It is time for Saturday Share and this time, I want to share an author and a mini book review. Geneen Roth may be familiar to some of you who have worked through food issues. I was *wowed* by her book, Women Food and God: an Unexpected Path to Almost Anything. It is about the beliefs about yourself and how your relationship with food is a microcosm of your beliefs. Do you believe you will always have enough? Do you deserve kindness, forgiveness, and tenderness? Is food a stand-in for your need for love or affection?
About a year ago I ordered her audio book Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations about Food and Money. In it she describes losing all her money in the Madoff investment scandal. She writes that food is microcosm for our beliefs, and how we approach money is also a microcosm of our beliefs.
It is an excellent book if you have ever wanted to think deeply about your relationship with money, and examine your beliefs and how they were developed. I have listened to the audio many times and done some work on this issue in coaching.
Many of us formed our attitudes about food and money when we were young. While it is not universally true, we often adopt food attitudes and behaviors from our mothers and money attitudes and behaviors from our fathers.
I am going into a period of transition, drawing down my savings while I move from a generously paid corporate job to freelance consulting. Now is a good time to get more conscious about money, and my beliefs and actions around it.
In general, I have an attitude of abundance, but I realize this can also make me a little careless with money. One of my beliefs is “there’s more where that came from…” so I do not tend to worry about it. I realize this reflects an enormous amount of privilege. With a good education and skill set, I can find work *somewhere* doing something.
Knowing where my money is going came up during a 3-week class with Women Venture on getting started with small business. Tracking my daily expenses felt impossible chore to me, but other women in the class (especially the Moms) had all kinds of strategies for tracking and budgeting.
So I am curious about your experiences, readers. What are your attitudes about money? Do you have systems that work well for you to track your expenses? Any advice on living with the ups and downs of freelance income?
We are not going to solve a broken health care system with a food system that is poisoning our population. Until we begin to understand that sugar, flour and other processed and “powdered” foods are killing us, and that we are addicted to them, both systems will remain broken.
When I began to understand the role that food was playing in my life as a comfort mechanism and a way to “medicate” my emotions, I started waking up to what I needed to do in order to promote vitality and health in my life.
What I see in our national discourse is a lack of understanding of how privilege and knowledge function in keeping some people focused on their next meal, rather than on the future they can build.
I love personal empowerment literature and believe many of us can control our destinies because of the choices we can make. But there are systemic problems in our schools, communities, cities, states and the world that do not allow every person with high potential to thrive.
Hidden Brain replayed an episode on the scarcity trap a few weeks ago, on the problem we have of the “tunnel vision” that develops when we are desperate for something. We spend our time and mental energy focusing on the scarce item item (whether it is food, or time, or health) so obsessively that there is little time for anything else.
But really then we have a scarcity of insight, because we focus so strongly on the current problem that we are unable to see the bigger picture. We are unable to make good decisions for the long-term because all we see is the lack, the need. We may sacrifice long-term rewards because we are stuck in that cycle of lack.
When people feel they lack power over their own lives, they make decisions that may not be in their own best interest. They fall back on “what they know” rather than trying something that may feel risky to them, or that could jeopardize what they do have.
Taking good care of our health and well-being is not something we see modeled for us in this culture of “busy-ness as a status symbol” (thank you Brene, Brown). It is indeed a radical act of self-love and self-compassion to attend to our wellness regularly and without apology.
Taking in only what nourishes us and rejecting or minimizing anything that depletes us is the way to true health and lasting joy. For those of us with enough privilege to know where our next meals are coming from, and who have decent health care and a good support system, we have amazing power to choose in our lives.
Let us now empower those around us to get what they need as well. In a country of plenty, what if nobody lacked basic necessities such as food and health care? Imagine the explosion of creativity and innovation that could exist if we could empower every person to live up to their full potential.
There is an exercise recommended by Brooke Castillo, who produces the Life Coach School podcast, on “wanting from abundance” that I tried this morning as I was considering a dream I had last night. That one went into my handwritten journal. Not ready to interpret that one for y’all yet.
When most people are asked what they want, they immediately jump to a list of what they lack. They start listing off things like a new car, maybe a different job, perhaps other things that the would put on their Christmas list.
