Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Economy of Spirit

I am incredibly obtuse when it comes to economics. Not only do I not know much about the way interest rates and inflationary cautions and other such things work, I really can't be bothered to learn. So long as I am making more money than I need to cover all of my bills, I'm good. Typically, when NPR is doing a segment on the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates I switch to the CD player and rock out. Today, the host of the show "Day to Day" was interviewing a financial 'expert' and I paid attention.

The guest was explaining that he fully expected the economy to continue to suffer. He believes that after the first of the year retail spending will drop off considerably and Americans will tighten their money belts. He talked about the way that we as a people have been borrowing money and spending more than we make and fully embracing our consumer lifestyle for too long. He thinks that we have reached the outer limits of our comfort zone and will now begin curbing our appetites for material things, instead turning our attention to our woefully starved savings accounts. He didn't sound shocked or horrified or even the slightest bit frightened about any of this. I think that's why I continued to listen. You may remember this post when I talked about measuring our lives by other means. I was intrigued at his non-reaction.

The host asked, "What do you think will happen to the economy if people begin acting like you're predicting?"

"The economy will turn downward. But I don't think it's the worst thing that could ever happen. It will reduce our trade deficit. Americans are notorious internationally for our low levels of saving, and it can only be good in the long run for us to begin bolstering our savings again. I think it will hurt. I think it will be good for us. But it will be traumatic."

Okay. Been there. I am guilty of finding ways to use my current energy reserves to chase the things that I think I need. Things I've let myself become convinced are important. Running after fleeting things, all the while flicking that annoying little flea off my shoulder. You know the one. He sits there chirping in your ear, reminding you that this might not be the best course of action right now.

'Please stop rushing around spending money buying people expensive gifts. Please stop adding name after name to the list of people who absolutely must get your Christmas letter this year. Please put aside the menu planning you're doing in an effort to try and please each and every member of the family in one fell swoop. You haven't invested in yourself in a long time. How long has it been since you worked on your book? How long has it been since you slept peacefully? How long has it been since you meditated? How many times have you said to yourself 'If I can just make it until December 26th, I'll start taking care of myself again?' '

Yeah. It might be hard to give up all of the rushing around. It will be really hard to imagine what others think of me if I don't make an effort to put their favorite Christmas dishes on the table this year. I can't even imagine tearing up my to-do list. Do I really want to crash and burn between December 26th and the 31st? Is it worth it to continue to live by the 'shoulds' in the short term? Nah. Once I put it in those terms, I think I can accept that turning inward a little and investing in myself and my own energy stores might affect the others around me, causing those who are used to me taking care of business a little stress of their own. In the long run, I'll be better off and that is what's best for all of us.


Suzy said...

Interesting post Kari.

For the past year I have done exactly what you are talking about doing.

Stopped with the lavish gifts at Christmas, stopped trying to please everyone, 'cuz it just doesn't work.

And you know what? It feels really good. I lost a couple of friends along the way, but it just showed me how incredibly shallow people can be.

Love you

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Love this post.

Love you.

Love everything about this post and you.


Michelle O'Neil said...

Yep. You gotta fill the cup. Screw the Christmas list.

Anonymous said...

I am trying so very, very hard to do exactly what you are saying. You know what, it feels so good to let go of some of that stuff. So far not a bit of guilt or last minute, "I have to do this" giving in. I think we need to give ourselves a pat on the backs and an extra special gift, just to us, from us this year. Just cause we deserve it.

Seriously, I LOVED this post. Your writing continues to blow me away. You express your idea/concepts so well, that I sit and talk to the computer going "yeah", "that is so true", "oh, my God she said that perfectly."
You were born to be a writer, but I suspect you know this.

Jess said...

Love this post, so perfect for me today. Thinking a lot about money, how to have more awareness around it. And more importantly, how to NOT beat myself about not making enough, not having enough, not doing enough for everyone else. I have been accused lately of being way too accommodating to everyone. But I still want to buy nice presents for my friends....

And, I totally relate to tuning out the financial stuff on NPR and switching to music. Maybe I should pay attention.

Deb said...

You often say what I feel before I'm really clear that I'm feeling it. This is one of those times. I love how you connected financial economics with energy economics. You made my day with this. Thank you. Love!

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