I love my yoga teacher. I think she’s a wonderful teacher and a wonderful person. Recently I discovered she has a blog, which I’ve found thoughtful, authentic and heartening. Then I read her recent post on Inspiration. Logically, I can see where she’s coming from and I’m very happy that she took the path she did and that it’s making her happy, and I still think she’s a great teacher and a cool person. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel irritated as I read.
Paul and I don’t know how to drive. We don’t own cars. We take public transport everywhere, or Paul cycles. We don’t own credit cards, never have. We only have one TV. It’s not a flat screen and it makes a high-pitched squeak when it’s turned on. We consider getting an Indian takeaway on a Saturday night a treat. And we don’t have a mortgage. Honestly, we can’t afford to have one. Even if I was still working I’m not sure we could afford to have one.
But I gave up work to be at home with Jake and have no income except for child benefit and some money Paul gives me every month. I also sponsor a little girl in Burkina Faso. And I donate what I can when the DEC makes an appeal. And we’re debt free. You could say we're living simply, but we've never looked at it that way. We’re not living like this to fulfil a manifesto or because we felt like making a Lifestyle Choice. It’s just the way we live. Whether or not it makes us happy doesn't come into it. We didn't choose to live this way for happiness. Personally I have other measures for happiness. This is simply how we live. And we're not the only ones.
There are countless people out there living this way without the need to shout about it and who won't be written about in the NY Times. Like my friends N & M in Italy who work as hard as hell to live in a stone house in the countryside and grow all their own veg. Never mind a TV, they don't even own a fridge. Or how about my friend Emily who's living off the land in Wales. And there are countless more people living a lot more simply than they would wish because it's all they can afford to do.
Up until now I’ve never felt the need to shout about it, but reading that blog post made me feel like shouting. It’s great that Tammy Strobel and her husband are no longer $30,000 in debt. But seriously. Correct me if I’m wrong, but only people with a lot of money, and obviously more money than sense, can get into that much debt.
I don’t want to live under the mentality that my life is owned by a bank that doesn’t care about me either (and that’s not the only attitude to have towards owning a home), but at the same time, knowing that we can’t afford to have a mortgage, I wonder how it will affect Jake, not having a home to pass on to him when he’s older. I know that on the list of priorities in life, owning a house is no great shakes, but I’m a mother and I care about his future. So it would be nice actually, to be able to afford a mortgage, to be able to have something to pass on to him. And as much as it pains me to say it, not everyone who has a mortgage or who has money is soulless and dead. And not everyone who can (or can’t) afford to make such Lifestyle Choices as Living Simply is a paragon of peace or joy.
Whatever our circumstances in life, I’m pretty sure we all want the same thing. We all want to be happy. We all want love in our lives, we all want peace of mind. We just have different ways of seeing those things, different ways of trying to achieve those aims. Some people are more aware than others of the things that are destructive. Some people have had better teachers, have been shown more compassion, have experienced more love and forgiveness and understanding. Some haven’t been as fortunate.
Yes, money and greed can trap you. But so can emptiness. So can loneliness. So can manifestos. So can judgemental, simplistic attitudes. If you’re rich you’ll never be happy. I’m better than you because I cycle and don’t own a car. So can pride.
So please. Go beyond Trendy Lifestyle Choices. Tear up pretentious Manifestos. Get real. Look inside your heart. Be honest. Get messy. Dig deeper than the pretty face of tranquil inspiration. Live with your heart open because you have no other choice.