Over the last few months I’ve tried to see more and more good within our seemingly endless series of financial setbacks, mishaps, and dramas. It occurs to me that if and when I can look back at our way of living as an episodic adventure – if we’re ever at a place of relative financial equilibrium, more appropriate spending habits, and greater stability – I may find I’ve honed some traits I didn’t have before. Self-denial. Discipline. Compassion. Solidarity with my spouse and acknowledgment that he is not to blame for any particular discomfort.
And on the other side of the coin, the stripping down Ralph and I have had to do and the messes we’ve found ourselves in have eroded or even eradicated some foibles I may have never disposed of otherwise: a sense of entitlement. The desire (or ability) to “go shopping” for recreation. Buying clothes or sundries to make myself feel better (I still find grocery and coffee buying satisfying in this way, so help me). Searching for (obsessing over?) the cheapest of something, the largest quantity. Believing that manifesting more money is any real security or particular blessing. Believing I “need” any particular material possession – or even using the word “need” to describe something I want (I don’t do this at all – you can check, next time you speak with me). Panic over financial matters – gone. The desire to be rescued from discomfort – dwindling rapidly.
Still further, our circumstances have helped my family come into alignment with who I want us to be, even if at times it has been a difficult path. Example: when I had my children I seemingly also gave birth to a new fear of commodity ownership, clutter, and senseless acquisition. This new sense directly opposed the stone-cold fact that many commodities make life much easier. And perhaps more insidious, I often operated from instilled culture values of obtaining more, larger, better, more comfortable, and newer – and with children, these values can give way to a whole new world of consumerism. But these days it seems I question most any non-consumable item that threatens to come in my home. I know very few people who have true discernment in that area. Most of us have homes big enough, greed pumped up enough, and a slavish desire for comfort strong enough that we bring home whatever we can find and afford (and many things we can’t). Most people I know have a room, and often several, full of things they shudder to think about moving or even taking inventory of. A local realtor I know suggested we buy the house we currently rent instead of go through the pain of packing and moving. She was half-serious.
Strained financial straits don’t help with many things in my immediate and day-to-day reality: gas to run errands. Tuition due. Food. Food! Good God, our grocery expenditures. Money to go play with friends. Decent, non-smelly -nasty shoes for four people (thank God a wonderful friend helps us with Nels’ clothes vis-a-vis high quality hand-me-downs). Money owed, medical attention required, and mechanical failures looming on the horizon. Entertaining and feeding friends and family (perhaps my Achilles heel of all the frivolities I am attached to).
But in many ways my life is simplified. I can be very present with my kids daily because I am not considering what I want to buy. I still get enjoyment in the thought of spending money, but it’s likely to be about smaller sundries than a desire to hop on the Aveda or Gap website (fantasies I haven’t indulged in for months). Today while I wash dishes I think over the things I will be able to buy on payday – items we’ve run out of. Cooking oil. Peanut butter. Basmati rice. Canned green beans and tomato sauce. A pound of butter. New razors. Castille soap. Cream for my coffee. Hell, coffee itself! Fresh vegetables. Lemons and garlic. Simple Green. A good dark beer.
Today my afternoon in simple. I’ve been cleaning while the kids slept. And the last few days I have organized my world around affording four pounds of organic beef for a group supper tonight. When I am done writing this entry, I am going to dress my kids and we will walk down to the local butcher’s shop to buy it. That’s all I “need”, and that’s all my children do, too.