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Less is More: Learning to be Content

I've always thought I knew what it was to be content with the things I have. I thought our being able to live with only one car for three years while Oliver had a 20 minute commute that started at 0400 was somehow evidence that I didn't need everything there was out there, that I could sacrifice when need be. Then I moved here, and discovered living without a car is so small compared to the things we must live without today - things that we would have if we had a choice about it.

Like fresh fruits and vegetables, which are very limited and often less than appetizing after having been shipped in on a barge from who-knows-where to the base store. I was happy to discover there is a Bahamian couple who grows many of our favorites and brings them to the main gate of our base to sell every Friday evening. Recently, we went expecting to be able to buy some sweet corn, but they had sold out. When I asked, I discovered he had sold his last, and it would be months before he grew more.

I told Wyatt, my five year old, about this, and he was very sad. Corn on the cob is one of his favorites, and he'd been looking forward to getting some. I told him we would grow some of our own, something we've been doing with other vegetables. He looked up at me in frustration and said, "But that will take forever!"

His comment got me thinking a lot about how much I've changed since moving here. I used to feel something like he does about the corn. In the States, just about anything you could possibly want is at your fingertips. And, if it isn't, you can just order it online and it will arrive at your door in a few days. Having known nothing else, it seemed at first a foreign concept to wait months to eat an ear of corn.

However, the longer we live here, the more normal it seems. Just as we have to grow corn to be able to eat it, we recycle not by putting our stuff in a bin at the curb, but by finding new uses for it, or giving it to a neighbor who can do something with it. I grow plants in raised beds made of leftover wood and cinder blocks, and save cardboard from mailing boxes in order to make Bokashi, my composting medium. Compost is a must because dirt is another thing we have to buy or manufacture ourselves, since we are basically living on top of a giant chunk of coral rock. We had my in-laws ship us the oil filters we need for our car, and Oliver is going to be certified on the lift here on base so he can change it himself as there is nowhere we can have it done.

When I start telling friends back in the States about this stuff, I can almost see their eyes pop out of their heads. I really can't blame them for that reaction, either, because it was much the way I felt when I first encountered many of these dilemmas. But somewhere along the way, I've stopped being shocked and started finding this a big, incredibly interesting challenge to solve. Like growing corn when we can no longer buy anymore. That was truly my first thought when I found out it was gone.

Our boys, too, have changed the way they approach life. Wyatt, despite his desire for corn right now, loves growing things. He knows how to check the soil to see if it's dry, and gets very excited when he finds a tomato or pepper turning red. Both he and Oscar, our two year old, help me plant the seeds, and have opinions on what we need to grow next. They've even learned something about composting, helped along by an episode of Curious George. The boys no longer beg to go to the toy store, and they realize any new toys they get will have to be ordered and waited for. Instant gratification is no longer possible, for me as much as them.

In the grand scheme of things, we aren't going without much. We have plenty to eat, even if it isn't always what we want. We have to ship most things in, which takes time and money, but we can typically find what we need thanks to the internet. We also aren't that isolated from civilization because of today's technology. Still, we're learning what it means to wait, and to make do with what we have when something breaks because a fix will take weeks. Surprisingly, I really, really like that. It turns out it's a lot easier to be content when you accept that what you have is what you have, and that's ok.

I hope we hold onto these lessons when we return to the States in a couple years.

*Pic taken by Ana of one of our raised beds.

Ana is a restless soul who would love to keep moving around the world the rest of her life. This is probably why she married a submariner in the U.S Navy six years ago. They have two energetic little boys, and currently live in the Bahamas. She blogs about life in paradise at Sunrise on the Water.

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