“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
― Bernard M. Baruch
How do we embellish our lives? It is a luxury to think of that question. The very question means the asker is a person of some means: enough to have food, shelter and basic needs covered. And time to think of ways to enrich one’s daily existence.
I was once friends with an artist in Oakland, California. She made a habit of looking at the simple ways in which people add a little richness to their life. It might be an antique shawl passed down from a favorite great aunt, now hung proudly in a window. It might be a bold red pillow from Target on sale. A set of woodworking tools treasured formerly by a man from 1901 but discovered at an estate sale in 2014 could bring the new owner joy over and over.
Today’s economy in the United States is very driven by people buying buying buying far more than they need. It has become an obsession with many to constantly buy more stuff. Advertising feeds this obsession. Possessions are king! Many people are caught in this emotionally unfullfilling cycle. It can be hard to see a way off this mirthless merry-go-round. Many have fallen into a habit of THINKING they NEED more things. It can get a little crazy.
I know a man of modest means who owns 38 pair of jeans. They are all blue. They are mostly unworn. He agrees that he can only wear one pair at a time….and yet he told me he would buy more if it looked like a deep sale because “I might NEED them.” Can there be much emotional fulfillment in this stark approach to life? In the richness of his many purchases, he isolates himself because he does not want anyone to know this about him. No one is invited to his home because he knows his hoarding might be uncovered. His life is quite spare regarding social contact and yet he shops more. Where is there space for spiritual connection in this cycle?
There is really very little that we actually need beyond basics like food, water, shelter, and respect. The rest is all frosting. And, although frosting is a lot of fun, it is not required for daily life. I admit, frosting can make one’s daily life a lot more comfortable. But take a minute to imagine what basics you actually require for your day-to-day existence.
Many people who elect to retire in a different country, such as Ecuador, have gone through every single item they own and made a decision to toss it, give it away, sell it or pack it. That process is exhausting and repetitive, arriving in layers for most of us – we pare down, saving things, we pare down again, letting more go, we get tougher and leaner as we go through this process. It requires a harsh frugality to do this. And yet in the end, it is, for many, an incredibly exhilirating achievement – that moment when you face the freedom of having few worldly goods weigh you down. For the lightness of being “without” while still having life’s basic needs covered.
Where do quilts fit in with all of these thoughts? One reason I love making a quilt is that I can dive into a carefully selected pile of fabric and come out with a new quilt. This quilt will have a unique life with its new owner. An example: I am about to sew a quilt for my grandson Andrew who is 8 years old. What will a quilt from Gramma do for him? That remains to be seen… but it could warm him on cool San Diego nights. It could comfort him when he is sad. It could accompany him as he goes to a friend’s overnight party. It could color his room a bit, which is his safe, comfortable retreat zone where he recharges his “energizer-Bunny-like” enthusiasm for life. It could help his sister get comfy when a grandparent is about to read a story in Andrew’s room and she joins in. Oh…and best of all, it will warm my heart to see Andrew use the quilt in whatever way works for him over the upcoming years as he develops into manhood.
Buying more stuff may not make you happy. Try this: pare your life down, right now in your head, to what you feel are most essential to your daily existence. Then embellish with a few things you hold most dear. Do we really need a constant renewal of “stuff”. Would it work as well to clearly see ways to cherish…and embellish… what we have. A comfortable chair, a walk along the river with the breeze lifting your hair, an incredibly soft scarf, the rich variety and depth of flavors in a well made Indian dish, a pot holder made by your grand-niece. These are all embellishments.
What small things enrich your life?