A few years ago, Grandma E came to visit us in Chicago. She's been a few times (she's kind of like the Godfather that way--she keeps saying she's done and then we keep dragging her back) so I don't remember which visit, but I think it was when Barak was two or three and we had the first whiff of the job insecurity that was going to be the recurring theme of the next, well, the rest of our lives, to date anyway. We were in the kitchen and I was making noodles and I'd made some homemade pesto to go with it. I was grating cheese and she saw me grate a little pile of parmesan and a bigger pile of muenster (or whatever it was) and sprinkle the mixture on everyone's noodles.
"Why are you using the muenster?" she asked.
"Because the parmesan is expensive cheese and I'm stretching it with cheap cheese," I told her, and she nodded.
My husband came in and we had dinner and I just remember it being a lot of fun with a lot of laughing. Later on when he'd left the room, she said, "Well, you two won't ever be the richest people in the world, but you might just be the happiest."
It was one the nicest things I've ever heard and it's one of those things I sort of pull out when I'm having a week like this one.
Money is just money. Yes you need it. Yes you need enough. But "enough" is subjective.
We have a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear. There is money in the bank. Not endless amounts, but not nothing, and enough that the wolf is not actively howling at the door. I have a job. And IY"H, somehow or other, my husband will, eventually, get one too.
Did you see in the news earlier this week about the Chinese-Jewish guy in Honolulu who was determined by Gallup to be a composite of the world's happiest person? This was part of a three-year (I think) attempt to determine who's happy. I don't think there is any objective criteria for what makes you happy. It's too complicated, and I think everyone knows that declaring Alvin Wong as the world's happiest man is a little tongue-in-cheek. But I can tell you one thing that is absolutely fatal to happiness, and that is comparing yourself to other people.
It was hard, back in America, to look at my friends and their houses. With, you know, basements. And closets. And kitchens. And those were my kollel friends, who are not exactly wealthy. But a carpeted basement playroom! That seems like such unimaginable luxury right now.
But last week we had our eighth anniversary, and Hadassah the Amazing babysat for us. (Did I tell you she cleaned my kitchen while we were out? I did? Well, let me tell you again. She cleaned my kitchen when we were out!) And even though we ended up taking the bus to go get pizza, it was so much fun, and we really enjoyed it. And when we came back, she opened the door before we knocked, and she said, "I knew it was you because I heard you laughing."
It's all OK.
I'm not saying it's not hard. It is hard. I do too much. I sleep too little. I worry a lot. I don't know what's going to happen next. But right now, I am just where I want to be.