The Wealth We Already Have

I love this happy goat drawing. My son made it a few years ago.

I’m sitting in the cool-spectrum morning light of winter, exploding with disbelief! Outside, it is seven degrees farenheit --SEVEN. Inside, I'm sitting contently in my warm living room, 100% comfortable. Isn’t that amazing? For one thing, it represents human ingenuity, which never fails to blow me away; for another, it means I am SO fortunate. But my recent awareness of good fortune doesn’t end with my HVAC system! No! Good fortune is everywhere, all around me, in every direction:

  • The window sill at my immediate left supports twelve orchids, each with its own set of earnest little buds --successive, shrinking pearls fixed along arching arms, preparing in their internal, unseeable, catabolic way to turn light into energy. With this energy, they do their annual thing, their cyclical bursting into fleshy flowers, boasting their beefy petals upon gracile stems, purples, pinks, yellows, and creams.

I made this sweet orchid portrait with sharpie on photo paper

  • My mom, currently recharging in her windowed bedroom, has stepped up to be a column for me, and not just any column, but one like the "rock hewn" ones from Abuna Gebre Mikael in Tigray, Ethiopia. (See pic at left. I found it on the pinterest page of a person named Sakshi Zion). These columns are regal, solid, painted and with complex and colorful frescos! My mom, my column, offered to cook all the dinners for our family in order to buy me time to finish my nutrition certification. For me, it's the gift of time; for her, it's the gift of purpose!

  • I just made my son a breakfast of fried eggs on an everything bagel and a mixed-berry smoothie. I was physically and emotionally able to create such a breakfast, and all I had to do was open the fridge, turn on the stove, grab a frying pan, turn on the toaster oven, throw some frozen berries in the food processor. Each of these abilities, if you think about it, is miraculous, is a manifestation of my absolute privilege --a mother’s privilege to cook for her child, and the physical wealth from which such privilege is born.

  • After I made it, my beautiful, healthy son ate it in our beautiful, healthy dining room, surrounded by the greenery of our various plants, tall and spindled with jade colored and fiddle-shaped leaves, bulbous and thorned cacti, a maroon palm tucked against a minty green hibiscus, all heliotropes hungering toward technology’s artificial sun lights which I - with my tools and time - had the privilege and wherewithal to fix at two inconspicuous spots along the upper walls.

  • Meanwhile, my teenage daughter sleeps the confident sleep of hibernating bears, without the slightest worry for her own bodily safety or security. Her room is painted in blue and orange, a color scheme of her own choosing, and her bed is designed as not one, but two stacked frames, each with its own soft mattress to accommodate the comfortable sleeping of two teens --my daughter, and a friend, whenever COVID relents and friends can come back.

  • The street where we live runs on an East-West axis: not only does the sun rise and set on us, but at either end of our street sits an open-armed, grassy, and tree-filled park where people picnic and play. And the highly ranked local public school is two pleasant streets North, with the astonishingly well-stocked grocery store, just a few more pleasant streets South.

Is this not utter and astonishing wealth?

The funny thing is that I have neighbors who say it isn’t. Ours is the “poor” section of the neighborhood, they say. It’s “The Apartment” part of town. There is crime, they say. Our cars get broken into. Carry mace, they caution. There are dangerous men in the park. Watch out for your kids, they insist. There are registered child predators living in this zip code.

Admittedly, I am guilty of focusing on the negative too. I am guilty of a scarcity-mindset just by dreaming of being rich someday --of making $100k. Some people would laugh at that. $100K? they’d ask. That is not rich! $500K is rich! $1 million is rich. $5 million is rich. There’s no end to what actually constitutes being rich.

By the same token, some people would laugh and say, Shoot, if I could make $50K I’d be rich. Some people would only ask for a roof over their heads. Some, a single square meal for their kids.

Don’t you know people who make $35K and feed their dogs ground rabbit from the organic pet food store because of a canine food intolerance? And don’t you know people banking $300K per year and seeing their lives as personal hells?

The point is, I really and truly discovered this week - not just intellectually - that “richness” is an attitude and a perspective. So far as I can tell these days, it’s got nothing to do with money.

I was listening to Deepak Chopra yesterday, a thing I used to roll my eyes at. In fact, I rolled my eyes at Deepak Chopra all the way UNTIL yesterday, when he said something that finally resonated. It was only by accident that I clicked his “Daily Breath” app when trying to listen to something else (doesn’t it scare you sometimes when Spotify’s algorithm knows you better than you do?). Anyway, he said a lot of things about breathing and awareness and sensations in your body; about moving your awareness from places in your body where you have physical sensations, and places where you don’t. It was a little woo-woo, but what struck me about it --I mean, struck me internally, like the way those orchids know how to turn sunlight into food, was this idea that what you focus on becomes your reality. If it’s bodily pain, you become a person full of pain. If it’s a relative lack of bodily pain, you become a person living mostly pain-free. If it’s crime in your neighborhood, you become a person living in fear. If it’s the convenience of that same neighborhood’s location, you become a person with an easy life. AND IF IT’S THE FACT THAT YOU’VE NEVER MADE $100K, YOU BECOME A PERSON WHO DOESN’T MAKE $100K; WHILE IF YOU FOCUS ON THE INCREDIBLE WEALTH THAT YOU ALREADY HAVE, YOU BECOME A PERSON WHO’S ALREADY RICH.

