New Leaves

Palatka, FL

Half as much money, Twice as much husband

Mar 04, 2013 by Bonnie

That’s how I’ve heard retirement described. Having been retired for a month now, here’s my take on that old saying.

First, let’s talk about twice as much husband. So far it’s great! And needless to say, living in a van, we’re very close. It’s still like being on vacation, almost like a second honeymoon, but after 46+ years of adjusting to one another and growing in our own maturity, it’s really better. We are thoroughly enjoying being together.

As to half as much money, being in that situation has really clarified what things are important and what we can do without. For about a year now, we’ve been trying to simplify our lifestyle. I must admit that it’s a lot easier now that our children are grown. But even when they were little, we tried to be frugal. We’ve never had a large income, and I think it is a plus that the children learned the value of a dollar, and the difference between a want and a need. One of the things I have seen recently is how often in this culture children are unconsciously taught that love can be measured by the amount a parent or other relative or friend spends on them. I’m sure that is not the intent; we buy things for children because it makes them happy, but from what I’ve seen, the children who are over-indulged soon come to expect that type of spending as a right, and are often ungrateful, and even get upset with parents or grandparents when they can no longer afford to indulge their every desire.

Since it was too cold and windy to walk outdoors for the past couple of days, we have been walking in the local mall. I can honestly say that I did not see one thing in that mall that I needed. Actually, we’re in the stage of life where we’re trying to get rid of things, not accumulate more. And as frugal as I thought we were, looking back, I can see how the allure of beautiful and/or useful “things” often led me, in the past, to buy what I did not need and to waste too much time thinking about things that really don’t matter. Even today, I was admiring some beautiful draperies, and china (my weakness), and felt again the pull of that type of thinking. I’m actually glad that I have no place for those things anymore, and feel the freedom to enjoy their beauty without needing to own them.

We don’t hear much talk of virtues today. We hear more about the right to indulge. And when virtues are mentioned, thrift is almost never included in the subject. But a generation ago, it was highly treasured. I am enjoying the challenge of seeing how much we can live without. It’s actually fun, and very freeing, to be able to say of more and more things, “I don’t need that.”

I close with one of my favorite quotes, from William Henry Channing: To live content with small means: to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy not respectable, and wealthy not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly…to listen to stars and buds, to babes and sages, with open heart; await occasions, hurry never…this is my symphony.