Present Tense

Money, money, money…..

Let’s talk about money.   I’ll go first:  I like it, I’m for it and I want to collect as much as I can.  I know this is a very unfashionable thing to say, but I’m past worrying about fashion.  Here’s what I think; I think that most of you feel exactly the same way, but it would be unseemly or crass to say it out loud.  It’s okay if you feel that way, because this post is aimed directly between your eyes.

I’ve always liked money and have always been quite the little saver from the time I was a kid, when I hoarded my allowance and couldn’t wait to put in my little bank every week.   Every Christmas, I would get checks from a few relatives and I nagged my mom to take me to the bank, so I could deposit the money in my passbook savings account.

In Junior High and High School, I saved not only my allowance, but all of the lunch money that my mom gave me, so that I could buy a tennis racket and a 10 speed Schwinn bicycle.  I managed to talk my friends into buying me cookies and milk, while I saved my money, but that’s not the worst of it.  In 9th grade, I would kiss Clayton Rice in the band room for a quarter, everyday!  I look back on it now and am thankful that he never produced a $100 bill or my life may have taken a completely different turn. He became my actual boyfriend and so I lost that stream of revenue.  It’s indecent to charge your boyfriend for, well, you know.  By then, I was old enough to get a real job serving food for tips.

As a grown-up I’ve been completely happy to collect and nuture my money through hard work and discipline.  Ever since my first post-college job, where I made all of  $9000 a year, I’ve always set aside whatever I could afford, with every single paycheck.  Eventually, I set a goal to save at least 10% of what I made.  I married a man who shares my money style and over the years, we’ve scraped together a decent nest egg.

In this country, we’re accused of having ‘puritanical’ views on sex.  I beg to differ; the current culture is absolutely INFUSED with sex, to the point where it’s actually kind of boring and fake and silly.  Where we’re puritanical, is in talking about money.  Go ahead, get with a group of people and start talking about money, I dare you.  If you want to see people screaming and hyperventilating and calling you names, try to have a healthy conversation about money.  Admitting that you earn a decent living, have invested smartly and want to have more money, is like unveiling pornography at Sunday school!

The current climate in our society encourages denial that money is important to you; to be suspicious or downright hostile toward wealth or success.  What hypocrisy.  I have YET to meet anyone who doesn’t wish for higher pay or more money.  And yet, it’s fashionable to deny any interest in money and in my opinion, that’s not noble or hip or realistic.  In fact, it’s flat-out stupid.  I like to live in the real world where money is necessary to fund the basics in life.  I prefer to have more than just the basics and have worked really hard to to make and save enough money to ensure that not only are our basic needs met, but that we can live comfortably and donate to worthy causes.  If you deny the importance of money or think it’s cool to ignore it, you’ll never have enough to meet and exceed those basic needs.  In Deepak Chopra’s book, “Creating Affluence,” he said that money is like blood; it must flow, in order to create wealth in a society and wealth is good, if you hope to be gainfully employed.  Notice I said “wealth is good”, not “greed is good”.  There is a big difference.  For those of you into the whole Law of Attraction philosophy, wealth can also be termed abundance.

So, let’s dig down as to what money represents to me.  First off, I equate it with security; I want to be able to pay may own way without outside help.  When you rely on others to pay your way, there are ALWAYS strings attached.  Keep this in mind, as we seem to be moving toward some other entity paying for our needs: strings, hassles and following THEIR rules, rather than your own.  Secondly, money is freedom.  Read the book, “Your Money or your Life” for a blueprint of how you can achieve financial freedom.  If you have enough money put away, you are no longer beholden to others: your job, your family, the government (UGH!).  You may think that’s out of your reach, but with proper discipline and planning, you can certainly move toward that goal, if it appeals to you.

Look, I’m not saying that money should supercede happiness or fulfillment.  Don’t sell your soul for a piece of gold, but don’t feel awful about making it, growing it and yes, giving some away.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 18 Comments

“Let it go!”

One of the main themes of this blog is my ongoing battle with letting go; of worry, anxiety, control.  I’m working toward an internal evolution of acceptance, balance, peace and clarity that has been elusive thus far.  I have a feeling that many of you struggle with the same issues.  You too, have that little demon on your shoulder, whispering in your ear to grab the reins, step in, wrestle it into submission.  You know who you are and trust me, I’m right there with you, grappling, tugging, manipulating and you know what?  I’m tired.

Two events during the past week, have left me feeling the ying and yang of grief and hope,  pain and acceptance, loss and renewal.  One event was catastrophic on a world scale and that was the devastation in Haiti.  The other was the death of my 19 year old cat, Gus.  If I squint, I can see that it’s a bit of a metaphor for the human condition and indeed, my  own emotional tussle.  I worry and ache just as much over things that are way beyond my control, like human suffering, cruelty to animals, wars, natural disasters, and ignorant politicians (and religious leaders…yes, i mean YOU, Pat Robertson; take a lesson from the Pope and the Dali Lama; you’re an embarrassment to Christians who get enough grief as it is), as I do about things or events that affect me, personally and intimately.  Having both of them overlap in one week, has taught me something:  forget the illusion that I’m in control.

I can grieve for the horror happening in Haiti, I can donate money and I’m in a unique situation with my radio show, to ask others to make a donation, but that is about all of that I can realistically do.  Similarly,  even though it happened in my house, in my life, I realized I really didn’t have much more control over the failing health of my cat.  The best I could do was care for him and love him all of these years and when it became apparent that he was dying of kidney failure, we made the difficult decision to euthanize him and bury him in our backyard with his pet buddies, who had preceeded him in death.

