Clearly, though, such things are only part of who we are, even at this time of year. As the American activist Rebecca Solnit puts it in her short but brilliant book Hope in the Dark: “Vast amounts of how we live our everyday lives – our interactions with and commitments to family lives, friendships, avocations, membership in social, spiritual and political organisations – are in essence non-capitalist or even anti-capitalist, full of things we do for free, out of love and on principle.”
I gave up my high-paying job to become a writer a few months ago. What I miss most isn’t the paychecks. It’s waking up with my new husband every morning.
I naturally wake up pessimistic and worried. Sometimes, like an idiot, I feed that morning pessimism by reading the news first thing. But my anxious thoughts hide when I’m in his gargantuan presence so I can start my day in peace and quiet. So that’s one unlisted benefit I lost when I changed jobs.
I work at home now, so I don’t have a car. I’ve been sharing a car with my husband for about a year and a half, which is just plain weird when you’re living in the public-transportation-deprived suburbs. Having one car costs us around $500 a month. Not having another car saves us that much, so I include that in my new job benefits.
I took a big paycut, but now I’m a part of a helpful team so that drastically cuts down on my coraje. I haven’t cried since I left. So is that a deduction or an addition? How much is not crying worth?
I’m not so sure if my little family is worse or better off when you look at the bigger picture. We work harder and longer, but fight less and connect more. We eat less nutritious food and don’t sleep enough but we have a sense of purpose.
Now, struggling to make ends meet does not somehow make you happier, so let’s get that out of the way.
I’ve been rationing the puffs on my asthma inhaler to make sure I have enough to last until my new insurance kicks in. That’s not happiness. So don’t use any part of what I’m saying to justify cruel economics.
What I see more and more is how damaged and incomplete our methods for measuring wellbeing are.
We need a way to measure wellbeing on a personal and social level that isn’t tied to GDP or household income or revenue or some other neat metric that is devoid of human messiness.