Wednesday, September 26, 2012

[Unemployed Life]: Dealing with Wants

Over the past week or so, I've been struggling a lot with being semi-unemployed in the face of the things I want. This is probably the most frequent reoccurring problem I face and has the ability to get me down and put me in moods I'd rather not be in because they're just not productive.

And the truth is that I've come a long way in some respects.  I used to shop -- like, seriously shop -- when I had no money to do it.  If I saw something I liked, I'd somehow manage to rationalize the purchase regardless of what it cost or what I had in my bank account.  I shopped for therapy; I shopped to kill boredom; I shopped to make myself feel better about my body; I shopped to purchase things for others so they knew how much they meant to me.  But I'm happy to say that things have changed.  I'm hyper aware of my spending these days.  I rarely ever go into clothing stores because I can't afford to buy anything and I don't want to tempt or frustrate myself.  I analyze then over-analyze almost all my purchases to make sure I really, really want whatever I'm buying.  I'm better at saying No to myself.

But this doesn't meant that the wanting goes away.  Just because I've trained myself to say No doesn't mean I don't always want to first say Yes.  I want new running and hiking shoes; I want to buy a few tops from Anthropologie; I want to get a hair cut and a massage; I want[ed] to buy tickets to Jack's Mannequin's final show in L.A.; I want to take a few creative writing and grammar classes; I want more books; I want to get my dog to a trainer; I want to buy my ticket home for Christmas; I want a facial; I want to go back up to Seattle in the Fall; I want, I want, I want...

But, for now, the answer has to be and always

So when I start to get frustrated and discouraged about my situation, when I start to get down on myself about any number of things I feel like I should be able to change about the way things are right now, I try my best to get my brain moving in another direction fast.  In the past, I've updated my Christmas wishlist.  It sounds stupid, but this makes me feel so much better.  Something about knowing that there's a slight possibility that I'll get what I want in a few months makes it seem more okay.  Plus, the who wishlist process has taught me the value of thinking things over before purchasing, since half of the time I go back and delete things I thought I wanted more than life itself a few weeks after adding it to the list anyway.

I also try to do something I really love that doesn't cost any money.  In my case, what I love (long car drives into the country) costs no money other than gas.  But doing this simple thing makes me feel so much better.  These drives have been my go-to stress reliever for years now, and they never fail to make me feel better, no matter what's going on in my  life.  They're my time for quiet reflection, for space, for breathing room.

And, because I'm a planner, I also tend to prioritize and plan my way through the sads.  I mean, let's be real here: I don't really need new clothes, a concert ticket, or pampering.  Those things would be a waste of my limited funds in the long run.  The things I do really need are new shoes and a plane ticket home.  So those are the things I'm going to concentrate all my meager income on getting.  Going through my list of Wants and really asking myself, "How much do you need this?" has been one of my best strategies for getting over my mood [and myself] lately.

Finally, I make some serious effort to refocus my energies and turn a shitty situation into a productive one.  Last week, for example, I really wanted a massage and facial after the stress of dealing with back issues for three weeks.  I mean, I was willing to give you a kidney for an hour at a spa.  It was that serious.  But let's face it, those things don't come cheap and there was no way I could rationalize it.  It just couldn't be helped.  So instead, I tried to refocus my energies.  I read a few blogs that I know usually inspire me to be creative, and I began writing (free!).  I also re-read some books that are seriously addicting and I knew would get my mind off of my frustrations (free!).  It takes effort to refocus, but it's a great way to redirect all that energy to a place where it can be useful.

These aren't fail-proof (I mean, what is?), and they don't always help me.  But they've worked enough times in the past that I'm willing to continue trying them in the future.  After all, I'm feeling better this week than I was last week, and I've literally gone through and practiced each of these strategies to pull myself out of the crapper of a mood I was in.  Do I have any of the things on my list now?  No.

Do I still want most of them?  Not really.

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