The Intersection of Spirituality and Business

People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish desires and schemes that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For love of money is the root of all of evil and some having pursued its power, fall from faith and end in sorrow.

Saint Timothy
Money and Spirituality. Group Game, Russian House #1, Jenner, 20 June 2021

Affirmations are still new territory for me. I’ve been trying to incorporate them into my life for a few months now. I have a couple apps that will generate one randomly for you every day. Although I still find the ones I come up with myself to be the most beneficial, which is to be expected. Getting back to the apps though, there are all genres of affirmations to choose from. There are affirmations for love, health, positive energy, self care, inner peace, etc. These are all beautiful and exactly what I anticipate an affirmation to feel/sound like. The ones that stand apart for me are the “financial” or “monetary” affirmations. These ones leave a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ve been seeing a lot of these types of affirmations recently. I’ve also noticed the realm of manifesting being infiltrated by similar motivations. Far be it from me to tell anyone what to do in their own spiritual or self-healing journey, but in my opinion, these money focused affirmations and manifestation efforts are ill-suited to the overall energy of any spiritual movement. Self-love, self-care, healing, personal growth, even abundance do not have anything to do with property or possessions, monetary or otherwise. The journey of the soul is not concerned with such such trivial, worldly pursuits and interests.

The idea of money and, what I perceive as, the ego’s desire for monetary wealth clash horrendously with things like affirmations, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, etc. Yet as these practices become more and more popular, I see them being co-opted by capitalism, self-interest, and greed. I’ve heard many of the otherwise positive yogis, psychologists, life coaches, and so on that I follow attempt to justify their focus on and mild obsession with business and making money. There is a hint of defensiveness as they try to explain why they have every right to charge people for their advice and services and partner with toxic corporate advertisers. They even lay the groundwork to promote others doing the same thing.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with starting your own business or wanting to live comfortably in life. However, these things are separate from spirituality. Trying to intertwine these opposing energies is damaging to the pure, selfless, loving nature of the spiritual practice. If you want money because you believe it will afford you safety and peace, why not skip the middle man and focus on the safety, peace, and ease that you are truly seeking? Maybe these things will come to you in the form of greater income, but money itself should never be the goal.

When it comes to the purely business side of things, I’m not exactly sure what position I hold. I don’t expect yoga teachers or life coaches to work for free. They have to make a living somehow. Even so, it has always felt dirty to me to charge for my classes. Especially charging as much as my studio does. My goal when I became a yoga teacher was not to make money. It was to give back to my community by sharing the transformational gift of yoga with as many people as I could. I had always planned to get my certification and teach for free, whether in person or online. My teachers even addressed this urge during our training in order to discourage such behavior. They framed it as if I would be cheapening the entire industry and making it harder for other teachers to make a living, which was not my intention. I guess with this in mind, I don’t think it’s unethical to charge a reasonable amount in order to support yourself, but I draw the line when people start getting rich. At that point I do really feel as though you’re taking advantage of people in a particularly egregious way. It reminds me of those awful “for profit” ministries.

In an ideal world, I think all of these spiritual teachings and services would be purely donation based. Then, those that were able could give more, while still allowing the less fortunate to have access to these ancient healing methods. I don’t know how we could make this work in practice, but the energy of this idea feels more right to me. Otherwise, I am just reminded of those awful “for profit” ministries taking advantage of people who are desperate to improve their lives. Spirituality, like traditional religions, should not be about accumulating personal wealth. It is completely antithetical to the ideas and practices being taught. As I said, I don’t know what the answer is, nor do I pretend to. I just had to speak my mind about this issue and how much it concerns me. Let me know your thoughts on this. Sometimes I feel like the only one who finds it unsettling while it appears to become more and more prominent every day.

Financial psychologist: Why it's important to ask yourself this money  question now

Creating Fiercely Loyal Employees

You may have heard about a Seattle CEO that decided to raise the minimum salary for all of his employees to 70K. At the time of his decision, all of the right-wing pundits came out of the woodwork to spew hatred and vitriol. They were not only hoping that he would fail and prove their fear mongering, money grubbing tactics and advice right, but I think they were also petrified that he would succeed and show the world the inherent falsities behind their model of selfishness and greed.

