It’s Christmas, the time of year when all my angst and anxieties about money are dusted off, dragged into the spotlight, dressed up in tinsel and baubles, and sprinkled with glitter. I buy too many presents for too many people who don’t really matter to me, there’s always those little (or not so little) things I get for our loved ones even when I’ve already bought all the presents that I planned for them, I buy in enough food and drink to end a small famine and we all spend the next week (or two) eating leftovers. As time goes on and the preparations for the Big Day get more frantic, I grow more anxious and stressed, and there’s this underlying feeling of overwhelming guilt and fear lurking just beneath the surface of my seasonal cheer, that I desperately try to pretend isn’t happening.
I’m very lucky in one way because I don’t have to do the whole invite-people-round-that-you-don’t-get-on-with-but-you-have-to-because-it’s-Christmas thing. We live in Australia, a long way from most of our family members, and people tend to stay with their families or go away for the holidays over here. I am heartily glad that I don’t have to invite people round that I wouldn’t normally see, just because it’s Christmas. I’ve never been much of a one for doing what people say I ought to anyway, but inviting people that I don’t get on with, just because it’s Christmas, seems like a really stupid idea. Like, I’m not stressed enough with all the overspending and preparations and overeating that I’m doing, without having some arsehole come in and irritate the crap out of me like they do every time I see them? I don’t think so. I’m not going to put myself through that, regardless of who they are. I’m not going to invite someone over that I don’t like just because they’re family or attached to someone else that I do want to invite. It’s not going to happen. There are any number of horror stories about ‘Uncle so-and-so’ or ‘our xxx’s girlfriend’ whose idea of Christmas cheer doesn’t involve goodwill to all men in general and the Christmas party host in particular.
To help alleviate the stress of all this goodwill and cheer (not to mention overindulgence and overspending), I head for the Boxing Day sales, happy in the knowledge that since I’m buying things at a massive markdown - a total bargain and well below the retail value of the item - THIS spending doesn’t affect my bank balance at all. I have a friend who is convinced that buying bargains only affects her bank balance if she buys more than one of them because when you buy something in a sale, you actually SAVE money, therefore the money stays in your account. There is some kind of weird logic in there somewhere.
This year, though, after decades of this pre- and post-Christmas trauma, I decided that maybe I could do things a little differently (sometimes I’m a slow learner), so I made a conscious effort not to overdo things. I’ve spent decades going through the cycle of overspending on presents, buying too many people too many things, overdoing the food (which I do whether it’s Christmas or not), and spending the whole Christmas period (and most of January and some of February) feeling depressed, stressed, guilty and ashamed, not enjoying myself, and each and every year, I swear that I’ll never do it again. Till it comes to the following year and then, in an effort to make sure the kids enjoy themselves and have an ever better (and bigger) Christmas than the previous year. It’s exhausting. And depressing. And not much fun.
I see all of these posts about how people should stop spending money, about how this isn’t what Christmas is about, even one which was talking about not buying your own kids expensive things because other people couldn’t afford to buy their kids those things, which is like saying ‘don’t eat because someone else is going hungry’. I hate that kind of thing, the whole scarcity-there-isn’t-enough-to-go-around, rich-people-are-greedy-and-immoral stuff and the excuse it gives people to be completely judgemental and hypocritical. I say “hypocritical” because pretty much every person that makes that kind of statement wouldn’t be at all upset if they won the lottery.
Then this article that I wrote on Christmas Eve last year appeared as a memory in my newsfeed:
I put up a post [about the money we’ve created doing property developing] last night and someone commented “Why do you need so much money???”
It’s not about the money. It never is. I don’t “need so much” money, I want to live a life of freedom and choice. Money gives me that freedom and choice. It’s as simple as that.
“Well,” I can hear some people say, “I don’t want that much, I’m happy with what I’ve got, maybe a little bit more would be nice.”
