Friday, July 22, 2011

The Lottery

Admit it. You have at one time or another wished that oodles of money would come falling from the sky and solve all of your problems. Perhaps you will win the lottery. Perhaps there is a Great Aunt that you’ve never met who will die and leave her remaining relatives millions of dollars. Perhaps your friend who just sold her small high tech company to the big boys will buy you a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Have you ever noticed that money seems to flood into your life during periods of abundance and flow? And other times you seem to need to fork out cash to everyone who cross your path and you can't get ahead to save your life? Perhaps your tax bill was a little higher than expected. Perhaps you bought something and it turned up broken so you had to go buy another one. Or you spent a bunch of money repairing something that still isn’t fixed. Perhaps you paid some folks to pick produce that the store didn’t want anymore (and it was too late to sell to someone else) because they had mixed up on their orders.

Why do we always have to live through periods of feast or famine? What regulates which phase we are in? Why must there only be two choices: deprivation or excess? I asked my husband this question and he answered that you can’t worry about money all the time as that makes it shy. My husband is a quiet sort but the wisdom that comes out of that boy’s mouth could move mountains.

Well, I have decided to do some work in this area. I am ready, willing and able to admit that it is very possible that I have a role in which side of the money equation I live on (positive or negative).

First, a little history. I grew up in a household where cash was popped into birthday cards and always offered during hard times. Money was a healer. A friend. A lover. A comfort. It was power. It was an excuse. It was an apology. The great equalizer. It was the gateway to everything that mattered. I wasn’t even a decade into my life when I decided what I really needed was not money. It was love and attention. Money was for other people.

Decades passed and I sought love and attention like a dog seeks a bum to sniff. I avoided the hunt for money like the plague. And guess what? I managed to scare all of it away. So I tried harder. All the while, money came and went according to its own schedule, not mine. I would not give it its due respect. People who cared about money were shallow. Love and attention, well, lets just say the forced approach wasn't much more effective.

Inside deprivation lives fear. Fear of not having enough. Fear of having nothing to offer. Fear of being needy, dependent, and unworthy.

But fear can also sneak a visit onto the other side of the coin too. Abundance can create a fear of losing it all. A fear of being taken advantage of. A fear (and guilt) that not enough is being shared with others.

Fear is fear.

And as a side note, there is not a very high likelihood that you will find that Great Supporting Aunt anytime soon. Further, studies have shown that many lottery winners have nothing to show for their winnings after a short amount of time. Although coming into money eases financial worries, what some researchers have found is that it does not change one’s personality or approach to life. Gamblers are gamblers, worriers are worriers, and people who have spent a lifetime believing they are deprived will continue to find a way to feel deprived.

Furthermore, the other flaw in a quest for money to solve all our problems is that we soon learn that money can most definitely not solve all of our problems. It can make life a little easier temporarily or in specific ways but it cannot make everything okay.

It has also been found that people who think money is the most important thing (no matter how much they have) are consistently the unhappiest people.

So there is more to our search than just needing money to fall out of the sky. There is a shift in our beliefs needed here too. I never did read that book called ‘The Secret’ but I gather it talked about attracting good things into your life, like money. I’m not sure I bought into the idea entirely, therefore, never read the book. But I do believe that we have a template for what we allow into our lives. The template can change, either by accident or intentionally, but we can only ‘fill in’ the parts of our lives that we have current spots for.

I think I spent the better part of my life convincing myself that I didn’t need money to make me happy. Even a great part of my recent experiment called ‘stay-at-home-farmer-mommy-person’ is about trying to live off less money and put more value on skills and what I can produce with my own hands. Who am I kidding? I DO need money. The guy at the bank who takes our mortgage payment thinks so. The credit card guy who lends me money to shop at second hand stores, go to restaurants and catch movies in the theatre thinks so. The fellow who we buy our seeds from so that we can plant a garden to sell produce thinks so.

I have spent the last year combing through my habits to try to find ways to save more dollars. Not spending money was my income and financial contribution to my family.

But just like we bring our set-in-our-ways selves into lottery winning, so do we bring our dear selves into our frugality/productivity experiments. It turns out I still like movies. I still need to go to restaurants sometimes. I miss trips on airplanes. I miss feeling self-sufficient and buying things because I feel I have earned them. Now I buy things and hide my credit card statement from my husband in shame. The news is not atrocious. I am not that bad of an addict. But I swear if I keep focusing on all of this deprivation I am going to turn into a closet shopaholic who hides heaps of unopened packages under her bed.

We experience only what we focus on. And if we focus on money problems, money will become elusive and the only lottery we leave ourselves open to winning is worry and debt.

I decided to make a shift yesterday. As we waited on the pier under the lights at the small ferry dock near our home, I watched as the water lapped against the cement shore in the night breeze. Each wave let go of everything behind it and moved on allowing new waves to bring new water, again and again. Behind the river was a thunder storm flashing light into the night sky in purple and pink hues. It was a stunning scene, watching the clouds tumble across the sky, continually finding new ground to shed light on.

I threw a chip into the water and made a wish (yes I buy chips, and yes I eat them often). Bring on abundance, waves! I will no longer get in your way.

I arrived home to a package that I thought I would have to purchase again as it had been a month lost in the mail. In addition, there was a cheque from a friend who owed us money. After my chip-throwing episode, I believed that the tides had turned.

I think I have always been on the right track when I refused to make money the most important thing in my life. But to pretend we don’t need it or try to drive it out of our lives completely is not realistic (and partially insane). At least in the culture I live in.

Money is good. Money is great. Fall from the sky, an Aunt, a job offer, the mailbox – I don’t care. Do whatever you gotta do money. I promise not to get in your way anymore. You can’t take my heart and soul. But you can buy me a pizza once in a while. And for that, I’m going to let your waves wash in again and again however you see fit.

The kind of cash abundance that is respected and valued but not revered (shown devoted deferential honour) is the kind that even I would buy a lottery ticket for.

1 comment:

  1. very this much. I have a love/hate relationship with $$$ but know deep, deep down life is so much bigger. Just too bad we couldn't have the cash first and then get to what really matters. Rob is dead on and so very wise!


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