Today’s column has got me thinking about ways to truly appreciate what I have. It’s so easy to always be looking around the corner for more. For most of us, our ole Squawky Polly minds want us to focus on “not enough” or “what’s missing.” But Naomi Shihab Nye shares a few stories that got me to stop and plant myself firmly in gratitude.
One of the things I especially love is when she says, “I still like quarters.” Imagine if we allowed ourselves to pause and be thankful whenever we held a quarter in our hands. All day long, we’d be basking in a feeling of gratefulness. And gratefulness in itself is a form of riches. (Don’t believe me? Watch how good it feels when you experience thankfulness!)
I also so appreciate when she says she is going to cash a check and ask for it all in one-dollar bills. Again, this is a great tool for reminding ourselves of the abundance we do have, rather than scanning our worlds for signs of lack. She is literally allowing herself to feel the weight and impact of her earnings.
Do her stories about quarters and dollar bills prompt you to think of new ways that you can experience the wealth you have in your pocket/bank account right now?
For me, one of these money tools is that whenever I pay bills or go grocery shopping, I love to silently say thank you, over and over, reminding myself how lucky I am to have phone service, electricity, or groceries. Another way I experience wealth is to give $5 or $10 to a homeless person I pass or I immediately donate when I’m asked to support a charity. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money; it is really the experience of giving, of chipping in, that feels so good. There’s something about being a part of the flow or “currency” of money that helps me trust that all is well. It reminds me not to grasp or hoard in fear.
How about you? Got any abundance tricks you’d like to share? Please join the conversation by leaving a comment. Also, let us know what you appreciated about Naomi’s responses. We love to hear from you!
1. Are you earning what you’re worth? I don’t think I relate to this term — “what I’m worth.” I have always felt lucky to be paid anything at all as a visiting poet/writer in hundreds of venues over the past 40 years and continue to do jobs for dramatically variant “fees,” which makes sense to me. I even felt lucky as a teenager babysitting and working in restaurants for one dollar an hour. Possibly this is because I sold handmade potholders as a child for 25 cents each, and picked berries on an organic farm, paid five cents a pint. It’s all relative. I still like cash, have no relation to credit cards. I still like quarters.
2. What does the expression starving artist bring up for you? Starving artist reminds me of San Antonio, Texas where we have had regular “Starving Artist” outdoor public events for decades. In my mind I picture little stalls with white tents over them and people milling about. It makes me feel anxious — very hard to look at people’s art and then just walk on without at least having a conversation. So it’s stressful. But of course you can’t buy something from everyone and wouldn’t want to.
3. Do you have any childhood money stories that have to do with making a living from work you love? I always loved cooking and as a 17 year old took a job for a pregnant woman consigned to her bed, to cook dinner for her and her husband every night. (They also paid me one dollar an hour.) This was challenging, since I am a vegetarian and they wanted meat. Their oven was faulty and one night, with a carefully crafted meatloaf tucked inside, it caught on fire. The house filled with smoke. In front of the firemen they told me I was fired. This seems appropriate, writing it! I did not feel the disaster had been my fault, but didn’t argue with them, since the woman was fragile. I still love cooking though.
4. What’s your biggest money story currently? On my desk is a check for a hundred dollars, from visiting a reading and writing camp for kids in Austin, Texas a few weeks ago. What a great morning we had together! An extremely savvy group of young readers, ages third grade to twelfth, mixed together. I am going to walk to the bank this afternoon in 100 degree heat and cash this check and ask for the cash in one dollar bills. Singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt used to ask for his payment in ones as that wad of money made him feel as if he were richer. That makes sense to me. I like the phrase, “It’s better to live rich than to die rich.” You can arrange three things you already had on your kitchen counter in a different configuration every morning and feel very rich just looking at them.
5. Do you think the expression, “Do what you love and the money will follow” is accurate? (Would you add anything to it?) I do think the expression “Do what you love and the money will follow” is brilliant. My husband, photographer Michael Nye and I used to take walks with the amazing painter Alberto Mijangos when we were first married. Alberto had had a big job as Minister of Culture or Art in Mexico and given it up to move to San Antonio and be a painter. We were neighbors for a while. He believed strongly in this adage — you must do what you love. I remember those dreamy evenings walking with him, the softening heat, the looming trees, his gentle lilting voice floating in the dark. He told the truth. I would never have thought I could make a living as a wandering poet, when I was a kid writing on scraps.