The last seven days have been really tough for me. There was more than the usual amount of crazy with the Denizens (bus is late, school out early, appointments, “sickness”, etc. etc. etc.), but that wasn’t the part that shoved me over the edge almost to the point of wanting to just sit down and cry
for a while.
It was running out of soda on the same day that both
my Scooba and
my Floormate decided to have parts fail / break off / crack / spew / collapse, relegating me to cleaning the floors around the Den with a hand towel and the incredible
cleansing power of cuss words
So there I was. I’d just cleaned the kitchen, playroom, downstairs hallway, and four frickin’ bedroom
floors with a hand towel. It was 101 degrees outside, and 80-something inside. I was hot, tired, sweating, my back was throbbing in a new and exciting way, and I decided that darn it
, I needed a soda. For the good of mankind.
Because the mood I was in right that moment? I could have chewed somebody’s head off. Soda hath the power to calm the savage beast…
And then…as I was lifting the cold silver can out of the fridge…a certain emptiness
struck me…hmmm…fridge looks…powerful
empty…no…no!...nononononononoohno, NO! DEAR SWEET $DEITY IT CAN’T BE SO, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, no! NO!
The last soda
The world…turned gray…
And I woke up half an hour later in Turlock with a new tattoo and several yards of barbed wire wrapped around my ankles.
OK, not really.
But Dog is my witness, I did
have a moment of vertigo. How could this be? So soon? SO SOON?! Because didn’t I just…I mean, I know I said
‘when it’s gone, it’s gone
’ but I thought gone
would be…you know, later
And then I started wheeling and dealing with myself, trying to find a way in which buying soda
would not count as totally breaking my own rules
After all, I can’t exactly make
soda, right? And I’m saving soooooo much money elsewhere, on strawberry jelly for example, that surely
I have saved enough to buy myself some soda, right?!
I even went so low as to pull out the “well, but HE’S getting…” card. The husband is getting Kleenex THAT’S RIGHT!! Even though I could totally
whip him up dozens
of cloth hankies, he insists
, in no uncertain terms
, that he will not
use a hankie, not even one that is 100% cotton, tie-dyed in cool, vibrant awesomeness and hand-sewn by his doting wifey-pooh
Just as I was making the decision that diet Pepsi would be “my” thing…I tripped over the second half of the case on my way back inside the Den.
Oh. Heh heh. Yeah. That’s right. I, uh, sort of didn’t put all
of it into the fridge, because there was, hee hee, zucchini…ahem, never mind! Just kidding! I wasn’t having a panic attack over diet Pepsi, just, you know, havin’ a little fun
with y’all… Sigh.
This right here is going to be the really
hard part of my little project, especially for this early phase where I’ll have
to be going out fairly regularly to get the things we need. I need butter, milk, eggs, soda, flour, sugar, cream and waitasecond, what was that middle thing again…?
I’ve already started imitating a helicopter at Costco, circling around and around and around the store, retracing my steps to put back the things I grabbed out of habit that are no longer on the Allowable Purchases list.
The list never was particularly long. The whole middle section of the store has been mostly off-limits to me for years, along with most of the right side aisles as well. One thing I do not
need is sixty-four cases of pens and a filing wall system, you know?
But there have been other things I’ve cheerfully bought that are purely and only for my convenience. Chez-Its, chewy fruit snacks, goldfish crackers, Triscuits and tubes of roasted nuts.
None of them are horribly
expensive, and the kids love them, and they make for fast
lunch-making in the morning. C’mon. Six bucks and I’ve got a month’s supply of Chez-Its! Five bucks to refill the treat basket with gummy fruits!Versus
, having to make the cheese dough and roll it out and cut it and make my own version of Chez-Its. (Basically, pie crust dough with a whack of cheddar mixed into it, rolled a little thinner than usual and baked at a high temperature.)
Or having to make my own gummies, which I totally can
, I just don’t wanna
and besides! It’s only FIVE BUCKS.
And of course…the soda. My precious, precious
soda. I’m already rationing it, and cursing the fact that my poison of choice is the diet
. (It has a use-by, and they aren’t kidding around. It turns into weird tasting bubbly water almost immediately after the use-by date.)
