Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Finding A Balance

I am a walking dichotomy, especially lately. I have a desire to have all of the latest and greatest gadgetry, things that cost more than they should and guarantee to help make my life easier. On the other hand, I yearn for complete simplicity and contentment, things that don’t cost a dime and will also make my life easier. Obviously I am out of balance. Or out of my mind.

I’m currently reading the book The Art Of Happiness A Handbook for Living by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler after a passing mention from a fellow blogger. I started it a few days ago and already after only a few chapters in, its making me think; which may or may not be a good thing. So far the discussion in the book is what gives you pleasure vs. what brings you happiness, of course only you can answer this for yourself. It has really caused me to stop and think though – will buying this item, doing this or that, going to this event, spending time with so and so – will that bring me pleasure or happiness? As you may expect the two aren’t necessarily connected. There are a lot of people who have a wealth of material objects who are miserable and a lot of people who have very few material possessions who are completely content. I know that’s over simplified but its something that most of us, myself included, lose sight of on a day to day basis.

We watch tv, see ads on the internet, hear radio commercials pushing this device or that book that promises it makes life easier and simpler, but does it really? Up to this point civilization got along pretty well without it, is it something we absolutely, positively need or is it just a desire. When I was a teenager my mom used to threaten to have the cable turned off if my brother and I didn’t do our chores or homework. The very idea mortified us. These days, I hardly watch tv and could survive just fine without it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate technology but how much is too much? When do we know the difference between what we really need to stay connected and when we need to “unplug” so to speak. I fully admit to being on the computer all day at work, only to then come home and fire up the laptop for sometimes hours on end. I do turn it off and read or spend time with my family, but lately I feel like that’s slipping. Do I really need a cellphone with an internet connection so I can answer emails and read blogs while being a passenger in a car or sitting at a restaurant waiting for someone? Do you really need one? When was the last time you looked out the window or just took time to notice the people around you on your commute to and from work?

One of the things I love best about living in a small town is the pace of life is slower, people are friendlier and its more laid back. One of the reasons I love going out to an island in the middle of Lake Erie with friends in the summer is the lack of technology. There is one landline phone. Cell phone service is spotty at best. There is no wireless connection in the cabins. Sure for the first day or so its hard, but then it gets easier. After one gets over the lack of technology there, its absolutely divine. More and more in the past few days, I want to recapture that feeling. The feeling of having actual conversations with people, not just reading their words on the screen in Times New Roman standard size 12 font. The feeling of holding a tangible piece of them in the form of a letter, handwritten (or chicken scratched) by them. The feeling that can only be shared over a steaming cup of tea or coffee with a great friend. I love reading blogs, reading people’s tweets, and emailing. I just worry about slipping down the slope to where it becomes a chore and no longer fun. I’ve seen it happen to other bloggers and I don’t want to get to that point. I don’t want to feel like this is something that I ever have to do, I want it to remain something that I enjoy doing. I am no where near the point now of feeling like it’s a chore, but I worry that if I give in to all this iphone and kindle craze among other things that I will eventually lose that part of myself that lives life at a relaxed, slower pace.

I don’t want to become someone who doesn’t notice the simple beauty of the flowers growing in front of someone’s house because I was too busy reading my email or tweeting to notice. I don’t want to miss the sound of a friend’s voice talking to me on a roadtrip because I have an ipod plugged into both ears. I don’t want to give up the feeling of a brand new hardback book in my hands for the convenience of reading a book on an electronic device. I don’t want to miss witnessing the splendor of a sun setting because I was too engaged on my laptop.

I’ve been thinking about the list of things I wrote last week about what I want. Almost everything single thing on that list is attainable. Most of them don’t require anything material above and beyond what I already have. Now, I just need to start going about getting them and working toward those goals, if you will. I really want to start to question what brings me fleeting pleasure and what brings me total complete happiness.

What about you--what brings you pleasure and happiness? How do you strike a balance between the two?


Ray said...

It is really hard to strike that balance, or to even comes to terms with the difference between the two. One of the things that gives me the greatest happiness is reading outdoors...with all electronic devices off!

chickbug said...

I'm constantly thinking about this. It is amazing how much your life changes when you can understand the different between pleasure and happiness.

Rachel said...

I'm glad that you are enjoying the book and really hearing what the message is. Once you finish you will realize just how simple finding happiness can be.

Stacy said...

It's amazing how things that seem so simple always wind up being so complicated!

jamie said...

