The best things in life are free, or so the promise goes. It is hard to believe that one in this hothouse atmosphere of consumerism that engulfs us this time of year. Like a lot of folks my age, I am trying to simplify my life, get free of “stuff.” But even from my new elevated spiritual perch, I am not immune from acquisitive bourgeois appetites. I don’t know about you, but I have begun to feel like my life depends upon getting the new iPhone. Who wouldn’t have to have the world in his pocket?
In 1927, the song “The Best Things in Life Are Free” was a big hit. The lyrics suggested that moonbeams and love-freebies for us all-were better than the rush of a shopping spree at Tiffany’s. Yet, the more recent and oft recorded song (from John Lee Hooker to Devo), “Money,” probably captures our more modern sentiments: “The best things in life are free / But you can give them to the birds and bees / Now give me money, that’s what I want!”
Perhaps I am just an old hippie at heart, but I am still enchanted by the idea of a natural high, one that doesn’t require becoming a Mall Zombie (or breaking any laws) to achieve. I started compiling a list of all the blessings that don’t require tapping my MasterCard. Many of these are from my own experience and some are borrowed from others. Try adding your own to the list; doing so can produce the natural high that comes from gratitude.
• A hot shower.
• Getting into a line at the supermarket that actually turns out to be the fastest one.
• Making eye contact with an attractive stranger. Indulging in a harmless fantasy about that stranger.
• Hearing your favorite song on the radio. Allowing it to open up the door of memory.
• Lying in bed listening to the rain outside. Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleep. Waking up and actually taking a moment to feel grateful for the gift of another day before rushing off into your life.
• Hot towels fresh out of the dryer.
• Laughing for absolutely no reason at all, laughing at an inside joke with good friends, laughing so hard your face hurts. And the best laugh of all: laughing at yourself.
• Accidentally overhearing someone say something nice about you.
• Making new friends at all stages of your life.
• Playing with a new puppy. Dozing in an easy chair with an old dog.
• Someone wishing you sweet dreams. Actually having a sweet dream.
• Passionate “discovering” sex. Comfortable “married” sex. Sex.
• A road trip with that great friend where the hours and the vistas just roll by.
• Experiencing your body moving masterfully while playing a sport you used to play years before. Feeling it master the moves of a new sport.
• Glimpsing in your aged mother’s face the joyful girl she once was.
• Looking into your children’s eyes and knowing they love you. Remembering that look when they have gone away.
• Swinging on swings. Catching fireflies in a glass bottle. Running through sprinklers. Nostalgia.
• Remembering the good times. Remembering the wisdom gained from the bad times.
• Running into an old friend and realizing that some things never change. Having an old friend find you after all these years through the maze of the Internet.
• Getting a hug when you don’t ask for it but could actually use it.
• A guilt-free retro splurge on a big ole sloppy cheeseburger, fries, and a vanilla milkshake.
• Being at a stoplight in your car, rocking out and singing like a manic Mick Jagger into an imaginary microphone, and being “caught” by a lovingly amused neighbor.
• Knowing you’ve done the right thing, no matter what other people think.
• And the greatest one of all: falling in love.
I am actually high from this last one, as I gaze ardently at my love: my beautiful new iPhone.