Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Spectrum of Reality

I'm struck lately by the odd nature of life. How we tend to refer to the bad stuff as *reality* or something that interrupts our otherwise pleasant, pain-free experience. ("Back to reality, now." "I got a major dose of reality this morning!" "Reality check!")

But this is faulty thinking.

It is all *real*.

My recent post over at Nerdy Renegade News gained its title from this very concept. I have found myself, over the past 48 hours or so, going through a roller coaster ride of experiences and emotions. And then witnessing my mind's attempts to trick me by categorizing them as either good or bad when, in fact, they all just ARE. They require no label. They are all a part of me and my life in this world at the present time.

We had an amazingly wonderful time on our concert trip to Cleveland. We came home to find a relative very sick in the hospital with what might be irreversible brain damage. Needless to say, my mind was having a hard time wrapping itself around the contrast.

So, this morning I immersed myself in the wisdom of Pema Chodron's words. If you haven't read her works, especially When Things Fall Apart, please allow me to highly recommend them to you.

Everything is real. And our attempts to seek pleasure and avoid pain are just ways our monkey mind has of tricking us into staying asleep. Preferring death over life, we cling to the familiar and try to insulate ourselves from the *bad* stuff. Or allow ourselves to get totally frazzled and knocked off kilter when they come, which they always will.

And herein lies my connection to spending! So much of it is based out of trying to meet an emotional need. I buy things to make myself feel better. If I can only *protect* myself by acquiring a possession, or groceries, or concert tickets, etc. then things will be alright.

I'm beginning to see the hilarious, faulty, never-ending cycle of this type of thinking. But, boy, is it hard to break. Instead of sitting with my uncomfortable emotions (much of what Pema Chodron and the Buddhist philosophy encourages us to do), I distract myself with shopping, acquiring, spending - or simply even surfing purchase options but not buying. :-0

Yes, of course, we needed the cat food and canned goods and toilet paper that I purchased last night. But I also realize that I was shopping to distract myself and provide a sense of comfort and accomplishment on what had been an otherwise yucky day.

And so the quest continues.

To root out the real reasons for my spending. To bring them to the surface, dust them off, look at them in the light - and accept them for what they are. And then, if need be, work diligently to replace them with healthier choices that will serve my higher self in more effective ways.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Here and There

I'm here. And have been mulling over many relevant blog posts in my head lately. None of which have made it onto this screen....yet.

My spending this week is so so. I've been diagnosed with a new health ailment, which requires me to overhaul my eating habits. Thus, a significant outlay in different kinds of food. Oy.

We'll be heading to Cleveland this weekend for a concert. It's quite snowy and somewhat treacherous on the roads here in Ohio these days, so please send safe travel mercies our way.

In the meantime, you can check out this relatively new group of like-minded folks. Good stuff.

Until next time...

May you have a delicious meal from an unexpected source :-)


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Voice Weighs In

I recently found this book at the library. As I'm re-reading the Not Buying It book, I thought this one would be a perfect fit for my current project, too.

The author chronicles her journey of giving up one important thing - but only for a month at a time. I was skeptical at first, thinking, "That's too easy. She's not the real deal."

But, after reading the first couple of chapters, I must say that I was impressed with her writing and insights. Her experience is no less (or more) valid than Levine's - just different. And while I cannot relate directly to many of her usual indulgent spending patterns (alcohol, sample sales, expensive outfits), what she gains from her attempts at giving these things up still mirrors my quest to some extent.

One humorous chapter even has her giving up elevators for a month. Her office is on the 10th floor! Her tales of how her coworkers react are funny and revealing.

So, if you're interested in gaining wisdom and companionship from someone who wrote, "Each monthly choice has a personal and significant "ouch" factor for me, a profound feeling of discomfort that accompanied the mere suggestion of living an entire month without chocolate, elevators, or television. My selections were designed to push me out of my traditional comfort zone, where a change in habits would force uneasiness, questions, and finally scrutiny. My insatiable desire for "stuff" was stimulated by a consumerist society that encourages purchasing faster, newer, and better products." (pgs. 3-4)...then by all means, read her book and let me know what you glean.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Now, for a personal update:

January came in with moderate success. I spent about $100 more than I earned, but that was mostly due to my starting a new job and adjusting my hours for the holidays. For the month, I had 8 days where I didn't buy anything.

And I've done fairly well this past week with not spending. In fact, I've had 7 days so far in February where I haven't purchased anything! I'm getting more focused on where my money goes; tracking each day's expenses on a calendar.

