01 May 2010

keep your hands off of my stash

I am undergoing a phase transition. My income has temporarily dropped to zero and I am wrestling with the possibilities of this being permanent. It is daunting to look at my savings and expenditures and the statistical endpoint on the life expectancy tables. For the first time in my life I am constructing a budget using grocery store receipts and calculating out to the nearest .01 of a dollar. I never paid much attention to this before because I was born with no money at all and never had any money to speak of until I graduated from college and then suddenly I had more money than I knew what to do with. I just made a gross approximation to spend about half my take home pay, stash the rest, and if I had to worry about it some day then I would do so.

Some day is here now. I read the Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin Your Money or Your Life and it has a small amount of good information. There was one part which I found absolutely maddening. They say there are deep psychological issues for many of us saturating the acquiring and spending of money. That is certainly true for me. They go on to say there is a vast literature and proven techniques we may use to resolve these. I have found this completely false. I have a library of psychological books which includes just about everything beginning with Sigmund Freud and ending with Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis. Also it includes a host of non-mainstream which samples a great deal: Erickson hypnosis and Guerdjieff and Transactional Analysis and Gestalt and a small New Harbinger publishing collection. There is very little explicitly about money.

When I googled for money and therapy the number one hit was Bourne's Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. I own this book and I cannot find the word money in it. I have the New Harbinger Couple Skills book and in spite of the folk wisdom that most marriage arguments refer to money, there is almost nothing about money in this book. The most detail which I have seen to date is in Norman O. Brown's Life Against Death, which is a beautiful and fascinating book, except for two things:

1.) Norman O. Brown was a literature teacher, not a clinical psychologist.

2.) His presentation on money is from the narrow perspective of Freud anal stage as a total explanatory mechanism. I have no faith in this.

It seems to me there is a huge hole here. I feel like I am walking on a high wire and there is no net, although Dominguez and Robin tell us otherwise. I have a friend who is a physician and when he was in medical school he told me several times about patients that had five or six major medical problems and it was mysterious how they clung to life and on the rounds there was one comment repeatedly heard: "what a fascinating case!" I think that might be the way to look at my money psycho issues.

I met a woman in 1991 or so who was a devotee of Saint Jude, the patron saint of hope. When her husband was drafted to fight the Germans in Europe in 1943 she went to the Church of Saint Jude in New Orleans on Rampart Street, bought a candle, and prayed in front of the saint's statue. She prayed that she would return daily, and that if her husband returned from the war she would be so thankful that she would return daily to express her gratitude to God every day for the remainder of her life. He did return from Europe and she did return to the Church of Saint Jude daily up through to the day I met her in 1991. And beyond. I lost track of her and her life expectancy has probably been used up by now but I have never forgotten her or the story she told me. It is almost incomprehensible that a person's faith could move them so far as to make a daily trek for a prayer for forty-eight years.

I never met the man. I wonder what he thought about that. The closest thing I have ever seen was in a work of fiction. In Mario Puzo's The Godfather, he writes that Vito Corleone's wife went to mass daily and prayed for the salvation of the godfather. That always seemed a little bit sick to me, but the woman going to the Church of Saint Jude fills me with awe.

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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.