Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Tea

I'm now able to once again sit in my cozy corner of the office and write on my familiar (if different on the inside) computer. That... is a good thing. We keep our house on the cool-ish side so once I finish pondering and virtual chatting, a cup of very hot tea will feel good. I will fill a large mug with the soothing liquid (forget the bone china today!) so it not only warms the heart but also... the hands. :)

I've been thinking this week, noticing how many blogs are talking about frugal living. Not only those which fall under the category of "Frugal Blogs" in my bookmarks... many others are taking up the subject. I expect it has a lot to do with the rising cost of living and how our budgets are being stretched until they squeak.

I've mentioned a few times that I am a "Recovering Yuppie" (sometimes also spelled yuppy). So were many of us who were young and career minded in the 1980s and beyond. We considered ourselves frugal if we waited to purchase suits and leather shoes on sale (which I did by the way). We Baby Boomers were not raised to be frugal, at least for the most part. My mother knew how to stretch a dollar and taught me a great deal about always keeping a stocked pantry and freezer. However, she didn't expect me to have to ever be truly frugal for parents of that generation just assumed their children would live the American Dream and always have Plenty.

As with most children of my generation, I was taught that true success was shown by how much stuff I was able to accumulate. Magazines articles from the 1980s were often about what to buy and how to buy and where to buy! There were even numerous articles about what brands one much purchase to be considered successful. I still remember (and I blush as I write this) the article I cut out of a magazine about the proper brands of baby "stuff" one absolutely must own. I carried it with me as if it were a consumer Bible or something!

It is interesting to me that running parallel to this time were books such as "How To Profit in the Coming Bad Years" and similar titles. For just as we had been taught to be (at the time) the most materialistic generation in American History (I think the current youth have surpassed us but then again... we were their teachers), the very foundations of our American economic system were beginning to crack by then.

I believe history shows us the cracking of the foundations did not stop but was only slowed down. These days as I watch the news and read online finance sites, I see those same storm clouds on the horizon. For some families, they are already in the midst of the whirlwind. So... what does that have to do with afternoon tea time? Perhaps not so much our chatting during tea time but I do hope our ponderings in the days to come as we make attempts to be more frugal and less materialistic.

It has taken me years, and years, and years to become less materialistic and I have been putting a lot of effort into it. I remember my frustrations as I wondered why I had such a difficult time living a more frugal lifestyle. I would literally cry out to the Lord and tell Him I wanted to have material things have less of a hold on me but HOW? Well, not having an income a couple of years will do it to you! :)

I realized somewhere in my late 30s or early 40s that for most of us to change would be like a huge ocean liner making a sudden turn. It just isn't that easy. We have had a lifetime of training which took us in the Due North direction of the land of Materialism. To make a turn from the course the ocean liner has been moving can only be done slowly and carefully.

Our very surroundings are all made up with images that are calling to us that we need to buy more, have more, be more (whatever that means), obtain more and that satisfaction and contentment can only be brought about by that which can be purchased. So, of course, the more money one makes means the happier one can be.

There was a great PBS documentary called Affluenza, which I believe is available on DVD (the price is outrageous, see if it is available at your local library). It detailed what this new materialism lifestyle was doing to society. There is an irony that there have been a few "return to simplicity" movements since the late 1960s but it would seem the draw of materialism has overcome each of them (or at least the message of materialism is much louder). One of the best books on the subject from a Christian (as well as medical) perspective is Richard Swenson's Margin.

I plan to write more about my (our) journey out of materialism in the next week. God did answer my prayers and helped to turn that big ocean cruise liner of materialistic thinking around but in the process I thought I was going to drown a few times! It is a process, a journey I'm still taking. So, if you have tried again and again to live a life of simplicity but you find yourself confused at how hard it is... stop by during the week. You have a lot of company.


Kimberly said...

Yes, we are on our journey towards a simpler life right now.
A simpler schedule, simpler homemade meals, simpler shopping, simpler homemaking. It is good and hard. Somewhere along the way we lost our path and wandered off the narrow way. Harder, yet easier. Challenging, but exciting. And really, aren't we called to be a light to this world, to live differently?
"And they'll know we are Christians by our stuff", just isn't the way the song goes, is it?
Blessings to you friend.

em said...

Once again your writing became a starting point for remembering and pondering. I find it so interesting to hear (read) how other people have ended up where they are now.

I guess upbringing, personality and cultural differences are what make our journeys so different. Fascinating!
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I really hope that you and your family are improving daily and gaining renewed strength!
I wanted to thank you again for all your wonderful posts. I admit I have had some catch up to do but have spent a lovely time reading your recent posts as well as ordering recommended books at our library.(the joys of a library!)
You are a HUGE blessing to all your readers and I just wanted to tell you. I can't pinpoint anything specific because....
I love EVERYTHING you share!
P.S. A book I am reading at present is one by Peter Walsh entitled:
It's All Too Much!
I highly recommend it as I am in the throws of Spring Cleaning and decluttering, and finding his book helpful!

the feathered nest said...

Hi - I'm just catching up with you! I bought Escape from Affluenza a few years back from the Simple Living Network on VHS and I know I didn't pay anywhere near that price!!

I grew up in an extremely unfrugal home with a Mom who would take me shopping with her every Saturday for "fun" - so I've had a lot of unlearning to do over the past few years and still it's a struggle.

I'll look forward to your other "ponderings" on this subject!