“Tom, how’s it going?” With a week like these last seven days, the answer changes with the hour. Luckily, my walk across Scotland was a lesson in picking my emotions. Events trigger emotions as ever, but because of a revelation I am more likely to keep the lows from being as low, am more likely to celebrate the highs, and raise the average. That’s a handy skill in the midst of turmoil, uncertainty, chaos, concerns, and potentials. Every moment contains every emotion. Choose.
The week started with unexpected help with a job search (+), an embarrassing bit of confusion over an event (-), a fun radio interview (+), paying less of a bill than I wanted to (-), various people calling me a Renaissance Man (Renaissance Rebirth) (+), a computer and a car that went from broken to fixed in a time of tight money (+/- +/-), a trio of job setbacks (- – -), a new title of visionary (+), a pronouncement from LinkedIn that I am in the top 1% of people marked as Public Speakers (+), sold a print to an ideal recipient (+), had a fun dance (+), was embarrassed that I forgot the name of one of the other dancers and had to back out anyway from an offer to dance due to hunger (-), and had a fun time giving a talk about Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland at Langley Library (+), and forgetting to tell them they could buy the book (self-inflicted dope slap) (-). How’s it going? Let me check. I just had lunch, a glass of wine, and a nap after getting back from the talk; and didn’t find any bills in the mailbox. Right now it’s going well.
Right now is much better than what I recall from six months ago. There were fewer + signs back then. There aren’t enough yet to pay my mortgage or pay down my credit card bill, but thanks to several clients, the rest of the bills are getting paid. Except for massive positive windfalls, incremental changes are more common. When an airplane pulls out of a dive, as a pendulum swings from high to low to high again, the transition from falling to rising is smooth, not sudden; and at the nadir of the curve, the lateral motion is greater than the downward or upward motion. I certainly have lots of motion, and plenty of hints of progression, but pulling out of this swing is taking a lot of energy.
Cough, cough, sputter, sputter, cough, sputter, varoom is the way an outboard motor can sound as it starts. For me and many of my friends, our finances continue to cough and sputter, but the intervals are shortening, and occasionally the fiscal engines catch for a moment. In some cases, they’re actually getting somewhere with some control of their direction. Amidst the coughing and sputtering though, unexpected expenses like cars, computers, and house repairs can trigger anxieties. The repair costs are far less than the replacement costs, but when your savings are less than new car money, repairs are a noticeable event.
I went on my Scotland trip to relieve some stress, find perspective any rut I was in, and play with the idea of wandering from distillery to distillery. Except for the whisky, that’s what happened. One of the unexpected treasures was the revelation I mentioned about. “I’d learned that every moment held every emotion, and that all I had to do was choose.” Want to know how that happened? Read the book. Hey, maybe even buy it!
With a week like I described above, it is easy to get swept up and down. The trio of job setbacks were enough to send some people into depression. Hiding under the covers is an easy and cheap response. It saves on heating bills. Sometimes the bad news sends me into a dark space. I’m not positive all of the time. But the awareness that every emotion is available helps. Even if I don’t know how to tap into a grin or a smile (though I have developed a tool for that – Grin Smile Laugh), knowing that it is possible is a major help.
My string of perverse luck began back in August 2011 (Triple Whammy). I’ve been looking for jobs since then (My Jobs Report Month 17). I’m continuing to try selling my house (Home For Sale Alas) since last May. A year and a half of such events begins to take on the spirit of what will become a farce in retrospect. Well, I’ve waited long enough for so many things that if it’s going to be funny later, I might as well laugh now. I even laughed at the fact that I laughed. And laughing now has had another consequence. My luck has seemed perverse, but I now also realize that if there is perversely bad luck, then it is possible to have perversely good luck, which will be much more welcome and be equally laughable. Laughing my way in, through, and out (with occasional diversions into other healthy emotions) is much more appealing than grinding my way through.
I’m not an expert at choosing my emotions. I only realized the possibility in 2010. The revelation came as a thought and feeling attached to a spider thread that could lead to something more substantial. “I decided to keep a tender mental hold on that emotional thread and slowly reel in that treasure.” I’m still reeling.
Managing personal finances isn’t only managing money. Emotions are tied to money and come with attachments to identity, security, and self-worth. Being able to choose an emotion from a moment begins to disconnect the outside influences on personal finances. What makes me happy doesn’t cost much, though not paying my bills definitely gets me down. Beyond having “enough”, I find very little in advertisements that appeal to me. I like my simple life. Much of it is externally imposed right now, but I know that what I enjoy wouldn’t change much if or when I am a millionaire again. A friend an I were daydreaming, er, planning, about what to do with a lottery jackpot. Both of us preferred to renovate our cars (my Jeep Cherokee Classic that they were silly to stop making, and his old built-to-last-forever-regardless-of-fashion pickup) rather than buy something new. (Though I am intrigued by the electric motorcycles whenever I’m in the ferry line. Motorcycles load first. Electrics don’t have to idle.)
My emotions as I type are a bit reserved. I enjoy public speaking, but it usually takes some time to unwind and get my energy back. I’ll have a cup of tea and sit for a bit after I post and share. Then I’ll dive into the emails and phone calls to follow up from this morning’s talk. Three or four want to talk to me about Scotland, or finance, or a few unnamed topics. In the nature of the small city of Langley, a friend called out as she drove by and as I walked back to my car. She slowed down to invite me to talk at her place. (And caused three cars to line up behind her, which is a major traffic event.) That’s a string of positives (+ + + + +) that makes it easy to pick an emotion.