Each day I wear a dark grey cardigan which is so worn out I only wear it at home. If I wear it in public I make sure it’s going to be covered by a jacket. There’s a single strand of wool hanging from the right sleeve in a squiggle of care-free disrepair. There are big holes in each armpit. And even when I manage to get the sweater buttoned correctly it looks lopsided. One side appears dignified and even while the other side droops in a half-hearted sabotage.
I’ve got two other cardigans, but their wool is thicker and heavier. I prefer to wear the worn cardigan around the house because it’s lighter and keeps me warm without being bulky or overly consequential. It’s more of a pleasant afterthought, a modest addition.
The other two cardigans are for more formal occasions, going to dinner or attending a violin concerto. Anything that would require taking my coat or jacket off. Otherwise I just go with the old used cardigan and its threadbare eccentricities.
I keep the nicer cardigans in the bedroom closet. One is black and one is brown. I never choose one or the other. It’s usually too dark to tell which one is brown and which one is black. I just reach in and feel around for wool. As soon as I feel something that feels like wool in a tight thick weave I pull it out. It might be the black cardigan and it might be the brown cardigan. It doesn’t make a difference. They both go with anything I wear.
I wish all my choices were that easy.
I’ve heard that some people get depressed when, due to wealth or power, their range of options grows large. You can’t enjoy everything at once. Choose one thing and you exclude another. It’s a continuous frustration, a recipe for chronic dissatisfaction.
The Buddhists are right. Desire is often a source of pain. It keeps us attached. The only real freedom is to somehow neutralize the power of desire.
Easier said than done.
It does get easier with age. Nature helps. Hormones lose their tyrannous power. Personal loss takes its toll and adds perspective. Life takes on the look of a used cardigan. A strand of wool hanging loose in a squiggle of “why not?” acceptance.