I had not yet heard of Minimalism when I learned that the habit of gratitude is the secret of wealth. I am blessed by good things–material and spiritual–only if I am conscious that they are good things. This is a fundamental principle of the Minimalist movement. A need is something needed to survive. Everything else is a want. I can enjoy a luxury if I acknowledge that it is not necessary for survival, that I don’t need it. I am poor when I don’t recognize the difference between a need and a want.
I have been poor most of my life because I was always thinking about what I “needed,” and I thought I “needed” more. My mother thought that more would be better. My friends were convinced that more would be better. A landslide of publicity made me certain that more would be better. No matter what I had, there was always more that I needed. It took me a long time to realize that more, like tomorrow, is forever out of reach.
I have never been hungry or thirsty for lack of food and clean water. I have never been dirty or uncomfortable for lack of indoor plumbing. I have never been exposed to cold, heat, rain, sleet, wind, hail, or snow for lack of adequate shelter. My clothes have never been a source of shame. My father had a job. My family had a car. My mother didn’t have to work. I finished high school without a struggle and graduated from an upscale university. I enjoyed love, family, friends, and respect.
I was never hungry or thirsty, but I wanted steak instead of hamburger. I wanted to go to fine restaurants and dine in houses where people dressed for dinner. I never lived in a house that was unsafe or uncomfortable, but I wanted to live in an elegantly furnished mansion with crystal chandeliers, bedrooms and bathrooms for everyone, and an elegant gadget-filled kitchen of industrial proportions. I wanted a swimming pool with cabanas, a green rolling lawn, a furnished patio, a barbecue, and stables for a few horses. I wanted central heat and cooling, lots of fireplaces, and a tornado shelter. And my own jukebox. My family had a reliable Ford, but I wanted a Cadillac for the family and a little T-Bird just for me.
I was never dirty and unkempt, but I wanted a weekly appointment at an upscale salon to have my hair styled and my hands cared for, and get facials, massages, and body wraps. No one laughed at my clothes, but I wanted to dress in the latest trendsetter fashion–a stunning wardrobe from Neiman-Marcus with underwear in colors to match every outfit. I wanted gold, silver, platinum, diamonds, pearls, rubies, emeralds, mink. I wanted Lancome for my face and Chanel for my body.
My father had a job, but I wanted him to have a more prestigious position with a higher paycheck–or maybe be a millionaire oil man like his father, who died young, leaving his fortune in the hands of my grandmother, who sold the business and spent the money on hypochondria and pill addiction.
My mother didn’t have to work, but I wanted her to go to luncheons at the Women’s Forum so that I could be presented as a Junior Forum Debutante in a long white formal and elbow-length gloves. I wanted her to show up at PTA meetings in beautifully tailored suits with scarves and other matching accessories. I graduated from Baylor, but I wanted to go to Columbia or Vassar or Sarah Lawrence and have my photograph in the local newspaper when I came home at Christmas.
I wanted money to do whatever I wanted and never have to think about money. It took me a long time to learn that no one can do whatever she wants and never have to think about money. A few people sell their souls to spouses or lovers who allow them to live in a bubble. Everyone else has to think about money, and the more money they have, the more they have to think about it.