Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Counting My Beans...

Dear Bean Counters, both of the professional and involuntary varieties,

I am an involuntary bean counter.

You see, lately life has been difficult. In the past year or so I've struggled enormously to secure stable employment, and in doing so, I have had some interesting - noteworthy, let's say - experiences. I've also learned a lot about "reducing expenses," but more on that later.

And so, being thrown into poverty, basically dependent on pocket change showing up whenever it wants (not often enough) and the goodwill of those who love me, has caused me to reevaluate life in general.

Since I haven't had work to define me or organize my time, I've basically had to spend a year convincing people that, yes, I am indeed making an effort in life, and that no, I don't sit at home all day laying on my duff and watching Soap Operas or Oprah.

So I spent a year working on long term goals, for the most part, that have little tangible yield, but that will eventually do something for me in the long run. (I have a five year plan, as opposed to a 5 month plan, is what I like to say.)

In this process, I've gotten an interesting glimpse into social priorities, and I've been able to compare these priorities long and hard against my own.

Social Priorities I have come across are:
- high income
- clear indications of material gain
- complete self sufficiency
- an active social life (with the ability to cover the associated costs for yourself and others!)
- "things" (yes, I said it, material goods that others can admire is a social priority)

My Priorities (after much practice and exploration) are:
- affectionate and mutually empathetic relationships with those I care about
- a capacity to learn and adapt this knowledge to suit my needs
- the ability to do what I can when I can, and to admit when I certainly cannot do a thing or an aspect of a thing

So what I have I gained from my evaluation of my priorities?

The most important conclusion I have arrived at is that my relationships with people matter simply because I need the people in my life for their support. Furthermore, I know my friends need me for the same reasons. It's interesting how difficult circumstances and an openness about them can inspire some unconventional conversations and strong acts of love. (Mind you, I've also had some of the opposite reactions, and have had to reorganize a few relationships because of that.) I'm feeling more secure in the relationships I do have, and much more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt if an ambiguous scenario presents itself.

While a number of people have voiced concerns about my apparent "inaction," I've actually spent many hours learning about various subjects: For example, I now know that vinegar actually really is an effective disinfectant, and that most household cleaners can be made from things in the cupboard and fridge. I know how to plant a vegetable garden, and I know how to create a rotating indoor garden so that one can have fresh greens and herbs at any time of the year. I also know how to make homemade fertilizer, and how to cure a diseased plant. I know a lot about caring for sick fish using just a few types of salt. I have also learned that store-bought baking can just never compare to the baking I have learned to make. I have also learned what career it is that I want to pursue, and I have a much better idea now, after some research, of how to pursue this career. Also, homemade iced tea, and fresh lemonade are delicious and deceptively easy to make... the mixing of tasty summer drinks has possibly become an art that we have lost touch with due to our preprepared/prepackaged everything.

By nature, I'm a people pleaser, and I have often said yes to things that have stretched both my energy and resources. Today, I know my limits a lot better, and I no longer feel ashamed to tell a person that their expectations are impossible for me to meet... so yes, sometimes even those small social graces like buying and mailing a birthday card can be impossible for a person who is stretched to the wire financially. And no, sometimes I can't even call on your special day because really, I can't even afford a phone, let alone the long distance charges. But if a person involves me in a thing I can do, or has an expectation that can be fulfilled, I'm prepared to do that, and generally I'm very happy about it. (Yes, I do want you to drop by my house on your birthday, and I will bake you birthday muffins that you will dream about and wake up craving!)

So this bean counting adventure of mine hasn't been all bad. And some good has come out of it too!

I'm working on a book which was inspired by "noteworthy" events of recent past. I'm working towards my career goals. And yes, finally, I found a modest job that is going to cover some bills and set my back on my feet again.

So do you want to come over for iced tea and chocolate cupcakes? I have some in the fridge waiting for you.

Scrumptuously yours,

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