Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What Is Happiness - A Simple Life

In “A simple life…” a blog post from Life of an ordinary Aussie woman the author, Melanie Baker challenges her readers to consider if we live a simple life and even more, to consider what actually is “a simple life”. It is my way to “try to find a balance” as Melanie put it. I find that worrying about things just makes me unhappy. 
A finding that was confirmed by an article in The Guardian (here is the link) that sited many scientific studies that confirmed that materialism and wanting things just makes a person want more things, more unhappy, creates loneliness, social isolation even anxiety and depression.

I consider myself to live simply. To justify myself to the readers (and Melanie that caused this blog post) I will tell you that I am a Finnish woman, living in Ecuador. I work for Finnish Free Evangelical Church as project worker.

My job here is to help to design and implement an inclusive and special education system for indigenous kichwa children and youth with special needs. The work is developed in the Ecuadorian amazon region and even though I live in a small town, life here is simple.

My work is a mix of office work, teacher training and visits to schools in the indigenous communities, with one or two surprises thrown in just to make it more exciting.

I have a house that has high ceiling, so I don’t have an air conditioning, even though I live in the rainforest. I have electricity and running water, even a luxury, gas heating for hot water. I also have internet and Netflix. I must admit that living without internet connection would be really hard for me.

My personal luxury is a big refrigerator where I can keep my favorite drink - sweet tea, ice cold. It is a wonderful sensation to drink something cold on a really hot day. And it makes you apreciate how small things can be so important.

Like not having roaches at your home. That is a luxury I would love to possess.

I usually buy my clothes couple of years apart when I visit my family in Finland, from sales. And I use them until the, very cheap, sewing lady can’t fix them anymore.

My big spending vices are books that I buy in my beloved iPad (that I got for Christmas from my parents two years ago for Christmas). When I start saying that I don't have money, my father usually tells me not to spend so much in books.

A huge luxury that I have is my parents. They don't live with us but they do live here in Ecuador. They are both retired. And it's wonderful to have your family close. Wish my siblings would live here too.

No manicures or pedicures here. Although they are extremely cheap in Ecuador, I just don’t seem to find time. My occasional splurge on beauty area is getting waxed at home and ridding myself of the hairy legs syndrome.

I don't cut my own hair anymore. I have decided to take some time for myself. And also, Ecuador is the country of the cheapest hair cuts. I really don't have an excuse here,

So, I would say my life is “free from frills and lavish luxuries” like Melanie says.

There is one basic reason for this, a very sensible one. I don’t have much money. The missionary's salary really isn't a big one. Although it does reach much more here than it would back at home.

Then there is another one, a more profound one. I have found out that I enjoy life with less. Less frills, less luxuries, less furniture, less clothes, less clutter and things, just less. For me less is more, much more.

Cutting back I found out that I have so much more. I have more time, I have more love and I have more happiness.

I do want to find balance in my life and I believe it is not found in wanting and buying more.

At the same time, living a simple life, not splurging, not spending, not owning and having less does not automatically mean “indulging in God’s blessings”, as Melanie asks us to do.

For me, they are a way to find balance and concentrate on God. I think they are good ways for everyone, at least according to the studies cited in The Guardian. Even Jesus told us how hard it is for a rich man to find his way to heaven. And after all, how many sayings there are around the world, repeating that money does not bring happiness.

But… happiness is not God. 

Let’s not make, not owning, not spending, a new god for us. Let’s not concentrate on balance (as in Oriental religions) but in our Savior. And let Him bring us balance.

I am not happy because I don’t have much. I am happy because I have God.

“And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity