I just finished working for two weeks on JAW at Portland Center Stage, which is a playwright’s festival for new work. Theatre is my passion, and within that passion, new work is my favorite part of the whole shebang. It was a busy, exciting, fun, and exhilarating experience, filled with incredible plays and the talented writers, directors, designers, and actors who made them come to life. I cross my fingers every year that I will get to be a part of JAW, and feel very grateful and lucky when I’m asked to participate.
It was such a whirlwind I didn’t have much time to write. Even prior to JAW starting though, I wasn’t feeling very inspired, and I think that was largely due to the fact that nothing new has happened in terms of finding my lagom. I’m in a very “nose to the grindstone” phase of things – most of my energy has been spent working, fighting my shopaholic urges, paying down debt, and continuing to re-evaluate what I already have. Some days I’m fine with that, and other days it depresses the hell out of me. Those days never leave me feeling like sharing what’s on my mind, for fear of sounding like too much of a Debbie Downer.
However, while I was on blogging hiatus, several people told me that they really enjoy reading my blog, or that it has recently inspired them to either reduce their own possessions or start paying off debt. One person actually said it was having the reverse effect and made her shop MORE, which I thought was funny, but I totally got where she was coming from. Some people just said they missed reading new posts and wondered when I might start writing again.
I particularly liked hearing there were people in the same place as me. It makes me feel less alone in this process, which is important, because this process is not fun. Knowing I am not the only one whose decisions around money and stuff in the past are now ruling my life is reassuring. It makes me feel like less of a screw-up.
There were a couple days during JAW where I had some time to kill and found myself downtown, wandering into stores. At first I thought I would be noble and just not go in, and not tempt myself. But the desire to look at pretty things won and I did go into stores, and I did try things on, and I did find myself again in the hot clutches of the want monster, and I did pine and yearn and wish and feel anxious and resentful and then I walked out empty handed.
For the most part, once I left the store I was able to let the want go and actually felt consciously relieved that I didn’t have to deal with the post-buying guilt. In two cases, I am still pining for the items, but they were both hideously expensive, and I know I would feel guilty if I had bought them. I still want them though, and have schemed a bit about how I could get them. But just thinking about having to tell Ron I can’t help him with his credit card because I spent all my free money on clothes is usually enough to sober me up.
I was also faced with having to decide whether or not to go out and spend money in social situations during JAW, which was tough for me as well. Many of the artists I was working with were from out of town, and because I was only going to work with them for two weeks, I wanted to spend as much time getting to know them as possible. But going out for drinks can get expensive, and I had to balance my desire to socialize with our current financial goals. I did go out a couple times, but made a point to set a spending limit for myself of $20 or less, and forced myself to go home at a reasonable hour before alcohol and exhaustion clouded my judgement.
Some people might think it was foolish of me to go to a bar or into a store in the first place. I get that. However, I do think there is something good about putting myself in a tempting situation and testing my willpower. In college one year, I was assigned a roommate who was a devout Christian, but she had opted not to go to a Christian college. She would frequently express her disapproval or disappointment that there wasn’t a stronger Christian life on campus, and I finally asked her why, if it was so important to her, she hadn’t applied to a Christian college. She said it was a lot easier to be a good Christian at a Christian school than a secular school, and she had wanted to test her mettle, so to speak.
Her answer definitely surprised me, and I was kind of impressed as well. I have always been someone who is interested in finding the easiest way to do something – I will always choose a calculator over pen and paper, an automatic over a stick shift, and the recipe that doesn’t require time for the dough to rise. But there is something to be said for putting yourself in a challenging situation to see if you will come out in one piece.
So I’ve been testing myself lately, and so far so good. It is definitely not the easy way, but I think I’m finally starting to learn something.