Thursday, May 22, 2008

Debt Elimination Stumbling Block #1: Chasing Butterflies

FreeMoneyFinance is a great blog. I really loved the post “How to Get Rich In Three Easy Steps”. Of course it is easy to get rich. It’s even easier to get thin- just eat less and exercise more. See? Only two easy steps to that one! Want to be more organized? Just de-clutter your space and use a calendar.

So…if it’s so easy, why is it so hard? I don’t like to get too bogged down in the “why” of things, preferring instead to be more hands-on, but I must agree with Socrates that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” If I don’t see the things that trip me up, then it’s likely that they will continue to trip me again and again. I need to discover what it is that gets in my way and either eliminate it or use it. I hope to add more posts in the future on this subject, so I am calling this post #1. We will see if there are more!

One of my biggest stumbling blocks is simple inattention. I am easily distracted. I always have been and if I were a Gen X-er instead of a tail-end Baby Boomer, I probably would have been diagnosed in grade school as having ADD. My son has it and I’m pretty sure I know where he got it! This is true for all of the areas in my life--finances, weight loss, home management. Referring to the metaphor in my last post, I chart a course and I begin it well and then, like a child, I blithely chase off the path, distracted by a butterfly.

What distracts me the most is my need to create. Sewing, doll making, drawing, altered arts, calligraphy- whatever it is, I tend to get completely lost in it. I’ll go like gang busters for a week at a time and only do the barest minimum in the rest of my life- dishes and work and maybe a little laundry. Everything else get neglected, but when I am done I have this beautiful thing that will, I hope, bring a smile into someone’s face. I love that I have this gift and that I am good at these things. I love making something out of nothing! I love sharing what I’ve made and getting positive strokes for my creations. It is the most wonderful thing to hear that something I made has given someone a little joy. The downside to this kind of existence is finishing an art project and facing an empty fridge, cranky children, a very messy house and sometimes, an overdrawn checking account. That would usually be the point where I would lay down and give up.

There would be no problem, I suppose, if my husband would just devote himself to all the necessary bits of life and allow me to frolic about in the woods making art! There are only two problems with that scenario: one, my husband has his own butterflies to chase and two, I’m such a control freak that I prefer to be either completely in charge or completely in chaos, while at the same time refusing to hand the reigns over to anyone else. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have a husband who is fine with that!

There have been periods of my life where I have decided that my creating was frivolous and selfish and that I needed to spend more time on worthwhile pursuits. So I would pack up all my materials and sigh, and think, “Maybe when I’m retired, I will have time for this kind of thing.” Then I would dutifully “take up my cross” and be frugal, fit and organized. At first, the drive to do these things well would be enough to sustain me, but after a few weeks, life would become lackluster. The day-in and day-out routine of maintaining a frugal, fit and organized family would wear on my soul. I would sit in my orderly home and watch my family pursue the things that they wanted to do (making messes all along the way), while denying myself the things that I wanted to do.

So, now I am a tiny bit wiser and I recognize that my need to create is exactly that- a need and not a want at all. The trick, of course, is how to balance it with the other priorities in my life. After all, what good is a path if you don’t enjoy the journey? The butterflies bring beauty and joy! How do I stay on my path and still catch my butterfly?

The best solution I have at the moment is to widen my path. If art making is built into my path, then it becomes easier to stay on it. That is where my etsy shop comes in. Learning the concept of snowflaking has really helped me to look at my shop in a new way. When I opened it in August 2007, I had the naïve idea that it would help me achieve financial freedom by someday allowing me to quit my full-time job. I know- don’t laugh! When it became obvious that I could never produce enough quality items with my own two little hardworking, overbooked hands to ever be able to live by them, I questioned its purpose and considered giving it up. I am so happy to discover that I don’t have to do that. The fees on etsy are so small that I needn’t worry about losing money in the endeavor and instead, the few sales I do make will still help me achieve financial freedom by helping me to get out of debt. Now, that is realistic and it provides me with fresh enthusiasm to eliminate my debt and make more dolls.

The other thing I am doing to help me stay focused on my journey, is grooming my path. By that I mean that I am putting a concerted effort right now into de-cluttering and re-organizing my workspace at home. Since my workspace is also our dining room, it is very important that I organize it in such a way that neither function crowds out the other. Too dining room-ish and I can’t function as an artist. Too studio-like and we can’t eat together as a family. I have a built-in desk along one wall, but often find myself working at the table instead. That has to change so that even if I have a project in progress, the table is still available to us for our meals. I believe that whatever the circumstance, we can adapt to it to allow us to still reach our goals.

The last step I am taking in improving my path is posting road signs. Gathering Little by Little had a great blog post about this today. I am a big believer in visual reminders. I especially love the power of words and am incorporating them into my path in a few different ways. First, I have started this blog and since I am already a regular blogger at Tender Arts, it won’t be hard to remember to check in here as well. Second, I will be posting little notes around the house to keep me on track. I am scheduling an email to come to me weekly to remind me to post new notes in new places so the old ones don’t “disappear” in a sea of familiarity. Third, I have long wanted to paint my favorite quote somewhere in my house. Given my renewed enthusiasm for getting out of debt, I think this is the perfect time to do so. Right over my desk at home, I am going to paint these wise words from Winston Churchill:

“Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

to remind me that even if I do stray from the path in pursuit of a butterfly or two, it is important to get right back on it and keep going.


Mrs. Accountability said...

Thanks for posting to my blog post about my first experience with Craigslist.

Boy, can I relate to your #1 debt elimination stumbling block, and the first paragraph, oh my goodness. So easy to get rich, lose weight and get organized. HAH! Not for me, either. I was born in 1963 - am I considered a tail end baby boomer? And ADD? I can sure concentrate when it's something *I* want to do, but boy when it's not, I am distracted like nobody's business. I have wished I had time for etsy - but I know it would be an exercise in futility since I have no time to make etsy-type stuff. I have to settle at this point in time for the creativity I can do with my computer. Great post, I can really relate!

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