeping bag. I used to go on canoe trips on which I generally felt as though I’d died and gone to Heaven. If I take another canoe trip, and if I should happen to die on it, for some reason (lightning strike, drowning, whatever…) I tell you, I would go that way gladly.
P.P.S. The essay ‘Wealth: Nothing to Do with Money’ covers some of the same ground and has some great quotations at the end.
P.S. # 4: Ralph Waldo Emerson on success: “To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of oneself; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived…this is to have succeeded.”
P.S. # 5: Associated 'quotation of the day': "Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued. It must ensue. And it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself." ~ Victor Frankl