Thursday, February 3, 2011

Skattered Brain

My son just left to enjoy a rare day of deep fresh powder on the slopes. He is giddy with excitement. The last time there was a day of promise like this was two years ago when we were newly back to skiing, newly into our life as a family of two, and I took him out of school to create an amazing memory for us of a father and son, life as it should be, could be.

Last week reminded me of the worst days of my years as a building contractor. The bank account was negative, going deeper with charges, while several more checks were poised to clear. In desperate heart beats, I made phone calls, other calls and calls back again. Revisiting that agonizing fear to make payroll, I shuffled appointments, scrambled to meet the FedEx delivery, and raced to the bank on fumes to make the deposit by five.

Even without a frightened wife as a moral marker, I felt less a man in those awful hours than a starving animal with hunters closing in, wishing to go back in time and no where near that beckoning house of hens. No sooner, however, was that account replenished and my card worked to put gas in the tank and go home, then my heart lightened, the sun blazed into glorious colors and I rejoined the world of the thriving. My sense of self, one foot solid on the ground, was restored.

With no penny to spare, the lack, like a ball and chain, makes every step twice as hard and three times as exhausting. It costs money to have little money and the sense of abundance that New Age pundits claim is so readily available is totally elusive when you have to count so often and worry so much.

A friend said recently that money is just energy, intending to be reassuring that it flows like water inevitably and unstoppably. In that context, on that day, I had none of either and had to exert plenty to get a little in the bank.

My life, I think, has been led in the converse belief that energy can be money. The harder I work, the better I should be. When intention is pure, the heart is open, the plan is clear, all falls into line and the Universe delivers a life of abundance and satisfaction. Believing that so strongly, I have to look closely at my intentions, heart and execution in difficult times like this and recognize that something may not be lined up as purely as I would like to believe.

In the construction business, I did not end up with a plush house and fancy car while my friends and co-workers were stiffed. I did pay the mortgage, put food on the table and took my wife out occasionally for an elegant dinner while delaying checks to my subs and eventually giving said house (my share) to the IRS. The mistakes are easily identifiable that no matter how modest and loving my intentions, business was done in the wrong order and the deck of cards ultimately collapsed.

Lessons are learned and we pick ourselves up to continue on. Now I drive an old but paid-off car and humbly come home to a basement apartment. I take a friend to dinner only when I know my other bills have been paid. The chicken or the egg, I suffer a tube in my belly perhaps as pennance to my Root Chakra for all the pain I have caused my family, friends and sub-contractors.

I honor my passions of writing and music, fulfilling my heart and making a little spending dough. To earn more, I relentlessly drive the miles to sell insurance. Still I am reliant on my father for a check each month to bring all the ends together to fit the means.

Some, concerned about my welfare and wanting the best for me, wonder if the financial dependence on my father is as much a problem of enabling childlike behavior as it is helpful to keep me (and my own son) off the streets. My father himself, so frustrated and disappointed, keeps track of every penny against my eventual inheritance, worried there will be no share left for me when he is finally gone.

The fear is that with the support of my father firmly under me, I do not have to look so hard for more reliable work. I do not feel the desperate urge to find warmth from the cold. On any given day, it can be easy to stay at home, clicking away time on the internet or writing another essay when just a simple phone call can deliver enough to pay the bills for a week. I have the freedom to make the choice to go skiing deep powder with my son.

In actuality, the truth is not so easy to discern and I flounder in the dilemma that time is running out. I feel like there is still so much ground to cover just to catch up. Having squandered all of my resources and good-will to successfully work in construction any more and looking at more serious recovery time from my injury, without my father’s help to make a great leap of change, I would be homeless. I am so fortunate that he is there, able and willing.

At the Mountain, I see what might be a distorted but very strong representation of an enviable standard of living. Men fifteen years younger than I (mostly brokers) support wives with huge diamonds and three children. They are personable, comfortable, and quite happy with slope-side condominiums for second homes and mid-winter breaks in the Bahamas.

Every day on my insurance rounds, I see a much different reality of single parents or couples with children just getting by on a slim and tenuous wage. To their credit, many seem no less happy in spite of their struggle. Their children are as bright-eyed and eager to share as my Monkeys.

In between is most of the population working hard, making sound decisions, counting blessings, paying the mortgage on time and tending the garden once spring breaks loose. Life provides the rewards of a promotion, graduation, a grandchild, occasional adventures and exceptional celebrations along the way. Overall, every Monday is the start of another week towards retirement and happiness is found in each soccer game on a crisp Saturday morning or a movie curled up together on the couch.

I just want to belong to something as real as that, to awake in the morning grateful and proud of myself, and be able, when the powder is so unusually deep, to go with my son on that occasional adventure. Today, however, I will work.

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1 comment:

Hayden Tompkins said...

Our lives, Kip, are based on our beliefs. Is it possible that you hold a belief that you don't deserve money unless you are 'working' for it?

I know that's actually true for me, especially since I feel that people don't deserve money unless they do 'real' work to earn it.

Selling insurance may not be 'real' work to you in the same way that life coaching was not 'real' work for me.

Additionally, you may be running into class issues? I never thought about the difference that class issues have on a career trajectory but my class has definitely and concretely shaped my work ethic.

The article I read was highly illuminating and I recommend that you read it. Their audience is 20-something females but I believe it is well worth the read.

He also writes about blue-collar people’s incredible discomfort with networking. One interviewee actually became nauseated at a seminar on how to network, feeling that it was just a class on how to be fake and dishonest. (I was once taken aback when some people from an organization I worked for ended up eating lunch with some competitors, and I thought that afterwards we’d exchange some competitive banter among ourselves: our team is better than their team, that kind of thing. Instead, I was part of an email chain about who should send the first thank-you email and how many of us should do so). Blue-collar people do network, of course, but the style tends to be more direct, and stays at work: “It’s colleagues asking colleagues; nobody crosses any peer lines to hunt down opportunities. Among the working class, there is a belief — a naive one, some say — that you should make it in this world on merit alone.”