Abundance: The Downside
Looking at a restaurant menu, I prefer to see only 5 choices. I mean really good choices, not 50 mediocre choices.
Not to mention walking down the bread aisle at the grocery store where I want to explode because of the overwhelming and excessive selections: white (premium, round, artesano, organic, country, etc.), wheat (honey whole, 100%, old fashioned, simple, etc.) grains in all numbers, gluten free, keto, toasting, muffin, and on and on and on.
Just give me bread that will toast the way I like it and not crumble under the pressure of applying peanut butter.
Overabundance of anything is just insane to me and American grocery stores are just one of many grievous examples of our societal excess.
Lessons in Doing More with Less
When traveling overseas, some restaurants serve meals family style. Usually a multi-course fare in which you have little choice except maybe portions served. The food and service, never disappointing. My kind of mealtime experience.
Growing up, my mother had little sympathy for sensitive taste buds. If we did not like what was on the single item (but well balanced) menu, we were not sent to our rooms or punished. We either ate what was served or fended for ourselves. Bread and peanut butter were always in the cupboard.
We were taught to simply deal with and make our own choices. It seems that early lessons in independence and decision making centered around the kitchen. We also took turns cleaning up after dinner, which prompted unnecessary trips to the bathroom when it came to our turn. Mom was privy to our schemes.
Just as we had few choices for meals, we had few choices but to do our chores.
I grew up with little abundance, but certainly enough to get by. Mom did amazing things with what was in the kitchen and many other parts of our household.
My parents, masters of nuance when dispensing discipline in order to create more with less and getting results.
Those with the Least Have the Most
The cost of abundance is that it can blind one to the realities of the world. When you are buried in material and financial affluence, there is no wanting, no seeking, no need to face or care how others are surviving by the “skin of their teeth”.
On the other hand, those with the least know how to stretch their limited resources.
When you have less, ingenuity rises to the surface. Problem solving skills develop in real time. And coming up with solutions without acquiring something new to accomplish the task is a survival skill. One I thank my parents for instilling in me early on.
Abundance and Predictability in 55+ Communities
Another example of the cost of abundance is the concept of gated homogenous communities. Many 55+ gated communities are self contained to the point where you rarely need to leave except maybe to get groceries. Stringent HOA rules, four to five house plans in which to choose. Reminiscent of the 1950’s white suburban tract houses but with a 21st century twist. Carefully planned, catering to modern 55+ sensibilities, neither too big or small, neither too formal or casual. Built for retired couples usually around or on a golf course or two.
An odd utopian environment where there does not appear to be a care in the world that money cannot provide. Conversations involve pickleball tournaments, what to bring to the neighborhood potluck, golf scores, the success of your children/grandchildren, who is cheating on who, where your next exotic vacation will be and how the investment portfolio is doing.
Somewhat like living under a dome of forced cohabitation and sameness.
I dare say, I do not live in a 55+ community, so there is a level of ignorance on my part. But I do hear things through the 55+ grapevine. In addition, I do not play pickleball, have grandchildren, golf, cheat or cook. So I apparently would not have much to add to the conversations. In addition, I am an artist, so that just makes me weird.
I understand why many flock to these types of cooperative living arrangements. It is a way to avoid the choices and chaos of the 21st century. A way to return to simpler times, which I would argue never existed in any way shape or form.
Many of these folks were born before the computer revolution, most not tech savvy or have any desire to be. Instead, expecting their grandchildren to provide tech assistance. Most modern modes of communication are a struggle and there is little patience for the current state of the world. To them it is an atmosphere of complexity, fear and constant change. Cohabitating with like minded people may be their way of strapping on the blinders to the realities that exist now.
Or simply preferring to walk away from it all because well, they’re retired. Which to some may mean receding from many current realities.
There are certainly times I would like to roll up into a fetal position and fade away into a myopic abyss.
In addition, as part of the 55+ contingent, I admit to tapping my twenty something daughter for her tech expertise when I have exhausted my own knowledge base and problem solving skills. But I do not see myself cohorting among these kinds of homogeneous communities. I am not be able to survive or thrive in an environment of monotony.
Breathing in the air of diversity, occasional chaos and all that comes with it, is what I choose.
I don’t always like it, but I am grateful for the dance.
Routines and Abundance — The Simple Choice
Less choice in certain aspects of life is preferable.
So, I continue to learn ways to balance the two worlds without getting stuck in that deep hole of predictability. I have written several times about the importance of foundational routines. And although routines may feel predictable, the balance come when they keep us grounded providing energy to face the rest our day.
These routines will change throughout your life, as they should. Having them, whatever they may be, is what becomes vital to your ability to face the diversity and adversity that will inevitably knock at your door.
My foundational routine each morning is drinking my hot beverage while sitting outside soaking up the natural environment that surrounds me. Or in winter, at my desk looking out the window and the view of the river. After that, I take a walk no matter the season, adjusting my attire and mindset accordingly.
Nature (and that warm beverage) is what grounds me. It is what fuels me which is how I define abundance.
Sometimes balance is achieved, other times not. Such is life. I adapt.
Image: Awakenings — Kindling, monotype
I chose this image for the article because of its simple message, less is more. Minimal elements to convey a message of being awakened to our surroundings. Eliminating all the extraneous “stuff” to get to the core of what matters.
Kindling refers to the natural materials needed to start a fire. An analogy I see as the basic substance of our daily existence. Beginning with a foundation and/or a routine that gives us stability to move forward with whatever comes up. The spark needed to fuel our energy.