Living Below Your Means
Counting (Un)Employed Blessings

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By TamarianG
August 28, 2003

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Gang, I'm moving this over from my rant thread about why in the world I would accept massive paycuts in exchange for having the client's name on my paychecks instead of my consulting agency's � amc4u brought up something that got my philosophy mode started again. So blame him/her (sorry, don't know you well enough to put gender labels on yet, amc4u!), not me for this!

amc4u wrote: Maybe we should all remember that around say nine million people in this country at this moment have no job at all. Everyone can and is being replaced. Maybe we should count our blessings.

Definitely. But I got a shiver from the morose tone. It felt exactly like a cloud going over the sun; like hearing the pain in a friend's voice over the phone. It made me sit back and think about why in the world I can be so ignorant as to not feel this fear, why don't I think in the interest of 'being employed' it might be worth allowing myself to be paid that $20K less than the current market rate for the position. How I can laugh about the fact that I'm not likely to get that particular job but will instead continue to make the $40K more as a contractor instead, with the associated risk that tomorrow I may find my stuff in a box on the curb and a note that says, "Sorry, budget cuts, you know!"

I thought about it for a while, and here's the thing. These things, cycles of high unemployment followed by high interest rates followed by crash and burn again, are going to happen multiple times in my life. And yes, I have to adjust to them; if I tried to hold out for the pay I got two years ago, I'd be holding out until I retired on my husband's dime. But I don't think a bad market � job or stock � should be confused with the end of life as we know it. Well, maybe as we know it. But not the end of life itself. Not the end of us.

I think maybe that's my "problem." I know, I know, it's all going to be OK in the end. No matter what. Seriously. I'm not going to die from being unemployed. I might not like the lifestyle. I might not find myself retired at 55, nor will I be driving that groovy Lexus and, saints forefend, I might find that I have to make living arrangements that don't involve 2500 square feet plus yard with 25+ rose bushes for me to treat like pets (ish-oo a cutie-wootie widdle wose bush? Es oo IS, oo IS!); but it will still be OK. Even if I find myself working my way through the soup kitchen line instead of being one of the folks ladling it out. Things change, stuff happens, good and bad. When I'm up, I try to remember when I was down and give the same help I was given; when I'm down, I have to swallow my pride and take what I can get. I've been both and probably will be both again (although I'm better equipped now to avoid being quite THAT far down, but still � could it happen? Sure...)

I really don't view a paycheck as being necessary for life itself. There are always options that don't involve a traditional employer relationship for keeping the old body and soul together. I can freelance, I can scrounge, I can sit out on the street with my harp and my hat if need be. I can take those "icky" short contracts nobody else wants (but which can actually be rather nice - huge pay rate because they're so short and they can't get anybody helps take the sting out of being unemployed a week or two between each six weeks of work). There are a hundred things I can do, worked in around the needs of my family, that will keep food on our table and a roof (albeit not necessarily THIS rather beautiful roof) over our heads.

I prefer working for a paycheck. It's easier. It's more secure. It involves less work, overall. I can get lazy about my budget and I can go ahead and 'spend it if I've got it' more than I can when relying on more seasonal and unsteady things such as playing the harp for weddings or street fairs. I don't have to be smart every single moment of every single day. A moment's inattention isn't going to cost me every dime I've been working for lo these many moons. I'm not as likely to have those moments of blind panic when Peter and Paul are both standing there together holding their hands out and I can't cheat one to pay the other.

But if I'm looking at the whole equation and I'm saying, "Hmm, I've got to work 15 days out of 20 just to pay for those things which are directly caused by my working full time (daycare, gasoline and other commute costs, parking fees etc.)", there's a question I'm going to ask: Is it worth it?

Is it worth hauling out of bed at 4:00 each morning? Is it worth being gone until 6:00 each night? Is it worth having weeks where I put my kids to bed on Sunday night and don't see them with their eyes open again until Saturday morning? Is it worth getting up Saturday morning to a week's worth of chores?

And if I'm looking at that bottom line and it tells me that after all those expenses, I'm making $500 a month, the answer is going to be NO. I can do better than that through these other sources. Shoot, I really can make more than that on eBay � from home, with my darling children frolicking about my knee. OK, in reality, they're screaming, clawing at each other and throwing things (or throwing up), but STILL. At least I didn't have to get out of bed at 4:00. They let me sleep in until at least 5:00.

DO count your blessings. It is vital to our ability to keep our chins up. I am incredibly blessed, in just about every arena life has to offer. And if you think I don't pause, daily, to tell my God just how thankful I am for things ranging from a gorgeous sunrise to my paycheck to my husband and kids to that vibrant shade of purple on the roses currently erupting in my backyard, think again. I hoard up my blessings and count them even more frequently than I check the balances on my checkbook and my credit card, which believe you me is saying something!

But don't count your blessings with your head bowed over in the fear of loss. Do it with your head UP. Look up, and around, scan the horizon as you touch and love and cherish each blessing of your life. Don't let the world cage you in with all its chaotic tumbling. Do what's smart for you, financially, physically, spiritually, mentally. Keep your faith, your laughter, your hope.

They all attract blessings, you know. ;-)


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