Money Money Money

October 18, 2010

Money Money Money

Money Money Money

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the Road of Happy Destiny”…

These days, worrying about money seems like the latest dance craze—everybody’s doing it.

We do it in style, too. Some of us hate money, some crave it, some do both at the same time. Some hoard it, others avoid it. We may lie, cheat or steal for it. We may fear a lack of money, or even fear an abundance of it. Some of us judge ourselves by it, or use it to measure others. Some of us pretend it’s beneath us, yet it permeates our secret thoughts. Some of us don’t believe we’re entitled to it, and even find ourselves avoiding it when it’s offered. Some of us live in a constant “state of collision” with others—even our closest loved ones—as we careen about, out of touch, out of balance, and often out of our minds regarding money.

This morning I came across this reflection:

Happiness = Satisfaction ÷ Desires

[Happiness equals Satisfaction divided by Desires]

“Happiness exists when what you want is matched by what you have. If your desires are few, they are easy to satisfy. Are you so obsessed with what you do not have that you miss what you have now? Are your desires so intense that you always have to be striving for more to satisfy them?” *

In the midst of financial fears that blind me to the amazing richness of my life, I can remember that the solution to lack starts with me: building and expressing gratitude for what I have, and building from there. Just for today, I’m grateful to be reminded that:

1. I am rich, healthy, and at peace: I live without war and am in the top 3% for wealth, life expectancy and health among all people who have ever lived.
2. I can breathe: I can close my eyes, take a deep breath and feel peace and life-force flow in.
3. I can see: I can open my eyes to the beauty all around me. I can notice it.
4. I can count: I can ponder, write, meditate, or share a list of positive things I have to be thankful for today.
5. I can give and receive: I can be of service and give to others. If I need help, I can ask for it. If I am offered help, I can receive it with thankfulness and grace.
6. I can decide: I can make up my mind, just for today, right now, to live in gratitude.

When I engage in this process of change and align my desires with what I have instead of being lost in the endless pursuit and worry of aligning what I have with what I want, I start to experience peace, serenity and joy, even in the midst of trying circumstances. I gain clarity about money and business and recognize that they are parts of my spiritual path. I can renew my pursuit of a new life for myself, not out of desperation or fear, but out of a deep desire to live fully, and to give to others.

Happy trails!

*PS – This reflection is part of the Tenth Step work in “A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps” by Dr. Patrick Carnes.

Labor Day

September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Labor Day

Greetings, fellow trudgers on “the road of happy destiny”…

I don’t know about you, but part of me doesn’t like Labor Day* Monday—not one bit. It feels like the “End-0f-Fun-Day.” Labor Day means:

Summer’s over.
No more beach swims.
No more warm nights.
No more fresh-picked fruit.
I’ve got to get a kid off to school.
(Or, worse still: “I’ve got to teach school.”)
Work is going to be a bear tomorrow.
I’ve got to pay a gazillion bills.
I have to get back on a diet.
I better make more money or else.
No more veggies right off the vine.
I’ll be living on canned chili soon.
I have to put away air conditioners.
My back hurts already.
The trees are dying!
My sinuses are acting up.
I’ve got to sort through clothes.
I have to start blowing dead leaves.
I’ve got to get heating oil.
The furnace needs a clean-out, too.
So does the fridge.
Do I need medication for this?
It’s already dark at 8—soon it’ll be 4.

And on, and on… the inside of my head starts to sound like a wood chipper.

When I get like that, it feels like the fun ends promptly tonight at 11:59. Nevermind actual labor—I’m tired just thinking about it.

What if, whenever I get myself worked up into a snit, what if a miracle were to happen? What if I were to see—for instance—a beautiful sunset? It could happen. It could be tonight. Tonight’s sunset might be more perfect than any painting I’ve seen. It could be the kind of sunset that stops everything, reminding me that beneath the surface of this list of overwhelming things I’m powerless to control, perhaps there is beauty, perfection, rhythm, grace and order to all of it.

It might be at that point that I remember: “Oh, that’s right—I’m in a process of change.” I might be reminded that I’m moving from a life of keeping a close eye on what’s wrong, to one of appreciating every moment of what’s right. It could be that this particular sunset might remind me that it’s not my job to stack up every obstacle I can possibly foresee and then conclude it’s all too much.

This perfect sunset might remind me that my job is to turn and face the perfect sunset. My “assigned labor” for this Labor Day might be to let the setting sun wash over and through me. Perhaps, one day at a time, I’ll be shown a way to experience joy and happiness inside, no matter what my external circumstances. After all—tomorrow is just another day.

