Ceilings and Floors

Isn’t it interesting that sometimes someone who is in debt for, let’s say, forty-thousand dollars, can end up being happier than someone who has one million dollars? Crazy as it may seem, we would not believe how many people who we would consider “well off,” are quite unhappy individuals. How could this be possible? How on earth could somebody with substantial wealth end up feeling miserable? It’s quite easy…..I call it, “Chasing the Dragon.” To these individuals, once they acquire one million, the goal becomes two million, then three million, etc. They totally lose track of the value of what they’ve accumulated. Now I am not suggesting that all people who are in debt are always happier…..but it is possible for some of those to be able to see the glass half full, not half empty.

Howard Hughes, the multimillionaire who was once envied in Hollywood, dating many a starlet in his heyday, ended up a suspicious, paranoid old man. He believed that everyone was out to “get him,” while he walked around with white gloves on, watching every crumb he consumed, fearing poison. Photographs and sketches of his last days showed a man who was dying of malnutrition, while his bank accounts were stuffed. How often do we read in our daily newspapers, a homeless person being found dead, and under further evaluation it is discovered they were millionaires? Money, wealth, and fame can be double-edged swords.

I know two people….one, who works for a leading American company, the other, works for little over minimum wage at the local hardware store. I can honestly tell you, the man at the hardware store is happier and more content. You see, my more lucrative friend, as he has climbed the corporate ladder, has also elevated his expenses…bigger home, better car, more costly clothes…frequents the “best” restaurants in town. All of this needs a constant inflow of fresh funds. If one is not careful, these habits can start to become a noose around one’s neck. All the while, my hardware friend has installed in his home a little entertainment center, with an enlarged television screen and “surround sound” stereo. He, his wife, and kids spend many an evening sitting back in their chairs, laughing. He said to me, “Jennifer, after the initial outlay for my entertainment thing, it only costs me the price of a rented DVD to have an evening of enjoyment.” He can’t afford to throw money at the wall, like my other friend. But I have seen both faces….and I can assure you, one man’s ceiling, is another man’s floor.

In these strange and troubled times, it’s always important to realize that we cannot buy our way to happiness. Yes, indeed, it is quite important to be financially responsible….but the soul doesn’t really need much for contentment. It is nice to have the latest and best gadgets, with all the bells and whistles….but it’s important to always weigh the options. It’s great to chase our dreams….and to set out to accomplish our missions. But if all we do is put a dollar amount on their destinations, we may find at the end of the road, a sense of emptiness, for all our hard work. Balance is key to prolonged happiness. It’s okay to stop along the road once in a while for a cup of coffee, a chat, and a smile. Hey, you never know….at that streetlight ahead, you may decide to turn right, instead of left.

May your glass be always full,
love, Jennifer Avalon
© 2004 Jennifer Avalon

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