Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Money, Money, Money...Money

"Practicing gratitude, we feel rich, full, enough. For those of us with a tendency toward greed, practicing gratitude can be like eating before you go grocery shopping."--Laura Jomon Martin

My older friend Linda loves anything new--or at least, new to her. If someone is getting rid of, say, a glass coffee table or a set of kitchen chairs, she can't pass it up. Her neighbor sells her all kinds of things--frog stuffed animals, a used television even though she has two TVs and four rooms, dining room chairs with tall backs that loom like gargoyles over her tiny kitchen table. Every week that I visit her she has some new acquisition to show me. She has a back-up cell phone even though she hardly ever leaves the house, a motorized wheelchair that sits untouched up against the wall, and an extra bed for those overnight visitors that have yet to materialize. When she told me yesterday that she was thinking about replacing her two perfectly good easy chairs with a couch that her neighbor was giving away, it was all I could do not to call her on her preoccupation with material things.

But I didn't have to say a word. "Some people have jobs to think about." She said, "All I have to think about all day is my furniture and things."

If I were to be honest with myself, I would have to say that the reason that Linda's chronic discontent with her stuff bothers me is because it's a condition that I also share. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about shopping: collecting coupons, making lists of books and clothes I want to buy, subscribing to shopping sites offering deep discounts. When I'm in shopping mode it's like I'm in a fog and nothing else exists but finding that next great deal. It's the very opposite of mindfulness. Yes, I may have a brief moment of clarity when I think of my household budget or the stuff that I already bought the day before, and sometimes that stops me in my tracks. Other times I live in denial, believing (right or wrong) that I deserve to buy myself something nice and that I can afford it.

This is a tough thing for me to admit because I don't want to believe that A. I'm acquisitive, even greedy at times B. I'm living an aspirational life that often centers around spending money. It was one thing when I was a single girl living in Hoboken and my bank account bore only my name. Now that I'm married, my actions affect more than one person.

That's when I pledge to go on a starvation diet. I won't buy anything but groceries for two months! I will only window-shop and I'll unsubscribe from Shop it To Me. I'll be a more mindful shopper and will only buy what I need. But then I'm faced with that gaping void again. What to do to replace that shopping high? Sweets? No, that's just as bad a habit. Alcohol? Ditto. Trashy celebrity gossip? Reality TV? No and no!

So I'm working on a list of things to do that are fun and free (or at least cheap). This is what I have so far:

Write down gratitudes
Listen to CDs I haven't played in years
Try new recipes
Take pictures when I see something unusual or compelling
Collage using old photographs, stamps, wrapping paper, pages from magazines, etc.
Take a long walk with the puppy, preferably leading to somewhere I haven't been
Reduce my book backlog by reading what I already own
Write an email to a friend or just pick up the phone
Send a pretty card to someone who will appreciate receiving it (Grandma, my Swedish cousins, etc.)
Read and write poetry. Remember how much you love poetry?
Work on that pile of hand washables. Not exactly fun, but you might find that cleaning a sweater you haven't worn in a year is almost like wearing something new.
Make a plan to write more, and then do it!
Go to the gym (someone I know who works in reception at a gym told me they have a thick binder of members who signed up at the gym but haven't checked in in months. Yet they continue to pay for membership. Gyms love these people.)
Pay the cats some attention. Maybe then they'll hate the dog less.

More suggestions are always welcome.


Tiffany Faith Lindsey said...

When I'm feeling the need to shop for books I browse Kindle -- the FREE section. It's mostly classics, but I can usually find something. I tried the library, but I'm too much of a germaphobe.

Jomon said...

Hey there -thanks for the quotational shout-out! I just keep having a pesky notion that this self needs lots of stuff to prop it up and make it look good. Great post, and thanks for such a great list!