Prison or Freedom?

How do you look at your spending boundaries? Do they make you feel free or imprisoned?

For me, it depends on why I am hitting my walls.

Freedom Rings

For instance, yesterday, I went clothes shopping. It was amazing! I had accumulated over $200 in my clothing category. As I am on disability, there is not a lot of need for me to buy clothing. But I was feeling some lack in this area as I don’t have a lot of clothing and what I do have is starting to show wear.

As I don’t often feel well enough to drive or shop, I was very happy that I was up to doing both. Please understand that I am also restricted in how I shop. For instance, I cannot go through the extreme sale racks of clothing because they are just stuffed together and sorting through makes me very dizzy very quickly.

At the first store, the clothing was beautiful, but just felt too expensive. It wasn’t about deprivation, but practicality for me. I felt empowered by my decision.

Off I went to another store that is more moderately priced. Though I pushed myself a bit too far health-wise, I had a fabulous time shopping and found items I loved.

When I reached the register, there was a woman with just one item behind me. I knew it would take some time to be sure I didn’t exceed my $200 limit (though I had approximated, I knew there might be an item or two I would have to leave behind). I didn’t want to feel rushed so I let her go ahead of me.

Apparently, she heard me tell the cashier that I had a limit on my spending, because when she finished, she turned and handed me a $20 bill, saying, “Here, this will help you be able to get what you want.”

I lovingly thanked her and though she argued, I explained that I live by a spending plan and have boundaries around my spending. She seemed puzzled, but finally accepted the money back.

I’ve written about how important it is to learn to graciously accept gifts. However, there is no question that I did the right thing by refusing this one.

This morning, I was reading a story from the DA website called A Business Owner Finds His Way From Chaos To Clarity. In it, the writer talks about always needing an advance from his boss and on one occasion, he said of his boss, “He looked at me with great sadness and told me he felt as though he was giving an alcoholic another drink.”

The fact is, there would never be enough money for me. Ironically, that $20 would have gotten me the items I left in the cart. But I felt so good sticking well within my boundary of $200 by spending under $190. It was a great spiritual practice for me.

In this case, my boundary meant freedom, not prison, to me. AND, I will be able to do more clothes shopping again because I didn’t exhaust the funds in that category. Not only that, but more money will accumulate in that category with each month. I felt joyous and free because I was able to spend sanely and wisely and still get what I needed. What a miracle.

Shackled Behind Bars

On the other hand, my almost 22-year-old son told me yesterday that he will be coming home for Thanksgiving, which is also right before his birthday. It was a tremendous and unexpected gift. And also roused the sleeping giant within me about not having enough money for him.

Ironic to have both these experiences on the same day.

I want to pay for his gas. I want to take him out. I want to make an extravagant Thanksgiving dinner.

And I don’t have enough in the respective categories to do all that.

I feel tremendously imprisoned about this. Embarrassed and powerless. It feels like my son has borne the brunt of my “lack.” Though, when I am right-minded, I call it sobriety.

In recovery, I have had to say no to him so many times. It is the one area that I have trouble being right-minded about in my abstinence.

He only works part-time and lives on that plus student loans. He has done his part in trying to make me feel guilty about not paying the gas, so I always have.

Yet, this is not the only way to look at it. Someone on my PRG team said this is a rite of passage to adulthood. Just as I have been weaning him off other expenses, they suggest that I do so with the gas as well.

Raising my son, nothing was too much. I debted myself silly, and he had whatever he wanted … or I wanted for him. In writing this, I am reminded of the fact that money isn’t love.

I agreed to have a talk with him about the gas money. If I split it with him, that will leave me some for taking him to the movies. We will have enough for Thanksgiving dinner. And I will give him the cash part of his birthday gift a bit late, as I thought I wouldn’t see him in November, and won’t have the money accumulated until December 1.

I am doing the right thing for the right reasons. But inside, I feel emotional angst. I have quite a bit of money that needs to be distributed throughout my spending plan. Though I want to spend it on my son, the fact is that I need to save for taxes and there are a number of concrete issues that need funds, not the least of which is saving for his college graduation in April.

We Have a Choice

I can feel tight and imprisoned … if I choose to feel that way. Or I can sit with my uncomfortable feelings and recognize that even in this situation, I am making decisions about how I spend my money. Yes, I CAN take my savings and splurge. I could pay off all his loans right now.

But it’s because I have worked this program as diligently as I have that I HAVE savings at all. There is no way that the right thing to do would be to negate all that has brought me to this place of recovery and all that I know about my disease just to satisfy that painful itch.

Money is finite. All I can do is decide how to use however much I have. And I can make those choices either in recovery or disease thinking.

I could choose not to put any money in my clothing category, which would definitely provide more funds for my son. But then, how would I feel about not being able to purchase clothing when I actually needed something?

So if I feel imprisoned, it is a jail of my own making. I have to make choices and in order to live a balanced life, I can’t have everything. Yes, I can wish for more money. But would that really solve the problem? Because one thing I know for sure is that if you gave me one million dollars, I would most definitely need one million and one.

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