You Deserve Nice Things

For as long as I can remember I have always been very cautious about spending money. Part of me is quite proud of that trait actually. My mother praised me as a child when she saw how I saved my Christmas money instead of immediately spending it all like my sister would. It made me feel mature and savvy. I feel safer when I have a good chunk of money squirreled away somewhere. Yet as I’ve gotten older and accumulated more and more, it still seems like I never have enough to really feel secure.

I came from a rather poor family growing up. We had more than a lot of people in my area, but my parents definitely struggled a lot when my sister and I were younger. Eventually they managed to rise on the economic ladder, but their thrifty shopping habits never went away. When you learn to live on the bare minimum, it can be hard to feel comfortable spending money on frivolous luxuries even once you can afford to. When my sister and I were younger we used to hate buying our clothes from Gabe’s. We were embarrassed and wished our parents would buy us expensive clothes from Pacsun or American Eagle. The funny part is now that I’m an adult and could probably afford to buy myself expensive clothes, I absolutely never do. I adore going to Gabe’s now and hunting for the best deals. I pride myself in finding expensive designer clothes there for a fraction of the original price. When I receive complements I even tend to brag about how cheap the item was.

From an early age I began to view people that bought expensive, full-price things as stupid. Especially when they were conceited about it. Why would you show off the fact that you wasted so much money? I often wondered. They were just getting ripped off as far as I was concerned. I can’t even remember the last time I bought an article of clothing for more than $10-$15. Even that is pushing it for me. I prefer single digit prices. I think a lot of people would be surprised by that though. I love to dress fashionably, and I have a lot of seemingly expensive, name-brand clothes. A lot of my favorite cardigans were once priced at $50. I got them for $5.

All of that being said, I’ve managed to save up quite a good sum of money after working full-time for a few years. I don’t have many bills to pay. I don’t have children to spend money on. I hardly ever go out to eat. I no longer have to pay rent. I only very recently took out my first small loan for a car that I will probably pay back in half the allotted time. Not to mention I also got those stimulus checks this past year, which were basically just free money since I never stopped working during the pandemic. Yet even though I’ve got a stable income, few expenses, and a lot of savings I still rarely allow myself to make any big purchases. The few times I actually have, left me feeling anxious and guilty.

For example, even though it was my first loan, a great deal, and a car I badly needed, it took me weeks to finally relax and stop stressing myself over my monthly payments. Even though I am more than capable of making them. I also decided to spend some of my stimulus money on a new MacBook after having my old one for over ten years. I really had to keep framing it in my mind as a “free” laptop from the government in order to convince myself to go through with the purchase. And even though I absolutely adore it, I still often feel twinges of guilt and wonder if that money could have been better spent elsewhere.

A few days ago I accidentally dropped my iPhone in water. At first it seemed okay, but then as the day progressed I noticed the speakers weren’t working right. Then the following day it wouldn’t hold a charge for more than an hour or so. I had already been looking into getting a new phone since I’ve had this one for around 4-5 years. I was even pretty excited about it. Of course I needed to feel like I wasn’t spending money though so I dug out the roughly one grand I got from my birthday and Christmas last year. I had yet to spend a cent of it after nearly six months. To be honest I would often forget I had that money at all. Yet even with all of that I still feel insanely guilty about buying myself a new phone yesterday. Especially since I woke up this morning to find my old phone working normally again. I haven’t even opened the new one yet, and I’ve even contemplated taking it back.

Part of the reason I wanted to write about this topic today is to convince myself not to do that and to keep my new phone even though I don’t technically need it anymore. Of course it wouldn’t be wise to always be making big purchases like that, but once in awhile is perfectly fine. I shouldn’t feel guilty for treating myself every now and then. What is the use of having money if I never allow myself to spend it on things that make me happy? It’s important to have savings for sure. But it’s also important to use my money in ways that serve me.

I am not going to return my new phone. I am going to let myself be excited. I deserve to be excited about it. Technically I could say it’s a Christmas gift anyway. I’m sure my friends and family wouldn’t want me to feel bad about spending the money that they gave to me. They would want me to relax and enjoy spending it on whatever makes me happy. Instead of feeling guilty and anxious when I start setting up my new phone today, I am going to focus on feeling grateful. I am grateful for the generosity of my love ones that allowed me to have the money to buy my new phone. I am grateful for a chance to do something nice for myself. I deserve kindness. I deserve self-love. I deserve to treat myself with nice things. I deserve to experience pleasure and excitement without guilt.

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The Heart That Gives, Gathers

I still remember giddily awaiting Christmas morning. Hardly being able to fall asleep. My eyes popping open at 4 in the morning, because that is technically Christmas. My sister and I would go wake my parents up at that ungodly hour. And to their credit, they were always good sports about it. They never got mad at us. Usually they’d actually drag themselves out of bed and let us start opening our presents even though the sun had yet to come up. I can’t say I would have reacted the same.

The strangest part is thinking that all that excitement was to receive gifts. Now that I’m older, I still have a sense of excitement for Christmas day, but the thought of what I’ll return home with is the last thing on my mind. I had heard as a child that it was a greater joy to give gifts to your loved ones than to be gifted things in return. But I had always thought that was just a thing adults said so we didn’t feel bad. I had no idea how true I would one day find that sentiment. Now being excited only to be given gifts is the side of the equation that seems absurd.

As I am about to give the gifts that I spent months gathering, making, and wrapping gingerly, I can’t help but be full of gratitude and love. Christmas is a wonderful reminder that even though it may seem counterintuitive, generosity leads to abundance. We spend so much of our lives saving and hoarding, being fearful that we will not have enough. Paradoxically, this draws that sense of “lacking” into our lives rather than keeping it at bay.

