Happiness = Your Favorite Cheese

Cheese assortment on  wooden cutting board with chutney and  knife

There’s this store in Vancouver, British Columbia, called Les Amis Du Fromage. In English, the store name translates to ‘Friends of Cheese’. Hmmm, okay, not much marketing pop there. Alright then, good for the owners who chose to use the French language on this one.

Besides, the way I see it, all cheese stores should have a French name. Because the French know cheese. They love cheese. They are extraordinary cheese makers. And happy cheese eaters, often serving at least three kinds of cow, sheep, goat, or buffalo cheese after the main course and before dessert.

My worldview on naming cheese stores aside, some thirty years ago, Les Amis Du Fromage saw fit to bring more than 550 different kinds of cheese wheels (known as ‘truckles’) to Vancouver. And what happened? The locals surveyed, tested, and sampled each of the truckles before giving a thumbs up and an encouraging, ‘bring it on cheese maven dudes!’ … or words to that effect.

Cheesemonger’s Delight

When you enter the store, competing aromas invade your nose whether you like it or not. If not, if cheesy smells don’t do it for you, then your brain revolts. And it’s not a pretty sight. Eyes water, nose throws a tantrum, limbs sometimes flail, and you exit as fast as you can, gasping for cheese-free air and renouncing any sort of friendship you may have had with cheese.

But if you secretly or proudly identify as a cheesemonger, then this little shop of cheese may as well be heaven.

Nostrils flaring to allow for maximum air flow, you excitedly distinguish the many scents: grassy, nutty, barnyard, yeasty, fruity, earthy, floral, gamey, musty, funky, ripe, buttery, creamy, rustic, etc. Then you buy your favorites. Then you drive or cycle or walk home. Fast. You unwrap the cheese. You admire its appearance. You take hold of it. You smell it. You put it in your mouth. You savor every morsel. And throughout the process, your cheese hormones (oh yeah, these exist) are exploding with pleasure.

Ms. Cheese Lover Goes Shopping

Personally, I don’t know much about cheese. And I knew even less before I met my cheese loving wife. On our first date, she starts asking me whether I like cheese and before I could reply she’s off on a passionate rant about the wonders of cheese.

Cheese? I’m sitting there thinking, who gets excited about cheese? And since she can’t claim French ancestry, I was at a loss to understand her fascination. Well, since it was evident that Ms. Cheese Lover had a host of other delectable attributes, I interpreted the cheese spiel as a character aberration. One which may or may not have contributed to our eventual marriage. And yes, among other food, cheese was served at the reception, as if you had to ask!

Ms. Cheese Lover brings home two or three different cheeses every few weeks. Each cheese is individually wrapped in paper that probably cost more than the half-pound basic cheddar you buy in the grocery aisle, the kind that I grew up on. And the wrapping paper has a price sticker on it. The first time I read the stickers, I could feel my arteries clogging.

‘Sixty bucks for cheese? Are you kidding me?’ I would mutter to myself because I didn’t want to offend Ms. Cheese Lover. But after a few months of seeing how much cheese was piling up in the fridge, and knowing the cost, I couldn’t hold back:

“What’s wrong with store bought cheddar?”

“What?”

“Cheddar.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it.”

“Then why don’t you buy it instead of all this other cheese?”

“Because I’m a cheese adventurer!”

“It’s an expensive adventure.”

“It’s super delicious cheese.”

“We may have to take out a loan to cover the cost.”

“Oh?”

“Have you compared prices?”

“Yes, dear, I am aware of the prices.”

“Then you know the cheese you buy is silly expensive?”

“Cheese is a hobby for me. You know that. Anyway, I thought you were developing a taste for good cheese?”

“Maybe. But that doesn’t matter. What matters most is the cost.”

“Is that so?”


unknown

Enter Buddha

Neither our words nor our manner of communication should be impolite. Nor should either be intended to sow disharmony. Rather, speech should be kind and respectful, used to promote harmony and goodwill.


I messed up. Clearly. I mean, who am I to tell Ms. Cheese Lover that she’s spending too much money on cheese? If I was concerned about the expense, and I was, then I should have remembered what Right Speech is all about. If I did, then I would have engaged my wife in calm, polite discussion.

Honor Thy Big Cheese

‘Is That So?’ she said. And that’s all it took to knock sense into my in-the-moment-frustrated-money-centric-male-brain. With raised eyebrows and a heart perpetually churning compassion, with those three words Ms. Cheese Lover was telling me to think before I speak.

Here’s my thinking: Ms. Cheese Lover is cost conscious. She does not spend money without first considering whether an expense aligns with her values, and our values. That’s just who she is and who she was long before we met. As for her cheese habit, it’s an ‘extra’ ordinary expense, falling outside her usual spending boundaries.

That’s okay. Because the thing is, tasting different kinds of cheese is fun for her. And she’s not breaking our bank. We can afford her cheese indulgence. And if it gets to be too much, we’ll cut back somewhere else.

Tracking The Money Flow

And that wouldn’t be difficult to do. Because we know our money flows: how much comes in and how much goes out. Tracking incoming and outgoing money gives us a clear picture of the state of our current finances. In turn, knowing our financial situation at any given time makes it easier to decide where we can spend a bit extra or where we need to cut back.

This knowing the state of our finances contributes to maintaining our calm (ahem, not always but, hey, we’re human). And contributes to our happiness, because happiness and its foundation, psychological/spiritual balance, doesn’t just come from pinching every last penny, and forsaking treats and delights.

Ms. Cheese Lover likes cheese? Good! Go crazy, indulge, become a cheese expert, as long as the cost is within her means.

Maybe your thing is live concerts, perfume, travel, sports, shoes, theatre, stamp collecting, cars, music, cooking … the list is as long as you want it to be. And if occasionally indulging your wants leads to achieving financial wealth six months, one year or five years later, well, maybe that’s a good thing.

Happiness For No Reason Brings Wealth

There are two kinds of happiness.

The first is known as Worldly Happiness. This means that our happiness is dependent upon circumstances, such as experiencing pleasure of the senses (think anticipating, tasting, smelling cheese, or anything else that turns your crank), connecting with others, or personal achievement. These all make us feel good, and bring us happiness. Excellent!

But what about the times when life is not going according plan? What about the times when Ms. Cheese Lover is not in her milieu with cheese? (please excuse the French; the thing is, it just goes so well with cheese). Which is, um, well, ah, oh … most of the time?

Well, fortunate for Ms. Cheese Lover and her spouse (that would be me), she seems to inhabit this rare place, the second kind of happiness we’ll call Happiness-For-No-Reason.

This means that her happiness is not dependent on circumstances (right, you know what I’m going to say) i.e., not dependent on the presence of cheese).

And when happiness is not conditional, when we accept what comes our way in life, be it joy, sorrow, celebration or loss, then we begin to know true freedom.

We see people for who they are and drop our expectations. We accept life for what it is, knowing that all events are temporary, that we are temporary, just passing through, with a definite beginning an end.

And how does Happiness-For-No-Reason help our finances?

It lets us look at life, including our finances and our financial goals, through a perspective that says: absolutely go for it, go for everything that you want, give it your all, and while you’re doing that, enjoy the ride. Because that’s where you’ll experience happiness and achieve wealth, in the ride.