• Margaret Curtis, MD

How To Feel Like A Have, Not A Have-not

In March 2020 I wrote my last blog post, about the impending wave of COVID. The last two years – almost exactly – of turbulent water under the bridge have taught us many things, gratitude most of all: gratitude for the health we have, for family and the friends who count as family, for meaningful work that keeps us grounded. So I thought a post about gratitude would be a fitting re-entry entry.

In March 2022 I travelled with my family to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We wanted a family vacation, our first in almost three years, and I wanted the kids to see one of my favorite places in the world.

I lived in Jackson for a few years between college and medical school. I worked three jobs, tried to ski a big mountain and generally blew off steam from my East Coast upbringing. I knew at the time that I wouldn’t be able to buy a home there, and I hope I didn’t spend much time complaining about it. I mostly just couldn’t believe my luck at living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Jackson is an easy place for someone in her twenties to have a good time.

Jackson is also an easy place to feel like a have-not. That was true twenty years ago when houses sold for $1 million, and is even more true today when the same houses sell for $5 million. Wealth and conspicuous consumption are everywhere. But I wanted to enjoy the time we had in the mountains rather than fret over what I don’t have – in Jackson or anywhere. So how to maintain a sense of “enough” in a world that is always suggesting we should want more?

This view is free

First and most obvious: count your blessings, as often as you can. Remember that experiences bring more joy than possessions. Learn cheap hobbies.

Don’t confuse the trappings of wealth with actual wealth. Re-read The Millionaire Next Door if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about.

Finally, surround yourself with those who think like you do. I don’t mean you should only be friends with people who earn less than you do – that would be a creepy way to choose your friends – but you should (mostly) be friends with people who also count their blessings. Be especially wary of anyone who says “must be nice….”. That phrase has never been followed by anything but grasping and jealousy.

If your friends enjoy your cheap hobbies and joyful experiences, you will be able to count them among your many blessings.

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