In The Money
October 16, 2012 § 8 Comments
It has been a productive summer and early fall, insomuch as productivity can be measured in outbuildings constructed, sawlogs sawn, firewood dropped, skidded, bucked, split, and stacked, kimchi made, beeves and pigs dispatched of, sausages mixed and stuffed, pasture cleared, soils amended, .22 rounds shot, blueberries harvested, mushrooms foraged, and so forth. As measured in paying work, well, not so much. I have spent less time at my desk this summer than I might have ever thought possible, and every time it seems as if I can no longer keep the ball in play, I am graced with some project or another, the paycheck for which is just enough to return to the world beyond my office windows.
Somehow, and certainly not inconsequentially, the writing of my most recent book about money and our cultural relationship to it has all but severed a long held spell I have been under for most of my adult life. Although have always been thrifty, perhaps even cheap, and although we have never gone without the basic essentials for even a day, I have nonetheless lived under a pall of worry regarding our finances. For too long I have chalked this up as an inevitable response to the uncertainty of self-employment, but now I understand that was merely a story I told myself and anyone who cared to listen. The truth is, I have often let my concerns over money lure me out of the flow of my life and keep me from becoming fully immersed in the portion of my world that is unrelated to my financial well being. I sense that I have not been alone in this regard.
That has not been the case this summer, or if it has, to a much lesser extent. Indeed, we are making and have less money than at any point in the past 15 or so years. And yet, we feel lighter and freer and nearer to our sense of what our lives should be than at any point in the past 15 or so years. Furthermore, we have noticed an interesting phenomenon: The less we think about money, the less we seem to need it. I am not yet sure of the pathways from the former to the latter, but I suspect they are pragmatic, rather than energetic or spiritual (although I can’t be sure). Because the less time I spend in pursuit of money, the more time I spend immersed in the skills and activities that cost not only cost nothing, but actually “pay” us in productive capacity. And the more I immerse myself in these skills and activities, the more I am drawn to others who share these interests, who both teach and learn from me.
All of this is not to say that we have somehow created some sort of moneyless utopian society in the rural hollows of northern Vermont. My life is still very much tied to the monetary realm, as I suspect it always will be. I guess what strikes me is that even within the context of this reality, I have a choice: I can allow money and the angst it generates to lead me by these reins. Or I can refuse to relinquish such control, and lead it.