DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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15 July 2013

Finding happiness

“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness.” 
Dalai Lama in The Art of Happiness

I often wonder what we're here for. I'm sure you do too. What is the purpose of life? We're all born into a variety of situations, grow up, become educated along the way, develop friendships and learn what we think we need to know. Then we reach an age when we're independent and we go out into the world. When we start our adult lives, what is it we hope for?  Well, for me, I wanted to be happy. I didn't know how I would find happiness, or how long it would last, but it was what I hoped for. I didn't realise then how difficult happiness would be to find. Or how easy.



One of the stumbling blocks along the way seems to be, and was for me, thinking that "stuff" makes us  happy. I guess that is quite common in a society that has been made wealthy on the back of commerce. I must be a slow learner, or was it that I was distracted by the difficult stages of life - motherhood and raising children, establishing a career and trying to balance it all with some alone time for reading and self development. I wish I'd known then that I was able to cultivate happiness while I was doing all that, but I still believed that happiness was bought and I just had to buy the 'right' things, and I'd be set. Just one more dress, just the right pair of shoes, or maybe it was a new car. Who knew. I just knew that when I bought the right thing or when I moved to my ideal house, it would make me happy. I kept thinking that happiness was outside myself and that it was made up of "things".

Now that I look back on that time, I realise that I did have periods of pure happiness after my sons were born and I remember quite a few days when I was happy. But it was mostly on celebration days, or holidays, or something out of the ordinary. Domestic life was a struggle for me. It was like I couldn't focus on the two main areas of my life at the same time - my paid work and my home life. I knew both were important but I could never seem to get the balance right.

I think it's odd to have found enduring happiness when I least expected it; in the place I thought it would never be - in my home. Happiness was here all along. I just didn't recognise it. Or maybe I was too busy to take notice.  I have an ember of contentment within me all the time now and it takes very little for it to ignite. I realise now that happiness was never "out there" it was inside. Inside my home and inside my heart. I didn't go out and buy it, it found me. When I knew that, and felt it, I never looked back.

I know now that to be happy, one must look for the good parts of life, but not in a pollyanna-ish way. Happiness is part of a positive mindset and if you don't have that, you won't see the potential for happiness. I know too that happiness is not one thing, and that it is rarely anything big. Pure happiness comes in fragments that we collect throughout the day and when we take the time to look back, we realise that what we have is happiness, or at least the makings of it.

I think we give ourselves the best chance of happiness and contentment by slowing down and living simply and according to our values; by examining what it is that we think is important and then fashioning a life that reflects it. By doing that we often have to teach ourselves how to do various tasks and to home produce items we used to buy. That, in turn, builds confidence and when we know we're much more capable of looking after ourselves and our family, we take on new projects and become more connected with our domestic tasks. Self belief is a powerful thing.

I am made happy now by knowing I can work here in my home doing meaningful work. I love the mundane work of ordinary life and I love writing my blog and books. But it is a careful balancing act. I want to live my life, not just write about it, so I get away from the computer as often as I can and I work at all the things that I want in my life - family, friends, good food, gardening, knitting, sewing, reading and, of course, thinking, with a cup in my hand and gazing out into the greenish-grey of an Australian backyard. Yep, you could say I'm one happy gal.  What about you?


50 comments:

  1. thank you rhonda , my happiness i see in my saved greyhounds ,we have adopted 3 , my happiness is my age now, im 50 , and my simple life how we live it now, we have our own veggiegarden, 6 chickens and we live very simple, the good life as we call it, i love your blog and learn loads, enjoy your day, love marion from holland

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    1. Hello Marion. What a wonderful thing to do for the greyhounds. It's horrible to know they are treated as mere commodities and killed when they don't race. Your dogs are the lucky ones. Keep up the good work dear. xx

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  2. I am happy. I wasn't always, and I think it was because I was waiting for other people to make me happy. I didn't understand that I could find so much happiness in my home, and in my life as a homemaker, wife and mother. I think that I didn't know I could embrace what I was already doing. I don't know if that makes sense. I was glad to be doing what I had chosen for myself, I just wasn't able to see ways to really enjoy it. Now that I am learning how to do that, I see that the simple things I've been doing all along are extremely fulfilling and satisfying.

