OK, people, let’s see a show of hands. How many of you have been sure, at one time or another, that you will not have enough money? That you will go totally, utterly, under-the-freeway-overpass, cardboard-box-living broke?
Well, meet me behind the appliance store, because I know I’m going to need that refrigerator box (and I’ll gladly pick up an extra one for you).
There’s no evidence in my past to support that contention, no reason to fear this eventuality. I’ve never lived in a refrigerator box, although I have suffered the humiliation of having to borrow money from friends or family. I’ve also juggled bills, cut back on spending, and felt a bit sorry for myself when restaurant meals and vacations got cut from the budget. And I survived.
So why is that fear always present?
My lizard brain clearly doesn’t have enough to do, now that all the giant man-eating dinosaurs have been priced out of our neighborhood. The trick is recognizing the panic for what it is, and finding a way to learn from it. Learning how to live with uncertainty is probably a worthwhile skill, considering how even the most stable situations are inherently unstable, if you believe, as I do, the Buddhist view that nothing is permanent.
The next best tool, best employed after attempting to make things worse, is humor.
I once tried to pick a fight with my husband, whose transgression was pouring coffee beans directly into the grinder. “You have to MEASURE it!! Why aren’t you MEASURING IT???” I screeched. To our mutual surprise, I immediately began laughing, and added, “Because if you don’t MEASURE it, we’ll go broke, one coffee bean at a time!”
When I feel the panic rise, tightening my throat and constricting my breathing, I have to name it (“panic…anxiety…running out of money”), inhale deeply, and ask myself, “Am I okay right now? Is there another meal coming my way, a safe place to sleep?” When I remember that I’m not alone in the world, and I’m not fighting for survival, it’s easier to know how fortunate I am. No one is lobbing shells at my house or burying mines on Forest Drive, which I travel in my own car, on my way to buy groceries from fully stocked shelves.
Even when the checking account seems depleted, I can choose to feel wealthy and grateful for my life as it is. And instantly, as if I’ve just won the lottery, I’m rich.