Sunday, May 15, 2011

Economy of Scarcity

My  meditation today says this:

 “The first requisites of an abundant life are the spiritual things:  honesty, purity, unselfishness and love.  Until you have these qualities, quantities of material things are of little real use to you.”
This is a concept that I have been wrestling with for some time.  My partner refers to my approach to living as an “economy of scarcity.”   (Not in the macro/micro economic sense but as an emotional framework)   What this means is that no matter how much or what I possess I am forever afraid of losing it.  I waste too much time anxious that there is not enough to keep me safe.  In my own defense this seems to be a trait I have inherited and am trying to change.  In truth I have exactly what I need in this moment.  I am abundantly blessed.

Yesterday I read Rob Bell’s book Drops Like Stars .   In it he talks about how most of us in life operate within prescribed boundaries and assumptions.  In my case not only boundaries and assumptions but rules that I create for myself about how things are supposed to be.  And when things don't follow those rules I become a madwoman.
My biggest character flaw is a complete avoidance of risk.  This comes from a deeply ingrained fear.   I have spent my life manipulating things in order to feel safe and secure. Yet no matter where I have been, no matter what I have been doing and no matter what I possessed  there has never been enough of anything to take away my fear.  This I realize is an emotional/spiritual issue and not a material one.  My unwarranted fear leads me to an inability to feel gratitude for what I have NOW because I am so focused on what might happen in the future.  I am in short, a coward.
I scrimp and save and refuse to spend money because someday I might not have any.  I hide from speaking my true feelings because others might not like what I have to say.  I avoid activities where I might feel pain or get hurt.  I am a bitch if my routine is interrupted because routine gives me a sense of control and security.  I avoid opportunities that might challenge me because I might fail.  I push folks away if they get too close because they might hurt me.  You get the idea
 And then I get to this part of the book:   “We planned things out.  We knew what meant what.  We had all of our boxes properly organized and labeled…” 
And then something happens –
A loved one commits suicide
We are diagnosed with a terminal illness
We miscarry
We are in a car accident
Something happens that causes us to suffer, our boxes are shattered and “we have no other option but to imagine a totally new tomorrow.” 

 I have caused myself endless suffering in trying to avoid this kind of pain.  And it has caused the box I live in to be very, very small.
Bell again,
“When you talk with people who have just received news that they have a life threatening illness, what do they say?

‘Now I must get those hedges trimmed!’
‘I’ve been putting off plastic surgery long enough.’
‘It’s finally time to join that online poker club.’
No of course not.  They talk about family and friends.  They gather those they love as close as possible.  They reflect on any amends that need to be made with anybody.  They talk about what matters most.  Suffering does that.  There is greatness in you.  Courage. Desire. Integrity.  Virtue.  Compassion.  Dignity.  Loyalty.  Love.  It’s in there somewhere.  And sometimes it takes suffering to get at it.”

Right now in my life I am privileged to be witness to friends who are living breathing examples of courage, love, selflessness and strength as they deal with grief, loss, and suffering.  Their boxes have been shattered and yet they go on.
In recovery we say that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.  Bell says that we are shaped by the incredibly difficult things that happen to us either for better or worse.  He says that when we suffer we will either become bitter or better, closed or open, more ignorant or more aware, more or less.  I have come down on the wrong side of these choices for the majority of my life.  I have been afraid that there was not enough of anything.  And yet I have acted as if there was all the time in the world to change and do something different when it is time that there is never enough of.
I think it’s about time for me to climb out of my box.