More, more, more

I read this post by Angie and had enough thoughts surface that I wanted to respond in post. I’ve touched on these topics before but have more to say.

We live in a culture that encourages us to want more, more of everything. It’s our siren song. It is very difficult to resist its pull and stay a functioning, reasonably respected member of society. People who truly resist, who refuse to run the races, climb the ladders, collect the prizes, aspire for more of everything, and who live on the periphery and beyond, are not looked on kindly. Something must be wrong with them. And truth be told, oftentimes – at least sometimes – there is.

I wonder too, is it essentially part of the human condition to be dissatisfied? To want? Philosophers and social scientists and religious scholars have long devoted their work to these questions. I know how all that desirin’ and covetin’ is said to be the root of unhappiness. For me though, the questions remain unanswered. I’m too entrenched in my Western, first world point of view to know how much is in my DNA – and subsequently more difficult to shake – and how much is culturally driven when it comes to wants and satisfaction.

I tell you this. I recognize these things in myself and others. A certain amount of wanting can drive a person to get things done, be productive, and improve their lot. We get into trouble, though, when there’s no joy to be had, no pleasure in living and life is always focused on the end zone or what’s next. Or simply, on what’s wrong.

Some years back people, mainly women, started talking about and writing “Gratitude journals.” The idea being to shift one’s focus from a litany of complaints, grievances, and dissatisfactions to the good stuff that is often overlooked and/or taken for granted. The idea is that where you put your focus, your experiences will follow. I.e., what you think about is what you’ll get more of, so you can retrain your brain according to the theory, and consequently change your circumstances (or at least how you feel about them).

I never kept a Gratitude journal; it wasn’t quite my style. Instead, I came up with my own little practice that I do from time to time. In that (ideally) brief period of wakefulness before going to sleep, when one’s mind looks over the day or revisits grievances or whatever else it is inclined to do, I ask myself to mentally list ten good things in my life. They might be events or people or tangible things. They need only be positive. It’s an interesting exercise. It doesn’t preclude having whatever unhappy or worried thoughts I might have, but it must minimally be done in addition to them.

Knocking out five or so isn’t too hard. But as the number gets higher, sometimes I must stretch a bit or repeat ones from a previous accounting. “My bed” and “a refrigerator full of good food” are frequent listees. That’s okay. There’s no harm in acknowledging and appreciating such basic parts modern life. In fact, it’s good. Not everybody has those things. They are marvelous gifts. I need to remember that.

This links to something else from the original post. The fear many of us have of not having enough, not being enough. It seems insufficient – or so the message goes – to be thought of, or consider ourselves and our lives as “ordinary.” Ordinary is clearly nothing to be proud of; one must be constantly defending their own existence. Heaven forbid you just go about your quiet business and take up space. My thought here is that statistically speaking alone, most people are bound to be ordinary. How many “extraordinary” people do you know?

Unfortunately, too many people feel a pressure to “puff themselves up,” to sell themselves like mad in an effort to compensate for this ordinariness they feel within themselves. They are SO busy, their lives are jam-packed, they have SO much going on, they say. The virtuousness of the busy. I do think some people thrive on constant motion, activity, and chaos, but not nearly so many as who live by these practices. Scrambling all around does not seem to make them all that happy or peaceful. It just makes them occupied.

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20 thoughts on “More, more, more

  1. SD Gates

    I completely agree with everything you say. I kind of go the opposite way (from puffing up) and tell people I live in the ghetto, I am always broke and I carry a go-phone because I am too cheap to buy anything else. I don’t believe in wearing any status symbols (Coach, MK, Nike). And I really am so much happier. I think we all need to go the opposite direction, simpler, less stuff – just the basics. Food in the fridge, a roof over our heads, a warm, comfy bed, children we adore, those are things that are important. Great post!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thank you so much. Great comment! You know what? I’ve never had a cell phone and I drag my heels deeply on this because I know once you have one, there’s no going back. I too freely admit to being poor. I’m so bad that even in thrift stores, I won’t buy clothes with big logos splashed across them no matter how cheap they are. I agree with you that many people would be better off and happier if they pared down and simplified but there is such immense pressure and scare tactics not to. By the way, I don’t have any children to adore, so if you would like to express mail me some, that would be fine.