Deep down I truly believe all the multi-millionaires and billionaires and corrupt politicians know that raising the minimum wage wouldn’t pose any threat to the success of the company overall. I do think they believe it will hurt their personal bottom line though, which is all they care about. They have no interest in only making 100k a year instead of 500k even if it ensures that the people working for them, who are creating all of their wealth, are able to live with some modicum of dignity and security. The fact that CEOs receiving a lower salary wouldn’t affect their quality of life at all, but would make a world of difference to possibly hundreds of other people does not matter to them at all.

That is why I think the progressives are going about it in the wrong way. They need to stop stressing the moral atrocity angle of it and instead speak to what these greedy people do care about, themselves. After a few years, Dan Price, the CEO I mentioned earlier was surprisingly not bankrupt. His company hadn’t failed, nor had his quality of life decreased, in fact both his company and his life had improved. I know a lot of people who have bought into the myth of capitalism would like to believe that this is just a fluke, but it was the obvious and expected result for people like myself.

So what happens when you pay your employees a living wage? The company doesn’t go under, nor does it stay the same with a slightly smaller windfall for the CEO, it grows and flourishes. The reason for that is because if you have a job that actually pays you fairly, you will do whatever it takes to keep that job. This is the part of the equation that everyone always seems to leave out. Honestly, even if the company is too small to pay their employees any more, just treating them like fucking human beings will have the same effect.

I can say from personal experience that I go above and beyond for my job, and I do so happily, because I adore my coworkers, management, and the organization as a whole. I may not make as much money as I should, but our organization simply doesn’t have the money to pay us more. What they do have is respect for us as people, which is something I’ve found to be just as rare as a job that pays well. And for me, it’s even more important than the money.

Now, you might be asking, why does it matter if the employees are motivated to stay with the company? Well imagine how much money the company actually saves when it doesn’t have to spend huge amounts of time every year training new employees to do the exact same things the old employees already knew how to do and had experience doing. When employees actually stay at their job for years at a time, they become much better at it. They are also more motivated to perform well as opposed to employees that hate their job. With that experience and motivation, employees add a lot more value to their companies. It spurs innovation and exceptional service, which only makes the company do even better, ultimately leading to more money for the people at the top, even though they may initially have to make less to get them there.

At Dan Price’s company, they hit hards times like the rest of the world when the pandemic began. But you know what happened? The employees hadn’t become “entitled” or “greedy” demanding more and more money despite the financial state of the company. No, they voluntarily took pay cuts in the beginning stages of Covid to ensure that the would continue to have a company to work for. They even pooled their money together and bought Price a Tesla for his birthday. They love their boss, because he values them as people. They are grateful to him. It’s because of him that so many of them were able to buy their first houses and start families. I’m sure for a lot of them, it was the first time they were given any respect or consideration by the people at the top of their organization. And with the work environments that exist today, that means everything.

Paying your employees what they deserve to be making already and treating them with respect, isn’t some benevolent act of charity. It’s just smart business. Even if you only care about yourself and your bottom line, it’s still the right thing to do. I truly hope to one day see more CEOs following Price’s example. I also hope that politicians and political pundits would start emphasizing the stupidity of continuing on the way these companies are now. They are acting against their own interests as well as their employees’ and our society as a whole. Few things are more profitable or personally rewarding as having fiercely loyal employees all working passionately toward the same goal for a company and a group of people that they love.

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An Attitude of Abundance

The heart that gives, gathers.

Lao Tzu

From the first memories of having my own money as a child, I remember being anxious about spending it on anything. I was even praised by my parents for always saving nearly the entire amount of Christmas and birthday money I would get. Especially because my sister was the exact opposite and would spend all of hers almost immediately. Even as a child there was a sense of safety knowing that I had this money tucked away.

That mindset of prudence and frugal spending has stayed with me into adulthood. Any time I spend more than $20, I get extremely nervous about it. You can imagine how hard the holiday season is for me. I do prefer to spend money on other people more than myself, but still I get anxious about this annual splurge every year. For some reason, this financial anxiety has been particularly pronounced this past week. However, when I hear my friends and coworkers talk about money, it makes me realize just how fortunate of a position I am in.