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    1. Jennifer, I think you're right. A lot of us think our happiness is in the hands of others. I wish other women could see what you're doing and how it's changing how you feel. All of us working at home have to know that we should feel pride, satisfaction and happiness in our work. And if we're sending our children and partners off to school and work, we're making their days easier by the work we do in making a comfortable home. xx

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  3. I think you're so right - happiness is a skill, or perhaps an art-form, and one I think we spend our whole lives learning. Focusing on engaging with what we are occupied with, fully being in that moment, is so much more rewarding than approaching life as an endless list of tasks to be rushed through.

    By the way, what is in the third photo, in the pie dish?

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    1. Hi Nickie. It's a quiche, just out of the oven. My quiches puff up like that and slowly fall as they cool down.

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    2. It looks impressive! Thanks. Something to experiment with...

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  4. I'm with you, Rhonda, great post!:-)

    Lovely interactions between Hanno and Jamie( gorgeous, gorgeous hair:-)!

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  5. It took health hiccups for me to fully understand the old saying "stop & smell the roses", you are so right about happiness being within,- appreciating what you have, providing a safe & nurturing home & doing what you can with your own two hands, - such a sense of accomplishment, it's never too late to learn a new skill - doesn't need to be perfect, just done with love. I must say your little man is lovely (big man's not too bad either- can't leave these hubbies out!), aren't grandbabies the best invention ever. Quiche looks yummy, Deb M

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  6. Hi Rhonda You are so right.Happiness is gathering round the kitchen table.I am looking forward to seeing you next wednesday morning cheers Affussa

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  7. Dear Rhonda,
    I would like to say thank you for your posts and for sharing your life with us all. Reading your bits of wisdom contribute to my daily happiness!

    Chloe,
    Reader from Oklahoma

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  8. Dear Rhonda,

    How right you are about finding happiness. Lately I've been happier than I remember being in many years. I am becoming more mindful of what is really important in life. I think it's partly because I am focusing more on the people I love rather than on accumulating "stuff". No amount of "stuff" will ever buy the contentment of realizing that we have the power to be happy if we will look within ourselves rather than in the malls. I am finding that I have more energy lately as I strive to live a simpler life. Sure, it's definitely easier to put a load of clothes in the dryer than to hang them out on the line just as it's easier to buy new socks than it is to mend the old ones. But, here's the thing: I don't have any sense of accomplishment or reverence in throwing money at wants instead of needs. I'm finding that I need less stuff as time passes, not more. I like feeling more independent and in better charge of my life these days. I look forward to your affirmation each day that the simple life is the right path for me and the people I love. Thank you ever so much for taking the time to give us your wisdom.

    Diane in North Carolina

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  9. I reckon happiness is kinda tricky and elusive.
    Like one of those things you try to grab on to but then if you hold it too tight it slips through your fingers.
    I'm deeply suspicious and wary of happiness, yet embrace it wholeheartedly when I can.
    Perhaps the idea is to hold it gently in your hands.

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  10. Hello Rhonda,
    Happiness? It's strange because we don't always realise it until afterwards. Today 30 years ago we had our son, he joined us with our 2 year old daughter. That was happiness, in amongst the tiredness & endless work.
    By the way, this 30 year old man is coming round for a birthday tea. He has requested his favourite. Quiche!
    Mine does what yours does. Puffs up then goes down when it cools.

    Best wishes ,
    Angela (south England) UK

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  11. Angela, today is my Shane's 33rd birthday! What a lovely thing to share with you. Shane is too far away for us to share a meal but I hope you have a wonderful time later. Homemade quiche. It doesn't get much better than that. Enjoy your day and say happy birthday to your son for me. xx

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  12. I think it's also important to realise 'busting out of your skin' happiness isn't something to expect every day but contentment can be. As you said it's like an ember that's always smoldering making it easy to ignite in full-blown happiness. Happiness isn't something that happens 'once I get x...' or 'this busy period is over...' or any other of those common phrases we hear from people. We decide to be happy, with who we are, where we are, what we have. It's very much your idea of bloom where you're planted. My gratitude diary really helps me focus on what makes me truly happy and it's never things.

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  13. Well dear lady you added to my happiness this weekend just gone.
    I had my loved hubby home for two whole days. This is close to a miracle as he has his own business and always works at least 6 days a week mostly 6 1/2. So we got in and did a very early spring clean of two rooms. Shifting the heavy furniture always makes this difficult for me when I'm alone.
    Then in the afternoon we became lounge lizards watched sport on tv while I crocheted and re read your book. It re inspired me .