A couple of years ago, our dog Feta, who I still ache for everyday, had a similar condition at the age of 15.  The vet showed us how to administer fluids, which involved sticking a needle into her neck and making her endure an IV for 15-20 minutes everyday.  She didn’t like it, but we insisted; I insisted.  It was a desperate attempt to keep her with us as for long as possible and through all of it, as she got thinner and more frail, I believed that we could make her well.  We hand fed her, picked her up to go outside, religiously administered the fluids and one day, when she could no longer struggle out of her bed, my husband looked at me and said, “how much longer”? and I gave in.  I’m feeling the pain of that day, even as I write this, but that pain taught me what needed to be done with Gus.  I didn’t want to drag him along on my timetable, my journey, when he was telling us it was time to let go.  Anyone who has ever made that awful decision, second-guesses themselves.  The pets make it all the more difficult as they seem to rally a bit, just when you’ve made the call to the vet.  “Is he really that sick”?  “Maybe a couple more days; maybe we should just try the fluids”.  That’s the control freak talking and I’m learning to shut that desperate voice out.

My husband is a saint in these situations, being much more pragmatic and probably more loving than me.  Even though I know it’s just as painful for him to be there in their last moments as it would be for me, he does it, because I can’t.  I’m not that transformed as yet, but I’ll keep working on it.   We go through our lives, knowing either consciously or tucked away in the back of our minds, how it will end for all of us and still, we continue to love, to commit, to make plans, to evolve.  The happiest and healthiest, learn to accept and enjoy.

January 17, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , , , | 19 Comments

Dear Young, Stupid Me:

So, last week I wrote about the website where you can write a note to the ‘future you’.  That led me to the next logical step: a note to my 25 year-old self, which is half my current age.  I challenge you to give it a try.  Here’s mine:

Dear young and stupid Jane:

So, you think you’ve got the world by the tail, do you?  People seem to want to hire you for better and better jobs, you’re very hip and most importantly, you can drink most people under the table.  Too bad the cops keep butting into your fun.  I can tell you this; eventually it will dawn on you, that excessive drinking isn’t all that good for you personally or professionally.  I can also tell you that you’ll need to learn that lesson over and over.  Wish I had better news on that front, but you’re destined to battle your arrogance for a long time.

The good news is that your professional life will go pretty well, despite some struggles and setbacks, but you are surprisingly resilient for someone so stubborn.  By the way, you’ll meet a guy that you think you’re madly in love with, but he’s gay.  I’ll let you figure out who that might be and you’ll be in denial for a couple of years, but you’ll eventually meet your Prince Charming.

Remember to pay off your credit cards, keep saving your money and for the love of God, get your oil changed more often.  You’ll hate yourself when your car goes ka-blooey because you didn’t pay attention to regularly scheduled maintanence, although you will also wreck several cars over the years.  A variation on that same car/driving theme:  slow the hell down!

I could give you all kinds of advice, but I know that 25 year-olds are not that receptive to the wisdom of the middle-aged, even if that wisdom is imparted by the person who knows you best in the world, i.e. YOU/ME.  Keep trying to do better and be better, and you’ll turn out fine.  I’ve got my eye on you.

Much love,

Older and wiser Jane

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , | 10 Comments

Self-Help Me!!!

I’ve reached my saturation point with self-help books.  I had an epiphany last night while perusing some of the books that Amazon recommended for me in one of their countless emails (they know my weaknesses and exploit them nicely….bravo).  I looked them over, carefully reading the blurbs and all of a sudden, it hit me: I’m done.

DONE with self-help books, done with the ‘strategies for a better you’, done with lists, exercises, quizzes (well, maybe not quizzes…) and ‘action lists’;  all of it.  I’ve read thousands of pages hoping for that bolt of insight, that one little nugget of knowledge that will change my life and I finally realized that it doesn’t exist.  It ain’t out there like low hanging fruit, waiting for me to harvest that one  juicy, jewel of truth.  That juicy jewel already exists in me; in my actions, my reactions, my path, my decisions, my judgements.  I have the tools and the knowledge and now it’s merely a matter of DOING, instead of gathering.  Time to harvest the fruit that I’ve grown.

I’m not saying that everyone should come to the same conclusion. I have a list of books, authors, lectures, etc. that have had a profound impact on how I see the world, both personally and professionally.  In fact, I’ll post that list someday, in case any of you are interested, but what I realized is that all of these books essentially reinforce the same message, because it’s the message that expresses my values.  I’m merely consuming books that reinforce my gut instincts.

The mind blowing revelation was that I already HAVE this knowledge, these tools, these instincts and ONE MORE BOOK won’t catalyze me to act.  Take a minute to think about the many self-help books/articles that you’ve read; I’ll be willing to bet that they are all amazingly similar.  There are tons of different self-help categories and I think that most of us concentrate on a couple of them and read the same message over and over, in different packaging.  After enough books stressing the same message, it’s time to act. Don’t get me wrong; I think that constant learning and insight are as important as food and oxygen, but if you’re merely reading the same message over and over, it becomes a way to avoid making the changes in your life that you’re seeking.

January 9, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , | 12 Comments

%d bloggers like this: