I don’t know when it happened, but it’s been several months since I decided to like the material things in my life. I decided that I wasn’t going to look past them to those better things that existed after I washed that dress and it began to fade or even longed for the things that I didn’t purchase as I hung up or folded the things I did bring home; I decided that I was going to place those new throw pillows on the couch and like them just fine and not think about how much better they would look with a new rug to complement them; I decided that I was going to like my house, decorate it with meaningful things, consider new paint colors, in other words, consider ways of enhancing my house, but I was not going to pine for a bigger, more expensive one. I decided that all the things that I owned were just fine and when I did, I got an unexpected surprise: Peace. When I stopped thinking about and focusing on the suspected shabbiness of the ordinary things in my life and started focusing on all that was right, I no longer felt anxious or breathless from striving. Peace settled in as my old things gleamed with new potential–or just as they were. I’m telling you, when I decided to take another look at what I had, it brought new wealth and everyday I try to increase my bounty as I take another look at everything around me.
Last summer I bought a sundress that I thought was nice. It was inexpensive and easy to care for, which added to its value. During the fall, I noticed spots on the dress that appeared to be bleach stains. At first I was really disappointed because my immediate thought was that I would have to get rid of the dress. I didn’t dispose of the dress right away though because I liked it very much and was frustrated that I hadn’t taken better care of it. Thus, I didn’t want to throw it out and I would never donate something that I think is in poor condition so I just let it hang in my closet for a while. Fortunately, my dress dilemma intersected with my decision to want the things that existed in my life. In an effort to recast my damaged dress for a second life, I turned to the people in my life for guidance who seemed to best know how to do this–my ancestors, as they were not pining women.
When I turned to those women whose memory I value and thought about what they would have done with that dress, I immediately thought of the dress as having use value. My beloved neighbor Betty would have worn that dress. She would have had it on as she gardened and as she went to water her lawn. Thinking about her this way made me think about how I imagined myself and thought about the activities that I engage in. Discounting the dress’s value with the stains reflects a life with pristine qualities that my daily life does not typically involve. Most days, I am not attending tea parties or going to formal ceremonies, giving public speeches or meeting executives for lunch. Like Betty, most days, I can be seen working around my house so there is no reason for me not to wear that dress to conduct the daily affairs around my home. Then I thought about my grandmother. My grandmother wouldn’t have worn the dress. I never saw her in a sundress, but I don’t think she would have merely disposed of the dress either–she would have used it, even if she cut it up and turned it into rags. Too, she wouldn’t have thought anything of it if she saw me wearing the dress around the house. Thus, I kept the dress.
At first, I thought I would only wear it around the house, but yesterday that changed. I wore the dress out to have pizza at a local pizzeria we love and then to the park where we took our son to play. It never even occurred to me to change clothes to leave the house. The places we visited were extensions of how I define being at home and if I felt I was going to be shunned or refused service on account of the bleach stains on my dress, I can’t see that I would be frequenting those places. It felt good not having to fret over what folk thought of how I looked.
What peace does for you is that it gives you the ability to enhance your life by giving you a restful mind and the stillness to approach your affairs with your full, focused attention. Peace pushes aside anxiety and makes room for creativity to flourish. With the constant striving for the endless supply of new and shiny things to replace the never-ending list of old ones replaced with contentment, you can actual experience the relief necessary to jump up and down and celebrate, or in other words, to know joy. Taking another look at the things in my life has been good for me.