Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Affluenza

One of the message boards I like to frequent posted a quote from this book, which I'd never heard of. I immediately did a search on "Affluenza" and found all kinds of fascinating topics and opinions on the subject. I connect so fully with this way of thinking, and am so glad to have this now as part of my vocabulary and way of filing opinions and ideas in my mind.

There is a PBS special by this title, and the website defines "affluenza" as this:
1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.
2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the dogged pursuit of the American Dream.
3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.
Of course, it goes on to prescribe the cure to be living a simpler life with less consumption and less stuff.

After much, much thinking the last couple of months, I've been able to pinpoint why our new house (of 4 years) never really brought us the happiness we thought it would. When we moved here, my husband had gotten a new job with a bit of a raise, and we had made a little money on our old house. Like most people 4 years ago, we were able to buy a much nicer and larger house than we'd thought. We liked the neighborhood for its sidewalks, parks, ponds, pool, and sense of community. The houses are all new, nice and huge. We liked what it had to offer our kids, but we didn't think about what little it had to offer our spiritual growth and sense of self. We quickly learned that despite all the parks and all the childrens play equipment in the backyards, actual children were never home. They were at day care and their parents were at work. The kids we met at the park were with nannies. The few stay-at-home moms I met took great pride in making sure I understood that they were "never home". They had full calendars of Gymboree, swim lessons, dance lessons, and lunch every day at McDonalds. Nonetheless, we made friends and joined groups and got on with our lives.
But as we got to know people, I found that I didn't really connect with anyone in the neighborhood. I felt stuck between feeling like I should try to fit in, and not really wanting to. This accounts for all the things halfway done in the house-the decorating, the landscaping, the organizing. I've been caught between what made us happy and what I thought I was "supposed" to do. And ironically, the more money my husband made, the less happy I became, because there became less and less of a reason for our family to forgo what everyone else has. I would simply look around and wonder what was wrong with me that I didn't want those things.
I'm glad we never jumped on the spending bandwagon, but I do wish I'd been bold enough to lead my family in the way I felt best a long time ago. Once we made the decision to get off the merry-go-round in a drastic way, by not buying anything new for a year, I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. Our whole family was free to do what we always felt was best. Moreover, we were free to have fun with it. Our "affluenza" was cured! And looking back over the weeks since, I see how it unlocked everything for us. We decorated, organized, rearranged and did everything the way we thought it should have been done in the first place. We found more time for each other and for rediscovering the things that make us happy. We all feel more connected to to each other and the to the lives we live than ever before.
So I'm wondering--much the way second-hand smoke affects the lungs, was this a case of second-hand affluenza?? LOL

Some other facts I found in my searching (I'd love to give the credit but can't remember the website):
1. Americans spend more for trash bags each year than 90 of the world's 210 countries spend on everything.
2. More people in the US file for bankruptcy each year than graduate from college
3. The average rate of saving has fallen from 10% in 1980 to ZERO in 2000.

Today I feel like once and for all, I can push the Joneses aside and not only enjoy the way we live, but know deep down that its the best way and that we can be proud of it. And I'd like to thank everyone who visits this blog for your affirmations and support and for leading me to the place I have finally found!

2 comments:

aka_Nik said...

I really agree with you on this post. My husband just got a promotion at work and was really excited about the raise that goes along with it. I made sure to let him know that I'd be happy without the extra money and that we are happy now.

I don't know if it's just because I'm cheap or what, but I really want to research this more and tighten our belt a notch monitarily.

Once a Jones said...

Great post! My maiden name was Jones, so I always laugh at 'keeping up with the Joneses"! BTW we were far from wealthy, but my mom was extremely frugal!