Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tis the Season to Stress Out

I have never been particularly impressed with money.

I am not making this point to brag.  Oh, no.  As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure it is a character flaw of some form or another.  Or, at the very least, strong supporting evidence that points a big fat finger at the notion that I am a very simple woman with a very simple mind.

(Other supporting evidence would include my lifelong love of cartoons, my fascination with the inherent hilarity of cats, and the fact that I am completely incapable of suppressing 'the giggles' any time someone around me farts.  Simple mind, simple pleasures.)

And if that is truly the case. . . which, honestly, I have been suspecting for more than a FEW years now. . . then I am perfectly prepared to live with it.  I've been around long enough to know that I would gladly take 'simple' over 'complicated' any day of the week.

But the fact remains:  I have just never really been impressed with money, or the pretty little things that it can buy.  Fancy new cars?  Really just don't care.  Latest trends and fashions?  Meh.  I learned years ago that my fondness for jeans, and all things cozy and snuggish, is not something that I am likely to outgrow, and is a trait that simply will not be denied.  Newest tech gadgets that can operate your entire house AND feed your cat simply by pressing a button on your phone?  Again I say: Meh.  Maybe I've just read too many Dean Koontz novels (impossible!!), but that level of dependency on devices leaves me feeling more than a little bit unsettled.  (First you let your guard down.  That's how it always starts.)  Plus, I've always kind of preferred wiping my own ass, if you know what I mean. 

Now. . . a nice collection of art, stacks and stacks of interesting books, piles of craft supplies or furniture in need of makeovers, a pet tiger, or a spinning bookcase that moves aside to reveal a SECRET ROOM!!!  THOSE are things that I might seriously be foaming-at-the-mouth jealous of!  But the fact is that I simply haven't KNOWN that many insanely wealthy people in my lifetime.  And the few that I HAVE known just had NO CLUE how to properly spend their money.  (It's called 'TASTE', people.  And 'pet tigers.'  Look it up, it's not that complicated.)  I've always worked for what I wanted, always been fortunate enough to have enough food on the table to feed myself, and enough kibble in the bowl to feed the cat, and aside from books, there really haven't been that many material things that I've found myself longing for.  (Aside from coffee, but as coffee is integral to survival--much like air--I refuse to place it in the category of material things.)  And so, in 36 years of life, I can honestly say that I've never really had much cause to either be impressed with the almighty dollar, or to covet what those around me might've bought with it. 

And yeah.  I'll just go on and admit it:  It's not something I'm ashamed of.  I LIKE the fact that I don't spend a large portion of my life in the pursuit of possessions.  (Which would essentially equal spending a large portion of my life dissatisfied.)  I LIKE the fact that those things honestly hold no allure for me, and I LIKE the fact that I don't feel like I have spent my life mindlessly buying, consuming, and chasing after the damned Joneses.  (Because yes:  I LIKE to think that I'm smarter than that.)  All those things are removeable; they can all be stripped away.  And not only are they not important. . . to my mind, they are meaningless.  Worse, they are a distraction from the things that truly ARE important.  A distraction from all the beautiful things in our lives that we would be hopelessly LOST without. 

Now for the shameful part (but I guess I'm big enough to admit this, too):  I was feeling just a teensy bit smug about the fact that I had my head screwed on so very securely when it came to this.  (Is that coming across?  Just checking.)  I mean, my head wasn't the size of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade balloon JUST yet, but still. . . I was feeling rather 'correct' when it came to matters of "The best things in life AREN'T 'things.'"

And then. . . then came Christmas.

The Christmas season happens and all that smugness, the tiny sense of pride, and all the (what *I* consider to bemonk-like self control goes right out the window, flying on wings of Christmas fliers in our mailbox, toy commercials dominating the t.v., credit card jingles stuck in my head, and endless worries of "Have we gotten the kids enough?!?"

Because this time of year is the ONLY time of year that it happens, but it is the time when I just wish I had more money.

Please do not judge me too harshly, though, because I am NOT (not, NOT!!) saying this to complain!!  (I'm really not.  So you can kindly just stop looking down your red Rudolph nose at me.)  This is the choice I made, knowingly and willingly, when we had the baby, and if we did it again today (I would probably lose my mind because not sleeping for the three months that your baby is a newborn really sucks)---there would still be no other choice for me.  Before Took was even born, Michael and I discussed it at great length:  He had worked the numbers and decided that if we were careful, I could stay home with the baby if I wanted.  It would mean that money would probably be tight from time to time, and there most likely wouldn't be a lot of extra left over for ancillary things.  It would mean we would be on a strict budget, and we would stick to it, and we would probably not be eating out much.  (Not really a big deal when your husband's an awesome cook.  =)  It would mean that we would probably be watching our pennies for a few years, and it would mean that there would be a lot of times when there were things that we wanted that would just have to wait.  But most importantly, it would mean I would get to wake up every morning and have breakfast with my son.  And rock him to sleep for his nap every afternoon.  And be there to kiss every boo-boo acquired from climbing on, and consequently tumbling off of, various items of furniture the moment my back was turned for 3.5 seconds.  It would mean getting to spend Michael's off-days with him.  It would mean the three of us in the kitchen in the morning, making breakfast and coffee, sipping juice and chasing cats, sharing bites of french toast with the baby, and just building up quiet moments in our life.  The kind of moments that you reach back for to nourish you in times of trial and weakness.  In short, it was a choice that too few mothers get to make, and it was really no choice at all.  Screw the dinners out, screw Starbucks frappucinos, screw a shopping trip here and there, screw a little bit of extra expendable income.  Just give me my family and I'll never regret it.

And I DON'TNot at ALL.

The catch 22 is it's that wonderful and cherished family that I want to BUY these Christmas gifts for!!

But somehow (and thanks to Michael's careful plotting and planning all year long), we are going to make it work again this year.  (Always seems like a Christmas miracle when we somehow manage to pull it off each year.  It's a bonding experience, really.  Without going into debt.  Did I mention that part?  Going into debt for Christmas is not an option.  Plus I think it would probably make baby Jesus cry.  Or piss off Santa Claus, I forget which one.  Either way, I feel sure it's very anti-'the true meaning of Christmas.')

Curiously enough, I've reached my 'Enough!' point a little early this year, and I can't say that I mind it a bit.  Still two weeks out and I've already driven myself half-mad worrying about this detail or that, and stressing over everyone I know's individual Christmas happiness.  (Which I am not actually, personally responsible for.  Nor is my gift.  Perfectly logical.  I have really GOT to learn to start remembering this earlier in the YEAR!!  Maybe a post-it would help. . .) 

So from this point forward, I am striving to have a relaxed attitude about the season.  We have most of our gifts bought, they just need to be wrapped.  The children won't be getting lavish amounts of gifts from us. . . but truthfully they could get nothing from us at all, and still receive just a shameful amount of presents.  This one is probably the hardest for me.  Trying not to worry about 'Have we done enough for the kids?'  But it helps to remember that I don't want them to grow up to be assholes.  And all the kids I knew that were insufferable spoiled brats growing up?  That's pretty much exclusively the career path they chose.  So it actually helps a lot to think about it as protecting the children.  I'm fairly sure they'll thank me when they're older. . .

Either that, or they'll be lamenting to their shrink about how all they ever wanted as a child was a Mr. Potato Head, and that's the reason they have trust issues today.

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