Have you read The Necklace? It’s a short story by Guy de Maupassant. It’s about Matilda Loisel who suffered from too much vanity and pride and aspiring to be more that what her station in life could afford. In our present culture, many would not see nothing wrong with that; nothing wrong with aspiring to be more that what you are, is there? It is the very same trait that drives some to succeed.
While it is sound advice, “living within your means” can seem very outdated and old fashioned according to the pundits of today. We are sold over and over again the idea that to get where we want to go, we need to start living as if we are already there.
There may be some truth to that advice, but at what price? What must we sacrifice in order to get to that place that we aspire to be? In The Necklace, Matilda and her husband paid an immense price for a moment of living up to her aspirations.
I keep that lesson in mind whenever I get my Matilda moments. Yes, I have them. Who doesn’t? Don’t we all? God, I hope so! I would hate to be the only one.
Sometimes there are times I feel bad or guilty when I can’t get something that the kids want or even need. When they were younger, it was expensive toys or fancy halloween costumes or a trip to Disneyland. Now that they are older, it’s more clothes or designer shoes or electronic gadgets, a fancy cell phone perhaps… or lately, their own car. We can’t afford a lot of extras, but we provide for their needs. They do not want for basic clothing, they don’t miss meals and the roof over their head does not leak. The luxuries and the toys though, they come few and far between. And usually, I am ok with that. I am used to use living within our means. I take pride at being able to do more with what little we have. At least if something happens to us tomorrow, they won’t have tons of credit card bill and other debts to contend with.
But still, that gnawing green monster rears it’s evil head once in a while and makes one wish for more. To wish for more that what is already on our plate. When those pangs hit, I think of this story and I remind myself, would I exchange a glittering moment for a lifetime of hardship? Am I depriving my children for not letting them experience that chance to glitter? Or am I providing them the lesson that took Matilda ten years to learn without them actually having to suffer through it? So they learn it with ease rather than with pain? Will they realize this lesson someday or ever? Or would the memory of that one glittering moment have more impact on what they remember for the rest of their lives?
I then think of the regrets, the lost time and the hardship that is usually the price that comes with vanity and pride and I hope that they will instead remember: instead of the things they did not have, the experiences that we were able to share. I hope they remember the laughter in our house because both their parents were home to share the moments of mirth with them rather than working at a second job so they can have that game everyone else has. I hope they remember that their parents were there to wipe their tears when they scraped their knees, were there to hold them when their hearts broke for the first time. I hope they remember instead that their parents were there to hold them high during their triumphs rather than holding on to careers that would take time away from home. I hope they remember the times rather than the things.
What do you think?