Maybe I’ll remember my manners and just say, “Thank you, and good night.”

Happy trails!

* PS A little Labor Day history: the holiday was originally created in the 1890’s to mollify enraged labor unions after some 12,000 soldiers and lawmen descended on Illinois (at the bidding of railway owners) to break up a railroad strike. The strike, which turned violent, was deemed by then President Grover Cleveland to be “interfering with the delivery of the U.S. Mail.” They made sure the mail got through, all right, opening fire on the crowd and killing 13 workers and wounding dozens more. Maybe they should have called it “The Mail Must Go Through” Day. Something to bear in mind when I receive Tuesday’s mail—whatever it may bring.

Blennophobia

January 16, 2010

Water

Water

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version IV) is filled with the thousands of mental illnesses, disorders and neuroses currently available. One of the more interesting choices is Lachanophobia, an irrational fear of vegetables. Current research indicates that less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the population suffer from Lachanophobia. The book also lists Blennophobia, the irrational fear of slime. A slightly larger population segment suffers from Blennophobia, about 1/5th of 1 percent of the population. Sadly, I am one of the 1/2000th of 1 percent who suffer from both.

Years ago, my friend Michael and I went out sailing on a very large lake in Wisconsin. We were on a little sunfish sailboat, and it was a very windy day. It wasn’t long before our boat capsized, and we discovered it was great fun getting it right again. Soon, we were deliberately capsizing the boat, trying to pearl the front end to get the boat to cartwheel. and in general enjoy trying to drown one another.

During one of these capsizings, the boat went all the way upside down, rudder-up. It was difficult to right it, and when we got it righted, we saw why: the sail came out of the water hanging from the mast in shreds. Apparently we’d hit a submerged bramble or tree or something.

There was no way that sail was going to work again. There was nothing for it but to swim the boat to shore. Trouble was, we were a long way out. We jumped in, and I pulled on the cleat in front, doing the side-stroke, while Michael pushed from the back, kicking his legs.

This went on for what seemed like hours. We grew cold and tired, our arms were hurting. Hell, everything was hurting, and the shoreline never seemed to get closer. We got pretty crabby, no pun intended.

Suddenly, I felt something brush against my leg. My first thought was: this is not good. I really don’t like touching things underwater—tall weeds, I would have to say, being the worst. A nightmare, in fact. I can’t explain this, but there you have it.

I said “There’s weeds or something down there.” Michael was very concerned for me. He said “Shut up and keep pulling.” Then a bunch of somethings brushed my leg. “That’s it.” I shouted, and I scrambled onto the boat. Michael said “I’m not pushing your sorry ass, get off the boat and pull!” I said “There’s no way I’m going back in the water if there’s weeds. Not going to happen.”

Michael jumped on and moved forward, cursing. I was ready. We grappled and twisted, yelling foul names and pounding on each other. He got me off balance and knocked me into the water. I went in deep, into a LOT of weeds. Very, very tall weeds. “Wisconsin Killer Weeds,” I believe is the technical term. I screamed underwater, and swam back up in a desperate panic. Michael stopped me from getting on board, so I wrapped my arms and legs around the bow, refusing to loosen my grip. Michael kept yelling “You’re totally psychotic!”, trying to pry my fingers apart and using his feet to try and scrape me off the boat like a barnacle.

We argued and fought, screaming and laughing ourselves sick out on that cold windy lake for a long time. We no longer cared about getting the boat back, we were so focused on causing the other person misery. Finally, I heard a sound. “Knock it off!” I yelled to Michael, who was busy gnawing on my knuckles to loosen my death grip. We went quiet and I turned and saw, far off, three men standing on the shore of the lake. They looked like bugs, but we could hear them yelling something. “WHAT?!?” Michael yelled, and we hear a voice across the water calling “Saaam Duuuufff!!!”

Michael said to me, “Sam Duff?!?” I was half underwater, clinging to the boat while those cursed weeds were still tormenting me by brushing against my back, but I said “Never heard of him.” Michael stood up on the boat and shouted “There’s no Sam Duff here!” And we heard three faint voices yell in unison, “STAAAAAANNND UUUUUP!”

I unwrapped my feet from the boat and swung them under me and immediately hit soft sand. I planted my feet and stood up — we were in three feet of water.

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version IV) lists another interesting irrational fear: Phronemophobia—the fear of thinking. Now, when I’m lost in worry, I can remember to just STAND UP. Sometimes the water is nowhere as deep as I thought.