Running a small business right now is, I'm assuming, shitty for everyone right? I guess there are some businesses out there jamming along just fine, but this post isn't for them. I'm talking to the people having to fire or cut pay from people they admire and love. I'm talking to the people who are about to run out of unemployment and wondering what in the world is going on. This post is also to assuage some of my own fears. I find that in writing, I can begin to figure out which direction I want to start trying to climb out of whatever anxiety-fueled hole I've dug for myself. Right now, we are in a weird place. We just left a maintenance meeting, discussing all the things that need fixing on our physical plant and ways to maximize our space. Then my husband and I left in a stupor, because upon reflection, we don't have the means right now to do much of any of it...We are teetering on the line between red and green and we do not like this dance at all.
The pandemic has shown us (albeit too late), that we have been somewhat extravagant. Not over the top, just too comfortable. We bought things on Amazon. We went to the store and simply bought what we needed and wanted because life was good. Now, I'm pricing things out ahead of time to find the best deals, buying in bulk and we sold our house to keep things going. I know it's going to get better eventually. The world recovered from the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 and blissfully forgot it's lessons.
So I know a big part of my panic is my ego. I know the pain I think I'm going to feel if we fail or have to start over is the pain of embarrassment. The idea that others will think I'm a failure, dumb, careless or some other equally negative projection. Truth is, it could happen. We are not immune from failing and I'd probably deal with it okay. Jason and I have already talked about "going to zero" and what we'd do if that happened. We'd have to sell our properties but they are all in good shape and would go for a decent amount and we'd have something to show for the 5+ years we've been in business. But, that is not the current situation. Right now we are trying to bail out all the things that are weighing down the ship so we can keep it on course. We have been researching all the ways to streamline our personal and business budgets. For someone who went to school to become an administrator and a therapist, the budgeting thing has me a bit thrown. Toss in all the financial literature and video I'm consuming and my head is spinning with investing ideas, how to optimize my taxes and profit and loss projections. I'm having trouble just stopping my mind long enough to get through this post (I've already researched the old/cheap travel trailer I'm going to have to live in twice. Thank you Craigslist).
I keep getting distracted because I'm afraid. I thought I was okay for a long time and I was living way beyond my means and adjusting to that fact has been a little stressful. I recently watched the documentary "Playing with FIRE" (Financially Independent Retire Early) and I'm so grateful they focused on the difficulties they faced with downsizing. I love Mr. Money Mustache and his uber practical approach to pretty much everything, but I have a different background. I'm not always that practical. There's an entire psychology behind saving, investing and being the kind of person who does those things responsibly. And it can take a lifetime to get healthy enough to recognize, work on, and grow from an unhealthy world-view. Growing up I was told (and believed) women were bad at math and thus gave it up resolutely in the 5th grade (very bad idea...). It wasn't until after I got sober, and got a mind to think for myself, did I question this preposterous fallacy. I am in fact, very good at math. I've worked on the resentment (a little) and yet, I'm left with less than stellar accounting skills. Learning this stuff on the fly with two littles is hard. I don't know how else to say it. Part of the reason I am trying to get rid of all the stuff, physical and otherwise, is because I cannot hear myself think. Throwing the stress of the pandemic on top of that, I'm left with doing the best I can in a trying economy. I KNOW I'm not alone. I know there are so many out there just trying to keep their heads above water. I can be so hard on myself for not knowing all the answers when I was 20. I can look back and lament all the wasted money on useless crap that I have since simply given away and feel sick to my stomach. Or, I can chalk it up to Life on Life's terms and accept it. I didn't know what I didn't know. I wasn't raised to believe I was capable of caring for myself. I didn't know being exactly who I was, was ok and that what others thought of me, should have no bearing on how I live my life.
To the untrained eye it may seem like I'm tossing out blame to my parents and society for not raising me "right". But, that's not the point or the key. The point is that I want to help others to recognize areas in their life that they are letting others dictate how they live. Maybe they will be able to adjust more quickly than I did and not wait to do whatever the heck they want. It might start with minimalism and taking a look at their things and what is anchoring them into the life they have in a physical way. It might start with looking at spending and asking if what they are buying is for the benefit of them or their family or perhaps its to impress others or distract them from the fact that they are unhappy or unfulfilled in their current situation. I know I always want to buy new clothes or toys for my kids when I am feeling stuck. Even though I know we have enough of all of those things and that the novelty will wear off quickly and the "ick" will return. So after this realization, I hope to help others dig even deeper. To examine the "ick". To find out why they have been mindlessly consuming. For me, my desires to please others has always come at a cost. I have been afraid to go against the status quo. More and more I have been thinking, that if I am afraid to do something, I should in fact, go do it. For example, we want to buy a motorhome or RV and go see this beautiful country with our kids. We already sold our house, and have been somewhat-seriously inquiring into different "rigs" to buy. We are terrified. What will it be like with two small kids? Will it be too hard? Maintaining an RV is a lot of work. Our water consumption/preservation will have to drastically change. We are stepping into the unknown. Leaving our comfort zone. What if we hate it?!....But what if its amazing? What if the connection I get from hiking with my kids unfolds a world of learning and discovery for all of us? What if we discover parts of ourselves we never knew because they've been trapped in the same town and same four walls for too long? There is a big world out there to see. Who will we meet? What will we see? What else will we set free? "The mountains are calling, and I must go." Mr. Muir had it right I think...
But back to the psychology part. Back to why I'm writing this in the first place. I want to talk about the struggle of learning all this stuff. I want to talk about the messiness (for me) of becoming a minimalist. I want to talk about the fact that when I look at all of my bank accounts, I have no idea what I'm looking at. I don't understand it all perfectly. I am far from perfect (ask my old drinking buddies...on second thought, just take my word for it.) I want to be here as a guide with some signposts that will hopefully map out a path toward freedom of spirit and financial freedom as well for those who come after me. If I didn't talk about how unhealthy I was at one point in my life and in my approach to life, all of the healthy things I'm doing would seem benign. They would seem commonplace or not very impressive. And they're not really. But to me, to someone who went to rehab for drug addiction, for someone who had loads of trauma and mental health issues, for someone who burned their life to the ground, simply having a bank account is a miracle. Waking up and knowing where I am and what time it is, is a miracle. Hugging my kids and providing for them and getting to play with them every day is a miracle. I am living in the bonus round and I do not want to squander it in the proverbial cubicles of the world. I want to live a fulfilled life. I want to challenge my mind and my body and push it through the discomfort. (Imagine me standing up from my desk, pumping my fists and shouting this next line...) I want to see the freaking Grand Canyon and Sedona, and Carlsbad and The Tetons! Whew, okay...I'm sitting again. But in all seriousness, lets go do some epic stuff okay? Even if that's just getting rid of one thing today. Even if it's just researching living on a sailboat or volunteering in a foreign country. Whatever gets your energy flowing. Whitewater kayaking? Diving in Mexico? Teaching at a non-profit in the Dominican Republic (I've done this one, highly recommended)? Learning to cook? You name it, there are infinite ways to find the life you love. I was listening to "The Four Hour Workweek" by Timothy Ferris today which I've never read and he said something like "People don't care about being a millionaire, they care about living their dreams," in reference to the fact that it isn't about the bank account numbers. We know (intellectually) that money is not the key to contentment. Contentment for it's own sake is. Security is great, but also somewhat boring (in the retire and do nothing sense). I like to try to find as much balance as I can. I also know that balance is futile. Life is full of up and down, stress and relaxation, business and idleness. All of it is okay. Today I'm riding the wave I'm on. Or in my new running mantra "run the mile you're in," the rest will come when it's their turn. Amen