Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Happiness and Trees

So I was doing laundry earlier and started contemplating the recent changes in my life.  After all, at the end of this week, I have another birthday - always a time for looking back and making those various comparisons of "then" vs "now."  And since 3 months ago I was doing laundry by waiting until every stitch of clothing was dirty so I could make a single trip to the laundromat, rather than being able to take considerably smaller loads out to the utility room here at home and do them in my own working washer and dryer.  And that in and of itself - having a working (and still brand new, no previous owner) washer and dryer at home, which is still a luxury even though most people count it as a necessity - is what had me thinking about recent changes, and various cliches.  I paused in the midst of doing laundry (which I Detest having to do, necessary chore that it is) and asked myself - looking at my still new, bright and shiny, high efficiency, water saving, all the bells and whistles available without costing as much as my (used) car did washer and dryer - "so, are you really Happy with your life these days?  You weren't for a long time.  Has that changed?  And if the answer is Yes, has it changed Enough?"

While the person who came up with the cliche that, "Money can't buy Happiness," wasn't completely Wrong - well - he (or she, though I'm thinking it Had to be a guy) wasn't exactly Right, either.  They weren't completely right about the whole "Money doesn't grow on trees" thing either - cause paper Is made with wood pulp after all!

As anyone who has ever been Poor  (I mean Seriously poor - not knowing whether all the utilities were still gonna be on next week/not sure whether you could make rent this month/not certain whether you could afford food/walk everywhere cause you don't own a car and can't afford the bus kinda poor - not the whole "OMG, I'm gonna have to choose between whether to go to Rio for Carnival or the Bahamas for Vacation!" kind of pseudo-poor) can tell you, while money may not buy happiness, it certainly eases life up enough that you aren't always miserable.  Knowing that the rent/house payment is covered, all the utilities are square, you can afford a trip to the doctor if you start hacking up a lung from allergies, there's plenty of food in the cupboard, and you still have money left over to keep gas in the car (Despite the outrageous price of gas these days - $3.49 a gallon with 10% ethanol that my car can't choke down? Really? In the middle of Oil Country??) relieves a lot of worries and stresses in life - the very things that tend to make you miserable when all other factors remain equitable and relatively pleasant.  Having the latest and greatest gadgets to play with won't make you suddenly ecstatically happy - but they will keep you from being bored outta your gourd as long as the electric bill was paid so you can keep them charged up and usable.

In the past few years I've run the gamut from having a $4000 a month household budget to play with to having a $0 per month budget to worry about and back to having sufficient income between myself and my other half that - while we'll never live in a mansion or take vacations to exotic places (unless one of us starts playing the lottery and somehow manages to win)  the rent and bills are no longer a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul, or juggling skills that would amaze visitors at a Renaissance faire. 

We're finally at a point where we're fairly Comfortable.  The cars are old and were bought used - but they run reliably, they're cheap to insure and tag, and we don't have to make payments on them.  The computers - while not top of the line couldn't be upgraded at this point because the better equipment hasn't come out yet - are new, and more than adequate to either of our needs - and managed to replace our pair of dinosaur machines before either of them completely crapped out and stopped working.  We don't have to deal with the laundromat any longer, and while the washer & dryer weren't The Best I could have gotten - they're new, they're paid for, and they aren't the bottom of the barrel set that I "could" have gotten, and they won't have to be replaced for a very Very long time.  I've managed to replace my old, worn out, ill fitting, stained up and ready for the trash heap wardrobe with clothes that fit well, look good, and aren't second hand, stained, ripped, or so out of style I look like I walked out of a 70's ad. (I'm still working on getting him to let me do something about His wardrobe for when he's not at work - eventually I'll wear him down about it.  I hope.) I've managed to pay off the doctor bills, and not have to choose  between groceries or the various meds the rheumatologist has me taking to keep the lupus and fibro under control.  My relationship with my other half is stable, comfortable, and better than any relationship I've had in the past 20 years.  (I know - that last part isn't saying much, when you consider some of the scum sucking bottom feeders that I've dated - but this is the difference between a man who has a stable job, a work ethic, and no overweening ego issues and one who lacks all of those things.)

So yes, I'm happier than I've been in a long time.  And yes - some of that happiness has been because of the change in financial situation, and subsequent "stuff" that the financial change enabled. 

I'm a lot happier doing laundry at home - where I can toss a load in and come play on the computer - than I was having to deal with going to a laundromat.  I'm a lot happier having my kitchen more up to date, and having some of the gadgets for it (like my KitchenAide stand mixer and all it's various attachments) than I was with a stove that barely worked and sometimes wondering if we were gonna be able to afford to eat healthy.  I'm a lot happier knowing that I can afford my meds, and dealing with a good Rheumy to get my illness under control than I was in keeping my fingers crossed and hoping I simply didn't have a bad flare.  I'm Considerably happier having not 1 but 2 running cars between us, so that I don't have to sit around bored if I want or need to go do something - and I don't have to set my schedule around making sure the car is home for someone to get to work on time.  I'm a lot less stressed, a lot less worn out from worry, and therefore - yes - a lot happier knowing that everything is covered, and there's still at least a bit left over for entertainment or emergencies.  I'm much happier being able to go to the gym, both to work out and try to regain some of my health and flexibility, and simply to relax in the sauna and hottub if I'm having a serious pain day.  Not only does the gym keep me from being bored at times, it's (supposedly) good for me, and it gets me out of the house so I don't turn back into a human hermit crab.

Yes, things have changed.  Yes, those changes have made me happy.  Yes, I can even say they've changed enough.  Though honestly - if it's the right sort of changes, I'm not going to suddenly become UNhappy if various other things decide to change as well.

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