Friday, July 1, 2011

The upside of not having money

There are a few good things about not having money--not many, mind you, but a few. One is that life becomes very simple. I can't drive around, or go out to restaurants, or plan trips, or invest money, or do most things that I would normally do if I had money. I can go for walks, or go to the library, or hang out in the garden, or play with my cats, or talk with friends, or write blog posts on my computer. It feels like God has stopped me and as a result I am being more present, noticing things that I would have missed before: the butterflies, the flowers, the wind, the trees, my cats.

Another good thing about not having money is that I have become very clear about my priorities. I only have so much gas in my car, so I think twice about where I am driving to. Yes, I will drive to Petaluma to go to Toastmasters, because speaking is important to me. No, I will not drive around aimlessly. When some money comes my way, I think twice before I spend it. Cat food is my top priority. I made a lifetime commitment to Max and Bradley--I am their steward--and I will take care of them no matter what. I am willing to skip a meal--or eat peanut butter sandwiches over and over again--as long as they are taken care of.

What are no longer priorities are the credit card companies and the IRS. A hundred year old woman was asked on the Tonight Show what the worse invention was in her lifetime, and her reply was "credit cards." I would have to agree. We have enslaved ourselves by buying stuff when we didn't have the money. And now it feels like the banks own us. Well, I am committed to paying off my debts if it's feasible. But when the economy is falling apart, and we middle class people have lost our jobs and homes due to the greed of bankers who are still rich, I will be damned if I starve myself or my animals in order to give more money to the banks. In the middle ages charging a 30% interest rate, which credit cards often do, would be considered a sin. And taxes of more than 10% were considered unreasonable when our country was founded. When did this change?

If by some chance I start earning the big bucks again, I will be happy to participate in normal, mainstream society. But right now, I am down to the basics: food and shelter. And the good news is that I recognize fears like going bankrupt, or a bad credit rating, or having a lean, as the illusions that they really are.

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