As I sit down for the first time in hours, I’m not sure what’s sweatier, me or the cool bottle I’m holding. I take a sip of the beer and think, “After my day, I deserve this.”
* * *
A few months ago we visited my husband Paul’s family in Ireland. We spent a week at a lovely home in the country that we’d borrowed from friends. It had an espresso maker and I made foamy lattes every morning and drank delicious craft beers every evening with my cuñados. I’d sigh each evening and think: I deserve this.
We visited Paul’s uncle and he took us each in turn for a spin in his recently restored 1953 Jaguar X-120. I sat back into the butter-soft leather seats and relished the low-throated rumble of the engine, the sudden and effortless speed on the motorway. I deserve this.
My suegro took us out for a drink. He used to go to the pub down the road, but a few years ago he and a friend started going to a fancy hotel in Cork, and now that he’s gotten used to it, he says there’s no going back. The walls boast pictures of Tom Waits and Bill Clinton and Bono with their arms slung around the manager. The waiter brings a tray of delicacies to our table. I drink Black Bush Malt, savoring the incredibly smooth flavor. I deserve this.
We went to a party and since I’m not vegetarian anymore, I felt I should try everything. I had champagne and oysters and foi gras and I felt right at home. I thought, “This is the kind of life I was made for. I deserve this.”
* * *
That’s my slippery slope: having fancy things makes me feel like I’m part of an elite club. On a subconscious level, part of me wants to belong to that club, even feels that I DO belong to that Club. So I easily slip from deserving a cold beer to deserving a pedicure, to deserving a new air-conditioned car, to deserving a life of luxury.
That sense of “I deserve this” implies that other people don’t deserve it.
From there, it’s inevitable that a sense of entitlement leaks into other parts of our lives, which is dangerous precisely because that sense of “I deserve this” implies that other people don’t deserve it. This precept means that a person living a life of luxury must deserve it, so they are a more valuable person. Conversely, when we see someone living in squalor, they must deserve it, so they are a less valuable person.
It’s so easy to think, “I deserve respect.” But really, doesn’t every single human being on this planet deserve respect?
It’s easy to think, “I am worth more than that. I do good work, I deserve to be paid more, I deserve to get a raise.” But why do I deserve that any more than any other hard worker? Why does the janitor deserve $8 an hour while the CEO deserves $30 million?
Let´s be clear: I enjoyed every minute of those luxurious experiences. I savored them. But I savored them as a novelty. I savored them as, “I’m on vacation” (and I deserve a vacation!).
My willpower is weak while the pull of things – of soft, expensive things – is so strong.
The very fact that I savored them is why I’m so glad to live in Nicaragua.
First, because I don’t have as much access to luxury, I don’t have to make so many conscious decisions. My willpower is weak while the pull of things – of soft, expensive things – is so strong. When I go to the First World I am constantly exhausted from struggling to turn away from luxury – in most cases, luxuries that I can’t afford, but that are dangled in front of me anyway.
Second, because I have constant reminders of what the Real World – the world where so many live so far from luxury – looks and feels and tastes like. With those constant reminders, it’s much easier for me to keep my priorities straight. Without those reminders, I might be deceived into believing I deserve better, into believing I am better than other people, which in my mind is about as low as you can sink. – Becca