Monday, November 20, 2017

This Little Life of Mine

Just a short post this week, as tonight I will be driving Mrs. Done by Forty and our two golden retrievers up to the mountains outside of San Bernadino, to visit our family, catch up with loved ones, watch all the football, take nerdy board games too seriously, and eat and drink beyond any sensible point.

There really is no better holiday than Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is for all of us: a time to gather with everyone you love and who loves you back, even though they voted for the wrong person last year, and are going to ruin dinner by telling you about Pizzagate, again, when all truly you want from Uncle John is the mashed potatoes.

This is the time of year when we're also supposed to be thankful for the things we have. Which is kind of trite, when we have so dang much. I always end up saying that I'm grateful for the same things: my family, our health, being together.

Which I am, of course. But it's a bit hollow.

Then yesterday, I stumbled across this video when looking for youtube clips on how to build a sidecar for my bicycle.

And watching this, I wondered about how my mom was one of the three siblings (out of nine) that made it to the States from Manila. That I was one of my grandmother's grandchildren who hit the lottery: who had a parent that made it to a country where a kid could drop out of college and move to California without any plan whatsoever, and still end up graduating with an English degree. And somehow pursue financial independence and a possible early retirement, by forty.

Had I been just a bit less lucky, I might have had a very different career path. Who knows. Maybe I'd be pedaling others around in a bike, hoping to make five Euros a day, and hoping to find a way to help out my family on my meager wage like these pedicab drivers are.

I doubt I'll ever really understand how fortunate I am. How can I? All I've ever known was this life of plenty. Of always having enough, and somehow always feeling like I deserve more. Brats like me can't know how good we have it.

Still, there are hints, if I care to look for them.

Life could've been different. But I drew the long straw.

What do I do with all this good fortune?

I give very little back. I invest, and hoard, and keep as much for myself as possible, in pursuit of this financial independence I want for myself.

I'll give later, I tell myself. When I have enough.

But I know that if I'm being real with myself, I'm doing this money thing wrong. There's got to be more than just acquiring more.

So while I'm sitting at a table with more food than we know what to do with, what will I say I'm truly grateful for? For my health? For being with family?

Which part of my unfathomable life should I highlight this year, before stuffing myself silly?

*Photo is from ~MVI~ (warped) at Flickr Creative Commons.


  1. ha ha! I think you can only do so much in the way of practicing gratitude, but maybe there are clues in there somewhere for you, like perhaps sponsoring a child from the area you "could" have been living had you not "won the lottery." Or visiting that country and doing volunteer work there. In the end though, if you are a grateful person you are a happy person, and we need more happy people in the world these days, so that might be enough as well!

    1. I think you're on to something there, Tonya. I feel quite a lot of guilt for being so lucky without really having done a lot to earn it. Giving back to people in the Philippines might be a good step towards a more authentic way of showing gratitude.

  2. Thank you for your honesty. It is something many other bloggers might think but never say: "I give very little back. I invest, and hoard, and keep as much for myself as possible, in pursuit of this financial independence I want for myself. I'll give later, I tell myself. When I have enough." I tell that to myself often too so that I'll start believing that it will be true. When is enough?

    1. Thanks, Andrew.

      Years ago, when I had very little, I ironically had no problem tithing or giving. Now that I am "good with money", and have so much money, I have a really hard time giving any of it away.

      As you say, when is enough, enough?

    2. I pose this not as a rebuke, but I do love these philosophical questions. You mention tithes--I was raised in a Christian religion where we did this also. Remember the story of the woman who gave the least money, but she was deemed the most generous/blessed because it was all she had?

      I'm not saying we should give all our money away, or endorsing Christian theology as a whole. Self-reliance is important. But I do think the "good with money" mindset can sometimes blind us to some of the deeper lessons and raisons d'etre in life. I think we have to check ourselves every once in a while to be sure that what we're practicing is actually responsibility as opposed to greed.

      Myself included.

    3. Hi Femme Frugality!

      I do love the story of the woman who gave the least, and the most.

      My takeaway was that giving is contextual: giving to the point where you notice it, where it's really a sacrifice, is the thing that makes it truly giving. We're unfortunately at the opposite end of that spectrum.

  3. Ditto Andrew about your honesty. I just spoke with a friend I haven't talked to in 30 years who lost her husband, her home, and has nothing, starting all over at 57. And she's more fortunate than 90% of the people in the world, and so am I. I know I can do much better -- thanks for the reminder.

    1. Thanks, Mrs. Groovy.

      I'm optimistic that seeing others who have less will inspire better behavior from me.

      I might need a more systematic approach though: something like a tithe or a regular, monthly or weekly percentage to give. That way I'm not relying so much on my (weak) willpower.

  4. Hello, good sir! A fine message this time of year. Or any time of year, really. I'm glad you did win the "lottery" but moreover that you decided to take advantage of your opportunity.
    PS - I'm an Axis and Allies fan myself. Though I haven't found the time or worthy competition since college!

    1. Cubert! Man, Axis and Allies was my shit back in high school. I'd literally skip school with my buddies to play because, you know, you can't finish a game if you start after school. :)

      Do you follow Geek and Sundry on Twitch (you get a free Twitch channel with Amazon Prime and I use mine on Geek & Sundry's channel). Anyway, they did a cool playthrough on the 50th Anniversary edition of Axis & Allies...6 hours of watching!

      And if you don't watch Twitch, here's Becca Scott's primer, which is funny.

  5. Don't know if it is an option for you but I give through a work place program like United Way. I find it really hard writing that check but like with investing, if I give without seeing it, it is more likely to happen.

    1. That's a great idea. I think my company does a match dollar for dollar. And having it come from my check is a nice way to itemize.

      Thanks for the tip, Jenny!