When I start telling myself how little
whatever the lusted-for item is, I know I’m up against one of the weirdest of money-related human traits: The “but it’s such a little thing” syndrome.
For years, I thought it was Just Me who did this. I’ll give up cable TV and the gym. I’ll steel my soul and say NO VACATION THIS YEAR. I’ll resist the new Lexus and even the expensive dinners out.
going through the Taco Bell drive-thru on my way home from Costco for a Victory Burrito and Super Gigantic Diet Pepsi of Doom? Seriously
Not getting a shot of dark chocolate mocha from Barista’s
before the farmer’s market (or any other time I happen to be downtown)? Not even a small
Through the years, I’ve been relieved to note that I am so totally NOT
the only person who does this.
Oddly, the feeling of deprivation can be far more intense when you’re saying no
to something small. It’s just two miserable bucks for the Victory Burrito, you know? Just two crummy bucks.
Aren’t I worth two bucks?
Am I that
bad off? Two bucks is extravagant for me now? Geeeeeeez…
Now the truth is – two bucks is not
too extravagant for me. I can
afford to get myself a burrito after overcoming the perilous odyssey that is a Costco trip.
And I suppose I can even argue that I “deserve” something for my trouble. I’ve just hefted fifty pound sacks of flour and sugar and heaven only knows what-all else
not only onto
the cart, but then off
it and into the van. And now I’m headed home to heft them yet again
, and wrestle their contents into bins and buckets…followed, of course, by the cooking
Sure. I deserve a little treat for all that work. And blowing four bucks on a burrito and a soda seems like a pretty small thing, fully within my rights as a citizen of the civilized world.
But you know what else I deserve?
I deserve to live my life in the way that gives me my best shot at happiness.
Sure, I could
fork over the money for a burrito stuffed with beans and rice and guacamole, and it would taste good and I would be happy…at least for a little while.
But I could also keep
that two dollars and put it toward something else – like, say, being out from under the debts we’ve racked up these last few years. Toward being able to say we own the Den of Chaos, free and clear.
Being able to say, “Check out this beautiful little ranch, ten acres of good land not too
far from everything…”, and instead of being trapped because we don’t have the capital to buy or the ability to sell the Den in anything like
a Timely Fashion, we could snap it up. Sell the Den at our leisure – or not at all.
We’re not going to get that kind of happiness buying overpriced burritos and sodas, no matter how much we may deserve them. We’re not going to get it by rewarding ourselves every time we do something we need
to do. We’re not going to get it by deciding that gosh-darn-it, we’ve been working so hard
, we deserve
to…spend every dime we managed to save by doing all that work ourselves on a day at the carnival.
We deserve to go right back to treading water and wishing it were otherwise. We deserve to have a great time
for a few hours, so that we can continue being miserable the other
95% of the time due to that terrible gap between actual income
and what we need to make some headway
The larger things are obvious. The smaller things…are subtle, and harder to put down. It feels so awful, putting down those itty-bitty
It can feel like the ultimate defeat, saying that a $2 latte just isn’t in your budget right now.
But it’s actually the ultimate victory. It’s a moment when you take your eyes off now
and acknowledge that what you really
want isn’t impossible. It isn’t
beyond your grasp – it’s there. You can
You just have to choose
it…not merely in the abstract moments when you’ve had a little too much wine and are pondering what you woulda if you only coulda, but for real, for keeps
Am I deprived? Nah. I’m living in and for a dream, that’s all. It may look like deprivation from the outside, but then it’s hard to see what I can see from out there.
I see not having credit card statements coming in each month. I see having a net worth back in the black again. I see having equity in this house no matter what
the market decides to do. I see money in the bank, and the ability to let go of that month to month worry about it.
Am I willing to give up on all that for a burrito, or a soda? A latte, maybe, or a just this once
Nah. I’ll patch an awful lot of jeans, plant peas by the hundreds and eat nothing but zucchini before I give up on it.
Because I’m totally worth it.
I totally am