The Haves and the Have-nots

I’m sitting in a beautiful candle lit restaurant in Vienna, Austria….sipping a glass of too-expensive rose champagne…but the bubbles, the dim light, the atmosphere – they are simultaneously invigorating and soothing. I see a family of three near me – the man leans back in his chair, chewing thoughtlessly on a piece of bread. I wonder to myself – does he enjoy the taste? Appreciate the texture? Consider the effort that went into making that bread just right for him. I see a son about 14 sitting next to him. He’s old enough to carry himself with comfort and look present, yet appropriately unimpressed by his surroundings. Certainly, he has had many meals like this – today is no special moment for him. He orders the rack of lamb and eats it as if it is $1 pasta. It is just a meal – sustenance. He is not rude, but neither does he appear aware of how special his dinner is. Few of us will ever experience food of this caliber, let alone so often by age 14 that it is boring. The mother, she eats without thought. Interacts with bland consideration. She is present but again, this is no highlight to a trip, a day, or a family moment.

Earlier today I walked the incredibly exciting streets and saw more amazing dresses, handbags, artwork, and shoes than I have ever seen. I am not at all a shopper but even I was impressed. I am not a big shoe person either (though I do love me some candy apple red pumps!) but the options here could make even the least interested take note. I took pictures!!!! A woman in one store kindly asked I’d like to try on the shoes – I laughed uncomfortably. What good would it do to try on shoes I could never buy? I smiled at her and thanked her for the indulgence. Because for me, just touching the shoes – dreaming of wearing them – THAT in and of itself was meaningful. I found pajamas of the softest material, vintage dresses that cost more now than when they were originally sewn, and coats that not only keep one warm but could make even the most homely person feel like a movie star.

And yet I giggled. Because why would any of these items matter? Yes, they feel nice on the skin. Yes, they are beautiful. But at the end of the day….If you have to cover up every part of yourself to be liked, valued, enjoyed – then has your soul been appreciated?

Perhaps it is cliché. Perhaps I am defensive – because, of course, I cannot purchase these items even if I wished. But while I sat at the same restaurant as that family – I enjoyed, savored every single bite and sip I took. Whose meal experience was better? Without question: mine was. I purchased only gifts for others on my shopping endeavor. Might I have enjoyed buying myself new clothes and shoes and bags? Perhaps. But I *know* I enjoyed buying my family European chocolates, stickers for my youngest, and fancy socks for my husband. I enjoyed seeing things I haven’t seen before. Though I admit – the 60s vintage dress: I’d have worn it with the biggest grin….just because.

Is money power? Does it matter? Does it impress?

To my mind, it provides options. But if it makes the joy of living less poignant, use it differently. If you see your child bored with an exceptional meal, switch to cheap ones and make them earn it. If purchasing fabulous clothes is commonplace….wear hand-me-downs until you feel thrilled and lucky to feel exceptional fabrics and dresses. If you aren’t enjoying what you have – give it away.

Appreciate pleasure, don’t waste it simply because you can.

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