Friday, February 13, 2015

The Terror of Money

I'm going to talk about something today that nobody likes to talk about: money.

Not how to make a bunch of it, or how to spend it wisely, or any of the kind of trite advice you can get from a zillion sources.

I'm going to talk about the fear money (and its lack) creates, and the way this affects everything we (read: I) do.

I'm having a snack today of fresh strawberries. This feels so indulgent, so ridiculously extravagant, that I feel ashamed.

That, folks, is pretty fucked up. I know it, but I can't stop feeling that way.

Why do I feel ashamed about snacking on strawberries? It starts with money. I currently have little to no income, having just lost my full-time job and not yet having picked up the difference in freelance gigs. It doesn't matter to my lizard brain that I left that job with a huge severance and that before that I had amassed a big chunk of savings. All my emotion-led self knows is that I have no more paychecks.

So there I was, at the grocery store last week, with a fistful of coupons and an eye on every generic and sale. Strawberries, as it happened, were on sale. But only if I bought two pounds of them. 'Sure,' I thought to myself, 'I can eat two pounds of strawberries before they go bad. I'll get some yogurt and granola and have that for breakfast. It'll be a nice treat.'

Before I was even to the checkout lane I was already feeling guilty. Yogurt, berries, and granola is a far more expensive breakfast than my usual bagel and cream cheese. How could I justify spending so much on something just because I wanted it?

And now, a week later, I still have more than half of those berries, and they're reaching the end of their shelf life. And my lizard brain has gone into panicked overdrive. If I don't eat them now, before they spoil, I will have wasted all that money (and food!). So I need to eat them anytime it makes sense.

I don't make a habit of snacking. Yet here I am, midafternoon, snacking on strawberries like royalty and feeling like a complete financial failure.

This is the sort of irrational, unjustifiable fear we let ourselves build up around money. My issue is strawberries. Other people have other fears that they let rule even the smallest decisions in their lives.

Right now, it feels like hedonism to do even one thing because I want to rather than because it will help me make money. Like eating strawberries in the afternoon.

Why do we keep making our decisions out of fear? Why do we spend our whole lives doing things we hate just to keep that fear at bay?

I wish I knew how to change this. Do you?

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