.release.

On any given day, and on this day especially, I may choose to release what no longer blesses me, what no longer serves the highest and best of my intentions.

I have been trying to live by these words lately.  Letting go of those things that weigh heavily, keeping and accepting and calling to myself those things that make me better, that bring me good.

Today, however, I am feeling the weight of those things that no longer bless me, and I am struggling to release them.  Right now, it’s a feeling of seeping fear, about the economy, about my future, a feeling of having somehow failed.   There is the very real possibility – more of an eventuality, at this point – that unless something in our economy dramatically changes, I will be laid off in a few months.  I know I am not utterly without a safety net – thank god I have had so many advantages, thank god I know how to advocate for myself – but when I think about unemployment my chest tightens and my stomach turns.  It’s not so much that I worry I won’t be able to survive in the day to day; I know that I will get by, I have resources, education, friends and family.  It’s not a fear of any immediate privation that scares me – it’s the fear that I will have failed, that I will continue to fail, that I’ll fail to find a new job, I’ll fail to be able to pay my own bills, I’ll lose that independence, and while other people continue to move forward, I will be falling behind.   I’ll have to ask for help, and I’ll have to accept it when it’s offered, and I won’t live up to my own expectations for myself.  And I finally understand why so many of my clients who are eligible for food stamps or welfare get upset when I recommend they apply.  I quietly questioned them for letting their pride get in the way of their well-being; I thought they were foolish to turn down help on mere principle.  But I am discovering for the first time that there is a fierce joy in being self-reliant.  In that way, pride is an important thing; I am already wincing in anticipation of mine being bruised.   So it is time to write that out and let it go…

On any given day, and on this day especially, I may choose to release what no longer blesses me, what no longer serves the highest and best of my intentions.

…..

On a more positive note, this whole fear of being laid off issue has forced me to think more about what kind of life I want to create for myself.  I never thought I would be wealthy; I knew going into legal aid wasn’t exactly the way to make the big bucks, and I was prepared for it.  But I have surprised myself at how often I long for more – more money, more financial security, more… stuff.  This is I think in part because of the way I grew up – my father (who I admire endlessly) worked his ass off for years to get where he is today, in a very American-dream-esque kind of story.  We started out with virtually nothing (my mother told me recently that she used to wear her one “good” shirt – basically a cotton t-shirt with a collar and pocket – to every PTA meeting, every parent-teacher conference, everything, because she couldn’t afford to buy any nicer clothes.  She worried that it would get stained or ripped, so she wouldn’t eat in it and treated it with great care.  I get a little teary every time I think about that).  Over the years, my dad stayed late, traveled, worked hard, got promotions.  Today my family is fairly well off, but I remember when dinners were mac ‘n cheese or tuna sandwiches for weeks on end.  I suppose I just kind of took it for granted that that’s the course my life would take as well: poor, work hard, pulling bootstraps and whatnot, ending in some kind of middle-class stability. As I was talking it over with Finn (who grew up in a 3rd world country and whose parents were both teachers) we realized that I’m the only one of the two of us who has this assumption regarding the trajectory our life will take.  Not that she doesn’t want a house, financial stability, etc., but she doesn’t see it as inevitable (or necessary) in quite the way I do.  Needless to say, she is much less panicked about the turn the economy is taking.

It occurred to me today that everyone I know lives up to the edge of their means, no matter how much they’re making.  I wonder, if I made $20,000 more than I make today, would I continue to live the way I’m living now and save that $20,000?  Not likely.  That’s not the way most people have been taught to live.  We push and push and push ourselves to make more so that we can have more so that we can finally attain – whatever, the ease, the clothes, the house.  Wants turn into (what feel like) needs over time.  But… when I step back and take stock, I need to remember that I’m okay.  Would I like to make more money?  Well, sure.  But as long as my basic needs are met, and I’m not in crisis, it’s just a matter of the number and degree of things I can afford.  And I need to remember that it’s okay to not play that game.

I’ve realized that a lot of my anxiety stems from feeling as though I’m somehow falling behind my peers – that everyone is going to do “better” than I will, that they’re going to make more money and that they’re going to be happier and I’m still going to be in the same place 3, 5, 10 years from now.  But wow, that is a really fucked up way of looking at my own life.  When it comes down to it: I’m blessed.  I have family and friends and cats and Finn and a bright future and a lot to celebrate.  Dissatisfaction with my paycheck doesn’t change any of that, and I need to stop giving it the power to change the way I look at my own success and my own happiness.  All I would do with more money is spend it, likely on things I don’t even know I’m missing now.  And I sincerely doubt it would make me any happier.  So what am I so worried about?

So.  Thank you for bearing with me through what turned into a mini-processing sesh.  Anything you’d like to release, while we’re at it?

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1 Comment

Filed under anxiety, Finn, quotables, type A personality: check

One response to “.release.

  1. presbyqueerian

    Pomegranate, thank you so much for your reflections here. I think that you are absolutely right about the conditioning to live at the edge of our means, and even beyond that to horde what we have and not share it with others. It is a concept I think we need all to struggle with to think about how we can use our resources to the most fruitful ends, to abandon flat screen tv purchases for charitable giving.

    Secondly, I want to impart a great message I heard during J.K Rowling’s graduation speech to Harvard. She stood there in front of students for whom there is tremendous pressure to be ‘the best’ and told us never to be afraid of failure because “it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” Rowling described the benefits of failure as a “stripping away of the inessential.”

    It was an amazing speech, and a great read http://tinyurl.com/rowlingspeech

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