November 24, 2022

Thankfulness as a Choice

The internet is a wonderfully international place, with numerous glimpses into interesting cultural traditions all over the world. Because of that, American Thanksgiving is probably one of the more obscure global offerings, appreciated mostly by Americans, although I think even that is changing. Whether it's because of the rising costs of food and travel, substitution of family with political loyalties, or because of manipulative name-calling meant to shame Americans about their cultural traditions, it seems there is a lot to complain about regarding this holiday. And that brings me to my blog post title, "Thankfulness as a Choice."

I think this is an important topic because in general, it seems that more and more people are not happy. They are not content. The list of things to complain about seems to be ever growing: job, finances, physical appearance, politics, politicians, the government, spouses, gender, inflation, taxes, the weather, the environment, morality, ethics, equity, justice, product quality, social compliance, neighbors, the traffic, what so-and-so did or said, what they didn't do or say, and (heaven forbid) someone is wrong on the internet. And that's just the short list. 

Years ago, I heard a saying that stuck with me. "The poor are luckier than the rich because they don't know yet that money can't make them happy." Some people won't get that, but I think at some level or another, most people understand happiness based on circumstances is brief and fleeting. 

I spent many years of my life trying to make people happy because I thought it would make them like me. Eventually, I figured out this doesn't work. That if I change in the thing they don't like, they'll just find something else to complain about. Eventually, I figured out that complaining is a habit. And like all habits, it can be changed. If one is willing to do the work to change it.

What's this got to do with homesteading (the focus of my blog)? A lot, because I think our perception of our circumstances is key to homesteading success. Most of us making an attempt at it figure out pretty quickly that homesteading isn't about replicating our accustomed modern lifestyle in a more natural setting. If the stated goal is increased self-reliance, that necessitates lifestyle changes. Neither society at large, nor nature are very cooperative in this endeavor, which means it requires a fair amount of commitment and determination to succeed. It also requires accepting that some (many) things are beyond our control. And that leaves us with a choice: complain or look for some small something to be thankful for. 

Many of you tell me that while you appreciate my lifestyle, it's something you would never choose for yourselves. Which is okay. I agree it isn't for everybody. But the world is experiencing a time when many people are having to tighten their belts and look at ways to change. What Dan and I have done by choice, is being imposed on many of you through no choice of your own. I empathize deeply, and hope that my posts (both present and past), and books can offer some helpful and encouraging ideas. 

However, even useful changes will be sabotaged by negativity. And that's what complaining reinforces, a habit of negativity. It's a choice, however, and unfortunately, I think some people really like being negative. Or think that if they don't complain, nothing will change. The irony is that when we have no control over a thing, change is mostly a matter of attitude. 

So, to my fellow Americans who still celebrate this holiday, I wish you Happy Thanksgiving! To everyone else, I encourage you to focus on things you are happy for, rather than on what you are unhappy about. I encourage you to choose thankfulness.

Parting shot:

Thankfulness as a Choice
 © November 2022


Tina Rose said...

Thank you, Leigh, for your wonderful insights!

daisy g said...

I think contentedness is underrated.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Mama Pea said...

Of course, complaining is a habit. A bad habit. It may be that many people complain because they don't know what else to do. Being unhappy, negative and complaining requires change if we are to live a better life. Change is HARD. Knowing how to change, having the resources to change (physical and mental), weathering the opposition of others (including family members!) requires a lot. But I believe being appreciative and thankful does truly help during a changing process. And in all aspects of our lives. You've said it all more eloquently that I can. Great post, Leigh. And Happy Thanksgiving in whatever way you choose to celebrate it.

Boud said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Leigh! Yes, homesteading isn't like suburban living with fewer appliances! It's a completely different mindset. It's interesting to follow your approaches and see what you're doing.

Leigh said...

Marleen, hello and welcome! I think some people think that talking about a problem is doing something, but I agree with you that it changes nothing. If we want change we have to start by doing what we can on a personal level. We need to set the example!

Tina Rose, hello and welcome to you too!

Daisy, I agree! I think many people confuse contentment with complacency. So I suppose if we're complaining, we're proving we're not complacent. Maybe it's too fine a point, but perspective makes a big difference.

Mama Pea, something else I've figured out about complaining is that it's manipulative. I think most of us find complaining annoying, so it's a way to get others to do things that the complainer can't or doesn't want to do themselves. Unfortunately, it often yields the desired results, and then there's no motive to change.

Boud, same to you! I'm glad you find our haps and mishaps interesting. :)

Florida Farm Girl said...

Thank you so much for summing up the whole issue in a nutshell! Happy Thanksgiving to you and Dan.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Such a critical insight, Leigh. We are not a thankful people anymore on the whole, and to your point it seems like in every way, we are complaint prone.