I'm more motivated than ever to save money for things I *really* want to do, so I'm weighing each purchase in light of those. I'm also looking at what I can do and/or sell to make a few extra bucks. This takes creativity, but it's a fun challenge.

I've slipped up a couple of times and justified some of what I call "creative financing". You see, not only do I have my personal checking account, but I also have a business account and a joint account that we use for household expenses. A few things that were wants -(treats, books, an online seminar, a nice dinner out) but technically not needs - found their way into my possession via those other accounts. Yikes!

Yes, I still have some wiggle room in my spending. But I'm trying hard not to go outside the boundaries I've established for this project. I'll need some more will power and self-discipline, I can tell. :-0

I'm curious, on what things do you splurge or go outside your budget to acquire? What do the voices in your head say when you're taking that item up to the counter? Then do you have regret? Or not? What motivates you to stay on track with your spending?

Please let me take a moment to thank you for joining me on this journey. Your comments and confessions help me along the path and reinforce the mission to Not Buy It.

Also, much gratitude goes to those of you who are spreading the Don't Buy It - Rebate Bribe message! As Bob Dylan so poignantly sang, "The times they are a changin'". And as Barack Obama has declared, "Yes We Can!".

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hello, My Name is Lisa O.

And I'm an American consumer.

The lure to leave my house in search of goods to purchase is amazingly strong! With this current theme of Not Buying It, it's quite insightful to see how often my little brain tries to trick me into spending. Indeed, my inner dialogue is in full swing most of the time these days.

Now that my work schedule has changed, and I have more days off and time at home (hooray!), my mind thinks I should spend this extra time by shopping. I recognize this reality as a long-standing trait about myself; one to which I am only now calling it for what it really is!

In the past two days, here are some of things I've considering doing/buying:

1) a trip to the grocery/big box store for supplementary items (when I already have enough stuff here at home on which to exist for at least a week or more!)

2) a venture to my favorite local skin care shop to buy some new face cream (I AM running low on one particular kind. But I have a plethora of others with which I can certainly make do for now.)

3) a blogging adventure and some hangin' out time at a local coffee shop (Mostly for the change of scenery and free WiFi. But then I'd be spending money on gas and coffee, right?)

4) a trip to Trader Joe's to pick up a few ingredients for a certain recipe I want to make. (see #1 rebuttal). I even justified this trip in my mind by telling myself I'd combine this trip with some mall-walking while there. My mind was clever in trying to bribe me with the ever-prevalent guilt-ridden demand for exercise!)

5) a lunch outing to one of our local favorite spots (which just happens to be near the Mac store, where I could gawk at fun,new accessories for my laptop!)

Shopping, shopping, shopping!!! It's all about shopping!!! Aaaggghhh!!!

Well, with concerted effort, here's what I've done instead:

-Stayed home
-Enjoyed peaceful quality time with my hubby and cats
-Watched birds and squirrels at the feeders in my back yard
-Took a walk out in nature, in the park/woods near my house
-Ate all meals at home (using what was already on hand.)
-Worked on our taxes
-Looked at my bank account to see how little disposable income I truly have right now :-0
-Updated the Peace Things web page
-Uploaded photos from my camera
-Visited with my brother-in-law
-Talked on the phone

In fact, I have an almost infinite list of chores that could keep me busy around this house! The sorting, cleaning, and fixing-up needs are immense!

But, alas, here is the realization of my *long* history of distracting myself through shopping. Yeah, this is going to be a tough year of restructuring not only my spending but my entire thought process, belief system, and behavior patterns all-together. Whew!

I have a strong sense that this radical shift calls for some 12 Step action.
Here's my take:

The 12 Steps (minus 4)
(excerpted from www.12steps.org and modified herein by this author)

Step 1 - Admitted we were powerless over our consumerism.
Step 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. (As our spending ties in directly with our values and beliefs.)
Step 5 - Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our consumer spending.
(Thus, the purpose of this blog!)
Step 6 - Were entirely ready to have all these defects of character removed.
Step 7 - Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
Step 8 - Made a list of all debts we owe and ramifications of our past spending habits and became willing to make amends for them all.
Step 10 - Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 12 - Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Because "How you spend your money is how you vote on what exists in the world."
~Vicki Robin

Friday, February 1, 2008

It Only Takes a Spark...

...to get a fire going.

Click on over here to see what the awesome folks at The Simple Living Network did with my idea from last week. Incredible!

The many tools they've provided will make it easy to promote this timely and much-needed concept.

Will you help us?

If so, write and tell me what you're doing. I'd love to hear how the fire is spreading!

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