On the Anxieties of Finance


What do I worry about these days?

Money: the getting of, the saving of, the spending of.

I never used to worry about money. This was because: (1) when I had none of it, there was nothing to worry about; and (2) when I had lots of it, there was nothing to worry about.

Now I have some money, not a lot, and I find that this intermediate state tends to produce a whole lot of anxiety. This comes from: (1) worrying about preserving what I do have; and (2) worrying about generating what I don’t have.

The one thing that’s kept me from growing batty is nearly half a decade’s worth of exposure to Buddhist principles of compassion, detachment and humor. There are nights when I see myself fretting, and I feel a huge and inexplicable sense of affection and sympathy for this person—this struggling human being with all her doubts, fears and insecurities.

It’s immensely consoling.

The other thing that keeps me going is the belief that there is something I’m supposed to learn from all this. There are challenges life withholds from us because we simply aren’t ready—challenges like independence, commitment, love and responsibility. And when the challenge finally drops in on us (like a piano from the sky in the world of Looney Tunes characters), we either rise to the occasion or we flee from the scene. (The fleeing always only provides a temporary respite—the best definition of karma I’ve ever read is it’s the thing that keeps happening because you haven’t learned your lesson yet.)

So what is the lesson I’m supposed to be learning in this anxious state regarding my financial affairs? A lot, as far I can see: creativity, ingenuity, patience, precision, prudence and responsibility. Patience and prudence, in particular, are completely novel qualities, for I’ve always used money to purchase speed and convenience.

I’m just glad that at least compassion, detachment and humor will be always free.

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