But the exercise she has people do is to list 25 things they want, where more than half of those things are what they already have. I am sharing my list with you as an example:
Time to write in the mornings (check)
A caring and wonderful husband (check)
Two cats (check)
A dog (someday)
Cozy place to live (check)
A home of our own (someday)
Time to camp and be outdoors this summer (check – planning on this)
Personal laptop for writing (check)
Enough money so I don’t worry about day-to-day necessities like food, utilities and clothing. (check)
Health care coverage (check)
Travel to the U.K.; travel to Spain (someday)
Time planned with my hubby to do fun stuff (check – upcoming long weekend trip to Arizona 4 weeks from now)
Work outside a corporate environment (someday)
Opportunities to practice my Spanish (check)
Ability to travel to other countries for work (check)
Ability to express my ideas and connect with similarly-spirited people (check)
Ability to sleep 8 hours every night without struggling with insomnia (work in progress)
Live in a safe neighborhood (check)
Access to good yoga classes (double check!)
Close relationships with friends and family (want to put more time into this)
More time to read (define more…)
Healthy body (check)
Plans for our summer vacation (work in progress)
Clean air to breathe every day and clean water to drink (check)
Ability to work from home on occasion (check)
Enough money to pursue my creative passions instead of working full time at a corporation (work in progress)
Okay, that was more than 25. Once I got going, I started thinking of even more things. 16 out of the 26 are things I already have. Some are things I am working on, and a few I have an actual plan sketched out to get them.
What I really love about this exercise is that we want from ABUNDANCE instead of a scarcity mind-set. We acknowledge that many of the amazing things we already have in our lives are also things we want, things we are grateful for. Imagine if I took some things OFF this list! Goodness, realizing the abundance and privilege that allows me to live this glorious life makes me feel rich, fortunate and happy.
When you think about what you want today, consider the things you already have that make your life splendid. Consider not just on what you want someday, but what you want (and have) today. Your entire energy and vibration will change. And perhaps you will start to attract possibilities, opportunities and ideas to add a few of those items from the list that you do not yet have.
This morning I was trying to find the charger for my smart phone, and I had a small ’bout of de-clutter urgency. I get these now and then (though my husband may say not nearly often enough). So I was going through a few stacks of items, trying to figure out what room I inadvertently must have set down the cord.
A book caught my eye from the pile on my nightstand that I had pulled out from my big bookshelf recently, by Sarah Ban Breathnach entitled Simple Abundance, and it had been a going-away present from a group of coworkers back in 2000. I had decided to quit working for a bank after two years as a project coordinator, and was heading back to school. My intention to work in the social service field, or for a nonprofit. (I did not realize yet that life had something different in store for me).
Inside the front cover, they had all written very lovely things, and it brought tears to my eyes to remember them. Some of my favorites:
“Good luck with everything! Follow what you believe in. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to work with you – you are a special person.”
“Best of luck in all your future endeavors. You are a wonderful, kind person and deserve all the happiness you find.”
“Good luck with your plans to return to school and enter the social service field. You will make a big contribution wherever you go.”
I share these not to brag about what a great person I am (though I do claim that I can work with almost anyone, and I tend to get along with people in every workplace). I share this because I worked with that team for only 2 years when I first moved to Minnesota. I had gotten a temp job placement for a bank in Downtown Minneapolis, only a 20 minute walk from our little garden-level apartment.
The job itself was actually pretty boring to me and largely administrative, but after I had been there for a couple of months, I received an offer for a permanent position. Since I wanted health care benefits and I liked the idea of some stability while I was figuring out what to do next, I accepted the position. In the meantime I had applied to grad school because it was fairly clear to me that bachelor’s degree in Psychobiology was not really enough to get me a “science” job.
Also, it can be hard to make friends in Minnesota! School has always been an easier way for me to meet people with whom I have things in common than the workplace. Even though I had family in Bemidji, I did not really know anyone in the Twin Cities. My spouse at the time had moved with me to the Twin Cities shortly after my grandmother had heart surgery. It seemed a good time for me to be closer to family after 6 years away (4 years at Swarthmore for college and 2 years in the Bay Area of California). My parents lived in Wisconsin and grandma lived in northern MN, so we split the distance.
After living in San Francisco for two years, we decided we could not afford to keep up with the lifestyles of our mostly engineer and I.T. geek friends: they liked to go out a lot and we were going into debt trying to keep up. Rents were high and we did not have the kinds of jobs that could compete with the high cost of living there.
After arriving with maxed out credit cards and no jobs, we had to figure out what was next. We did not know what type of work we would find, but temp jobs in offices had always been plentiful in the 90’s, so I had little doubt I could find SOMETHING. When you’re in your early 20’s and a recent college graduate, I believe it does not matter that much what you do. Just get some work, learn some skills on the job and figure it out along the way. It helps if you know what you LIKE to do, and if you know that, by all means: do that!