When we give and share what we have with others, the universe brings that same energy of abundance back to us. Christmas is a perfect example of that principle. We spend a lot of time and money before the holidays making sure we have just the right gifts for those we love. But are we not repaid for our money and effort tenfold by the joy we receive upon watching their happy faces light up? By their hugs and kisses? By the chance to share delicious hot food as we gather together in the cold?

The winter months seem like a time to hunker down, spend frugally, stay in, save up to survive. But what a beautiful holiday we have implanted right in the middle! A holiday that encourages us to go out, to spend time with our loved ones, to gorge ourselves on fancy foods, to give elaborate gifts. A reminder that we are all one. A reminder that because of this, our generosity will always find it’s way back around to us in some form or another. So we don’t need to be afraid. Give freely. Help others. Even when you may feel like you don’t have anything to spare. It’s always worth it.

Merry Christmas

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Energy Flows Where Attention Goes

I keep focusing on the wrong things. Then the wrong things become everything.

The Front Bottoms

Last night I had a little, friend Christmas with my sister, our best friend, and their partners. It was a wonderful time. We had some drinks. We got super high. We exchanged gifts. We played games. And we shared delicious food along with each others’ company. Truly a night to be grateful for.

However, as I was driving home, I was angry. You see, I had a fancy mini bottle of Grey Goose Vodka that I was gifted at work. I had a few shots of it myself, and did bring it with the intention to share. However, my sister’s boyfriend was the only one who drank any of it besides the little I had. I have only met him once before this. He never asked before helping himself time and time again. And at the end of the night I made my way home with a practically empty bottle.

My head was swimming with accusations and indignation. The nerve! I don’t very much like this character any more! How rude can you be! I was fuming. But then I stopped in my tracks. Why on earth was I choosing to focus on that one small aspect of my night? It dawned on me that I always seem to do this. If even one little thing goes wrong, I fixate on just that. I ignore all the delightful parts of any situation in favor of a tiny imperfect detail. I am being ungrateful. I am taking the good stuff for granted.

I was so relieved when I remembered that I can choose where I want to place my focus. Yes, the vodka thing did happen, and it kinda sucked. But that was by no means the most important or significant thing that happened yesterday! I got to spend a Christmas-y evening with some of my favorite people in the world. I was given thoughtful, wonderful gifts. I was given good food, drinks, and drugs. I had a great time. I laughed and smiled more than I have in a long time. I got to watch the joy on my loved ones faces as they unwrapped their gifts that I put so much thought, effort, and love into.

What a difference attention can make. It can turn a wonderful night into something to be angry about. It can turn a banal day into an extremely stressful one. But it can also turn a tragedy into something to be grateful for. We can’t control what happens to us, but we always have the power to choose where we place our attention. And that is such an incredibly powerful thing.

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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Even though I am a summer person and generally prefer warm weather and sunshine, there has always been a special place in my heart for the Christmas season. I haven’t been religious since I was in middle school, but I’ve never lost my love for Christmas. It seems like it has lost most of its religious significance in modern times anyway. It is a heck of a lot more focused on consumerism and commercialism. However, for me, it’s always been about coziness, togetherness, and family. There is just something so inexplicably satisfying about being warm and safe and close to the ones you love when it’s so cold and grey and inhospitable outside.

Whereas spring and summer are full of activity and exuberance, the fall and winter months are more suited to the quiet stillness of going within. They are a time to rest and be mindful. A time to pause and reflect on all that we are grateful for. It is a time to hold your loved ones close and give thanks that we have all made it through another long year together.

My family isn’t really very affectionate. We don’t give tons of hugs and kisses. We don’t have many heartfelt conversations. I’ve always been envious of other families in that regard. I am an affectionate person, but I feel my ability to express that has been underdeveloped after living amongst such closed off people my whole life. For me, Christmas is an excuse to really lay my love on thick without feeling awkward about it. It feels like grand emotional displays are more acceptable during this time of the year. It gives me the courage to let myself be truly vulnerable. This holiday makes my heart feel so open.

I have a friend that always writes a lot in every card she gives you. They are always beautifully worded outpourings of genuine love. For years now I’ve made a tradition of this for myself. Every gift I give for Christmas has a least two parts: the physical gift, as well as a poetic verbal summation of my profound love and appreciation. My family has come to expect these tear-jerking messages each year. I always joke about the way people cry whenever they receive a gift from me. I’ve learned that no matter how wonderful your gift is, nothing can compare to putting your love for someone into words.

Even if you think the person already knows how you really feel, don’t hesitate to tell them whenever you find a chance. Kind words can mean so much. I save every heartfelt card I’ve received from my friend over the years. I read them over whenever I stumble across one, and they never fail to cheer me up and calm me down. I treasure them more than any physical gift I’ve received from her.

Writing a personal card for someone can also be a great alternative to buying a gift. Especially with the financial insecurity this year has brought, it’s comforting to know that you always have something you can give: your love. You may be surprised to find this warm gesture is even more significant than an expensive gift would have been.

I hope that you can also use this season to open your heart and share that deep well of love with the people around you. It is a beautiful thing to witness yourself learn to shift your focus from receiving gifts as a child, to giving them as an adult. It’s hard to decide which phase is better. The excitement of waking up to presents under the tree as a child was amazing, but I think I may prefer the soft, deep, reverberating warmth of being able to give to those you love even more.

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