Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Gonna Change My Way of Thinking

This week, right into the middle of our trying-to-be-frugal life came a Bob Dylan concert a mere thirty minutes' drive away. Indeed, it brought tears to the eyes of both my Spouse and myself. Bob Dylan, you see, holds an extremely high position in our home. I would say more than furniture, television or Christmas presents but since we do not really deal with any of those, it leaves me at a loss to explain how much we relish great music.

The question remained: Should we, or should we not?
Would it not undermine our hard work, careful spending and character building?
But my goodness—a chance to see Bob Dylan, that was different.

So we tried to rationalise the situation. Neither of us had to look far: we had missed Bob Dylan once before, by a hair's breadth five years ago—we held precious, magical tickets in our hands before we realised we had double booked that night. The other appointment was quite unavoidable and I had to sell them at short notice to a lady who had already seen Bob Dylan not once but five times. Our last aspiration, the possibility that somebody else's dream would come true, had been vanquished.

We were determined this time. Or were we? It is easy to validate desires, to justify spending.
In everyday life, how does one separate 'want' from 'need'?
How much of a sacrifice is necessary?
Surely 'gifts' to oneself are acceptable from time to time?

We are just beginning our journey so answers to those are sketchy at best. Surely we will find out as we proceed. What I am certain of is that nowadays I feel a good deal stronger when I give up something I am fond of.
For example, last month my mother visited us from across the ocean. She several times gushed and admired the multi-coloured rug on the bedroom floor. My Spouse and I do particularly like this rug so I was astonished when, on the last day, we found ourselves folding it up tightly and offering it to my mother to put in the suitcase. She protested a lot but in the end it went home with her.
So now we have no rug on the floor. Instead, a bare patch of carpet made colder by the vibrant colours that are, all of a sudden, missing.
Here is the interesting part: we realised we do not need a rug at all. My mother, by all accounts, is enjoying it immensely and that, conveyed across thousands of miles of telephone wire, will serve as a sort of 'virtual rug' for the time being.

What we learned was this: even though we might long for some material thing, we do not absolutely have to have it. If we already own it, we need not keep it. And we will be just fine afterwards. Clearly, it is the sorting through and deciding on need-versus-want that slows down an entire decluttering project. There is assuredly more than one kind of clutter and it is a trap to assume that if you are strong about the physical kind you can 'reward' yourself with, say, a concert which leaves no material trace.

At the last possible moment we decided that no matter how much we care for music, there was no life or death situation involved. Yet, it was a terribly difficult decision to make.
We could avoid the concert, feel good about our character building, and promise to see Bob Dylan somewhere, someday.
Then, we wondered, what should we do with our Friday evening? One cannot simply hover at home for hours and hours until dark, not on a night when a sacrifice—so to speak—has been made.
It was off to Borders' Book Stores, then, to browse the shelves and dull the pain.
As soon as we entered, we were approached by a young assistant offering us some free samples. A delightfully tiny cup of Apple Cider with cream—most delicious. As we sipped, there seemed to be some preparation for a musical event; younger and older people were lining up with their guitars, hoping to get their chance to play a few tunes. We watched with interest as they set up the sound system. It gave the feel of a regular Friday night occurrence. One gentleman mumbled a particular name, hitherto mentioned here, as his influence, before launching into a superlative selection of songs that would set the tone for the evening.
It was enchanting. These were undoubtedly amateur singer songwriters starting to get recognition, and they sounded to our ears as good as anything we have heard in a long while.
It is true that we were charmed by the ones with fine voices singing the folk and rock classics, but also by one spirited man who understood that life and music were about good cheer. I do not think that I have ever enjoyed a version of 'Monster Mash' quite so much! I could have listened to him all evening: anybody who has that much fun while singing is priceless to watch.
It might be difficult to convey to another how we could go from the possibility of a Bob Dylan concert to that, and still be satisfied. The truth is, our time was incredibly well spent. We heard topnotch music without preconceived expectation and therefore no possibility of disappointment. We were cosy and we tasted a mouthwatering new drink. It was a night worthy of what we had given up. And it cost us nothing.

“Gonna change my way of thinking,
Make myself a different set of rules.”

-Bob Dylan

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