Even though I am still straddling the poverty line, I am doing much better than the majority of the people in my area. Part of that is due to the fact that other than a recent car loan, I have absolutely no debt. I don’t even own a credit card. My education was completely covered by a full academic scholarship, while my other college expenses were taken out of investments my uncle made for my sister and I when we were born. I even have some left over that I seldom think about. Since graduating I have had steady work, although always at an extremely low wage. I only had to pay for housing for a year or two before being given the option to move into my grandmother’s old house after she passed. Besides utilities, I really don’t have many fixed expenses, so I have been able to save a good bit. I have also always been extremely fortunate to not have any major medical expenses.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that, despite constant money worries, I am doing incredibly well for myself comparatively. Even my middle aged coworkers all seem to be living paycheck to paycheck. I’ll hear them joke about only have $50 left until payday, hoping they’ll have enough money to fill up their car, or having to pay overdraft fees at their bank when their account was empty. Not once have I ever had to worry about these things. Not only that, I haven’t had to pay much attention when it comes to finances. I’ve always had the privilege of spending far less than I’m bringing in. I have my bills set to autopay and never have to worry that they will overdraw my account. I’ve never had to check my balance before making a purchase. Whenever I say I “can’t afford to do or buy something” it’s usually just that I can’t justify spending the money on whatever it is, not that I literally don’t have enough money. I hadn’t realized that wasn’t the case when other people say that.

With all of this in mind, I am trying to hold onto the energy of abundance that has always been a part of my life. I want to treat the holidays as an opportunity to celebrate that abundance and good fortune. I want to share this gift of abundance with everyone else in my life, especially those that are struggling. I truly believe the way to hold on to it is to spread it around. Happiness and generosity are far more important to me than some abstract number in a checking account. Besides, what’s the point of having a thousand dollars more if it brings me no sense of peace or security anyway?

Instead of continuing to anxiously look over my shoulder at all the big purchases I’ve made, I want those purchases to be a symbol of my many blessings. What a joy it is to be able to give to those I love! What a beautiful way to thank the universe for all that I have been given! The smiles and tender moments I will share with my friends and family are worth far more than what I’ve spent. I may not be able to afford a new house, grad school, or expensive furniture, jewelry, etc., but I can afford all of the things I need, most of the things I want, and the ability to be extremely generous towards the people that make my life worth living. And that’s more than I could have asked for. The more you give, the more you receive, undoubtedly.

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Love the Life You Have

You can’t love the life you live until you live the life you love.

Fortune Cookie

I read this riddle of a fortune cookie last night after dinner, and I have been pondering it ever since. I suppose there are a lot of different ways that you can interpret the message behind these words, but for me I read it as you won’t love your life until you are able to acquire the life you want to have. Not sure if that was the intended message, but I would have written instead: Love the life you live and you will live the life you love. Not a huge difference, but I think my way emphasizes more that we already have a beautiful life to be grateful for exactly where we are. The way to find happiness isn’t to make this “perfect” life of our dreams. Happiness is there waiting for us right where we are, in the life we already have. No matter what that may look like.

Ever since I was little, I found it interesting that so many people desperately wanted to be rich someday (or famous, which baffled me even more.) Imagining being rich and having the ability to throw money at all my problems and buy whatever I want whenever I want does sound fun. It’s just not really very important to me. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a million dollars, but I also have no problem accepting I’ll never have that kind of money. And as an introvert, being famous never appealed to me at all.

I guess I learned early on that buying things never brought me happiness for long. Sure there was that initial sense of satisfaction, but it quickly dissipated, leaving me right back where I was before. The most appealing part of being wealthy for me was never about what I could buy, it was more about the idea that I wouldn’t have to spend 40 hours of my week working. Now, I’m not sure I’d even quit my job if I could, because I love the people I work with and what we do so very much. So really, I don’t think being rich would change my life that much.

Whenever I sit and write down my goals and aspirations (which I do often) it always leaves me in a strange state of mind. I begin to wonder why exactly I want the things I’m listing. Sure it might sound like a cool thing to pursue, but is it even worth it? After all, I am already perfectly content with the life I have. I make enough money to live and support myself and my fur babies, and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted. I’m sure I even have enough that I could splurge on bigger purchases for myself every now and then, yet I never seem to have the desire to do so. I have what I need and that’s always been enough for me.

Still, it seems strange to not have any plans for my future, so I’ve been trying to shift the focus of the goals I make for myself. Rather than thinking about the outcome, I try to consider the process. Do I want to practice a new form of art or start a business in order to make money? Or do I think I’ll have fun along the way? If starting a podcast causes more stress than enjoyment, is that really what I want to do? I’ve lived long enough to know that white-knuckling my way through steps towards a goal, rarely results in the level of happiness that I’ve envisioned. I’d much prefer to enjoy the journey. That way whatever the ultimate outcome, I won’t feel as though it was a waste of time and effort.

