Just when I was finally getting the fine balance between needing and wanting material things, the economy goes into a surprise recession, leaving unemployment at all time high, and stocks at an all time low. Growing up in a very conservative family, led me to quickly learn the difference between my needs and wants. It was very simple. Necessity….. important, wants….. not important. Although money was tight growing up with a family of 7, we were clothed, presents every birthday and Christmas, vacations to the beach, a master carpenter for a dad to make our house look architecturally beautiful and a master housewife of a mother, who could stretch $5 dollars to last a full week. I remember early on buying my first shirt all by myself and proudly telling my mother that not only was the shirt nice, BUT, it was on sale, the color would go well with my current wardrobe allowing me to wear it numerous times, and every button, lace and piece of fabric was inspected, so it was in perfect shape to last a lifetime. In other words, money well spent and the approved look on my mothers face reflected a proudness in my capabilities to stretch a dollar just like mom. I took this money memory and filed it under necessities, because truth be told, it was a shirt that was needed and really bought because of the sale and because of it’s many uses… not because I saw the shirt from a distance and HAD to have it. I soon grasped the concept I could maximize a dollar with ease, but when looking around at my small accumulation of goods… they were necessities at the time, yes, but was it what I really wanted? Unfortunately, no. Whenever I did receive a special gift or something I really liked, I did what any other conservative person would do… I held onto it. Put it away for safe keeping. God forbid I should wear something of importance and expense only to lose or break it. “Oh my gosh, it’s beautiful… gorgeous in fact. You shouldn’t have, I love it!” An hour later, find me laying it to rest in my jewelry box of fine treasures only to be kept and sheltered from view. It wasn’t until many years later, a friend gave me a beautiful arrangement of bath and body products stuffed in a decorative container. I truly loved it so much I placed it for all to see in my bathroom. One year later, that same friend came for a visit and had to use the bathroom. Proud that I still had this aromatic gift on display and of course that the bathroom was clean… I showed her the doorway and left her some privacy as I gathered our lunch together in the kitchen. She came out with a huge grin on her face holding the basket. In my eyes, I’m thinking, of her delight that I still have her gift and on a showcase for all to see, right? No. Her grin turned into a question of why’s instead. “You still have this basket I gave you?” “Of course, I love it!” I returned happily. “But, it’s loaded with all your favorites. I bought this because I wanted you to “use” these items, not show them off.” Huh? This wasn’t making sense. “If I used the products, then they would be gone, finished, kaput, never to be seen again.” “Aaaaaa, yeah Mare… that’s kinda the point.” “What good is my gift if it can’t be used or enjoyed for that matter?” “Haven’t you heard of the phrase, “it’s better to have loved and lost, to never have loved at all?” Why, I never even dreamed that a phrase created for heartbreak, could mean the very same for gifts or belongings. Here I was filing away all my joys so that I wouldn’t have to go through the heartache of losing, damaging or consuming it’s beauty. It never dawned on me that if I used up a favorite lavender lotion, that I could buy another. It seemed wasteful, like I was throwing away products or money. But in reality, I was just influencing myself that I wasn’t worthy. Not worthy of fine jewels, new furniture made custom to my liking or fragrant lotions to be used up and once again repurchased. All these years unconsciously acting like the two guys from “Wayne’s World”….. on my knees flapping my arms up and down… “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!” But I am worthy. We all are.
Only now after tweaking that intricate balance of accumulating items I really want paired with a decent price, I watched a powerful Lisa Ling special on Oprah the other day as Tent Cities continue to rise. Tragic. Horrible. My eyes welled up with compassion and guilt of what I had. Educated people like you and me who had careers, money, houses and family, now living in tents. How quickly my survival instincts set back into my old ways of “I don’t need’s”. “Really, these ol’ stretched out, dishelved underwear should be good for another year!” But as bad as the economy gets, I cannot allow myself to go back to that little girl purchasing her very first shirt again. Once disillusioned by my perception of wants and saddened by it’s unworthiness, can I honestly say that I am grateful for mom’s many tidbits of witty spending advice forever instilled in me, coupled with a new value I’ve placed on myself, and trust that as bad as things may get, at least I know with gratitude, that I am loving and enjoying my family, my friends, my things, the here and now…. then never to have loved them at all.