Sunday, April 26, 2009

Can't miss what you never had

"What have you given up due to the recession?"

That was the question posed by MSN's Smart Spending blog--an interesting smorgasbord of tips and tricks to help you pinch pennies, and one that I read for handy how-tos like cleaning your windows with newspaper (most of the tips and tricks are also green).

And oh, the litanies of responses--soda, manicures, dinners out! Paper towels! Watering the juice! No more season tickets! No more *gasp* cable TV! Brand names!

When I read lists like that, I tend to fluctuate between "smug" and "disbelief". Smug because I would never consider a manicure a necessity, much less something I'd have to give up. Disbelief that there are people who do.

And, after a while, a little sadness--sadness for everybody who is so out of touch with their wants and needs that they have soda to give up. Giving up something implies that economic necessity has driven you to stop doing something you'd normally do. And it surprises me how many people drink soda regularly enough to say that they've given it up.

It's not so much that I'm anti-consumerist--even I buy an occasional half-liter of Diet Coke for those aspartame cravings--but that such levels of consumerism obscure the meaning of living well, providing an artificial measure of happiness that can be measured by the numbers of labels plastered all over one's pantry.

No two people are made happy by the same thing. My boyfriend and I are a case in point--we love each other, but I can't persuade him to come birdwatching with me, and he can't stoke my interest in brewing mead (though he does pick my brain about keeping yeast happy). Finding your own internal happiness and using that as a guide for one's purchases, rather than the other way around, is the key to living well. And maybe it does involve a ton of stuff, but it usually doesn't.

And in the end, that's what living naturally is all about. We're all different, we've all got different lifestyles, different environments, but we all want to be happy. But we've forgotten, or never thought to ask, what it is that makes us happy. If you keep that in mind, you'll never have to give up soda, because it'll never be around.

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