    So without spending one cent ,without going in the car once, and without seeing children or grandchildren I managed to have a very happy weekend in our lovely old home.

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  14. I love this post! Thank you. We are also trying to simply and live with and on less here in Arizona, USA. I am a new follower of your blog and will be looking forward to more of your posts. Will also look for your book. Sounds like one I would like! Thank you!

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  15. Oh! I simply could not agree more! I don't often have time to focus on what makes me the happiest, my family, my home and my crafting... this weekend I stole that time for myself. I feel so much more balanced. It isn't about what you can buy, it's about the inside...

    Thanks for putting it into words!

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  16. Your words today just ooze happiness, and they made me smile. I think happiness is one of those things that you have to share. I do think it comes from within, but being around others that are happy and content makes you want to be that way. It reminds me of that saying that you cant give away a smile as it comes right back to you. I think your blog sows seeds of happiness and contentment all around the world. Thank you for being you!

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  17. hi.
    what a nice post!
    yes,mindfulness in the days are great.
    i`m a young disability pensioner at age 36.
    became burned out and had myocarditis at the same time and was dying..
    today i`love slow,simplicity....love.

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  18. I agree about the sharing. It's like kefir grains, you share them and people make their own. I hope this blog is sometimes an online source of kefir grains. :- ) Thanks for your comment.

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  19. I'm a happy gal, I'm also a laughing one looking at your two boys in their slippers which -- sadly -- don't match.

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  20. This really resonates with me! I'm new to your blog and I'm really enjoying it. I'm a stay at home mum of 4 boys (7, 6, 4 and 3yo)and I spent so many of those early years knowing I wanted to stay at home, but struggled with "keeping house"...I had the conflict within me that everything in me wanted to be at home nurturing these boys, however I felt like I should be "doing more"...like what I was doing was an easy or lazy option and not valued very much.
    It makes me emotional to think of the time I lost worrying about all of this...
    We made a tree change to country victoria just over 2 years ago and wow has life changed since then. We are currently building our home so finances are tough, but the fact that I now feel so much more confident about my choices has changed how life looks in so many ways. I feel so much contentedness doing simple things, happiness with less. I feel no desire to keep up with anyone, or buy into the mainstream lifestyle anymore.
    Living a slow life has so many benefits, the main one being that you have time to enjoy it.
    I'm 32 and it's taken this long to overcome conditioning both from society and my family but I'm so appreciative because I know that some people will never get it.
    Also, as a side affect of feeling content and happy I feel the desire to reach out and help others...something I never felt when I was constantly feeling overwhelmed, unhappy and busy.
    We have less stuff now, less money and yet we're more happy than we've ever been!
    Sorry for the novel! Thank you for your blog Rhonda - you're an inspiration! xo

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  21. "The Art of Happiness" is one of my favorite books. I learned so much from it -- especially what happiness really is.

    For several years I had lost my happy mojo. I got fat. Lazy. Tired. Depressed. Did I mention lazy?? In the last two months, I have started baking bread again, canning, making jams and jellies, knitting again, and, today, pulled out unfinished quilts for getting ready to quilt in much cooler weather.

    Slowing down, making choices to not work so much, sell at the farmer's market, and work craft shows has given me back time to dream.

    And, I have ordered your book and can't wait to receive it (this week!) and snuggle down with tea, scones, and a good read.

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  22. Thank you for this beautiful post. Everything you write about resonates with me. I too have started on this path, with simple steps, like having a veggie garden, 3 chickens, and recently just made my first batch of soap using the recipe you posted up. I love this part of my life, far, far more than hours at the office. The ego may like recognition and applause from professional peers, but the soul yearns for nature, love, compassion, and tenderness. Thank you!

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  23. What a moving post. Happiness is such a hard thing to find sometimes. I also thought that having lots of material things was the anwser but now as I purge things and declutter I realise that it's not needed. What makes me happy now is to have my husband and daughter near, a home with a great vegie patch, a few chickens (that are very relaxing to watch peck around the garden), and a slower way of life. Now even just taking the dogs for a stroll is a happy event.

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  24. Hi Rhonda, I have a small wall plaque that belonged to my mother which says:

    "I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life,
    God gave me life that I might enjoy all things"

    Happiness isn't in the things, possessions, but in how we live and view the life we have.
    To me happiness means contentment, seeing the beauty in day to day life e.g. right now I am finding comfort, (not sure if that correctly describes the feeling), in watching one of my nieces grow into a responsible young adult in many aspects of her life and it is a joy to be a part of it.
    Cheers from cold Ballarat, Vic

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  25. This made my day. What a beautiful post. Thank you.

