Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Money, economy, and grown-up worries

I'm in the middle of another "mind-shift". These internal, personal evolutions seem to be coming closer together now, and are of a deeper meaning.

Economic down-turn, recession, depression. Scary words in a world where the majority of people live paycheque to paycheque. This is where I send out a huge thank you to my parents who taught me money-sense, and to my husband who shares my views. We long ago paid off all debts, built up a sizable savings, invested a little in long-term secure investments, created a monthly and yearly budget, track every expense, and set out a specific plan to pay off the house. None of this is easy on one modest paycheque that allows me to stay home with our boys, but we persevere.

Ironically, during these uneasy and wearying times, we are surprisingly financially secure. This past September James left the security of his employment to launch full-time into our own business. Actually, it's a family business, which his father began, James is expanding, and his brothers are also going to be involved. Over Thanksgiving, we had a share-holders (I'm a shareholder! How grown-up!) meeting to go over the future plans and outlook of the company. The numbers blew me away. Owning your own business is a lot of work, but the benefit is that you can grow it as large as you want. And, if successful, the monetary rewards can be...very rewarding.

And so amid all the chaos, we find our family in a good spot. With a good outlook.

And yet, I'm experiencing a mind-shift.

I've been moving in this direction over the past few months. I have become acutely aware of the lifestyle the Western world strives toward. I have become aware of the clothes spilling out of my closet and drawers as I buy another cute sweater. I have become aware of the endless pursuit to bigger houses. I have become aware of the piles of toys. I have become aware of how easy it is to buy something because I can. I have become aware of the attitude of ease that accompanies financial security.

While my brain was sorting through all this, two books fell into my lap: the first was "A Simple Path", an interview with Mother Teresa detailing her simple and profound way of living. The second was "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau, who writes an account of his simple life in a woods. I'm currently in the middle of both books and find myself reading all those jumbled up thoughts in my head written down in an orderly fashion.

Thoreau talks about the general pursuits in life. Once you have obtained the necessities, then you often obtain more of those. And once you have more, then you try to obtain better. More, better, more, better - I think the cycle becomes subconscious. I liken it to being on a staircase - if you are standing on a step and there is another step in front of you, you don't think about whether or not you want to climb the staircase - you just put one foot in front of the other. Stair after stair, our minds are programmed to perform this task. But when do we stop ourselves and ask "is this enough"?

I'll leave today with two quotes from the books I'm immersed in.

"People try to fill the emptiness they feel with food, radio, television, and keeping busy with outside activities. But this emptiness can only be filled by the spiritual, by God. If we give time for God to enter this space, then our hunger can be more easily satisfied by just being with God in prayer. From this place we can grow stronger in our relationship with God and in our spiritual life. But it is a hard thing to be prayerful in our society, which feeds us with so many distractions." (Mother Teresa)

"Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hinderances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meagre life than the poor." (Henry David Thoreau)

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