Friday, August 5, 2016

In which I don't look so good

I manage a large team at work, and we are in our extremely busy season. All of us are putting in 60 to 80 hours a week and will be doing that until nearly the end of October. Last year when things were this crazy, I’d sometimes bring snacks. I couldn’t ease the workload but I could provide something to nibble on. The company didn’t pay for these goodies, I did, and it was no big deal.

Now we are down to the lesser of two incomes. Right before Kent got laid off, I’d brought in snacks—about $30 worth of clementines and a large package of those individual sized bags of assorted chips. We have a fairly open seating plan at work, and my team isn’t isolated. In fact, three other teams sit in the general vicinity. That means others not on my team saw the snacks and (as happened last year) helped themselves. Last year, I didn’t care. This year . . . yeah, it bothered me.

So I’ve been wrestling with that ugliness in myself for the last week or so. I brought the snacks in to be eaten. They were eaten. That some of the people who participants weren’t on my team shouldn’t matter. Yet I felt that internal stinginess.

I’ve struggled with this off and on throughout my life, always when times are tight or trending that way or I think it will be that way. I remember worrying (yes actually worrying) in high school how I would earn enough money to pay for rent and food and of all things tampons once I graduated from high school and moved out.

In my 20s, my ex and I made very little money. We couldn’t afford things like cable TV or two cars or air conditioning in the house and I worried about money all the time.

In my late 20s and early 30s, I worked with a man in the Army Reserves who had a very different attitude toward money than I did. I came at it from a position of scarcity, as though it were an extremely limited and hard to get thing. His attitude was this: it’s just money and I’ll make more.

That blew my mind. To have that kind of confidence that I could earn more any time I needed to was not how I felt at all. But I wanted to have that confidence, that knowledge that I could take care of myself no matter what.

In the years since then, I’ve mostly been able to stay in that frame of mind, except when one of us gets laid off. Then my old fears come right back. This time those fears aren’t based in fact. We have enough. We’ve run the numbers and can scale down enough to fit my salary. Sure, Crazy Trips™ are off the table but we can have the occasional date night at our favorite place. We won’t lose the house. I can afford to occasionally bring in snacks (although probably cheaper ones).

It’s easy to be generous in times of plenty, when the cost is minute in the overall scheme of things. I want to be generous, full stop, no qualifiers. That means I need to stay grounded in reality, not in my fears from the past.

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