Yesterday, my Second Son challenged my 'state of happy' (most likely in comparison to his own definition of who-he-hopes-to-be, as life goes on) and asked me to compare my life to my friends who are single, retired, paid off their home and able to make decisions about their future without money being an issue.
I was aghast that he would think 'financial freedom' is a priority in the whole scheme of things. I would not sell what-I-have for anything money could buy, any day of the week!
My son surmised 'because I had children', I became less of who I could be. He dared me to dream about what I could have had or been or did if I had only myself to look after.
I dipped my toe into a state of wondering and darted right back to dry ground. I fear for who I would have become if it were not for loving my children.
At a time when I didn't value myself enough to make good decisions about my relationships, I loved my children enough to save them from a life which was not safe or healthy for them. By saving my children, I saved myself.
At another pivotal time in my life, my choice to stay home and 'just be a mom' diverted me away from a life where I obsessed about retirement plans, adequate insurance and financial planning more than I worried about my family. My priorities were all wrong.
As long as a person has enough money to take care of the essentials of living, I don't believe money should be a priority. At least not in my world.
Day after day, time after time, I see all of the things money cannot buy. It can't buy health, happiness or contentment. I am rich in all three of those areas.
Money cannot buy love, acceptance and respect. I live in a world where I feel like I give and receive 'all of the above' in equal proportions.
You can't find a 'sense of belonging', self-esteem or mental health in a store.
You can purchase substitutes (in the form of addictions of varying kinds) but those substitutions come at a price much higher than the dollars spent. I have become more grounded with each year I live.
I surround myself in a world which helps to enhance the positive qualities about myself, without forgetting there is always room for improvement.
There is simply no price one can put on emotional and mental stability. They can be snatched from our fingertips in the blink of an eye.
Life continues to show me just how delicate the balance of life-as-I-know-it is, as the world around me continues to spin and there is so very little I can control, beyond how I react to these events.
When I look at my financial net worth, I could feel poor. When I look at the life I have yet to live and wonder how I am going to pay for it all, I could become paralyzed in fear. When I compare myself to others, I could feel like there is something lacking.
Instead, I look at the life I have created and I feel richer than anyone else I know.
I have three children. Three unique specimens. Three different parts of me spread out and mixed up with another unique mixture of genes and traits, stirred up inside of a human being and I love who I see before me. My relationships with each of my boys is as unique as their personalities. But life has shown us, when something threatens our status quo, we are a unit. Money can't buy that feeling.
I am surrounded by strong relationships within family and friends. I am part of a community of good-hearted people who share many of the same values which are important to me. Even in the quietest of moments, in the loneliest of days, I know I am not alone. I feel warm in the blanket of comfort and protectiveness I feel from 'my community'. I feel safe. I feel valued. I feel good. What store sells that?
I live a good life, doing what I do best (which isn't always all that good, but it is often 'good enough'). I have a perfect balance of work, leisure, family, friends, recreation to keep my heart, body and mind fulfilled.
There is balance within my work - I do not earn my living doing one thing. I have diversified my income sources the way some people diversify their mutual fund investments. Some people may dwell on the fact they must work at two or three different jobs to pay the bills. I marvel at the fact I am gifted with three different sources of income which fulfill three different parts of who-I-am.
I look at my life and I know I have what money cannot buy. I know this wealth came at a price. I look at different life-changing moments which have got me from 'A' to 'B', all the way up to 'R' and I realize how being a parent and looking outside of myself for my own 'best answers' have led me to exactly where I was meant to be.
I used to be quiet, shy, meek and mild. My cousin described me as "A person who went from one of the quietest, shiest people we all knew, to someone who talks so much, she had to start writing books so her words could keep on going on, when her mouth wasn't!"
I am not suggesting that you use another person's 'riches' as your own barometer. Only 'you' know what makes you feel rich inside. My only suggestion is to look beyond the dollar sign (once your basic meets are met). Try to find the gift of finding your sense of contentment in a round about way. Appreciate the sense of accomplishment you receive by overcoming obstacles. It is the contrasts of life that help us appreciate the little things.
Life has taken me where I was meant to be. It just so happened to include three sons in the package. I have a life money cannot buy. I am blessed. I wouldn't have it any other way.