Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence and Happiness

As we celebrate our nation's history with fireworks and thoughts of independence I've been thinking a lot about personal independence. Not in the pry-the-gun-from-my-cold-dead-hands, freedom-of-speech-no-matter-the-cost type, but freedom of dependence. It might be freedom from dependence from a drug, alcohol, cigarettes, a bad habit or a person who does you harm. Or, in my case, I'm referring to the ability to be able to take care of myself and produce the things I and my family need. The freedom from dependence on others. Self-sufficiency.

Of course, there is no such thing as being completely independent. I'm no electrician, plumber or carpenter. I can't fix my own car nor can I build a computer. I suppose if I was able to live a simpler life and didn't rely on such amenities as indoor plumbing, electricity and a cell phone I might just be able to do most things myself. I'm not willing to go that far, but it does give me a great deal of joy to be able to do what I can. It's one of the simplest pleasures life has to offer and there is personal satisfaction in knowing that something is homemade.

One of the blogs I routinely read posted about this the other day. Until the 1950s we, as a society, were much more self-sufficient. Of course, things have changed since then: women no longer are at home, in charge of the house and feeding the family. It has become the norm for both adults in a household to be wage-earners. This has left home management unmanned and so for convenience/time/necessity we have turned to purchasing many of the items that 60 years ago were self-produced. It's rare to find someone who cooks from scratch, sews, grows their vegetables, does their own yard and housework. In the past few generation we've lost some of the skills needed to be able to do these things; how long until we're unable because nobody knows how? Interesting to think about. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but we've become dependent upon companies and business to produce and take care of the things that 3 generations ago we did ourselves.

My circumstances are far from usual- early retirement/disability at 32. I've had to figure out what I'm capable of doing and what makes my life happy and fulfilling. Who knew it would be the simplest things of all? Cooking and baking for my family. Taking care of the house and yard. Growing a little bit of what we eat. Making my own less environmentally harmful cleaners. Being able to knit and sew, make jams and give homemade gifts. I have found this is my own personal formula for happiness, and no doubt there as many other formulas as there are people on the planet. We're all different and I'm sure there are many who could no sooner imagine being happy doing what I do than flying to the moon. Perhaps another person's formula would be the ability to be independent from exactly those things that give me the most happiness. That's what makes our country great and what personal freedom and independence are all about.

Happy Independence Day.

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