Tuesday, February 23, 2016

When Money Finds Purpose

I am feeling really good about this no shopping thing. Most of the time.

I am human.

It is not that the desire to buy has completely gone away. I still want things but the decision to not buy has been made infinitely easier. I was spending so much time thinking of things that could make my life simpler but in reality, it was a huge waste of my mental energy. 

But still, it is hard not to buy things. I have come to realize how often and how easy it is to make up a reason for why we need something. A pursuit of a magical, easier, more convenient life. One that we see in the movies and want our pictures to project. One that projects our happiest dreams. 

But in reality, if I can't look around and see the magic around already, then that pursuit will never end. 

With all that said, the most staggering part of this challenge has been realizing how much money I was misusing. I had imagined that comparing December to January would result in a fair amount of money saved, but I was WAY off. I was spending three times the amount I thought.

I looked over the records and it was amazing to see little things here, a small purchase there all totally benign and insignificant but adding up to excess and wasted opportunities. I was spending money on things I like instead of investing in things that I love.

In those numbers I saw time lost. How much money that could have paid off student loans, money that could have been saved up for a down payment, money that could have been spent on a family trip. My family is the most precious thing in my life and in an effort to get through the day to day with treats or new clothes, I was neglecting a long-term perspective. I want more for my family than nice clothes. I want to spend money on things that will create memories and traditions, to develop a greater sense of unity and love.

Every now and then when I am grocery shopping I will pick up a chocolate milk or a lunchable for Max, to surprise him when he gets home from school. Lately, when I picked him up he would ask if there was a treat waiting at home. The answer is usually no (I do it once a month at most) and when Max hears that he sometimes gets upset. He wants a special treat everyday. I started to explain to Max that if we have special treats too often, they lose that special quality. They become expected and ordinary and sometimes that can be good, but sometimes if we have them less they stay more special and more exciting. He doesn't always like this response but the more I explain it, the more I feel it is true.
Just because I am not shopping, doesn't mean I am not buying things. It just means that what I buy is has either gone through my checklist of being completely necessary or obviously brings family together. Each time I go through the checklist, mental energy is spent better understanding what will actually bring gratitude into my life. Money spent pursuing goals is good. Buying a coat for my toddler is necessary. Getting a gift for a friend who is hurting is worthy. I get to decide what purpose money has in my life and the process of doing that has made each purchase more thoughtful and in reality more special.

In the end it is doing exactly what money should be doing, taking care of what what matters most to us. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

It Feels Like Living

Lately my mind has been flitting to and fro from various ideas and aspirations. I have created a ginormous grab bag of "Things I Want to Do" and feel frustrated at its weight and discomfort. Each day I mentally go over my goals and how to accomplish them all.
But there is only so much one person can do. 
I feel empowered when I exercise, pushing my body beyond what I thought it capable off. The trainer for the class I have been attending three times a week really loves burpees. Every class he adds them in, pushing us and our bodies. He challenges, "Try adding in a push-up," and I inwardly roll my eyes. 

Is what I am doing not enough?

But I keep going. Jump down, feet back, feet in, jump up. Sometimes I can't even muster a jump so I weakly stand swinging my arms in the air like the first descent on a roller-coaster. My inner voice repeats the thought, Keep going, keep moving, one more, one more, one more.

Sometimes I add-in the push-up. Sometimes I don't.

As I continue to move forward, pushing my body and my brain, a surge of energy rushes in. I can't find its source but it is there filling me with power and confidence in my abilities.

I wonder where it came from, how it helped me to jump and reach higher. My heart thumps with electricity. 

It feels like living.
I return home and see my laptop sitting on the table. I see a basket of laundry to be folded. I see my scriptures waiting to be studied and my child staring up at me with hope in his eyes of a story read, a song sung, a game to be played. I open the fridge and see disorder, grocery lists, meal plans. I get dressed trying to be grateful for the clothes on my back while suppressing desires for more stripes, more florals, more shoes, more more more. 

There is too much I want to do, I need to do, I have to do. 

So I prioritize. God and family first. Always. Because at the end of the day, when I offer up prayers, I feel the most peace when I have these things in order. When I give my heart to that which is eternal, that which lasts.

But here comes the tricky part, do I fold laundry or write? Do I meal plan or life plan?
There are so many things I want to do and create and write about, but the reality is that there are beautiful children to be loved RIGHT NOW. When I am fully present with them it feels otherworldly, divine.

So I grasp on to that.

I keep doing what feels hard and trivial and I see myself expand. I keep reading stories and dancing and teaching. I plan meals that nourish and activities that bring us together. I keep folding laundry and hugging and kissing increasing expressions of love. Through it all I feel my soul filled with an electric peace. Neurons in my brain make tiny explosions of joy as I discover that my family is my greatest goal. 

And I feel myself living. 

Keep going, Keep moving, one more, one more, one more.