I wonder if it’s a sign of aging to become less and less interested in titles and possessions. In my younger years my goals were to earn advanced degrees for the career advances they would surely include. Now I simply like to learn for the sheer joy of increasing my knowledge and stimulating my mind. At an earlier time I dreamed of living in a big house in a coveted section of town and driving a flashy car that might turn heads as I drove along the highways. Now I find myself downsizing, giving possessions away, enjoying my Toyota Tacoma truck that continues serving me well even with almost 200,000 miles of taking me wherever I need to go.
These days I’m most comfortable in the seven pairs of jeans that I rotate during the week. They have become faded and soft, gentle next to my skin. I pair them with t-shirts in the summer and sweaters in the winter. I mostly tread around the house in my bare feet or wearing slippers when the temperatures fall. I like wearing my hair longer because I don’t have to take as much time styling it as I did with a shorter cut. I eat the same thing for breakfast every single day and find that I care less and less about food than I once did. I am quite content to lead a rather inauspicious life.
I worry more about how my once more profligate ways have affected the environment than what kind of impression I make on the world. I recycle and reuse much more than I once did. In some ways I have become my mother and my grandmother who spent most of their lives living far more frugally than my generation ever did. They owned a few key clothing items that they wore over and over again. Their shoes consisted of scuffed and aged work shoes and a pair of nice pumps for church and grand occasions. The tiny closets in their homes were more than sufficient for holding the few items of clothing that they owned. They even went so far as to turn threadbare dresses and blouses into squares for quilts or rags for cleaning the house. Paper towels were a silly waste in their minds.
Now that my father-in-law is living in my home I find myself marveling at his frugality. He is prone to reuse a paper plate if it is basically clean other than holding a few dried crumbs. He dusts off the excess and sets it aside for future use. He’d rather purchase a pair of jeans that do not properly fit at a bargain price than splurging for the ones that look as though they came from a bespoke tailor. He constantly cuts corners in his budget and looks for ways to keep his spending at a reasonable level. He is one of those souls who drives his cars until the wheels fall off. He has more than enough to live more lavishly but he has no desire to do so anymore.
I am becoming more and more like my elders were. I worry about the overuse of the earth’s resources and have become utterly unimpressed when I see someone driving a Bentley in my neighborhood. I find it difficult to actually want anything other than intangibles like peace among people and nations. I see nature with a new found appreciation and feel a connectedness with creatures and the land much as my Grandma Minnie Bell once did. I enjoy meeting friends and family more than extravagant evenings on the town. I am enthralled by quiet one on one moments with the people that I love. It takes very little to make me happy these days. My once hyper competitive nature has evaporated and been replaced by contentment and a desire to leave an uncomplicated legacy of kindness for my children and grandchildren to cherish.
I’ve certainly had some outstanding role models to follow and I suppose that their influence on who I continue to become looms large. I prefer sharing what I have to storing up possessions and riches that no longer seem to mean so much to me. I have faith that I will not be left to fend for myself like King Lear if I am generous with those who have not been as fortunate as I have always been. My grandfather left this world with nothing to pass on to his heirs but the most wonderful stories of his greatness. He was a wealth of wisdom and love and compassion for his fellow man. His gift to us was immeasurable. No amount of money or things might have compared to the richness of his example of how to live a truly meaningful life.
Sometimes we overlook the elderly in our midst. They seem out of touch with the rest of us, relics from a time so long ago that they have become irrelevant, and yet if we observe them closely we might see answers to many of the problems that we face in the world today. They require so little to be content. They emulate the joy of innocent children as though they have finally discovered the real secrets to happiness.
I continue learning from them, modeling myself after them. As I want less my contentment rises. As my gratitude for what I have increases I find joy in places that I never before even noticed. Life is good without all of the trappings that we so often associate with success. I find myself more and more often returning to the mantra to “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” It is such a freeing thing to do.