Visiting T.S. Eliot’s remains in the church in East Coker, we stopped to ask directions and were invited in for coffee by a lovely British couple. Quite by accident, Tom and I saw the Olympic torch being carried through the streets of Canterbury. We visited Chafecombe from which my father’s family immigrated in the 1600s, and passed through Salisbury and Amesbury which my mother’s family left around the same time. As Tom pointed out, this makes me related to a few thousand other people--do the math.
While I was gone my friend Anne posted an interesting piece on her blog (anne-otations.me) in which she wondered why we don’t treat ourselves better, why we too often live in what I think of as “survival mode.” She talks about holding onto a phone that doesn’t make outgoing calls, an old computer that doesn’t serve her well as a writer. “This isn’t miserliness,” she writes, “for when my adult children need something I unhesitatingly fork over the money. So why this trauma when it comes to purchasing something for myself? Is it guilt? Negative self-esteem? ‘Do I deserve . . ?’”
We had an example of this flying Virgin Airlines, a wonderful airline. On the way over they “bumped” us to a row with just two seats, larger and with more legroom, so that a family could sit together in our original coach row of four across. So when they asked us at the airport if we wanted to return in larger seats (at a cost of 30 pounds each) we didn’t hesitate to say yes. We had a wonderful trip home; they passed out lunch menus, and served a miniature tea before we arrived at JFK. Ironically, in survival mode, I originally chose them because they offered the best deal.
But I’ve been moving out of survival mode for years. We no longer fly at inconvenient times (very early morning or late at night) just to save money, or rent cars without a GPS--driving on the “wrong” side of the road or deciphering signs in another language is challenge enough. Survival mode may feel virtuous and thrifty, but too often it’s not worth the discomfort. If you can’t think of a justifiable reason, “Because I can” usually works.