A good point that you made - and one that we forget to our peril - is that we cannot make anyone happy, ultimately. Only potentially ourselves - but only if we realize that what constitutes true happiness (and always desiring something more is no faster road to such happiness than trying to make everyone else happy).

In C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, one of the characters that the protagonist meets is a character from Hell that spent their entire life grumbling to the point that all they had become was one big grumble; the soul itself was buried and potential gone. We are in danger of this as well as society; by never being thankful, content, or happy, we can only become constantly unthankful, discontent, and unhappy.

It is far better to voluntary choose less than have it enforced at a time and place not of our choosing.

Nancy In Boise said...

Yes a positive attitude makes a huge difference for sure! We try to be resilient with our little Homestead and be flexible and see what works and change what doesn't work it's just a long process. Happy thanksgiving!

Leigh said...

Sue, thank you! And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours too!

TB, in some ways, it's a hard thing to understand. There is an aspect of our human nature that tends to be dissatisfied. I observe that advertising and marketing take advantage of that to tempt us to buy their products. So in a sense, it would seem that our economic system fosters it because buying and selling mean growth. Maybe we, as a society are so used to this that it seems normal.

It's been a long time since I read Lewis's The Great Divorce. He was quite influential in my early Walk.

Nancy, that is such a healthy attitude. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Dave too!

Rosalea said...

Well said, and very insightful, Leigh. Making a deliberate decision to be content with what one has, goes a long way to thankfulness, especially in this day and age when we are bombarded with all that consumerism.
Hope you and your family had a lovely day.

Leigh said...

Rosalea, I think consumerism is antithetical to contentment. But it's the way our economic system is set up, so we're pretty much stuck with it unless we choose to adopt a different viewpoint.

Agent X, not said...

This is one of my favorite posts. Well said. We can be happy or we can be difficult. The effort required for either is about the same. The choice is yours. Happy day after Thanksgiving to you and your readers.

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

Like your choice to homestead, we chose to move to Greece from America (simply to experience something new before we got too old to do so. We now find ourselves in a rural countryside, living in a small house surrounded by olive groves, the sea and mountains. Many asked us why we left the suburbs and just don't understand that sometimes - when choices are made, less really is more!

Anonymous said...

Well as my dear father-in-law often said “ You said a mouthful Queenie! “

One thing I have observed including in my own family from childhood is some people are not happy unless they’re unhappy. I will not even go into a discussion about that one because it’s just what it is and it will never be anything different. But it is a choice as is everything in life and we can choose the path less traveled or we can choose to dig the hole deeper.

So as someone important somewhere once said “keep smiling it will keep them guessing.” Or something to that effect .

A belated happy Thanksgiving hoping that yours was as wonderful as mine this was a year of flying solo. Due to lots of circumstances and busy households I stayed home and made my first turkey and my new cabin ever and it was delicious. The pups are quite grateful for giblets on their kibble they even told me so.🤩

Michelle said...

Your title goes hand in hand with a principle I was raised with from earliest memory – Happiness is a decision. So is love, and every other good character trait! I'm not suggesting the decision is easy, nor is it "one and done." And feelings don't always follow in line. But like any habit, mental or physical, it gets easier with practice.

Leigh said...

Agent X, "the effort required for either is about the same." Excellent point!

Jackie and Joel, "less really is more." Also an excellent point! But you're correct that some people just don't get it.

Goatldi, "some people are not happy unless they’re unhappy." Very true! I think it becomes so "normal" for some folks that they think something is wrong if they aren't unhappy.

Michelle, I agree! Really, happiness and love are action words, not feelings. Eventually, the feelings follow, but as you point out, it sometimes takes some time.

Henny Penny said...

Happy day after Thanksgiving Leigh. Sure enjoyed and appreciate your post.

Haddock said...

Like the parting shot. Two of them are looking as if someone is coming to get them.

Leigh said...

Thank you Henny! I hope you had a wonderful holiday.

Haddock, ha! They always look like that! Turkeys are very inquisitive birds and curious about everything. Always exploring.

Debby Riddle said...

Happy Thanksgiving Leigh and Dan. A timely word! Living and documenting survival and homesteading skills will greatly benefit society as a whole. It's a wild time. Thanks for being a voice of truth and steadiness in it all.

Leigh said...

Debby! So good to hear from you! It seems your blog has disappeared, which is sad because I really enjoyed your writing. I hope all is well with you and your family.

Ed said...

A well written post! I think I see the value of your life’s choices and although I don’t fully embrace them, I like to keep one foot in them in case a day comes when I need to choose one or the other.

Leigh said...

Ed, having options and alternatives are extremely important, I think. There's a sense of security in that approach, plus it just seems prudent. So many unimaginable things have happened happened in the past two years that having back-up on skills, tools, and supplies makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Leigh. I’ve always enjoyed your encouragement. I’m taking a blogging break. We are well, thanks for asking.