Last Christmas, Cadence's and my first on our own, I decided to buy a few things for myself. I wrapped them and put them under the tree with a label that read,
Cadence found them as she watched the gifts add up little by little during Advent. She LOVED finding them.
"What did I give you, Mommy?"
I shrugged and smiled.
"You'll have to wait and see. Just like me."
A new tradition was born. It was my proactive response to knowing that on Christmas Eve with just the two of us, there wouldn't be any gifts for me to open. As a minimalist, I don't want or need much, but on the evening we celebrate, I knew I would feel sad and nostalgic about not having anything to open because there was no one to shop for me. It's not something I expected my then-eight-year-old to manage, and this way I would get exactly what I want. I'm great at delayed gratification, so it knocked out a few birds at once.
The pleasant surprise was her excitement.
This summer I found the Hamilton behind-the-scenes book on sale. My daughter loves the soundtrack, so I decided it would be one of the gifts she would give me. I told my coworker and dear friend, Jana, about this new tradition.
"Can I wrap it for you? I love this idea!"
A few weeks later, she brought this package to work.
I love my friend's support of my off-beat ideas.
I start my Christmas shopping early each year in an attempt to pay cash and as an investment in a stress-free Advent season. Today I began shopping for Cadence in earnest. I have another Advent idea up my sleeve, and while I was shopping for it, I found another gift for myself. I texted Jana:
"I bought another from Cadence for you to wrap. :) I'll bring it on Monday! This is so fun!"
All of this shopping and Christmas scheming is taking place with the backdrop of metabolizing my credit card debt, car repairs, and enrolling in a class that suggests that getting one's head and heart involved in one's financial affairs will change how one thinks about one's money, finances, and prosperity.
The class discusses how thoughts of deprivation are not a productive way of getting out of debt, but cause a bigger problem: blocking the flow of abundance (in all of its forms) into one's life.
New strategies for cultivating abundance and gratitude--repeating a mantra and looking at daily account balances and expressing gratitude no matter the number--were part of module one.
My mantras are: I am a love and money magnet. I take care of my money and my money takes care of me. Each time I feel overwhelmed by bills or the amount I have to pay off, instead of worrying, I say these two things.
I've gone back to using my debit card to slow down my credit card dependence. Looking at my balance every day really does help me feel like I have control over my spending. I am grateful for my electric bill, which is $30 less than last month. I am grateful for the $10.08 refund from my mortgage company for the overage in flood valuation-something-or-other. Awareness is a powerful tool for overcoming denial, worry, and hopelessness--in money matters and life in general.
As I anticipated the completion of my 40/40 list last year, I wanted to keep the momentum in the new year. I created an informal 41 list. It became a list of 11 things I was interested in pursuing. One of the items was practicing Random Acts of Kindness.
This morning, I stood in line for donuts and coffee at our favorite donut shop. I remembered that to use a debit card the shop has a $5 minimum order. I didn't want to step out of line to run to the ATM for a $3 order. I noticed a young man standing behind me.
"I'm going to buy your breakfast this morning."
A faint smile registered on his face. "Thank you. You don't have to do that."
"I know. Consider it a Random Act of Kindness."
"Don't worry. I eat cheap," he added.
I smiled and we continued to wait in line in silence.
When it was our turn, I ordered my two old fashioned donuts and a medium coffee. I gestured to the young man behind me. He ordered a breakfast burrito.
"What's your name?" I asked.
I told him my name, and we shook hands.
I asked him if he wanted to order a drink.
"I'll get a cup for water. I'm a big water guy."
The woman behind the counter handed me my bag and cup. Adam got his order number.
"Thanks again." We parted.
I walked out to my car with my refreshments to accompany me on my errands. I felt light. Buoyant. Prosperous.
I can still be generous while my finances aren't where I want them to be.
Somehow the early Christmas shopping, the money mantras, and buying breakfast for a stranger feels like agenda items on my self-directed writer's retreat this weekend. In all of these seemingly disparate activities, there's creative energy flowing through each, building one on top of another. They are feeding me and filling me after a few weeks of feeling depleted. I am so grateful and excited to see what this weekend produces.