Okay, so there's this little girl, one of my daughter's classmates. She's an adorable moppet, brown hair, huge brown eyes, and as sweet as a four-year-old girl can be. Her family comes to the restaurant where I work pretty regularly and we've goten together for a couple playdates. I've established a casual rapport with her, her brother and her parents. They're all fine and good people.
Tonight, when I got to work, they were there eating. The kids came over to talk with me. The dad came over. The kids got distracted by something, leaving me and the dad standing there chatting. He asked me how I was doing with getting a big farmhouse out in the country. This was a reference to an earlier conversation - the first time he saw me working at the restaurant,a few months back, he asked me about it and I said I was putting some money aside, saving up to get a place out in the country. It was true - I would like to have a place in the country and I was putting money into a savings account at that point. So I wasn't lying, but I was presenting a rosy picture. I knew that my other job, housepainting, wasn't going to last through the winter and I'd need work - that's why I got the restaurant job. There were other reasons, of course: I like restaurant work, I thought I might want to become one of the worker/owners, I wanted to build a better history with a place that had some negative associations &c. But the need for a paycheck through the winter was the biggest.
This guy, the moppet's dad, is a nice guy. He's from one of the northern-European socialist-democracies, I dunno which. He has some kind of administrative job at the local university. He's friendly and decent and he doesn't intentionally tap into my feelings of inadequacy about my income. It just happens.
He asked how my plan to get a big farmhouse out in the country was going. I certainly did not say "big farmhouse" when I talked with him before. I might've said "house", more likely "place". The rural domicile that I envision when I bother to envision anything of the sort would more likely be called a "cabin", if not a "shack". Big farmhouses require a lot of upkeep and firewood. I'm much more interested in low maintainence and lots of trees. Being able to sit on my porch naked in the summertime seems desirable.
Anyway, I said I was working on it, that it was a kinda vague thing, and started talking about location. I picture this shanty in the northwest corner of Rockingham county, right up against the George Washington National Forest. It's beautiful up there and only a short trip to town. I really do want to move up there eventually.
Whatever money I had saved when we talked before is gone now. I pissed it away on rent, utilities, food, gas and other frivilous shit. If anything, I'm deeper in the hole than I was.
I don't know why I feel like I should be making more money when I talk with this guy. It's not him - he's not doing it. There was another guy a couple years ago, another father of a girl my daughter played with. That guy definitely tried to make me feel like he was better than me in several different ways, including income. I wasn't bothered at all. He was an asshole. I have plenty of experience dealing with assholes. It helped that I knew he had a drinking problem and his wife, who also drank like a pig, was cheating on him. Their daughter was cute as a button. It sucks that she's got them for parents, but not much can be done about that. They moved across the country and good riddance.
But this guy, the moppet's dad, he's not an asshole. He's just making conversation and has no idea that when he asks about my stated goal of getting a place out in the country he's rubbing up against a raw spot that I'm embarrassed to admit I have. I mean, I'm poor on purpose. I make no more money than I need to - a little less, actually - because I have made deliberate and considered decisions. I do not believe in having more than barely enough. I have chosen to be poor. I would take a million dollars if someone wanted to give it to me, of course, because then I'd be able to give it away. If I wanted to make more, I'm pretty sure I could.
Being poor isn't always fun. Then again, living in a temperate zone isn't always fun. Lately, it's been cold as Hell, but I'm not planning on moving to Florida. At least the cold is outside this year. I've spent a few winters in places where the toilet water froze overnight. No shit.
This feeling of financial inadequacy that I get when I talk with the northern-European dad of the moppet sucks. It makes it impossible for me to be comfortable with him. It's a stupid, petty little thing and I wish I was above it. I could just explain to the moppet's dad that I'm dirt-poor on purpose and that I have a different definition of success, but that would be weird and awkward and time-consuming. There's no reason to drag this guy into some long monologue about the spiritual rewards of austerity as opposed to the fundamentally flawed pursuit of material wealth. I'd almost ceratinly end up throwing out a bunch of examples of my own non-financial "successes" which would be nothing more than boasts about my artistic accomplishments or - even worse - holier-than-thou-isms. Might as well wander around in sackcloth and ashes if I do that.
It ain't about him anyway. It's about me being okay with who and what I am. I don't need to justify my choices to anybody. I do need to take responsibility for my choices, my actions and my feelings, especially when they're stupid, petty and I wish I was above them. Owning up to being flawed is essential to making spiritual progress.
While I've been writing this, I've been listening to this thing I'm working on - a collaboration with another musician. He sent me a forty-minute drone piece. I put the post-title narration from Snake People, a delightfully bad B-movie, at the beginning and a drum loop through the whole thing. I don't know what else to do with it. It seems like it's done, but it also seems too easy. The other musician spent a lot of time on his part. Somehow it seems like I should work on it for hours and hours and really break a sweat over it, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what else it wants. I could slather a bunch of fuzzy guitar all over it, I guess. Dunno if that would make it any better. I've been perfectly content to have it playing the whole time I've been at this, so it's apparently good enough for me and I am the only audience I really need to please. If anything, I'm gonna remove the intro. It doesn't quite fit and I can use it someplace else.
I have people I talk with who help me when I get jammed up in my head about shit, people who help me work things out. They know me well, good and bad. When I talk with them, I can just lay out the facts - sometimes I feel financially inadequate. I don't feel any need or desire to brag about the musicians who want to work with me or the labels that want to release stuff. I'll talk with them and they'll tell me what I already know - that I'm suffering from a case of ego, that I'm judging my insides against someone else's outsides, that God, by whatever name, is in charge and that I'm not. The fact that I know the answers doesn't mean I don't need to hear them. More important than the answers is the humility required to admit to having the feeling.
"Humility" doesn't look right. I thought there should be a "b" in there - "humbility" - so I checked. No "b".
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.