Where Happiness Exists and Knowing That Things Are Just Things

During this Labor Day, the foothills and mountains surrounding Boulder were overcome with a wildfire. Like most Boulder residents, I was on the edge of my seat for friends, evacuees and the town and community we love so much – I wrote about it, tweeted about it and listened to all scanner and news updates.

Thursday (three days past Labor Day) news sources announced that 60 MPH winds (forecasted) were making for a potentially dangerous situation for all residents “west of Broadway” (a main strip through Boulder, which actually, covers a huge area). Panic ensued because this meant “downtown” and the fire had already affected so many homes, families and pets…

After some research, my apartment which is West of Broadway (West is toward the mountains) really wouldn’t be in the danger zone and it was mostly precautionary because officials didn’t want to take any risks. So many people were evacuated and houses lost, that “better safe than sorry” made sense. Nonetheless, it still made me nervous. Being so close to the mountains and imagining in the middle of the night a fire raging…you get the picture (I’m not trying to make light of those who did lose their homes, just retelling an experience).I have a close family friend far away from the mountains who offered for me, my boyfriend and even roommate to stay with her and I thought, why not, a good excuse to see her and the family anyway.

It was suggested to pack important documents and those possessions of sentimental value. I thought to myself as I left work early (for a conference I had to attend in Denver that night), as I began to pack those “important” things, “Wow, I’m actually doing the, what-would-you-pack-if-if you-were-in-a-fire thing.”

I flashed through thinking what could I not live without?

I got my social security card, passport, camera, computer, some important tax information and a few documents. But really, that was it. I couldn’t think of “things” that were important enough. I looked at my closet, chalk full of clothing, my apartment filled with my furniture and favorite kitchenware and my decorated, lived-in bedroom but still…didn’t really need those things.

They are things.

As Plutarch said, “I would rather excel in the knowledge of what is excellent, than in the extent of my power and possessions.”

I have people in my life, love in my life, family and the pieces and intangible bits that aren’t things really are the most important. No one can take away our experiences, either. I also knew everyone here important to me was going to be safe, had evacuated and/or was going to so I felt safe, as they were safe.

Forgive the sappiness here, but it was truly an interesting experience. We are a society driven by material possessions and I even consider myself part of those possessions at times. We all fall victim to those “things” – but when it gets down to it, health, happiness, love and those people that are important to you are really the pieces that are irreplaceable.

Money, Money, Money?

I loved this article and research that shows “after reaching a household income of $75,000, people don’t become more happy with more money.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Wealth Report blog had more information on the study, based on Gallup surveys of 450,000 Americans. The evaluation by economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahnema found that day-to-day happiness rises with income until hitting a plateau of about $75,000. After that, there isn’t a gain in happiness.

So really, have you thought about what is important for you to bring with you if you absolutely had to? What is on your list? What would you bring?

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