11 September 2012

Money And Fear. Finding Your True Life.

Money And Fear

I've lived in terror of money all of my life until, perhaps,  today. I did not realize until recently how closely money is associated with the fear that grips so many people in my community and in our country. Every day I meet or speak with someone who tells me that they live in an almost obsessive terror about money. How awful, really if you think about this psychic plague.  I understand, I have been one of these people. Until recently, if I knew our very wonderful bookkeeper, a gentle and loving soul, was in the house I would drive around for an hour to avoid her, so panic-stricken was I at the thought of the bad news she had for me.

When I woke up in the night, my mind was often racing about money – when would the bills come, how would I pay them, how would I survive, what would happen to me when the money ran out, how ashamed and disgraced I would be as I fell into a pit so deep I would never climb out. When I go to the bank, I do not get a receipt stating my balance. Some people get their balance texted to them all day, I can never bear to see mine.  My mind begins racing, I cannot turn it off. I'll fall behind, be sucked under.  I realize that I am not alone, that just about everyone I know has this fear, including and especially people with lots of money. It is perhaps the one thing that binds more Americans than anything else. Everyone is terrified about money.

Some of this is our culture, which advances the idea that money is the most important thing in our lives, that we desperately need to spend a lot of it to live, to be healthy, to have a roof over our heads, to grow old, to help our children through their own lives of deprivation. It's the recession, we are told. It's the politician's fault. Or the banks. Some of it is trauma, a fear of danger common in dysfunctional, cruel or violent families. We are continuously assaulted with the importance of buying things, and if we get into money trouble, we are stained with humiliation and shame, maybe the thing we fear most. It is much worse to be in money trouble in America than it is to be a hateful, dishonest or corrupt politician.

And here's my spiritual revelation. This fear is not about money. It's  not about the recession. It's not about the economy. Our lives will not, in fact, perish if we have little or no money. If you talk to the many people who have lost all of their money, or listen to them, it is surprising to see that many are much happier and peaceful than those who fear losing it. They can get on with their lives.

And if you know a lot of people with money – I know some – then you also know money does not bring happiness or security, just another kind of terror. I have worked hard on this for years – pills, analysts, therapists, spiritual counselors. Perhaps the most important step I took was daily meditation, the first time I understood my mind and saw  how it really worked.

I have been working on this fear – it is not only about money –  and I am getting somewhere. Today I went to my bank and I got a receipt and I looked at it, and I was not afraid. The first time this was so. I separated my fear about money from the reality of my life. Like every single person reading this, money is important, an issue in my life in the past and now. And the fear will never completely vanish. But the fear comes from somewhere else, the little bed-wetting boy in me who has not met his adult counterpart. And this fear will not be my life, it will not end in this craven way.

Perhaps this fear comes in part from a political and corporate culture which has elevated money above all other moral, political or ethical concerns. And which needs people to be frightened of their health, their world, their future so that they will spend more money and then live in fear of not paying their mounting bills. Why, otherwise, would so many people submit to living in such fear? I see so many frightened people who seem to me so much better than the people running their lives and making them afraid.

Maybe part of this comes from the difficulty of stepping outside of our lives to see our own strength, worth and meaning. A friend talked to me this morning about her fear of money – she is a single parent with two teenagers –  and I put my hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye, and I said "do not let them do this to you. You are smart, strong and wonderful. Do not trivialize your life or make yourself so small as to believe that money is central to your security, safety and your ability to have a meaningful life. Or that you are a failure because you do not have a lot.  Do not live in fear of money."

Money does not bring security, I said. Money is not the most important thing. A meaningful life trumps money every time.

And this is also what I have also learned. It is not about the recession. It is not about hard times. It is about our giving pieces of ourselves away without even knowing it. Get the receipt. Look at it. Move on to your true life.

Posted in General, Live Your Life

Tale Of Two Barns: Rocky’s Long Day

Tale Of Two Barns: Rocky's Long Day

It was perhaps the most chaotic and unnerving day in Rocky's long life and he demonstrated once again to me the power of animals to deal with the world without frantic human intrusion and intervention. The old barn where he grazed was being demolished, board by board. His new stall was right in the middle of hammering, banging, sawing and nailgun firing. His world had been turned upside down, his paths blocked, his shelter askew, his hiding places invaded. In the morning, he panicked when confronted with the new poles outside his stall, sniffing and nosing them, and moving back and forth by inches.

All day, he adapted. He made his way in and out of the barn, around piles of wood and stacks of debris. He got to his favorite pasture spot several times. He would pause, tilt his head, creep forward, put his nose down and turn his ears. He used all of his senses and instincts to navigate suddenly unfamiliar terrain. And did not miss a meal. We always think we know better than they what to do and how to do it, but if I have learned nothing else in my life with animals, it is that I know very little and they are astonishingly resilient and adaptable creatures. Rocky had a long day and I imagine him having a very peaceful night out in his pasture, where he wanders at night free from flies and sun. I think Rocky had a long day, and I think he had a good day. He did not walk into a single thing, and I wish I could say the same thing for me.

Later tonight, I'll put up a Facebook photo album, "Tale Of Two Barns," a remarkable and important day for me.

Posted in Farm Journal, General

New Barn Rising

New Barn Rising

Barns are like cathedrals to me, precious monuments to a system of values – family, pride, individuality, simplicity, strength. I have been fortunate to have restored four barns in my life – now five. When I moved to Bedlam Farm, all four barns were collapsing and I spent more than $200,000 – all the money I got from the movie rights for "A Dog Year" – fixing them up, building new foundations, replaced rotten wood, adding safe lights and working doors. This is one major reason I have little money now, although not the only one (I was nuts).  I knew I would never get that money back and I surely was right about that.

Many people told me I was crazy to do that, to spend all that money on those cavernous ghosts,  and they were right, but when my time comes to leave the world, I will remember that there are five barns still standing because of me, and I will kiss Maria and go with a smile. I see rebirth and renewal in this new shelter, even as it rises in the ghostly shadows of its dying cousin.

Posted in General

Old Barn Coming Down

Old Barn Coming Down

The old barn is finally coming down, two years after it collapsed under heavy snows like so many beautiful old barns around here. It was mostly filled with junk – mattresses, old sinks, tools, and it is being dismantled unceremoniously, without too much thought given to its past. I am sorry to see it go, glad to see it go. Barns rarely seem to get the respect they deserve, it is their particular fate and destiny. In a few days it will be gone.

Posted in General

Old Barn Coming Down

New Barn Rising Up

The new barn is rising up, out of the backside of the old. One side will be wood, the other some plastic to let in the sun and warmth. Enclosed on three sides to keep out the wind. Where the donkeys and the sheep will seek shelter from the weather. It is powerful to see it coming up.

Posted in General