When we were on vacation in the Cape a few weeks ago, we took the family out for our only early dinner in a cute little town near where we were staying. “Early” because my moral compass tells me people should not have to be subjected to us while they are on vacation. “Only” because I value my sanity and my marriage and taking four children to a restaurant does little to help either one. There was also another reason for that “only.”
There but for the grace of God we survived said meal and did minimal damage to the establishment. We’d already walked a few blocks back towards the car when I realized I’d left my water bottle. I ran back alone, grabbed it, and then, on a whim, ducked into the clothing boutique next door to quickly check out the cutest little top they had hanging in the window.
It was cold in there with the AC blasting and it felt good to come in out of the heat. Plus it smelled good, like linen and soap and what I can only imagine was old money. I wandered around a little, feeling eyes on me, until I found the top from the window. It was a tank, a camisole really, made of the kind of material that felt like nothing at all between my fingers. I couldn’t stop touching it. Then I saw the tag.
I dropped it like it was hot. (The shirt, that is. I did not start dancing, unless you count slowly backing out of there with my hands held up lest I break something expensive by dancing.) $400 is a car payment for us. More than two of those early dinners out. A significant dent in my mortgage. Groceries to feed us for almost two weeks. Shoes for the kids to wear when school starts.
As I walked back to where my family was waiting for me in our car (that wasn’t new at any point in this decade), I felt it.
For just a second, that green yucky temptress wove her way through and around my ankles, threatening to creep up and make me stumble. What would it be like, I wondered, to be able to just buy it? To have so little worries about money or responsibility that dropping that much money on what was essentially an undergarment, albeit a very lovely one, was a viable and real option?
It’s crazy how fast that can happen, isn’t it? How quickly we can turn tables from “this vacation is such a blessing,” to “but why not me?” How easily we can imagine ourselves in a place that just by virtue of that small ability: to buy more, to have more, and maybe to be more, would be so much better in every way than where we are right now?
Then I rounded the corner and my kids, my husband, and my big old beast of a car were there and it was like running headfirst into the truth.
I have four beautiful, relatively healthy, sometimes clean, and occasionally well-behaved babies.
I have a hunky husband who is willing to corral those babies while I take time to run my fingers over silky intimates I can’t afford.
I have a reliable mode of transportation.
I have a job that affords me a week off to go on vacation. I have a job that doesn’t discriminate against me for being female or a mother. In this economic and political climate, hell, I have a job!
I have access to quality food and clean water that flows out of a tap like a goddamn miracle and toilets that flush and a house that can be made cool in the summer and warm in the winter and clothes for our six bodies and neighbors who watch out for us when we leave. I have family and friends and a body and enough years behind me now to know how to appreciate them and enough years hopefully ahead of me still to actually do just that.
I do not, however, have a fancy shirt. Sure I could make a list here of all the other fancy things I’d love to have, but what would be the point of that? I have the one thing I need more than all that, the thing that smacked me in the forehead and knocked the envy right out of me: Perspective.
Perspective is what tells me I don’t have everything and probably never will, but I sure as hell have enough. I don’t always have it – perspective that is. Not as often as I probably should and certainly not as often as I would like, but I had enough perspective as I strapped the littlest into his seat that keeps him safe and we drove off towards home (sans cami) to tell myself the truth, which is this:
Scratch enough. That’s not what this is at all. What I have, friends, is way more than enough.
This post originally appeared here.