Fruclassity Commandment #8: Gratitude

DD2 = Dear Second Daughter

DH = Dear Husband

Yesterday morning, I was in a panic. Instead of driving to the high school where I work, I was going to a used book sale with the mission to buy books for our school library. A change from the routine is always a good thing, but the book sale was in a part of the city I wasn’t familiar with, and being directionally-challenged, I was stressed. Furthermore, I had to take a bus since I had agreed to let DD2 use the car. And it was snowing. And I had to dash around the house looking for where I’d stored my winter boots, hat, and gloves. So I missed my bus. Hence, there I was at the bus stop, feeling frustrated by my lack of organization, and disappointed that I might not be at the sale in time for its opening.

I eventually accepted the twenty-five minute wait in store for me, and I found myself soaking in the beauty of the scene at the bus stop. Despite my recent scramble to locate winter clothes, now that I was wearing them, I felt that familiar childlike thrill with the first snowfall. And it was unexpectedly charming to see autumn and winter battle it out. Most of the trees were bare, but a few stubbornly clung to their still brilliantly coloured leaves, defying the advancing calendar and the falling snow. The grass was still a rich green, and it vanquished every flake that tried to cover it – turning it into a glistening dampness. I took out my cell phone and snapped a photo, inspired with a topic for my Saturday morning post. And in the end, I arrived at the book sale just as it was opening.

photo 2

My photo didn’t capture it, but snow was falling as autumn and winter battled it out.

Fruclassity & gratitude

A week ago, Laurie at The Frugal Farmer wrote a post which outlined the 10 commandments of fruclassity. Fruclassity is a term that Laurie and I coined in recognition of the fact that, although we’re both wowed by Mr. Money Moustache, neither of us is inclined to take on the extreme frugality inherent in his subculture of badassity. Fruclassity is frugality with a touch of class – for the not so badass. Commandment #8 is about gratitude:

8. Develop gratitude for what you already have.  Marketing machines aim to make us dissatisfied and to long for something we don’t have.  Consumer spending can be like a drug addiction. Recognize that you don’t need that next “hit” any more than you needed the last one.  Take on an attitude of gratitude for what you have now. If you’re satisfied with what you already have, you’ll be less susceptible to longing, and you won’t spend in your search for that mythical “something” that keeps eluding you.

Surgery gives new sight to a blind man

A year ago this month, an article appeared in our local newspaper about Donald Wellington, a man who had been blind for 61 years and who, as a result of advanced medical treatments, had his sight restored in 1995 . “My eyes are too powerful!” the 66-year-old had reported with the shock of perfect vision at the time. Over the months, he adjusted to visual clarity, but almost twenty years later, it can’t be said that he has become used to it. When asked in November of 2013 whether or not he had travelled since the restoration of his eyesight, the 85-year-old Wellington had trouble answering. He had only been to a few small towns less than an hour’s drive from home. And why hadn’t he travelled farther away? To enjoy the sights of the world that were now available to him? “It’s beautiful here,” he answered. Pointing to a flag fluttering in the breeze he said, “I could look at that all day.”

Gratitude gives new sight to the sighted

It is remarkable that a man resigned to blindness should be so grateful for the gift of sight that he is more than satisfied with the views close to home. But here is something more surprising: People sighted from birth have the potential to see with new clarity – without surgery. Gratitude opens our eyes.

This past summer, I must have remarked a thousand times about how beautiful it was. The grass was incredibly lush, and gardens were gorgeous. “There’s been tons of  rain this summer,” I said in the way of explanation. But when fall came around, the frequency of my remarks held steady. Some friends even playfully mocked me. “Yeah, yeah,” said the colleague I drive home from work. “What a nice tree, and look at that rock, and look at that – uh – bridge.” And yesterday, as winter tried – unsuccessfully I might add – to set in, I was still struck by beauty. What’s going on?

Autumn wins

By the time I had to catch the bus home in the afternoon, autumn had clearly won the battle of the seasons.

Cultivating gratitude … through debt-reduction

In his article “Cultivating the Art of Gratitude“, published in USA Today July 2013, Robert Emmons asserts that when we make the effort to acknowledge and identify what makes us happy, and to express appreciation for it, we develop a gratitude that actually opens us up to a greater reception of these happiness-inducers. And with gratitude, he says, come all kinds of other psychological and health benefits. “Grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism, and gratitude as a discipline protects us from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.” As part of our efforts to get out of debt, DH and I have sifted through our various expenditures to figure out which ones we really need and which ones truly add to our happiness. In determining our value-based priorities, we have eliminated a lot of wasteful spending, and we have been more conscious of what we appreciate. This deliberate awareness has developed our gratitude.

Emmons lists a number of “couterintuitive” findings in gratitude literature. Here is one that hit home for me:  “Remembering one’s sorrows, failures, and other painful experiences is more beneficial to feeling grateful than is recalling only successes. A reversal of fortune–a redemptive twist in your life when a difficult challenge is conquered-primes the pump of gratitude.” It has been necessary for us, in facing our debts, to reflect upon our former bad money habits. To take ownership of how poorly we set ourselves up, so that DH’s career shake-up sent us into years of financial distress. As we have opened our eyes to the hard facts, we have taken on our failures and have started working a reversal. And we can see the difference it’s making! This “conquering of a difficult challenge” has “primed the pump of gratitude” for us.