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  26. I couldn't agree more Rhonda. I've always found contentment at home, and have always found happiness in the simple things in life. As you mentioned, the key is to find this balance in our lives. Although I am a Professional with qualifications, I am not a career person. Therefore I work part time in my profession (2 days a week), and enjoy the rest of my time at home.I would rather earn less, and have my time at home. I do miss out on promotions etc because I am prt time - but if that is the cost, then I am am happy to pay that.

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  27. Yes! Rugz and I have found that as our perspective has changed ever so slightly, and we've made various changes (decluttering/simplifying and paying off debt) we have become happier people. We already were, but it's brought up the level of contentedness just that little bit more.

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  28. Still continuing my search for happiness. It's all in the mind, but then again to change one's mindset is no easy task.

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  29. I would say I am happy now, I live alone with my two dogs. I have five children who are all married, I also have five grandsons who I see often. I sew, which has become my passion, I bake, make preserves, pickles and jams. My life has often seemed tragic and I have been very unhappy. My first marriage, after ten years and three sons ended divorce, this was a traumatic time for my sons and I. I remarried several years later, I gave birth to two beautiful girls and then when my baby was eleven months old my husband was killed in a car accident. My world collapsed in on me, it took me over a year to have the courage to face the world again. I have become stronger while raising my family and while I am alone I am happy.

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  30. "A man went out to search for happiness. For years he searched all over the world but did not find it. Grey haired and broken down he finally returned home, only to find happiness sleeping outside his very own gate!" Afraid l can't remember who wrote this. A minister once read it in church and l have never forgotten. I also have come to understand that "happiness in life" comes in the form of a warm feeling of contentment inside. The over the hills bubbeling feeling that comes occasionally would be exhausting to live with continually. All the best for a new week, Pam

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    1. Oh,, you are so right. I had never thought of it that way but being really thrillingly happy all the time would be terribly tiring. You just couldn't sustain it.

      Victoria in Indiana

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  31. Hi Rhonda, This is something that has been very much on my mind lately. I think back to 30 years ago when I was at home with a young babe and realise though it was tough it was also when I was the most relaxed and happy. So here I am looking for ways to regain that feeling and lifestyle. Thank you for all your encouraging words and wisdom. Keep up the good work.

    Jan

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  32. Happiness is life as it is now. Sons grown up and settled. Retired and making good use of every day. Using my time reading, at my book club, gardening (lots of gardening), writing my blog, cooking from scratch, spending time with friends and family. A quiet life. A satisfying life. And saying a big thank you for my good health.

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  33. Happiness is definately going to mean different things to different people and like the simple living we each have to find what makes us happy and content. With that in mind I have posted 10 pictures on my blog of what makes me happy right now. None of these have to do with money (well going to the local Samford Show did) but I think you'll get my drift when you see the pictures.

    http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com.au/2013/07/finding-happiness.html

    A note to Cambric cotton, pins and needles above...my heart goes out to you losing your husband tragically years ago...I can completely understand how your life would have changed and with an 11 month old baby to raise on your own at the time I totally understand why you couldn't face the world for a year. It certainly is a shock to lose a family member. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

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  34. Dear Rhonda,
    lovely post, again. Your grandchild is adorable!
    I am always careful with feeling happy, usually, whenever I relax a bit and start feeling a little bit happy, something not so nice happens. Maybe this is just the way life is, but during the last few years, I did not dare to feel happy. At the moment,I am trying to feel relaxed, at least. Sitting on the balcony with a cup of tea, watching my son play,things like that. Just relaxing, carefully...

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  35. St. Francis deSales instructs. Be who you are and be that well. Until one can be who they truly are they cannot find happiness no matter how they seek it. Simple living has allowed me the time to discover who I really am and living simply has given me the vehicle to be myself well each and every day.

    Jlynn Minnesota USA

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  36. Still striving to achieve balance between work life and home life. I so want to find that before my children are grown and gone. Some days are better than others--but I suppose that's true for everyone, in every thing.

