Saturday, July 03, 2010

30-Day Trek: Taxing Wildflowers

"I will continue to measure my wealth by standards other than adjusted gross income. I am happy to be so richly poor." - Ellen L. Davis-Zehr

Today's Trek reflection asks us to consider the standards we use to evaluate our life choices. We found ourselves asking: Do government standards determine if we are rich or poor? Does the idea of "keeping up with others" set our standard for things we buy or desire? Do we accept the standards modeled in popular culture?

What would happen if we measured our riches not by the economically viable standards but by the the measure of what brings us true joy?

My husband was laid off from his teaching job of 9 years in December of 2008. Over the last year and a half we have been challenged to live more simply on a lower income. For us, that has meant making more foods from scratch, trading goods and services with friends, cutting out our entertainment spending and seeking out more relationship-focused outings. We planted a garden. We stopped looking at newspaper and magazine ads. We spent more time at the library. We made gifts for people or bought handmade items. Our microwave died and we decided to live without it.

Along the way, what we discovered is more joy. Sure, it takes more time to plant a garden and water it but the joy we have felt in harvesting a little of our own is amazing. Our kids delight in hand-watering the plants and watching the sprouts grow tall.

Ericlee started riding his bike to work more often. He began to truly appreciate that he was saving gas, getting exercise and putting less carbon dioxide into the air. It wasn't always easy. It resulted in three flat tires and required more time but it was a lesson in "enough." A few months ago we decided to sell one of our cars (our beloved truck) and just live with our hybrid.

We certainly have a long way to go in living simply and embracing all that entails. After all, we are Americans and we are hard-wired to seek convenience. Right now we are in the process of getting our house ready to sell. We have realized that owning an older 4-bedroom/2 bath house with a pool takes up a lot of extra energy - and money! We spend so much of our time just trying to make the mortgage payments and pay for upkeep when we could be spending those resources on others or even working less and having more time together as a family.

We definitely are not writing this because we have arrived. There are days when all I want to do is stay in my nice house with my nice pool. How I wish we had two cars so arranging schedules would be simpler. There are moments when I look at all the junk in our garage and the idea of downsizing overwhelms me. But then I go back to this key question:

Are my core values reflected in my lifestyle?

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