Especially in America, we’re always taught to focus on the things we want rather than what we already have. The thing we don’t realize is that if we’ve taught ourselves to always be looking at what we lack, we’ll continue to find that sense of lack no matter how much we acquire or accomplish. But if we can practice being grateful for what we have now, we will always be able to feel that gratitude regardless of where we find ourselves.

Somehow it’s seen as a virtuous quality to always be striving for more. It almost makes me feel guilty for being okay staying where I am. But working with low-income, at-risk populations every day, all I can think about is how fortunate I am. It seems selfish to ask for more when I already have so much.

So my advice to anyone reading this that is struggling to find happiness in their lives is to stop focusing on what you think you want and start focusing on what you enjoy doing. If you like to write, go ahead and write. It doesn’t have to turn into a best-selling book, or anything at all. Even if it’s just one poem that no one else ever reads. And maybe you don’t even think it’s particularly good. It’s still important because it brought you happiness while you were writing it. If you want to start making YouTube videos, ask yourself this first. Are you only imagining what it might be like to be a famous YouTuber? Or do you think you’ll have a nice time coming up with videos, filming, and editing? If the latter sounds like a burden instead of something pleasant, maybe YouTube isn’t the right path for you.

Spend more time focusing on where you are right now and what might bring you pleasure in the moment instead of obsessing over where you’d like to be someday. Because no matter what your future looks like, I promise you that your happiness isn’t waiting there. Happiness lives in the present. All you’ve got to do is let it in.

The Health-Wealth Connection - Coastal Wealth Management

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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Kratom Propaganda

I’ve written one post on here about the new “drug” being talked about and sold everywhere from headshops to gas stations, kratom. My last post was about how wonderful this drug has been in helping me cope with my, at times, crippling anxiety. I 100% stand by everything I’ve written about kratom. However, today I wanted to dispel some of the horrific rumors, propaganda, and straight up, bold faced lies I’ve seen about it. It’s Refer Madness all over again.

Just to be fair, I do probably lean on kratom a bit more than I should. Although after years of taking it daily, I will just note that I haven’t needed to increase my dosage at all. I still get the same effects from a rather small amount which lasts for a consistent amount of time. All that being said, for the first half of the day at work today, I have been feeling extremely tired. Not super out of the ordinary for me, I often suspect I may have chronic fatigue syndrome. But just because I am a curious, inquisitive person, I decided to see if it might have anything to do with the fact that I skipped my morning kratom. I know that kratom is related to the coffee plant so I thought it might have similar withdrawal symptoms to caffeine. Not thinking much of it, I decided to google: kratom withdrawal.

I was not anywhere near prepared for the kinds of results that popped up. The first thing on the page was a huge 1-800 number for a drug abuse hotline. “That’s kind of funny,” I thought, but continued skimming the rest of the page. As I read the titles of each website and article that came up, I became less and less amused. After clicking on one from a “reputable” health source, I became downright infuriated.

I wasn’t even sure this mild tiredness I’ve experienced after around 24 hours without any kratom was linked to that at all. Yet these websites and articles were fearmongering in some of the most disgusting ways. Highlighted in bold, snippets of text proclaimed that kratom withdrawal is practically the same as opioid withdrawal! Absolutely outrageous and utterly untrue. Symptoms that were listed included: flu-like symptoms, body aches, hallucinations, even seizures! Of course not even a mention of the slight tiredness I was experiencing.

I am aware that there is a big movement to make kratom illegal. My sister even donates to an organization that is fighting that legislation. However, I had no idea how bad this misinformation campaign had actually gotten in the last few years. It makes me sick. I am especially bothered by how easily the general public is eating it up. Even some of my family members have repeating back outlandish propaganda to me about kratom. They hesitate when I explain to them that it’s just like refer madness, but still don’t seem to stop believing the lies they’ve heard. I can’t believe that the same bullshit is working all over again.

