Tuesday, June 3, 2014

My Intentions

It is well known that Americans don't have enough savings, particularly for retirement.   They also carry a lot of debt.  It is so well known, I don't need to bother looking up any statistics to prove it to you.  It is common knowledge.

My intent is to help the 99% repair their relationship with money and turn their lives around.  It is a daunting task that has three elements I fear I may not be able to overcome.

The first, why listen to me?  I graduated from UC Davis with a BA in English, back when a BA seemed to mean enough every educated person didn't feel compelled to continue on for an MA or PhD.  My dream was to be a writer and I have spent decades working in retail and playing at writing and photography.  At the same time, valuing my free time and freedom itself, I have worked part time,  three half days a week, for nearly two decades.  Although my income lands me solidly among the 99%, the rest of my statistics are a little different.  I don't carry debt.  I have accumulated savings, including retirement savings.  I have paid off my mortgage and own my house free and clear.

At least all of that was true when I began this project.  Since then, I have been trying to sell my deceased parents home.  Between paying to have a bridge repaired and having dumpsters delivered in order to ready the property for sale, my savings have been whittled down significantly.  Even as it undermines my own confidence that I can do what I already did and teach others to do the same, it also underscores the necessity.

Money is a tool.  That's all it is.  Money is a tool by which you can buy education, comfort, and freedom.  They say money can't buy happiness, but it can buy things which will bring a smile to a loved one's face.  It can buy experiences a person will remember for the rest of his life.  Money is nothing but a tool, but it isn't one like a hammer or a saw.  It is more like putty or sand.  You can find yourself running out and wishing you had more.

Second, a huge percentage of my financial strategy involves the Law of Attraction.  Every time I open my mouth and try to explain its principles to somebody, I see that look on her face.  The one that suggests I just told her that fairies are real and I was haunted last night by a banshee.

There was a joke on Saturday Night Live years ago about learning to be an art critic.  After learning the fundamentals and beginning to critique a gallery's art, the student turned on patrons around her and criticized their outfits, their postures, their smiles.  Looking for the negative and pointing it out comes as naturally to humans as breathing.  When we've actually been given permission and free reign to do so?  We become relentless bullies, nearly unstoppable.

The Law of Attraction is the belief that "like attracts like."  We create our world with our thoughts.

I once read about a social experiment.  A researcher gathered a group of people together and had them look at two straight lines drawn on a chalkboard.  The two lines were exactly the same length, but the researcher had placed one individual in the crowd who claimed one of the lines were longer.  It turns out, I can give you advice and tell you what you should do and you probably won't follow it, but one person placed in a crowd, confidently repeating a lie, can cause you to agree with him and doubt your own eyesight.

Every day we are surrounded with a negative onslaught of news supporting the notion of a world of scarcity.  If abundance is mentioned, it is still framed as there being enough for everyone's needs, but not their greed.  Many of us buy things we don't really want or need, frantically stuffing ourselves to feel happy, while feeling judged for our attempts.

I ask you, who hasn't purchased some stupid, silly item, perhaps for as little as ten dollars, that seemed so great at the time, but we are later ashamed to admit?

How can I ever convince drowning victims, under water for the second time, flailing about with no idea who will save them, that they can save themselves simply by changing their thoughts?

At this point in my life, it feels like I have been every type of emotionally damaged and unhappy there is to be.  I can remember the days when my mouth would involuntarily scowl if I so much as saw a poster proclaiming "Love is a warm puppy."  It's as if negativity isn't happy just existing.  It has to roll around in the muck continually reaffirming its ugly existence.

"Ugh!  This smells really bad.  Here smell it."

"Ugh!  That really stinks."

I have been dedicated to changing the way I think for decades.  It still took me years to realize that love?  It IS a warm puppy.  Sort of.  Or at least the sustained joyful warm feelings about life and its wonderful possibilities that you might feel when enjoying the company of a baby of almost any species.

Third, we are all unreliable narrators.  In writing, an unreliable narrator is someone who tells a story, but who has a warped view and perception of everything.  We each have our personal story and we tend to believe the details we tell ourselves.  Yet we experience our lives through the distorted window of only seeing through our own point of view.

Think about that room with the chalkboard and two lines.  Even though they end up united in an answer as to the length of the lines, if you ask them about the experience afterwards, they will all have a different story to tell.  Some will have a simple recitation of facts.  Others will have anecdotal details which may not appear to be connected to the event, or at least not to anyone other than the person whose viewpoint felt they were important.  Unless the researchers are included, probably not one story will include the information one person was asked to lie.

At the same time, we continually second guess ourselves.  We say we want to lose weight and doubt we have the will power.  We ask the universe for some money.  Buy a lottery ticket and say "I knew that was a waste of money" as we throw our losing ticket into the trash.

I recently had a bad break up.  I loved that man so much.  My heart felt as if it had shattered into a million pieces knowing it had ended.  I cried and cried and cried.  One day, posting happy little kittens to cheer myself up on Facebook, I noticed how many friends I had who were talking and interacting with me.  My heart flooded with love and appreciation.  It was then that I realized how close I had come to seeing only what I had lost when all I had to do was turn my head and see all of the good things and people who are still right here with me.

Really that is everything I am trying to get you to do.  I am trying to get you to stop focusing on your losses and failures and to look and really see life's wonders.  I want you to appreciate all of your good fortune and know it didn't happen by accident.  You're not an ungrateful sinner who deserves only God's tolerance and indulgence.  You aren't a bad boy who is too lazy or lacks willpower.  Each and every one of us is no less a miracle than a blade of grass growing despite humans blocking its path with asphalt.  Each and every one of us is as important and essential as every atom that makes up a molecule.

C'mon.  (Metaphorically) take my hand and we can do this thing.  Just do one thing for me first.

Turn your head.