Money is Spiritual: My Childhood and Money

I’ve always joked that I am a rich man in a poor man’s body.

I like reading the Robb Report. a “luxury-lifestyle magazine featuring products, including automobiles, aviation, boating, real estate and watches” (Wikipedia).

I appreciate fine things and I enjoy having fun.

I can’t afford almost anything I see in that magazine. But I’m not going to let that stop me from having nice things or from having fun.

Money has always been an issue for me. Not the having too much that I don’t know what to do with it kind of issue, but the not having enough that I can’t do what I would if I had it kind of issue.

I’ve come a long way to be able to say that my dreams and desires are natural and valid. I no longer feel guilty about this.

We never had much money growing up. In fact, I remember not having any. When my friends and I would do stuff, I was always the one who didn’t have money. Even though I wished I had money like my friends always seemed to have, I still went and figured out a way to enjoy myself nevertheless.

This gift was passed on to me from my parents.

There were seven of us: my mom and dad and five kids. My dad was a cop and my mom held odd jobs here and there to help ends meet. We weren’t rich financially.

But we were rich experientially. I don’t remember living in poverty. There was always a roof over our heads, food on the table, a car in the driveway, and adventures to be lived.

I grew up in Ontario. My dad’s family lived in California near the coast. His parents had an in-ground pool. Every summer we would pack ourselves into our car and travel there. We would take many days. We’d be gone for a month at a time. I remember one summer all of us packing into a Datsun station wagon. Seven people plus luggage and supplies in a compact car. It was insane! It was like this every summer until dad bought a beat up old hunting camper built on top of an ancient dump truck. But, on our way to California and back, we visited places most Americans have never even seen or done: Tom Sawyer’s Cave, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, floating on a Mississippi River paddlewheel boat, walked down and back up the Grand Canyon in one day, Las Vegas, Death Valley, all kinds of forts and battlefields, Disney Land more times than I can count, as well as other parks that I can’t even name now, and so much more.

When I was growing up, we swam in so many pools and in oceans and in bottomless lakes and in freezing rivers. We camped in all kinds of campgrounds, including Algonquin National Park where bears raided our site every night, caught all kinds of fish, and met all kinds of people. We saw Niagara Falls and canoed the Great Lakes and camped on prohibited islands in the middle of lightning storms. We made canoe trips down dangerous rivers, camping as we went and hunting and gathering whatever food we could eat. We did winter camping and snowmobiling and skiing and snowshoeing and ice-fishing.

I can’t think of anything we didn’t do that we wanted to.

All on a shoe-string budget.

Yes, almost all my clothes were used and too short or too big or too small. Yes, many of the best gifts I ever got for Christmas and birthdays were used, like my first camera, my first multi-track tape-recorder, and my first downhill skis. As a young boy, my first bike was assembled and painted by me from parts I found at a local dump. But they all worked and I got to do what I wanted to do.

I think my parents had a code: we’re going to enjoy life and we’re going to do it cheap!

A huge part of me is thankful for that.

I carried that same attitude with me into my adult years. I learned that it is possible to enjoy life without lots of money. That’s a good attitude to carry through life.

But the downside of this is that it became an excuse for not having money. I could dismiss and even denigrate money while still having some of the things I wanted and doing some of the things I wanted to do. Money was, for me, a necessary evil.

It’s true that my family did those wonderful things I listed above, things most people haven’t done. There were the crappy cars, the perpetual repairs and patch jobs, the cheap groceries bought in bulk, the scraping by, the constant moves, and the embarrassment of me not having any money in my pocket ever when my friends did fun things.

But we did it! We really did it!

Here’s the lesson I took from it: I don’t need money. But, I’ve discovered that it’s a lie. Or, perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I don’t actually need the physical money, but the things money buys. The paper with numbers on it in my wallet means nothing to me unless it’s given in exchange for something I actually do need, like food. But more about that later.

The effect this had on me was that when I struggled with money (which was all the time), I could always retreat to this position. I could just immediately resort to my deeply held conviction that I didn’t need it anyway. It’s kind of like a sick romance: “I love you, but since you don’t love me, I don’t really love you either!” I fantasized about money while it remained elusive and aloof.

This withdrawal into spartan austerity and an emotionally codependent relationship with money became my default position.

For me, the flavor of my relationship with money was resentment. Bitter. It got really complicated when I spiritualized this. But that deserves a mediation all its own.

It took me a long time of honest introspection to see it. But once I did the healing began. Because isn’t that always the most important part: the diagnosis? Once you find the problem, then fixing it comes next.

And the prognosis is good.

See you tomorrow!

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