25: Downshifting

25: Downshifting

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People


Joy is what happens when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.

~Marianne Williamson

A Harvard professor calls it “downshifting,”
That noble or necessary slashing,
Of the luxuries, the soft and velvety excesses,
Those swollen, insatiable appetites of the “me generation.”
But the pork bellies are all shrunken and emaciated now.
The debt outweighs what we earn and,
Only one of my three small children has any college savings.
So I downshift.
I drive past Starbucks,
And settle for the memories of expensive meals,
Seasoned so perfectly I swooned in that moment,
When the spoon met my tongue.
I blow a mournful kiss to those gentle waiters,
Who smiled and asked,
“May I take your coat?”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“Is there anything else I can get you?”
I shimmy into last year’s bathing suit,
(It’s a little tight after twelve months of obliging waiters.)
And take the smoke filled el train instead of driving downtown.
At home, the thermostat holds firm at sixty-five degrees,
Even when the temperature outside plunges below zero.
Inside the cheaper grocery store, I choose generic beans and,
Half a pound of ground beef to make a chili.
We’ll eat the leftovers tomorrow and maybe even the next day.
The adults in our family don’t exchange Christmas gifts this year.
We’re all grown up now.
And maybe the kids don’t need so many after-school activities.
I hear bursts of laughter upstairs as they reenact scenes,
From the musical Annie.
I’m standing in a stripe of sunlight and,
Folding the last of the laundry.
I pause and press a sweet scented towel to my chest.
They are singing, “It’s The Hard-Knock Life”
Followed by the peal of giggles.
It dawns on me then,
Drama class costs $355 per child.
And oh my, the joy of no carpool!
When I take the el train, I get to read,
Whole chapters of library books,
And while I am visiting the bright side,
My freezing cold floors have prompted the discovery of,
Blissful fuzzy slippers and, after ten years, the warmth of,
My husband’s body again,
Necessary now,
Even under our down blanket.
And the truth is,
I still look fine in that bathing suit.
And the stress that once lived between my shoulder blades and
Rode the backside of my neck,
Has faded, along with some of our credit card debt.
The Harvard professor says,
“Downshifters are happier.”
They clear out the clutter,
Reject the brand labels—the fancy and the fine.
Focusing on the things that matter,
Like family and stretches of time instead of moments.
Finding the particles and pearls of pleasure,
Of breathing in and out, standing in the sunlight,
Listening to “It’s The Hard-Knock Life”
But no longer living it.

~Juliet C. Bond, LCSW

More stories from our partners