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      1. SD Gates

        I could send you my children for a couple of days, but then I would ask for them back. I would miss them too much.
        I think they should do away with all the reality TV, Cribs, Real Housewives of somewhere, Bachelorette, half of the stuff on HGTV that makes everyone think where they live sucks. It’s not reality TV really, it’s make believe TV designed to instill a sense of inferiority into it’s viewers. Actually let’s just get rid of TV and all the commercials and all the junk. What do you think?

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      1. John Callaghan

        Oh, it’s a good busy. I’m in Las Vegas with a client/friend from the group home I work at. Las Vegas is something he wanted to do for a long time and since his health is failing we thought wd’d better get him here now.

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  2. jan

    I have a lot of friends who believe their lives will not be fulfilling unless they’re constantly busy. I couldn’t do it. I’ve got to have my doodling time.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. mommacarranza

    I’m quite happy in my simplified, ordinary life. I sometimes wonder if those that are so “busy” are busy doing such things in an effort to avoid the stillness and reflective nature of peace, as if its a place they just don’t want to go…maybe it’s painful there?

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Yes, I know people like that who need constant commotion and external stimulation. Alone with their own thoughts is scary for a lot of people (I try to make sure I don’t join their ranks). And sooner or later those thoughts held at bay catch up to everybody. Thanks for commenting!

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  4. Angie Mc

    So many important thoughts here, Colette! I read once that happiness is knowing what is “enough” and then having a little bit more. I know what my enough is, thank goodness, and I enjoy a little bit more (you know I’m going to mention chocolate here.) I’ve really enjoy our discussions and how reading Daring Greatly is fitting in nicely, giving so much to ponder. I really like your way of doing a grateful 10. I do the same at night, but just list what comes to mind. I’m going to pay attention tonight and push myself beyond the obvious.

    As for being busy, I love that my life has seasons of busy and less busy. Spring baseball is slowing down here and I’m looking forward to a less busy summer. Fingers crossed! I hope your weekend is wonderful ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      You’re right, Angie, my life has busy and less-busy too (but almost never crazy-busy by design). Finding the right balance is tough. Stimulation-but-not-stress is a difficult but optimum state for me.

      I’ve enjoyed this multipart conversation very much too. I like that it doesn’t just stop and move on to the next thing the way so much of WordPress tends to. You make me reflect on some of the benefits of cultivating online relationships over time. There’s a connectivity to some of the discussion which is really nice.

      (My ten things aren’t fancy! I think I pick and choose from different areas just to make it to ten.)

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      1. Angie Mc

        “Stimulation-but-not-stress is a difficult but optimum state for me.” <- Me too! Oh, I do love when I hit the sweet spot of high energy that doesn’t overflow into anxiety! I’m getting better at riding this bull 😀

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  5. vanbytheriver

    I came looking for you today, Colette, and found this post (for the first time…thanks WP !). This one is very thought-provoking. What popped into my over-stimulated brain was the scene from Titanic… the one that contrasts the high society folks formal dining ( proper attire,fine china, flawless manners), with the boisterous party that is going full tilt in the steerage section. I far prefer the latter. When you are not worried about acquiring/keeping wealth, the simple things in life are so much sweeter…simple food, drink, dancing, friendship…in a word, joy. ☺ Van

    p.s. Missing your posts. Hope all is well. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Aw thank you Sweetie. I’m still here. Me too on the Titanic scenario, um except for the part where it was their last party… Well, you come across as a genuine, down-to-earth (maybe even “salt of the earth”; uncertain w/o actually knowing you) person, so that makes total sense. I’m a strange mix: People (and life to a point) disappoint me plenty and yet it doesn’t take a lot to please me so far as just the things you mention. Thanks for looking for me and commenting! (I have heard rumblings, maybe even from your blog, that the reader hasn’t been up to snuff lately?)

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      1. vanbytheriver

        Yep…I’ve had a few bloggers drop out of my reader…not sure why ? I’ve been accused of being “salty” over the years..does that count ?? Thanks for commenting.Glad all is well…we need more writers in/with soul. ❤

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