I was asked to fill in the blank. “Money makes me ___________.” And nothing came to mind. Not a single word. Good or bad. So I set the book aside and got on with my day. Hours later, climbing the stairs with a basket full of laundry balanced on my hip, the words were suddenly there. Money makes me claustrophobic.
It does? Does that even make sense? How can money make me claustrophobic? It’s thin metal alloys poured and stamped, fibers inked and cut and folded into wallets, tucked into pockets, collected in tins and jars and plastic tubs, saved and spent and counted and owed. But a catalyst for claustrophobia?
Yet as I folded the warm whites, I began to understand that for me, money represents expectations, responsibility, obligation. I never wanted to be a “have,” but I am, and that’s where I begin to sweat, awash in my own expectations. It’s why I sold my wedding ring right after my first son was born, because that ring, exquisite and bigger than I’d ever dreamed of, brought out the worst in me. I’d turn my hand to catch the light and someone’s attention, “subtly” letting them know I’d arrived, married well, lived fortunate – a have.
An ugly truth to face at forty-seven folding laundry. But true.
It’s where I rebel. Every time. Wearing my shoes indoors and my bare feet out. Choosing plain cotton and a minivan with 116,000 miles. Because bigger, better, new comes with more responsibility, obligation, expectation than I can handle. And it brings out the worst in me. Telling me to behave. Act responsibly. Hair in place. Polished smile. Fill in the calendar squares with smooth black ink. Keep moving. Till I can hardly breathe….
Its not money, but my own expectations that hem me in, impatience rooting like steel in my soul, forging judgment critical and harsh till I lose the wonder in the crush of crumb-free, wrinkle-free, stain-free days, perfectly polished.
Because I’m not — perfect or polished — just me. Drawn to soft, black earth and irises blooming where they weren’t planted. Camera and lens and long, slow walks. Pulling weeds, trimming trees, pen and ink and cotton and denim and fleece in every season. Strong black tea, any temperature, all day long.
Like the plain gold band we exchanged for my diamonds. For where there is no need, there is little freedom to explore or experiment or make do, to figure it out, be creative, try, because someone can simply be hired to do it right. Today. Why wait?
Yet it’s in the creating, the doing, the figuring out and getting our hands dirty that we begin to breathe, anointed by real, drenched in awe, far from airbrushed, light-balanced, political correctness bent on masking blemish and amputating imperfection. Irises blooming, simple and real and beautiful in all their human imperfection exactly where God planted them.
And maybe…just maybe…if held in that light, money too can be beautiful.