Saturday, January 29, 2005

Sleep knits up

Sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care….

Tough week. Too many “hot” interactions with too many different people on too many different topics. Not hot in the sense of having a heated emotional response, but in the sense of needing to tread lightly and carefully, picking the most honest words with the utmost care, choosing to communicate with the fewest possible words to draw lines with complete clarity. Tough, tough week.

Last night I feel into bed and slept twelve hours straight. Today I will clean my house and bring order to my tiny world, my little Vermont farmhouse. Tomorrow I will take a proper Sabbath and rest.

I spent $82 yesterday, a huge amount of money for me to spend these days and all on non-essentials: books and dinner out. My simple life in Vermont comes at a cost, participating in a reduced compensation structure relative to what I knew in New York. Simply put, I don’t make much money promoting economic development, so I don’t spend much.

Most of the time, it works out just fine. Where I once bought books, I now patronize several libraries. Where I once ate in restaurants (enjoying lots of different ethnic food!), I now cook at home. Even processed foods are off my list. I look at that tube of polenta for $3.99 and think…huh! cornmeal mush….but I do splurge on baby arugula and watercress, leaves I like to eat. With a few strategic exceptions, I am still wearing out the clothes I brought from New York, and when they wear out…I will invest in Carhartts like my neighbors.

Occasional financial anxieties intrude. How long will my 12-year-old Honda last? What about my laptop? The truth is that I do have some reserves—a cheerful relic of those bad old New York work days—and that I am right to make the conservative choice lto ive within my current income. My biggest luxury is living alone, but if I had to, I could have a roommate.

Sometimes I miss spending money more freely. As one example, when family anxieties flare, it can be helpful to throw a little money into the mix, to buy dinner for everyone, or presents, even though the fix is only temporary. Another example is the pleasant release of hiring someone to do something that I could do myself but see as hard work, like tilling my garden or doing my own taxes. When you have money, it is amazing the number of dis-comforts you can buy your way out of.

Not having money has its compensations, too. By now I know that despite my genuine aesthetic delight in some objects (furniture?) or experience (massage?), the ones I really need are few. The real payoff is that I choose with care where I spend my money, and now—as I think I have said before in blogland—I get as much enjoyment from buying frilly underwear as I once did in buying furniture. My dinner out in Montpelier last night, cushioned in the laughter of people on the periphery of my consciousness, was just what I needed. Usually, I save dinners out for times with other people, but last night was pure self-comfort.

The books I bought met my standard for books I need to own rather than borrow, although rent might be a better term, once the overdue fines are calculated. I am reading Lorne Ladner’s The Lost Art of Compassion: Discovering the Practice of Happiness in the Meeting of Buddhism and Psychology and a book by Lewis Hill from over the hill in Greensboro called Cold Climate Gardening. It is time to start looking forward to the promise of spring, not spring as we wish it were, but spring as it really comes here to the cold, cold hills of Vermont.

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