Dreamers, have you ever noticed that when you’re focused on something, you see it everywhere?
That’s the way I am with money. After 20 some odd months of focusing on my own money behavior, I realize that everywhere I look, I see evidence that money is a way of being in the world.
So are jobs, and marriages, and pet ownership, and entrepreneurialism. Watch me with my dog (or my marriage, my career, and my many business impulses, or, of course, my money), and you’ll know who I am. In other words, human beings don’t compartmentalize. However we are with our dogs is how we are in every other aspect of our lives.
That must be what Confucius meant when he said, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
I have two acquaintances who are vastly different from one another in the world.
One of them admitted to me that he used to iron his money. He started it because he thought flat-pressed money fit better in his wallet and looked nicer when he pulled it out to pay for lunch. He kept on doing it because it occurred to him in a quite literal way, if he cared for his money, possibly it would care for him.
And guess what. It would be really hard to find a person anywhere less careful of his money. Also, it seems his money is, after all, doing a good job of caring for him. He’s in real estate, and is one of the few real estate professionals I know who dislikes our current economy but isn’t really affected by it.
Ironing twenties, you see, is simply an outward expression of this friend’s inner reality. He tends his money as the necessary prerequisite to it tending him.
I once told this story to the second friend, and she gasped in horror. Oh no! she cried. That is the exact opposite of what you should do with money, if you want it to take care of you. You should just wad it up and throw it in your purse, or in a drawer, or even on the floor.
If you treat it carelessly, then you prove it doesn’t matter, and that’s when money comes back to you.
Come to think of it, although I’ve never actually seen this friend crumple up dollar bills and throw them on the floor, I have seen that behavior manifest in her in other ways. She doesn’t waste money – far from it, she’s actually quite thrifty.
But she also doesn’t pay attention to it. She put her son in private school, just for one example, having no idea how she was going to pay for it. But she never worried about it. Somehow she’s gotten the money together without any scholarships for two years now.
(Disclaimer: Whenever I write stuff like this, I am acutely aware that what I say can’t have any application to the vast numbers of people in the world who are truly poverty stricken. It only applies to people who have roofs over their heads, food to eat, cars to drive. They (we) have privileged lives compared to most of the world. I’m putting in this disclaimer because I want to be clear that ironing money on the one hand and crumpling it up on the other hand are luxuries that many people do not have. Behavior is really only optional for a relative privileged few, and I want to be careful not to imply that people who have no such resources would have more resources if they would just change their behavior. I don’t believe that.)
It’s always so much easier to see a truth about someone else than it is to see a truth about yourself, don’t you find?
I can see how my two friends are with money, and how that’s a snapshot of how they are in the world. I’m not so sure I can see how I am with money, and therefore how I am with the world.
This post has been trying to be written since February. In fact, that last sentence was where I stopped in February. Today, in August, I picked it up again to see if I still liked it for a start. I do, and I actually think I’ve gotten a little better handle on how I am with money, and therefore how I am in the world.
Take this weekend, for example. Yesterday I went to the Farmer’s Market, which is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. Especially this time of year. Find a good Farmer’s Market, and you can just wallow in the intense joys and pleasures of summer, not to mention of the place where you live.
And because it’s just so glorious, I find it difficult not to overindulge. Yesterday I bought 30 pounds of tomatoes for $1 per pound. I bought 7 pounds of strawberries for $2 a pound. I bought an armload of peaches. I bought a huge pile of string beans, and a veritable bushel of corn. I’m sorry! I just could not resist.
So you see, I am impulsive. Just like with money.
Today, I spent all day preserving. I made cherry marmalade, spirited peaches (with peach liqueur!), strawberry french preserves, and slow roasted tomatoes. I started to make tomato sauce, but I had the wrong kind of tomatoes and it turned out to be tomato soup.
It’s still the essence of tomatoes, in whatever form. I blanched three pounds of green beans and vacuum packed them for the freezer. I individually froze five pints of blackberries the size of your thumb, and ran those through the vacuum sealer too.
Thus, you see, I am also a hoarder. I can’t say I hoard money, but I hoard the stuff I buy with it. You’ve heard about the yarn and the books. Now it’s summer produce.
And also, I’m a thinker. I’m an analyzer, I’m a self-justifier and an excuse-maker. You don’t really even have to try very hard to see elements of all those behaviors in just this one vignette.
But mostly I’m a dreamer. My simple dream today is that one day in January, when the weather is bleak and it feels like summer will never come, I’ll crack open a jar of spirited peaches and eat the whole thing all by myself.
My greater dream is that I can sever my dependence on the grocery store, that bastion of industrial food, or at least sharply curtail it.
And the biggest dream of all is that people will buy locally, save their communities, preserve the environment, and know their neighbors.
It’s not so much to dream, is it? Nah.