Yesterday morning after dropping S at nursery, I went for a long walk. I had to drop some paperwork off on the far side of town, and I thought it better to do it first thing rather than have to disrupt my work later in the day.
It was a beautiful sunny morning, and as I walked along the tow path by the river, I passed a lot of fed-up, Monday-morning-ish looking people walking the other way. I found myself feeling pretty lucky to be able to enjoy the sunshine without having to sit in an office all day.
On my way home I bumped into several people I'd not seen for a while, and also had a lovely conversation with a neighbour. He's been retired for 20 years or so and we often see him out and about. We were talking about money and happiness, and how the two aren't necessarily linked.
Before I had my breakdown, I was probably earning more than twice what I earn now. I had a house in a quiet area just outside of town, I saw a personal trainer once a fortnight and went to the gym several times a week. I had nice clothes and shoes, and spent Summer afternoons in beer gardens drinking cider with friends. I had a job that could probably have been deemed a "career." But I was miserable.
Now I'm a single mother living in a flat on a council estate. I have a 24-hour job in looking after S; we don't always have enough money to make ends meet, and things like new clothes and shoes have to wait longer than I would like. But I am the happiest I have ever been.
I wrote a post a while back about success, and how it can mean different things to different people. I write for a living, and the very fact I can just about make enough money to live on from doing that makes me happy. I consider myself to be successful because my daughter is happy and healthy, and we have a great time together.
Sometimes, when I'm feeling a bit grumpy, I'll think "life would be easier if I had more money." Then I stop and think, well no, it wouldn't. Because the hardest part of my life is not the lack of money. The hardest part is when S is teething and can't sleep; it's getting us both up and out of the door for nursery when we've had a bad night; it's finding a way to get her to eat something vaguely sensible for tea when her teeth are hurting and all she'll eat is custard or yoghurt. It's figuring out how to deal with it when she lays down on the floor and starts screaming in the middle of the street.
None of those things would be changed, no matter how much money was in the bank. If I win millions on the lottery tomorrow, it will still always be me comforting my child when she can't sleep. I will always be the one taking her to nursery in the mornings; it will always be me getting her tea. So really, my life wouldn't be easier if we had more money. Unless you count the fact I might be able to offer caviar as an alternative to custard for tea. But I don't think toddlers really go in for caviar any way.
It's a strange feeling, to be walking along in the sunshine, and think "I don't care if there's no money in the bank after I've paid the rent; I'm happy.
I had a fantastic weekend with S. The TV was switched off all weekend; we made salt dough hand prints, and ran around the Cathedral Close and did lots of drawing. I think the most money I spent all weekend was on ice creams as a treat for our tea one day. The highlight of the weekend was probably pulling a massive flowery blanket over our heads and playing silly games with it. The giggles were worth more than money can ever buy.
So yes, I am happy, and I consider myself to be truly blessed. What about you?