Monday, April 04, 2011

Money Monday: April 4, 2011

Have you ever thought about money, and your relationship with it? Not in terms of how much you have, or wish you had, or how much you make or someone else makes, or how much would equate to happiness or what the net take would be if you won the lottery…but about money itself?

Money is, to me, a fascinating thing. On the one hand, it is an extremely logical part of the social evolution of our species; it is far more convenient than, say, carrying around a pocketful of shiny pebbles or a bag of necklaces you’ve made from seashells. It’s easier to value, too – I mean, imagine if we each went through our day trying to barter for everything.

“Whaddya mean my camel steak isn’t worth two fence posts? Are you crazy?! Listen here, pal, our other neighbor gave me seven loaves of bread and a bottle of peapod schnapps for one of these babies yesterday, ya know…!!!” “Ya, well, he likes camel steak…whereas I think it takes like dried poo on shoe leather, so, you can keep it!”

Makes perfect sense that we came up with this money stuff, with its easily grasped valuation, portability, and equanimity: Nobody looks at a dollar and says, “Eh, what I am supposed to do with that? I already have twenty of them in the shed…” (Well, nobody I know of, anyway…but if you happen to know anybody thinking of putting up a couple sacks of dollar bills on Freecycle to get rid of them, let me know, ‘kay?)

Money also follows extremely basic mathematical rules: Two plus two is four. A hundred pennies is a dollar. Four quarters is a dollar, too. You need X% return on investment to get ahead. If you have $200,000 in your retirement account, your “safe” annual withdrawal (at 4%) is $200,000 * 0.04 = $8,000, for a monthly paycheck of $8,000 / 12 = $666.6666666 ohmygah, it’s the mark of the BEAST…which is fitting, because you’re gonna be eatin’ cat food on that, sistah…!

What a sensible, logical, thoroughly-understandable invention money is!

And yet…how bizarre it is, too.

Because somehow, it manages to define our lives. It determines what we can eat and drink, what we can wear, who we will hang out with, where we will live, what kind of schools our children will attend. Its presence permits the fulfillment of dreams; its absence can cause untold miseries to pile upon us without end.

We obsess about it, yet throw it away at every opportunity. We worry about it, to the point where we enter into blistering, hateful battles with the people who are supposed to be our shield-mates – our spouses, our siblings, our parents.

Houses are divided over it.

Crimes are committed in its name.

People even kill themselves over it.

Which always brings me up short because…money isn’t real.

It’s just numbers. Tokens. Placeholders. Dots on a screen.

Your life is real. Your hopes and dreams are real. What you want to have, do and be – those are real.

Money is just part of the game, pieces we shuffle around in an attempt to win our prize.

Seems like all too often, we forget that and give it far more power than it rightfully deserves. We get all caught up in the emotions around it, tangle it into what we dare to dream for ourselves, transfer our attention to it and forget what it is supposed to exist to do.

Have you ever stopped to think about your relationship with money? How it makes you feel, and more importantly why?

Why is it that it can get you into a fight with your spouse faster than just about anything else, short of infidelity or leaving the cap off the toothpaste?

Why do some people spend inordinate amounts of time and effort to hoard it up, piles and piles of cash locked away in a savings account somewhere, while they live on crusts of bread with a little peanut butter on them until eventually they die and we all marvel at the story of This Guy who, like, totally lived this weird almost-homeless existence of abject misery, and then left, like, $2M behind?

Why do other people throw it away faster than it comes in, in a constant attempt to appear wealthy, to “keep up” with that mysterious Jones family, to have a thin veneer of “good life” smeared over a termite-weakened structure…and we sit around scoffing, Ya, like they’re foolin’ ANYBODY…they’re living on borrowed money, they ain’t got SQUAT of their own, never have, never will!!

Why does this person shy away like a gun-shy deer at the slightest hint of financial success (“how come she quit that job? It’s like, every time she’s in the slightest danger of not living on the edge, she immediately chucks the whole offer into the garbage!”)…while that one constantly chases after the next “sure bet” no matter how often s/he loses everything on them (“He wired $2,500 to Nigeria? AGAIN?!...seriously, did his mom drop him on his head a lot as a baby, or what?”)?

Why is it that what we want most always seems to be out of reach, because somehow, we just couldn’t seem to do what we needed to do, financially, to get it?

Why do we keep making the same mistakes, over and over again?

(And why are we so good at spotting the mistakes of others, while our own are all, well, I don’t know, because I personally don’t have any…) (HAHAHAHAHAHA! {snort!*giggle*hiccup*}

The Experts™ frequently say that we do all these crazy, obviously-idiotic-to-anybody-except-us things because of our relationship with money, engrained into us by our own personal histories, taught to us at our momma’s knees, reinforced by every mistake we’ve made.

And I’m sure they’re right.

But in the same way that we are not defined by that Really Bad Relationship we had that one time with that one person, just as we can break free of the cycle of picking Mr. Wrong every single time, we can decide to put money in its rightful place, too.

Have you ever thought about your relationship with money? Tried to track back why you do the things you know “all” your friends are gossiping about when your back is turned?

And if you have…have you tried forgiving yourself, and whatever-all hurt you there…and letting it go now?

We are creatures of now, really; the past may serve to teach and guide, but we don’t live there…and we shouldn’t be slaves to it. I believe we should accept those painful parts we like to ignore or fight or cram down into nice, neat little boxes and pretend we’ve handled – and then let them go. Without a whole lot of hoopla or ceremony, either; just let ‘em go their way.

And then go forward yourself, and make your world what you want it to be...recognizing your tools for what they are and acting accordingly.

Money is just a tool, one of many pieces on the board. Granted, it’s not a pawn – it’s at least a knight, possibly even a queen, but push come to shove, it’s still just a game piece.

You are the meaning behind the game.

You can win this thing…if you know what you want, keep a clear head and don’t let shiny lights, ancient wounds and the incessant noise life throws out distract you.

And keep the pieces where they darned straight belong.

7 comments:

Terena said...

Bravo, woman! excellent post.

Sarah Wilson said...

Yes, yes, yes.

I have found myself becoming increasingly wealthy (starting off with very little) and increasingly ill at ease with it. I liked spending it, I liked giving it away, I didn't want - say - to donate a large chunk permanently to one cause. I came to dislike it but couldn't live without lots and lots and lots of it.

So I have now dived off the jetty and am re-training as a primary school teacher. For a year I will have no money. And then I will be on a graduate salary (four fifths of fuck all in common parlance). And it feels very, very good.

So far...

Monday's Child said...

So perfectly stated. Thank you.

Marty52 said...

Beautiful post... much to think about. Thanks for that.

Colleen Mole said...

Excellent post lady! Reminds me of Your Money or Your Life step...something-er-other (haven't gotten to that one yet). Have you read that book? Thoughts on it?

Kate said...

Yes. I constantly try to stop myself from feeling poor by spending money. Which then makes me poor FOR REAL. I cannot seem to stop doing this, although I am (slowly) getting better now that I have identified that no, I don't actually want that coffee. I want the feeling the coffee gives me.

I think that's why I like making my own bread/clothes/growing my own food. Because it helps me realise the value of things - objects and needs - as separate from money. I can FEEL rich and plentiful without throwing my mortgage repayments down the drain.

Steph B said...

Excellent! And very thought-provoking.