But if there are a lot of things you like to do, and your biggest priority is not having to move back in with your parents because you prefer your independence, just find SOMETHING not too awful, and work hard at it. Develop a reputation for being reliable and getting things done. Pay attention to those internal signals you get when you need to move on, and those moments of joy which help you find a better path for you. If you have kind coworkers and a healthy work environment, life will really be okay, even if you have not yet figured out your larger story or mission.
Reading those kind words from the gift book from 18 years ago, I realize that I have always made friends wherever I go. I am kind, and I am approachable and things just tend to work out for me. There have been difficult times, and tough choices, but I realize this is the meaning of simple abundance: what you have in this moment is enough. When you have people around you that you love, and that love you, you will always have enough. Recognizing the great abundance around you and within you is your treasure.
Does anyone else have a little trouble resisting the ease and comfort of internet shopping? I can use my phone, browse my wishlist or do a quick search and place an order from the comfort of my bed. Bang, done!
You’ll see my shopping cart is currently empty. But it would only be a matter of a few clicks to get the latest book I heard about on a favorite podcast. Or to order the planner that someone recommended to me. Darn you, Amazon!
I say this all while being extremely grateful that online shopping exists, of course. I hate store shopping. I was really excited when I read Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography and realized she (like me) has no sense of fashion either. The act of shopping for clothes in particular sets me on edge. But shopping in stores generally is something I do not enjoy.
The fabulous array of things I can acquire simply at the click of a button is a smorgasbord of temptation. No trip to the store, no need to interact with anyone, no pushy salespeople to hover over me and try to tell me about their sales and specials.
The problem is that when it comes to something like books, I have very low resistance to clicking the order button. It is something I am working on. I tell myself I should go to the library and check out books instead. I love libraries. But it’s so much more WORK to have to go and search for the books I want!
They say time is money, but actually time is a lot more precious to me than money, because time is a finite resource. Money is something I can get if I work a little more, or save a little better. So when I calculate the cost of spending $10-15 at the click of a button and have Amazon deliver me in just a couple of days the book I want? Well, let’s just say my hourly rate for my day job means the low cost of online ordering is just too tempting sometimes.
This gets to something I will work on in the new year, with my husband because he has similar online shopping behavior. BUDGETING. Yes, it is an odious task, but we need to do it. Making a plan ahead of time, and then sticking to that plan is a much better way to live your life than looking back at the credit card statements and thinking: Hmm, so THAT’s where my money went last month.
The fact that we are double income no kids people and do not own a house means that we live a pretty carefree existence financially. Not that it was easy to get here, by any means. I’ve worked my tail off to pay off past debts, and get the kind of job where I am putting away a fairly large chunk into retirement each year.
I have bought and sold two homes, one which made quite a tidy sum and one which barely broke even right before the real estate bubble burst. Since 2007 I have been a renter, and I do not mind that. Hubby really wants a workshop though and a bigger garage than our 1-car “tuck under townhome” space (pictured here).
At some point, I would like a yard again. I do not particularly like living under a homeowner’s association regime about specific rules regarding paint colors and not leaving the Christmas lights up beyond January 5th. The neighborhood is lovely, but we will be ready for our own place in 1-2 years, perhaps.
Anyway, I have been thinking and reflecting upon the year (as one does this month) and anticipating what I may want to change in 2018. I have never been one to make resolutions for January 1st – the date seems too arbitrary to me. I typically like to start new things in the fall, because it is the start of a “school year” and I have always loved school.
This year though, I am getting my head around possibly leaving my job for a new one, and/or starting a side hustle and planning to buy a house again someday. It is different, now that I am married rather than just living with my honey. We had (and still have) our own bank accounts, along with a joint account.
We need to plan some goals together, and that involves being really honest about where we spend our money now, and being willing to figure out what kind of plan works for us. I will have to figure out how to quash the impulse to click the DAMN ORDER BUTTON when that impulse arises, rather than just nickle and diming myself with low-cost “book treats.”
We will need to work together as a team to figure these things out. Money has always been a difficult issue for me in past relationships. I am fiercely independent and have been the main breadwinner in my long-term relationships. I tend to be generous, and others have taken advantage of that before. But I want to be brave, and face up to my money issues, and have conversations about what we want for the future.
In general, I have a believe in abundance, and I value people over things. I believe I will always have enough. So it’s not about the things I have. Life is about the good people in my life, and living in a way that expresses my values.
In that spirit, and in understanding the way I spend my time and my money, I have a resolution for next year: to become more mindful of how I spend my money, and to work as a team with my husband to make more of those money decisions together.
If my wise readers have any advice for me on this topic, please share! In the meantime, I am going to try to meditate for at least 5 minutes before hitting the damn “order” or “buy” button and see how it goes.