Just like with marijuana, the government and pharmaceutical industries don’t want this drug to become popular because it will cut into their profits and prevent people from needing other expensive medications and medical care. Even though kratom has the potential to help the opioid crisis in this country (as it can help users with detox and withdrawal) the media would rather liken it to the opioids themselves and scare people away from it. I guess the opioid crisis isn’t worth solving unless someone can make money off of it.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Despite my already disillusioned, cynical state, I continued to be shocked by the backward depravity of society. Even though weed is legal now in many states and has been proven to help with many mental and physical issues, the scaremongering about this medicinal plant is still going strong as well. It may sound like just another conspiracy theory, but I don’t believe all of the news stories about weed being laced with fentanyl either. Unless you are actually trying to kill someone, it makes absolutely no sense why anyone would put that in the weed they are selling. Why would you risk killing your customers? Why risk drawing the police’s attention for nothing? Why would you add a more expensive drug to another drug for free? It’s nonsense. I know a lot of people that smoke and sell weed. I even know quite a few people that have done fentanyl and heroin. I know it’s just anecdotal evidence, but none of them have ever even heard of such a case happening in real life. Even a recent case of a local high schooler “overdosing” on fentanyl that was in a weed gummy, turned out to be total bullshit. She just got way too high and freaked out. I’m willing to bet all of these stories are just rumors, if not purposeful propaganda to scare people away from using cannabis.

I am so tired of the masses being mind controlled and manipulated by false information. I used to think in this miraculous age of technology that could only continue for so much longer. But after the Trump presidency and all of the lingering, idiotic lies from that fiasco, I’ve utterly lost that hopeful outlook. It almost seems like the internet has made everything worse in some ways.

Even though I am just one random person, I just had to speak out about this. Kratom is a miracle drug that has helped me so much in the last few years. It breaks my heart to think that people will be prevented from receiving this same help due to lies and misinformation spreading like wildfire. I won’t be surprised when kratom is eventually made illegal just like cannabis was. I’m definitely going to keep stockpiling it for myself for when that time comes.

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Money Maker

I’ve been drawing something every single day for around a year now. It has been a great habit to start. It helps me spend some time being playful and creative each day. The only issue I’ve encountered at this point is running out of ideas. Well, that and the ever-increasing stack of drawings I’ve started accumulating. In an attempt to think of some interesting drawing ideas, I came up with the idea to start doing drawings for the children I work with. A few people had suggested that I make a collection of my sketches into an adult coloring book. While this was a great idea, given that I don’t ever like to color my art, I didn’t feel much inspired to do so. After thinking on it for awhile, I decided I would feel more passionately about putting it together if it were a coloring book full of positive affirmations for children and teens.

One day early on in my career when I still felt very awkward about waiting with the children while my coworkers spoke with their parents, I decided to make a drawing for a little girl while she was busy playing. Even though I was too anxious to go join her or carry on a conversation, I didn’t want it to appear that I was cold or disinterested. So I did what I could, in my own socially awkward, anxious way. I drew a picture of a cute Japanese-style dragon with cherry blossoms around it. I added a banner that said: You deserve to be happy. Before she left I crouched down by her side and gave her the picture. I told her that I drew it especially for her while she was playing. I told her what it said and that I wanted her to always remember that and believe that it’s true. Even though it took a lot for me to build up the courage to do that, it was all worth it when I saw how happy it made her. She was so eager to show her mom. I can still hear her precious mousey voice saying, “Look mommy, she made this for me!”

Just thinking about that day makes me tear up. That experience is what inspired me to make more drawings with positive affirmations for kids. The first few I drew made me so happy and excited. I couldn’t wait to show my coworkers and see what they thought about the idea. I already knew they liked my art, but I really underestimated how much they would love this new endeavor. They immediately started talking about copyrights and publishing, selling them to therapists and other child advocacy centers, all the potential money there was to be made. They urged me not to do anything with them until I put legal protections in place. I was excited and flattered and more than a little embarrassed. I never know how to respond to praise or compliments. Soon those feelings began to fade, though. They were replaced by hesitation, regret, anxiety, and fear.

I went from making a new coloring page every day to once a week, to not at all. It feels as if all the passion behind this idea has drained out of me. Now whenever I think about it I become lost in a fog of copyright law, fees, plagiarism, business plans, and marketing. I had only been waiting for my coworkers’ approval before happily handing them over to each kid that came in. Now it seemed like a much longer wait was ahead of me before I could start giving them away. All I had been thinking about was being useful to my advocacy center, to the children I see every day. I was excited about how this gift would impact them, if the words on the page would some day make a lasting impact on their hearts and minds. However, dollar signs were first and foremost for everyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that my friends at work thought so highly of my art that they want me to protect it and make a profit from it. I’m sure they have no idea how this business advice left me feeling deflated and frustrated instead of proud. I never wanted to make any money off of this idea. My only desire was to make children happy, to introduce them to the power of intention, self-talk, and positive thinking. Now I feel pressured to secure my claim to these images before sharing them with the world. I feel pressured to come up with a way to profit from this work. I feel as though it would be stupid of me not to do these things. That others would think me stupid for not doing these things.

