I Am That Girl Now

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Putting my money where my tender heart is, not where my fat ass is

I've been stripped of my crusty outer shell of late, or at least what passes for a crusty outer shell in a softy like me. I am developing a plan to keep my head in perspective and maybe shake myself out of my stupid wanna-binge mode.

Payday is tomorrow. I am going to take $40 out of the bank, $20 worth of $1 bills and $20 worth of $5 bills. In my head, I am assigning this cash to church offering and to hand out to the homeless people that we pass on our way to and from work. Usually binges happen due to having cash around, but in this case the cash is for charity. Sure, I could spend that money on a pint of ice cream or a bag of chips, but on the other hand, I could give somebody the means to have a meal that they desperately need. Perspective. Serious perspective. I've been damn near crying every time I have to pass by a homeless person without giving something (usually I don't have cash on me, because it's dangerous when I'm in wanna-binge mode)... I want to be able to do something.

I mean, seriously, there's a point at which I just have to admit that this sort of stupid eating disorder is a luxury. I have the chance to indulge it because I make enough money to do so, not because I really need to. Perspective. Need is not being able to afford food, not having an ice cream craving.

I read something recently (and I honestly don't remember where) regarding the disintegration of the sense of need. I don't feel like I'm controlled by the commercials on television; I don't buy most of that stuff. And yet, if I look at myself, I can sense that there's this disgruntled feeling inside me, this feeling of if I had enough money, I could buy good stuff, I could have that, or something that I like better that costs about the same. I'm not sure how to explain it, but even if I'm not buying this junk, the collective force of the commericals makes me feel left out, somehow, that my attempts at frugality are making me live a life less interesting. The commercials, the look of the homes on TV, the reality make-over shows for homes where you see what can be done when people with less limited budgets buy you things... it just all combines to form that vague feeling of discontent. I always thought I wasn't affected by those commercials, but it turns out I've been lying to myself.

I know that contentment is not something that come with money; I know it's possible to be content with less and horribly discontented with more. I want, very much, to be able to be contented at the level of income we're at, and in fact to be contented on less, so we can give more to charity and throw more at our savings accounts and the student loan. (Granted, our financial advisor keeps telling me that the student loan is good debt, and I understand that in theory, but in practice when there's this giant thing racking up enough interest every year to make us have to push hard to get any of the principal paid off at all... it just drives me crazy.) More than those reasons, though, is the feeling that I just want to be able to be content-- that I lack that ability now and I want it. I'm stuck somewhere between contentment and ambition, in a weird, unfocused, twitchy, discontented place, and I don't like it.

I've managed to beat most of my girly "needs" into submission; I'm back to living sans makeup (I continue to buy top-shelf skin-care stuff, though, because if I'm going without makeup I am DAMN well going to have a clear complexion), haven't bought clothes in months, and have eased back from the "ooh, jewelry! shoes! pretty/useless/cute things!" precipice. I'm okay with that, now. For a while it was murder, but I'm okay now. I'm back to hitting the library for my books instead of Amazon.com, and I've managed to switch our household to Kool-Ade instead of soda. My Hub is baking most of his sweet treats these days, rather than buying them or going out for them. (BAKING! I'm so proud of him.) I'm going to get some appliance timers in order to bring a halt to his habit of leaving the a/c unit on when we're not even in the damn apartment, because, seriously, our electric bill just has to go down. Learning to use less shampoo. Homemade microwave popcorn instead of store-bought. I'm trying to wean us down to eating out a lot less, and buying fewer groceries.

Thing is, this is a pain in the ass. Not so much on the actual getting used to certain things, but on learning to avoid things that prompt me (I hesitate to say "make me") feel bad about living frugally. TV is a big one. I love it-- and things like the History Channel and the Discovery Channel make me think that I'm getting something out of it, allowing me to neatly ignore the fact that we also watch a lot of cartoons and wrestling and other bullshit. TV keeps us tucked in our apartment with mind-numbing noise going on, usually leaving us sitting on our butts. We don't need TV, and I'm pretty sure if I was living by myself I would have, by this point, started experiments to see how I could cut down. With my media-addicted Hub around, though, it's a whole different story.

I don't even know what my point is, here. I'm tired. I'm cranky. I want to walk places and do things, now that the weather is cooling down again, but I don't know what's doing and what's not, anymore. I've managed to work myself into a big ball of confusion. Argh.


  • You sound pretty clear-headed to me! There is no question that the whole purpose of advertising (which has found its way into almost every aspect of our lives so that even without tv we're bombarded with hundreds of messages every day to buy, buy, buy) is to arouse your feeling of discontent so that you will buy something to make it better. Fighting these ubiquitous messages takes a lot of conscious thought and planning which you appear to be doing. I think you're doing great and seem to be well on your way to establishing a lifestyle that is less dependent on things and more dependent on yourselves.

    As an aside, I really envy you your ability to walk in the City that I love. Come on cool weather!

    By Blogger The Troescher Team, at 5:15 PM  

  • I know exactly what you mean about feeling bad about your frugal lifestyle, like you're missing out on something. The consumerism of this culture has gotten WAY out of hand, I don't think I'm exaggerating to say it's the new religion - it's what drives people and tells them how to behave and what to wish for. And connecting that with overeating, junk eating, treat eating... you're onto something important.

    By Blogger M@rla, at 4:57 AM  

  • Meg, sorry for leaving this off-topic comment.

    I am hosting the first Carnival of Health and Fitness on Monday and would like to know if you would be interested in submitting an entry for it or hosting one in the future. If you are, you can send an e-mail to carnival -at- slimspirited -dot- com.


    By Blogger Nikki, at 10:59 AM  

  • even thinking like this is the first step to challenging the ubiquitous consumerism of mass media. It's like anything - changing your thinking leads to changing your behaviour, little by little. You're very thoughtful and brave (esp even comtemplating reducng tv w/ a telly-obsessed hub: I know, I've got one - we just have a rule about the tv only being on after 7.30 pm that only gets broken about 3 times a week sigh)

    Anyway, strength to you!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:27 PM  

  • Great, thought-provoking post, Meg! As a (homemade, stitched-together-from-old-t-shirts) flag-waving tightwad with a fitness agenda, I am constantly amazed at how easily the people around me hemorrhage their paychecks on more and more upgraded stuff when they have perfectly good, functional versions of the same things that are less than a year old. So many people don't seem to want to face up to their financial realities. I played the Sims for a week and was kind of horrified at how my little Sim girl constantly needed to be entertained and given upgraded furnishings to keep her happy when her home had all the stuff I would ever want already.

    The designers of the game obviously modeled the Sims after the typical American.

    And yes, sometimes I look at the ED cases I come across in articles, blogs, and word of mouth and think, "How insane that so many in our country have the luxury of having an eating disorder when so many others in the world would be happy to have a single square meal each day."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:05 AM  

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