I took these notes about 4 months after I got laid off…..mostly I’ve not changed the words or tense…..

Emotions and Money are Related:

I’m writing a few days after returning from Iowa, from my father in law’s funeral…..

While I have mostly been relaxed and not worried since getting laid off, there have been moments of panic or anger or concern. Two things really allowed me to be calm:

  • I wasn’t particularly happy at my job. The culture always turned me off, it is just not a friendly place. Most of the people I know there describe it as cold. I had friends there, and still do, but the culture and I were not getting along.
  • We have a good amount of savings. The culture might be cold, but the stock price was hot (sorry, couldn’t help myself). We have always been somewhat frugal, and we invested a lot of money in the stock market. We also sold our house, and invested that money.

One of those things was shaken, especially in December and February, with the stock market moving from unrealistically awesome, back to volatile. The longer I am away from making money, the more I worry about making money. It’s not an ongoing feeling, it comes and goes in spurts. We have two sons in college. We have an expensive apartment (nothing decent/good in Portland is not expensive). We have expensive hobbies like golfing, skiing, and visiting wineries (though we also have cheap hobbies like hiking and playing games). Julianne’s business is doing well, but it is still an unpredictable income stream.

I Started to Get Nervous About Money:

So, in late January, early February, I actually started getting nervous a bit about money. This kind of stuff started to enter my brain more and more.

  • How much can we really afford on rent?
  • Do we need to change our eating and drinking habits?
  • Can I really afford to go skiing very often (given there’s been little snow this year, this hasn’t turned out to be an issue)?
  • How do I keep my promise to help my sons pay off some/most/all of their college debt?
  • How much money can I make selling books (seems like zero is the best bet)?
  • How much money will Julianne make this year?
  • Will the stock market stabilize, or drop or correct or what? (I can imagine a blog post on this soon…..)
  • General, random, irrational thoughts…….almost none of them positive.

The question became, what to do about the thoughts? (btw, should there be quotes around that question, or what?) Is it the thoughts that need to change? Is it my circumstances?

There are a lot of ways to work through questions and concerns like this. They key, as we’ve been told for thousands of years by Romans and Eastern philosophers (and more, clearly), is to acknowledge that you have expectations about life, and that how you react to your expectations is as important (or more) than what is actually happening. I was first introduced to this concept in Covey training, when they talk about the experiences of Viktor Frankl. I don’t agree with everything he wrote, but we were taught that how you react to events is important (he postulated that how concentration camp prisoners viewed their current life, and their future life, effected their survival). Since then, I’ve read Buddhist authors, read a bit on mindfulness, and researched this concept more and more.

As I’ve aged, I’ve realized this:

How I put expectations on something is the primary driver of my emotional state.

Not what happens, but what happens compared to what I expect to happen.

This is no great insight. People have known this forever, probably. But, we aren’t taught it in school, or church, or most anywhere for some reason. Some would argue that’s because the church or big business or whomever wants us to be unhappy and searching for answers only God or buying stuff can provide. I suppose for some organizations, that’s true. They want us to believe they have the answers in “buying” what they are selling.

But, I think we aren’t taught this because, well, I’m not sure why. As I am typing this, I do think it is European history holding us back. Kings, churches, businesses, unions, everyone has tried to tell us that only through them can society be right, only through them can we find happiness. It is largely an OLD Roman thought or Eastern thought that unhappiness isn’t about other people, or stuff, or God, or whatever, but about how we decide to feel. I think this is changing, but maybe it’s just the people I hang out with?

As usual, when I randomly type, this has gone far afield. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next post to discuss money and feelings….

Thoughts on this rambling post? Let us know in the comments, or by emailing us at ideas@laidoffbetteroff.com.

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