It reminds me of a study I read about once. One group of children was told to do a fun activity, then rate their enjoyment afterwards. Another group was told to do the very same fun activity, but with the added bonus that they would be paid afterwards. This group surprisingly rated their enjoyment much lower than the first, non-paid group. You see once money becomes a motivator, it becomes work rather than play. When you shift your focus from intrinsic motivation to extrinsic, a task becomes much less fulfilling. Making art to positively impact the lives of children, means a lot to me. Making art to make money, leaves me feeling empty.

It all comes down to caring too much about what other people think of my actions and decisions in the end. No one is forcing me to guard these drawings and add price tags. I am free to give them away whenever I see fit. The only thing holding me back is the opinions other people may have about that. But I’ve got to trust myself and hold on to the passion that led me to start this project in the first place. This was never about money or even what other adults would think about it. This is about helping children. This is about making small, vulnerable humans feel happy and loved. That is what motivates me. That is what sparks joy in my heart.

What Is Government

Up until I was around 20 years old, maybe even older, I didn’t really know very much about politics. I honestly wish I could go back to those simpler times. It feels like I had a lot less to worry about back then. It’s always easier not to know. My entire family are democrates, so that is about as far as my political awareness went. I was taught vaguely that poor/low-income people were democrates, rich people were republicans. A very simplified explanation of the two parties in America, but I still believe it holds up. At least that’s what you would expect.

As I got older I came to find that there are tons of poor people voting passionately against their own interests. A good portion of the republican base in fact. I was astounded even more when I became a social worker and got to listen to clients who could hardly survive on the small amount of government assistance they received simultaneously complain about “lazy, good-for-nothing” people taking advantage of the system and voting to cut social security benefits. They seemed totally disconnected from the fact that they were the people their beloved Fox News hosts were referring to when they condemn these societal moochers.

I guess they thought it couldn’t have been in reference to them, because they were good people. They hadn’t done anything wrong. They weren’t worthless, scheming, monsters taking advantage of other people. Yet they were still quick to jump on the bandwagon of hate, directing it at some imaginary, caricatures of people that were making it harder for people like them who really do need that help to be taken seriously. It always broke my heart to meet clients that continuously tried to justify their need and convince me that they weren’t just “some drug addict” or something.

What has been reminding me of all of this lately, is the controversy over the unemployment income many Americans have been relying on since this pandemic began over a year ago. Everyone is able to see the absurdity of going out to find work, when you would receive more money by staying on unemployment instead. It is the perception of this absurdity that varies. Conservatives cry: You can’t give everyone so much money or else they’ll never go back to work! While liberals and progressives insist: If these people were paid a living wage to begin with, this wouldn’t be a problem. We must raise the minimum wage so that these people have an incentive to return to work.

Obviously I agree with the latter. The government didn’t just arbitrarily decide on an amount to pay, they based it roughly on how much these people would need to survive. If working full-time isn’t allowing you to earn that measly amount, clearly THAT is the problem. Not that the government is giving you enough to live on. This seems so simple to me, but I know that nearly half of the country would disagree. These types of disheartening conflicts are the reason that after passionately throwing myself into politics for a few years, I’ve begun trying to ignore it all together again. It is just to painful. It seems so hopeless. I’m tired of fighting.

One of the main things I don’t understand though, is what other people think the government’s purpose is. I’m starting to think my idea of it has been misguided and idealistic. It seems like throughout school I was taught that the government, at least in America, was established “for the people, by the people.” I was under the impression that it’s only purpose was to organize our collective resources as a nation so that we could best serve the entire population. In my mind, government was just a way to work together as a society so that we could accomplish things we wouldn’t be able to as individual citizens. Not only that, I thought it’s purpose was to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable among us, to help people. Not only for moral reasons, but to the ultimate benefit of the whole. Having a system to take care of the less fortunate gives those people the opportunity to some day give back to society again. At the very least it would deter them from criminal activity, because they wouldn’t need to engage in that to survive.

I hear all the time that “it’s not the government’s job to support you.” But isn’t it though? Isn’t that why we have a government in the first place? To take care of our citizens? I’m often tempted to ask these people what they think the government’s job is, if not to protect us and support us. I’m trying to stay curious and not let the unsettling mindsets of so many people get to me too much. It’s just not worth the grief it causes me. And I’ve accepted that fighting about it won’t make a difference. All I can do is watch is stunned silence, or turn away.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com