“The pursuit of gratitude and compassion will make you happier than the pursuit of happiness.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of scarcity.
Months ago, I was chatting with a biodynamic farmer in my community and he was saying how we are inundated with messages of scarcity, but that he lives in a world of absolute abundance. I marveled at his perspective and it’s stayed with me as I try and reframe my own thoughts on finances and the relativity of “having enough”.
Part of why I loved what he said is that it contrasts with the narrative that you don’t make any money farming. It’s, unarguably, very difficult to earn a living farming. I think of “doing well” financially on a farm as breaking even, paying yourself just enough to cover your modest living expenses, forgetting health insurance and savings and any sort of retirement plan. So, hearing such a radical perspective from a farmer who makes his entire living on a farm gave me pause.
I think the heart of it is challenging and expanding the definition of abundance from one of financial viability to one that accounts for the health and growth and life on a farm, which is undeniably abundant! The choice he’s made to view his life and his surroundings in this way struck me as such a brave and authentic choice. It’s trusting in the gifts of nature and being grateful for its generosity.
It’s a constant struggle for me to choose not to accept the default messages of anxiety and fear, but to make a deliberate choice to reframe my perspective. (It just occurred to me that fear and anxiety around “not enough” are kind of like the national security code orange, which never goes away, invoking a constant state of alert.)
Here’s a good example of how pervasive feelings of scarcity can be:
I have just become debt free for the first time in nine years. The debt was from graduate school and it was in the six figures. Having chosen careers that are not exactly lucrative, it’s been a considerable burden to have those high payments looming monthly with such variable income. Making that final payment should have felt like a ton of bricks off of my shoulders, but instead of worrying about my debt, I now worry about not having any savings, retirement, health insurance, equity…the list can go on. And yet I am in good health, I have an education, I have a loving family and a supportive community; so while I don’t have the securities that we’re told we need (in the form of a 401K, comprehensive health coverage, X dollars in a savings account for emergencies), I can say for certain that I won’t end up homeless or go hungry.
Choosing to see the abundance in my life rather than focusing on not having enough is still something I have to work on. Especially as I try and figure out how to make a life farming and wanting a family and knowing that health insurance is important. But it seems to me that practicing gratitude is a good antidote to scarcity.
I am working on loving.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to be more generous in my relationship. I didn’t realize what a mess I was getting into when I wrote that down.
I’ve been following Brené Brown’s work and in one of her interviews she reminds us that the most basic Christian definition of love is God. Only now, having grown up in an evangelical church, am I beginning to really understand what that means.
In the Christian tradition, Jesus embodied the hard stuff most of us spend our lives trying to avoid. He embodied discomfort, vulnerability, and empathy. He walked amongst the shunned, spent his time with the poor, and embraced the marginalized.
Love is hard.
I’m finding it really hard to practice this in my relationship. I’m not talking about the anonymous act of kindness or giving one’s time to charity. I know how much easier it is to be generous, to spend your energy on those less fortunate, who coincidentally are not in your immediate circle-I know, I made a career out of it.
This is so much harder. This is dissolving the ego and crossing the divide to say I’m sorry. This is softening in their moments of vulnerability when I just want to remain stubbornly righteous. This is responding with selflessness instead of being concerned with how it affects me.
For now, in an imperfect attempt, I’m defining love as a generous heart. I understand that I cannot become the person of wholeheartedness that I want to be without learning to be that person in my most intimate relationship.
But there is a sort of relief in uncovering the truth that love is something really hard. It’s not sweet kisses and flowers on your birthday. It’s a practice. It’s a choice in how one behaves, not a feeling. It’s a generous heart in a moment of adversity.