“Start with what you have, not with what you want”

This morning, Humans of New York shared a picture of this spectacular lady in Moscow. Dressed in all white, with a snazzy hat and bright red lipstick.

This is what she said:

I’m ninety but I feel like I’m fifty.

I don’t take any medicine.

I never complain.

I’m just happy to be alive.

I tell people: “Start with what you have, not with what you want.”

Every day I dance for two hours.

And I’m still really interesting too.

I love politics and literature.

I love the sciences.

And I’ve got a boyfriend named Alexander.

We exchange books.

I don’t even know how old he is.

I want to be that lady when I am ninety. And it’s a process, but I am learning to notice and appreciate what I have.

***

There is this conversation that Krista Tippett (who is just the BEST) had with David Steindl-Rast last year. I like to go back to it every now and again to be reminded that even though we cannot be grateful for everything that happens to us, we can be grateful for something every second.

Steindl-Rast so wisely describes gratitude as a vessel, quietly filling up until it overflows.

He says:

It’s like the bowl of a fountain when it fills up, and it’s very quiet, and still.

And then, when it overflows, it starts to make noise, and it sparkles, and it ripples down.

And that is really when the joy comes to itself, so to say, when it is articulate.

And for us, for many people in our culture, the heart fills up with joy, with gratefulness, and just at the moment when it wants to overflow and really the joy comes to itself, at that moment…

advertisement comes in and says “no, no, there’s a better model, and there’s a newer model, and your neighbor has a bigger one.”

And so, instead of overflowing, we make the bowl bigger, and bigger, and bigger.

And it never overflows.

It never gives us this joy. Its’ affluent, this affluence side.

That means it always flows in, it doesn’t overflow.

It flows in, and in, and in, and in, and chokes us eventually.

And we don’t have to deprive ourselves of anything, but we can learn that the real joys come with quality, not with quantity.

Beautiful metaphor, isn’t it?

This ninety-year old in Moscow, she’s got it figured out.

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