I struggle regularly on finding a balance. Frankly, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to achieve it. It seems there is always something in there throwing something else off...

Anonymous said...

it really depends on my mood. sometimes i'm perfectly happy with a quiet evening in my pj's and a book with tea, sometimes it's a chick flick night...other times i'm not happy till i've gone out and shopped or had a coffee with friends!

Kyla Bea said...

I'm constantly battling with this one, and I've come up with a routine that has worked for me:

First I...
- Pared down from 129 blogs to 50 blogs in my reader (+ new commenter when they comment)
- Axed about 100 FB friends

Then I made some rules:
- During the work day I can check e-mail/twitter/facebook as much as I like
- At home I can't check twitter/facebook more than once a night

I think that, for me, it's the constant barrage of information that burns me out. This keeps my consumption to a happy medium, and I have time for ME in the evenings instead of endlessly putting out energy towards a computer. Putting that energy towards puppies is way more fun.

Good luck finding a balance! I'm reading Style Statement which is a workbook similar to that, and then I'm going to read The Art of Happiness. You sealed the deal!

Mandy said...

Ray--that sounds awesome!

Chickbug--I am usually a pretty happy person overall, but its so easy to lose sight of things sometimes.

Rachel--thanks for mentioning it! I cannot wait to finish the book.

Stacy--usually its us who complicates things.

Jamie--I don't know if I will ever find a balance either, but I am damn sure going to try.

Chasing Libby--I go from one extreme to the other like that too.

Kyla Bea--That is awesome. Thank you so much!!

Auburn Kat said...

I'm completely with you on this post!

Andy said...

Back to what I was talking about yesterday. When we have something that is OURS, when it just becomes part of our routine, we lose interest. It's not "fun" anymore.
Blogging should be a fun option to have fun, not a job that requires to be done.

Katie said...

I love this topic. I think it's a wonderful question. I find myself lately thinking about the things I would like to cut back on. The downturn in the economy has made me re-evaluate the way I live my life. And one of the conclusions I have come to was that I was a happier person when I earned less money.

Somewhere in between the meager college pay I received and the place I am now (not that I'm wildly successful) it became all about working to pay for my addictions to clothes/shoes/purses/technology. And the truth is that while I love all those things they are not what makes me happiest.

I've been trying to refocus myself away from materialism and instead focus on the things that do make me happiest like spirituality and books. For me those things are what bring me lasting, true happiness. The truth is it's hard to pull away from everything though and I think it's a really fine line to walk.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic point.
I find myself battling this on a regular basis... during the weekend I limit my internet/blog time to Sunday nights only.

I make sure I have at least one night a week for ME and one night a week to be social with my girls or my family.

I have learned to say no to things I don't want to do (or at least mostly.)

I am learning when to call a timeout on anything: work, my relationship, family, friends.

If I'm in a bad mood, I don't buy something as I figure that's a bad association.

Oh, and the boyfriend and I are working on at least one night a week with no cell phones so that we can really connect.

Unknown said...

I always get so caught up in my everyday routine that I forget about doing things that will make me happy.

As soon as I have a moment of free time to think, I realize that I'm not happy.

Preachin Patrick said...

For me, I sometimes find myself reading a blog, checking my email, chatting with my sister on facebook, etc, when I could be reading a book to my son or watching the animals outside of my window. I have decided that every afternoon I am going to turn it all off for at least an hour. I think this will really help me to be more productive and happier.

Ashley D said...

This post made me want to get away from NYC and escape to a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere. Maybe I should read that book...

Eternal Optimist said...

What beings me pleasure is sometimes nont mutually exclusive to what brings me happiness, other times it is...this really makes me think...I want to read that book!

rachaelgking said...

People definitely are friendlier in small towns, which is something I miss... but honestly, DC is a small city. I bump into people all the time, so it still sort of has that feeling of a community, which I love.

Katie said...

The Art of Happiness completely redefined the way I think--Loooooove it. i think it's really important to take time to reflect about the way we're living our lives...i try to write about that in my blog a lot. :)

personally, i still love my iPhone. it reduces a lot of stress as far as being lost (um, which may be a frequent occurrence for me...) or trying to find the location or phone number of a place. for me, it makes life simpler, but i realize it's a hard line to walk. my recommendation: go for the phone, but DO NOT add facebook! :-P

thanks for the positive thoughts! this warm weather makes me feel happier than i have in a long time :)