There are very few people in the world for whom that statement is really true. Most people who say that are doing one of two things: they’re either trying to take some perceived moral high ground to prove that they’re above this whole ‘materialistic thing’ and they don’t need any money. And/or they have self-worth issues. Or maybe both. Actually, most of the time, it’s both. I know that from personal experience: I spent many years justifying why I didn’t want/need any more than what I had until I finally got honest with myself and asked myself, truly, if there were no limitations, would I want more? And once I’d moved beyond the initial, ‘ok, if I won the lottery, I’d buy… and go to… and do… and take them to…’ and gotten down to the deep stuff, I realised that the experience that I wanted in my life is one of freedom and choice.
It’s not about the money. It’s about something else: the freedom to do whatever I want to do and to choose how to do it. It’s about being (feeling) unlimited. Being rich and building a business/property empire is about expanding and growing, and giving myself every opportunity to learn and explore. I want to do more than work a job, save money in order to do things, and live a steady, careful life. I want to be carefree, to be able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I want to live a life of unlimited abundance. I’m not going to be able to do any of those things unless I can create money easily and effortlessly, not because there’s something special about money – there isn’t – but because money provides the access to what that freedom and choice.
As a society, though, we believe that money is difficult to get and having lots of money has all sorts of negative connotations attached to it, as though money itself somehow more and more morally reprehensible as the amount of money increases. Mind you, to some people, wanting lots of ANYTHING is morally reprehensible because they believe there’s a shortage of absolutely everything (personally, I don’t like being around that kind of people. It’s probably very judgemental and discriminatory of me, but I find they tend to be unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives and they tend to want to spread their misery around). People who want lots of money are seen as greedy and selfish, money itself is seen as being tarnished, evil even, but if we can move beyond that to the point where we’ve released all of those beliefs, restrictions and boundaries to create money freely and effortlessly, then everything else falls into place that much more easily.
It’s not about the money. It’s about moving my life forwards. If I can create as much money as I like, particularly in the face of so much criticism and negative judgement, then I can create anything. It’s the biggest block I can move beyond and it’s the one that stands between me and freedom, choice and abundance.
Almost everyone who says they’re happy with where they are, and they don’t need much, also dream of winning the lottery. Hmm. Interesting.
When I finished reading the article, I had another think about what it is that really irritates and depresses me about the whole Christmas thing. It isn’t the actual spending or giving or overdoing or anything like that. It’s because I feel like I’m compelled to do things that, if I stopped and thought about it for a moment, I wouldn’t choose to do.
I wouldn’t choose to have a day where we all do nothing except eat and drink. That’s a recipe for disaster (particularly since I turned into a caged tiger if I try to spend an hour doing nothing, never mind a day). If wouldn’t spend time with a particular person normally, then why would I choose to invite them round to my place or go out with them just because it’s a particular time of year? I’m already stressed out because of doing all this stuff that I don’t really want to do and then I add in the extra stress of inviting someone that I only see once a year because they’re a complete prat, to my place. It’s just not going to end well. It’s a guaranteed excuse for me to vent all my pent-up irritations. Why do I think that doing all of this stuff, just because it’s a certain day of the year, is going to make me feel good? It’s just not going to. I’m setting myself up for failure (and misery, guilt and shame). I’m guaranteeing anxiety and depression because I’m doing things that don’t make me feel good. And that includes – bizarrely enough – spending money.
I like spending money (I love it, in fact, as John will attest), but in this situation (i.e. at Christmas) I’m spending money in a way that isn’t positive, I’m spending money because I OUGHT to, not because I want to, and that’s the cause of the angst: I’m not doing things that I feel are right for me. It’s not about how much I’m spending, it’s about how much I’m spending out of obligation. I can spend the same money on people at other times and not bat an eyelid. My only problem is that I’m spending because I HAVE to because it’s Christmas and that’s what we’re all supposed to do, right? Maybe it’s time for me to do something different?
(written Christmas 2018 but not published till now)
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...