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I was watching a TV show the other night. In it, a woman walked into her home arms full of bags from a shopping spree. When someone took note and commented, she replied “I had a lot on my mind today”. Yeah, okay. So? I used to be like that. I shopped to relieve stress, I shopped when I was sad, angry, and annoyed. I thought that was what people do. It is, after all, a myth perpetuated by the evil media that buying things makes everything better. Having a bad day? Go buy yourself a little something special. Why is that? Why not instead perpetuate the reality that spending money unnecessarily not only won’t bring happiness but will often create more stress and unhappiness, especially if you’re spending money you don’t have. I’ve been there. It’s not fun and it’s not worth it.

I know that there are a lot of other things I can do than spend money when I am in need of a pick me up like these frugal ways to improve your mood. I don’t disagree that a little splurge or treat for ourselves now and again is valuable. It’s not as if I don’t do things for myself still. But I don’t do them with the expectation that because I am treating myself to something, I will somehow find true happiness in that latte or new pair of jeans.

Just the other day, I was unmotivated and feeling unproductive. So instead of sitting home with the kids amidst the mess I had no desire to clean up, we left the house for 5 hours. We went to the park and playground where the kids happily played for an hour while I chatted with other parents. Then we went to Target where I walked in with a list of not exciting stuff we needed for around the house like dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, new sponges, ziplock bags and garbage bags. Not exactly the kind of impulse this will make me happier shopping I used to do. And when I walked out of Target having gotten some rocking deals if I do say so myself, THAT made my spirits lift. Saving money on things my family needs is exhilarating. A trip to the Barnes and Noble train table where we met friends and our kids happily played without having to spend a penny was up next on the list. After returning home from our afternoon out, Drew thanked me for all the fun. It doesn’t matter to her if we go somewhere that costs $20 to get in or is free. She just likes being out with friends and enjoying the outdoors. She does also, admittedly, LOVE Target.

I don’t know what it is. My life must just be richer and more fulfilled now because it’s coming awfully naturally to me now to do things on the cheap (or free!). It’s exciting and fun. There are so many thrilling and fulfilling things to do in life that make me feel really great. It must be something about that inner happiness and not feeling like I can buy my way out of a bad mood anymore. It’s freeing.

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I remember when I was younger, always trying to fit in. I can vividly recall conversations with my mother in which I asked her why someone didn’t like me. You know all that elementary school stuff – not everyone would get invited to a birthday party and there’d be hurt feelings. I am sure that while being on the hurt end of it I also unknowingly did some hurting of my own to other girls. It was just one of those things. But I remember my mother telling me “Not everyone will like you. It’s impossible to be liked by everyone. That makes the friendships you do have all that much more special because they’re unique and they celebrate your uniqueness.” We’re all such different people, it’d be impossible to like everyone or be liked by everyone – so I learned at a young age to embrace the person that I am and to savor the people around me who do enjoy me.

I can take that same premise and extend it to so many things in my life. It all comes down to staying true to who I am no matter what other influences are part of my life. Not looking just like everyone else, not talking just like everyone else, not thinking what others think just for the sake of it, and not living anyone else’s life but my own.

It can be hard to do these things especially after being criticized. I find the times that it’s hardest for me to continue to embrace the things that I hold dear and true of myself are when someone takes aim at me. It’s those times that it is most important to remind myself that everything about me is seen differently through different eyes. The only way I’ll enjoy my life is by living a life that is my own, aimed at pleasing no one else but those who truly matter around me – and most of all, myself.

By doing this, it’s the only way I can confidently and happily live a fulfilling life. It’s also the best way to pass confidence on to my children. I want them to not just hear me say the words that what others think doesn’t matter but for them to see that I act that out. I don’t want them to see me changing who I am for others. They’ll learn from me that staying true to yourself and being confident enough to go against the grain when necessary and to stand up for and act on the things that are most important in life is a good start on the path to life happiness and fulfillment.

I know here in the blogging world, I can find plenty of people living simple and frugal lives and it’s comforting to find people who do so stylishly and with grace. In real life, I have fabulous friends. Really, I could not be more blessed with the friendships I’ve formed since we moved almost 2 years ago (I still can’t believe it’s been that long – sometimes I have to stop myself when I am about to say we’ve lived her for 6 months – time certainly does fly when you’re slaving away on a remodel and raising kids having fun).

I’ve always been a wee bit shy. I know people who *know* me laugh when I say that, but seriously, I am. Well, maybe shy isn’t the right word. It takes me some time to warm up to new people and new situations. I tend to sit back and observe and get my bearings before diving into a conversation with new people. I’ve always been okay with having a few friends and never really feel the need to go out of my way to make more. But in the past few months, I’ve sort of outgrown that. I like meeting new people and even if they aren’t going to be my best friend, I enjoy laughing and talking with people like I wouldn’t have been comfortable doing even a year ago. Maybe it’s maturity, my own growth into a bit more confident and easygoing person. But whatever it is, it has really added to my life.

I have a circle of about a dozen good friends here. Which is really astonishing in relation to the rest of my adult life. I’ve really just had a few scattered friends that I would see a few times a year. I suppose for the mild extrovert that I am, I wasn’t living up to my full friend potential before 🙂

So here I am with this wonderful and diverse and totally unexpected group of friends. We all come from different backgrounds and we all are in different places in our lives. I love hearing their stories and their ideas and their ways of life. Last night I went to a girls’ night out. We were all sitting around and trying not to talk about our kids while being away from our kids. We talked about houses and shoes and decor and men and running, all sorts of fun stuff.

Now these friends are cool, I love them all. But sometimes I feel like we just live in totally different worlds. My life isn’t typical by any means but it’s certainly not bad. It’s just *simple*. A friend confided in me last night that they are putting their house up for sale. She said that since they moved here – they came from California and bought a huge house because they couldn’t believe how much house you could get for your money here as opposed to out there in the Bay Area – they have come to realize that just because they can afford their nice big house doesn’t mean they need a big house. She even went so far as to say that she loves my cute little simple home and that she has come to see the value of living with less by choice. I was very comforted. Sometimes it feels lonely living small and simple and frugally when others around me aren’t.

I’m glad to have a friend who’s looking to join me in downsizing, living a smaller life and loving it. She said I’d brought her over to the dark side. I told her she might just find that it’s much brighter over here than she thinks.