Problems Worth Having

First Posted 14-Aug-2015

I’ve spent the last 36 years living the same way. I get money, I spend money. I don’t really keep money. I treat money as if it is perishable. Sometimes, like now, I am blessed to have a job that pays well so there is a relief from the usual anxiety over access to resources. But my habit for almost four decades has been to use that pause to shop, to buy stuff I’ve wanted and decided I “need“. So, when the job ends I have nothing to keep me from desperation. A half-dozen times or so this has meant I’ve been homeless. Four of those times the depth of the crisis was enough that it took me a decade or more to get back on my feet.

I’m in an up-cycle lately, blessed with a single-family home, a car, a few nice toys, and bills that are current. My friend and I, this summer, have spent our time together walking. Most of it has been on trails that parallel the James River and the adjacent canal. On our walk this morning we talked about a recent change in my life. Because of a choice to be more serious about following Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps I have enough cash on hand that if disaster befell me and I couldn’t pay the rent from anticipated income I would be ok. That hasn’t been true in many years. It’s one thing to say I’ll be responsible with money when I don’t have any. It’s another to have some and fight off the impulse to spend it all. This, though, is a problem I’d rather have.

This relates in my mind–for all my Dad’s dedication to the struggle, his loyalty to the unions, the “On Strike” sign from 1960 still prominently displayed in his man cave–he is an avid investor in capitalism. The same man who decries the evils of fracking owns stocks in major oil companies that are pulling oil out of the ground using this technique. Some of his ability to draw an income from the pension buyout he got comes from investments in corporations that do the very things he claims are evil. No hypocrisy there.

I was down for the struggle for a while. The noble starving artist and all that. That’s fine when you are young enough to endure the hardships. I’m not so young anymore. I don’t do hardship as easily as I did. Being down for the struggle hurts in new and difficult ways. So, my youthful outrage at my father’s hypocrisy has mellowed into an ironic admiration at his ability to make the pension buyout work for him. I’ve also become grateful for this job, for earning twice what I usually earn, and the chance to struggle with having a bit of money. The end of this story hasn’t been told. If I remain true to character there is a future blog post where I whine again that all the money is gone and I’m forced back into noble asceticism again (Yep. That happened). That’s not the plan. The plan is to build a little cash so the ups & downs don’t disrupt my life like they have been for decades. I’m tired. It’s time to have the problem of having money rather than have the problem of not having money. It’s time to live like no other so later on I too can live like no other.