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  37. Rhonda, I loved this post. My Mom always worked outside the home at a time when not many women did. I remember her days off were filled with grocery shopping, cleaning and laundry. After my brother and I left home she still filled her days off with cleaning the house. A really good day for my Mom included washing all of the windows in the house inside and out. All 18 of them, 6 over 1 panes! At the time I just could not see how that would equate to a good day. I am 60 now, temporarily raising my 14 and 10 yr old grandsons with my husband, working full time and also overseeing the care of my 90 yr old Dad. We are on vacation for 3 weeks, one left to go. We have spent the entire vacation at home and it has been AWESOME! To be able to putter in the garden, weed, touch up items needing paint, reading until my butt hurts and I have to get up, it has been the best vacation. I am savoring every minute and so is my husband. Working hard on a plan to retire sooner rather than later and be home all the time. I have become my Mom in my enjoyment of being home and taking care of all the little things that need attention. Thankfully I was able to share my appreciation of her passion with her before she passed. She would have loved this blog and the discovery that she was not alone in her passion of being a homemaker.

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  38. You have been doing wonderful posts lately, rhonda. thank you so very much for this one, and a reminder to stay away from the computer which i find all too often still taking too much quality of life time away. i agree with everything you say here and also find that i struggle with the balance of work and home life (i consider myself a working homemaker) even though i love what i do. what is it with the states and the five day/eight hour work schedule? is it like that in australia too? i can't get a job as a teacher and opt out of just one day a week. ... but i do have a dream to start my own school one day so you never know what life will bring. i think all people need to work less, children need to attend school less, and families need more time together. i hope i live to see this reflected more mainstream in American culture. your posts keep me strong and determined to get the balance right and live life mainly on my own terms. hugs.

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  39. Hi Rhonda,
    This is a lovely post and has made me quite thoughtful today about my life and how far away it is from where I want it to be. I have been following your blog since I bought your wonderful book, about a year ago I suppose and have made some small changes, like making my own cleaning products, cosmetics, knitting useful items, making yoghurt and cheese, trying to do better with my money, stockpiling etc. I keenly watch the new River Cottage Australia series wishing it was me. I experience brief moments of contentment when I have a minute to do these small simple tasks and I feel that is where I will find my true happiness and as I sit here in my work cubicle looking out the window at all the other city high rise office buildings, the tears have started to fall. I've realised how unfulfilling this life is and that the simple, quiet, country, home focussed life is really where I want to be. I yearn for it. I feel the pain of longing for it in my chest, in my heart but it seems so far away. Being single with 2 mortgages and a high stress, long hours job to earn enough money to pay for them feels like I'm locked in and such a waste of this limited life time. Perhaps I'm just impatient and over time the constant small changes will put me in a position where I'm not locked in. Has anyone else been in my position? Feeling stuck and unable to move towards the goal? If you made it, how did you break free?
    Michelle....

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    1. I've been exatly where you are. For me it was just continuing with the small things, even when it seemed like I was stuck in quicksand and going nowhere fast. Being gentle with myself and doing what I could each day and being satisfied with that was what got me over the hump. As I worked to pay off one bill and then another, things started to free up for me in other areas. I have been doing this for about 2 years now and I have a long way to go, but by sticking with it I only have about 2 more years of major debt and then I will be free to pursue a position that I really want instead of one that I have just to pay the bills. Keep your chin up and celebrate the little things. Slowly you will get unstuck.

      Jlynn Minnesota USA

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  40. Thanks for the inspiring post. Just made me realise how happy i am with a simple life.

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  41. Over all I am happy. I have two beautiful amazing children, a partner most people dream of finding. My only blimp, is my stress. It is always stress about money. Not matter how much I try to live simply, (I have devoured your blog), we are still in debt. In debt? Or getting in debt? Each week we are about $100 short after paying rent and groceries.. All of our savings went on my surgeries and having Jarvis. So now attempting to live on one (low) income is a struggle. If I could work out a way to earn money without having to leave Jarvis I would be an ecstatic woman.

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  42. What about me? After reading this post, I realized what has been missing in my life. Happiness. Joy. After fighting alongside my husband of 45 years in the war against cancer for more than two years, I realized I had lost my joy. All of my attention and focus was aimed at helping him stay alive and it had literally drained me of anything other than survival instinct. But after reading this today, I plan on making it a priority to get my joy, my happiness back. I promise myself to laugh at least once a day. To stop, look and listen. Stop fretting, look at the positive, and listen to my heart. Thank you Rhonda for the reminder. Blessings to you and yours.

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  43. "Self belief is a powerful thing." I really needed to read that this weekend! Thank you so much for writing that sentence. It's as if you wrote that just for me. :)

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