Two byproducts of my unintentionally developed gratitude:

1. Joy and enthusiasm

So that explains my happy bursts of enthusiasm for the beauty I see in the world these days. Joy and enthusiasm are byproducts of gratitude. I didn’t set out to be more grateful. But gratitude has developed from my greater awareness of what I appreciate and from my reflections upon the failures that we are overcoming. Like Donald Wellington, who gained his sight after years of blindness, I’m seeing with new eyes.

2. Protection against envy and bitterness

Here’s another unexpected byproduct of my newly developed gratitude: I used to long for travel – honestly, like a drug – to the extent that I actually felt a bitter sense of deprivation because first our tight finances and then our debt-reduction didn’t allow for it. I was envious of people who were visiting different parts of the world. But gratitude is evidently protecting me from envy and bitterness. And while I’m sure I’ll be open to more extensive travel, once we’re debt-free, than Donald Wellington has been since regaining his sight, I’m not yearning for it now the way I used to. I don’t feel deprived. I am excited for friends and family who are seeing the world, but I feel satisfied. Because I share Donald Wellington’s view. And it’s beautiful here.


Comments are welcome.


 

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    • I think so too. And I don’t think he is even trying to be wise. He’s just so grateful being able to see the view from home, it doesn’t occur to him to think he’s missing out by not seeing the sites in far-away places. So he’s more than satisfied with what he has. That’s the outlook I want!

  • My mom has a cousin who has lived in the same house all of her 87 years. When my mom asked her how she could stand it, she said that she loves living in the same house she grew up in, on the same street they played on (she and mom and their other siblings and cousins), and with a lot of the neighbors that have been there as long as she has. Does she naturally love it? Or did she convince herself to love it instead of stepping out and trying something else? Is she grateful because she’s happy? Or is she happy because she’s grateful? Loved this post, Prudence. It really gets ya thinking! 🙂

    • I would ask the same questions about your mom’s cousin. My initial reaction is to think that she was too afraid to move out on her own, and that she missed out as a result. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe she has lived the happiest life possible because she followed her heart and stayed. Our society tends to praise change, moving, and travel, and to regard staying put as a lesser option. Again, we might just be wrong. Thanks for your comment, Kay!

  • I loved this post! My brother is losing his sight – due to advanced diabetes which was not properly controlled or monitored by doctors until way too late (he lives in Trinidad) so the story about the man who was able to regain his sight after 61 years of blindness and his humble approach is admirable.

    • I’m very sorry to learn of your brother’s illness, Kassandra. I’m sure it’s difficult for you to be so far away from him now. I hope that your brother will grow in spirit as he faces the challenges ahead. Please give updates about how he is doing. May God bless you and your family through this time.

  • I love the story of that man. I think that’s so true that when you look around you and really “see” you will find beautiful things. We often don’t feel grateful enough for what is right in front of us. And I love how you say gratitude is protection against envy and bitterness. It could be so easy to get swept away in those emotions, especially if you’re on FB a lot. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Tonya. I think it’s funny how people sometimes show off on FB. I remember reading a post once that suggested we all put our frugal moves on FB. Instead of “Loving the trip to Hawaii!” for instance, a frugal FB site might have “Great staycation potluck with the girls!”

  • While sitting on our deck, I can look out over the gently sloping park that extends past our backyard. In the distance is a hill, with a treeline that is absolutely gorgeous in the fall – I could look at that all day. 🙂 Your post reminds me a lot of an experience that Vonnie and I went through recently…we were investigating remodeling our basement. After getting a quote, we realized it was way more expensive than what we were willing to bite off just yet. So, we rearranged things, cleaned out more of the kids’ toys and spruced things up. We both agreed that the basement was much more of a “teenager hangout” than it had been and the kids loved it. It didn’t cost us anything as we used stuff we already had. Then we took a self-tour of our home and wallowed in our thankfulness of what we already had. I always say, happy people are not thankful…it’s thankful people that are happy.

    • That’s a great example of gratitude, Travis! I’m so glad that you didn’t give in to your initial impulse to renovate. So often, those impulses to spend will simply pass if we don’t act upon them right away. So your kids are getting to the teen stage, eh? I wish you luck!

  • Love the Mr.Wellington story, seems he had the right attitude all along. This post reminds me of my grandmother. I was 14 or 15 when she passed. My dad and uncle received an inheritance. I remember asking my dad why grand-ma didn’t use the money to do more things, travel etc. He replied she had all she wanted right here.

    • It’s funny, but when I first read about your grandma not spending on travel or on doing other things, I thought, “Maybe she was scared,” or “Maybe she didn’t think she deserved to treat herself.” That’s a pretty conditioned response, I think. But no doubt your dad had it right: She had all that she wanted. Thanks for the comment, Brian.

  • You are a fabulous writer. What an engaging, well-written piece!

    The story of Mr. Wellington is wonderful, but let me suggest that he isn’t just grateful. He is content. Our society makes contentment into a dirty word, makes it sound boring. But contentment is a wonderful, enlightened state. It allows us to be happy where we are, with what we have. I struggle with contentment, too. In my prayers, I’m thankful for what I have – and then I ask for more.

    • Thank you, Kirsten! You are right about contentment and about society making it seem “boring”. We’re bombarded by messages about having and experiencing increasingly greater levels of “MORE!” Contentment flies in the face of those messages. I wish you well in your pursuit of contentment. May we all have the wisdom of Mr. Wellington!

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