Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Eleven, Q1

Tranquility: “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

*this may also be viewed as “Acceptance”

Personal notes:

  • Forgive yourself, your setbacks and flaws.
  • Find and nourish a sense of calm.
  • If there is something you do not like, get annoyed by, or worse, say “Tranquility” or “Acceptance.”

Tranquility is my favorite week and it couldn’t have come at a better time. You see, this week we’ve been dealing with our landlord and trying to get a rent reduction. This was of course, after they proposed a rent increase.

Our borrowed home is beautiful, but the situation hasn’t been smooth: leaks, critters, hot water shortages, the list goes on. An increase seemed like a reward for a terrible season and we felt we rode out the worst of the messes, fixed their problems and were flexible when they needed help. Why not ask for a reduction?

We posed the question to our landlords who, for lack of a better comparison, represent the epitome of aged Bernie Sanders supporters. The warm, fuzzy exterior however, quickly turned cold and detached when the conversation involved money. They live a nice lifestyle, summer in the North, winter in the South, travel the world, etc., and they very much want to keep it that way.

It’s their property after all, and they’re free to do with it as they choose, but as rent and home prices steadily climb higher, what are young families supposed to do? I posed that question, and their answer was “you can move.” Of course, they’re right: we can, and will, move. So now we have to think about moving… awesome.

Maybe this all came back to miscommunication. But Tranquility was certainly important. As texts, emails, phone calls were exchanged, sitting back and not taking it personally was valuable. In fact, my wife and I even talked about it in one of our text exchanges:

  • Me: Also. Had a moment we’re I remembered this week is Tranquility. Just saying it to myself had an effect. This is certainly a pain but just a road bump in life.
  • Wife: So, so true. All of these are truly minor annoyances. Which lovely home do we live in, what job interviews do we take, how do we take a deep breath when our safe & healthy & happy 4 year old accidentally spills her juice. *acceptance* of all good things.
  • Me: I know. It’s all super annoying, but that’s just it. It’s annoying like a gnat buzzing in your ear. No real threat. I don’t have any great answers or insight. But saying Tranquility actually had a little bit of an impact.
  • Wife: Completely agree. Reading my book another one that helps is “transience”. Like our presence in this world is too brief to get worked up by minor details.

Negotiating with landlords is not battling cancer. An annoying commute is not the same as living in a war zone; both are a long way of saying, don’t sweat the small stuff. As for moving, who knows? The universe may have aligned and we might have a possible solution at a new, much smaller apartment.

Downsizing to a smaller space with greatly reduced rent immediately sprung forth a seed of contentment. The idea of finding something cozier, smaller, cheaper grew happiness. All we can do is keep our finger’s crossed, hope for the best and remain at ease with the outcome. And that’s something I’m learning, remaining tranquil when confronting little annoyances has helped in the larger battle to reduce anxiety and depression.

In the end, I wrote our landlords a nice note thanking them for allowing us to live in their home the past year. We did enjoy our time here but it is time to move on and, when I think about it, moving on is by far the happier solution: the unexpected outcome of saving more, downsizing, getting rid of junk all turned out to increase our happiness. But to be fair, getting there required a lot of Tranquility.