This is from iStock

Okay, okay. So you’ve already heard all that before. What you focus on is what grows. So had I. But I don’t think I ever truly internalized and incorporated it. Not until this past week when I accomplished something I’ve never succeeded in doing before: I did 100% of the to-do’s on my BOSS-ass list! One hundred percent! That included every last thing from domestics, like grocery shopping, sorting mail, paying bills, and making meals; to business-creation, like designing, copy-writing, and launching ads, updating the website, completing two entire chapters in my nutrition certification studies, and planning and teaching my fitness classes. Not only that, but it also included my personal health and fitness goals, like planning and sticking to my daily food protocol, doing a mini meditation routine first thing in the morning four times, and showing up for my three workouts (over and above those that I teach). I made it to within 0.2 pounds of my goal weight and still chose, on purpose, to enjoy date night’s overindulgence without any self-judgment because, for now, I want that pleasure more than I want the immediacy of the goal weight. Plus, I cooked and ate a warm, sit-down lunch with my kids every day without feeling the pressure of work, drove my mom to her doctor’s appointment and computer check up, sat down to family dinner every night, helped kids with homework and clarinet practice, drove them to and from school, workshopped a friend’s writing during a zoom call, and watched a Disney Plus installment with the family each night after all was done.

How did I do it? I’ve been pinching myself all weekend because it was SO elusive ALL my life! It seemed impossible. It’s the habit I’ve looked longingly (sometimes enviously) at from across the grassy field ever since I was in elementary school. I’m not kidding. There was a girl named Rachel Alt who had a fancy house that was always clean and organized. Everything had its place. There were no piles anywhere. Her mom had a weekly meal schedule, AND she was an artist. I used to love being there, where it was calm and orderly and you always knew what to expect. I don’t think I was even seven yet, but I decided then that someday, I would create such a life. FORTY years later, I am on the cusp of doing just that. It is a mighty feat, and I am mighty proud of it. But how did I finally do it?

I finally did it by doing what Chopra has been saying all along --by focusing on what I already had achieved. I used a strategy from a millionaire weightloss coach named Corrine Crabtree. She posted a podcast called something like “Achieving Any Goal,” on my guru lady, Brooke Castillo’s, site (Self Coaching Scholars). Her recommendation was so simple and much more than the global refocusing that I had been trying (and failing) to use. She simply recommended that each morning you write down three things you achieved yesterday, then write down how you feel about them and why. Then write down three things you’ll achieve today and how you feel about them and why. That’s it. I did that for about two weeks, and nothing changed. But I did start to notice some patterns:

  • I noticed when I was putting myself down about what I did or didn’t accomplish,

  • I started to wonder why I wasn’t nicer to myself about it.

  • I noticed when I felt excited about my three things for that day and when I didn’t think I could get them done.

After two weeks, the correlations were evident: when I was more compassionate with myself for not getting it all done, it made room for more strategic thinking about how I could do better today, which generated more excitement about what I had to do today, which created more action-taking. It created a positive snowball effect for sure. When my alarm rang in the mornings, I started telling myself how lucky and honored I was that I could physically get up and that I had the opportunity to do this work rather than telling myself how mad I was that I‘d had my son’s elbow in my neck since 3am while my husband slept blissfully sprawled across ⅔ of the bed!

But the BIG breakthrough happened after a period of deep dejection, when I bullied myself relentlessly about my mismanagement of time. It was like when your kid is bored and driving you crazy, looking for you to solve the problem, but rejecting your every idea. Then he cries and throws a fit and stomps off somewhere, and next thing you know, he’s creating an elaborate lego zoo, totally absorbed, boredom forgotten. At the other side of my self-bullying misery, I generated my BOSS-ass calendar that did a few things:

The calendar served as a mental REFRAME:

it reflected the fact that I am responsible for everything I do, and there is nothing I HAVE to do, including cooking for and driving my kids to school. That helped me see that I am CHOOSING to do everything on my calendar either because doing it is preferable to the consequence of NOT doing it, or because I WANT to do it out of love (like cooking for and driving my kids to school). That helps things to feel like privileges rather than chores.

The calendar provided ANCHOR-POINTS:

The anchor points were non-negotiable time-slots I dedicated to specific things. They included seven tasks:

  1. Driving kids to and from school,

  2. Making lunches and some breakfasts for them,

  3. Getting groceries

  4. Mother-daughter date-afternoon,

  5. Date night with my husband,

  6. Hot yoga, and hot pilates

  7. Writing about my dad

Even though some of these anchor points were moving (like the school schedule’s alternating A-days and B-days), they moved in regular ways that I could anticipate one to two weeks in advance, so I knew I could plan for them.

The calendar generated a RHYTHM:

The anchor points then divided each day into blocks that lent themselves to one type of thing versus another. So I categorized all my activities into four groups:

  1. Domestic,

  2. Nutrition Certification,

  3. Business Generation,

  4. And what I called “Mix.”

These categories became overarching goal-containers for each day, with the one called “Mix” containing goals from two or more buckets when necessary. Then, with anchors already set, I labeled each day for two weeks into the future according to the time blocks created by the anchors and to my bigger goals. I wanted the proportion of work to domestics to be about 3:1, for example, since my focus is creating $100K, but doing so WHILE raising my family (and not at the expense of it) is my plan. So on days when my daughter is only in school for 1.5 hours, it made sense to do the grocery shopping, and that became the one “Domestic” day for the week. That meant that all appointments that fall into the domestic category, like dentist appointments, taking the car in, doing paperwork for the household, etc, would get scheduled on that single day.

Then, combining that BOSS-ass calendaring with the observations I gleaned from the work Corinne Crabtree recommended (i.e., I get more done on days when I’m nice to myself) yielded the wisdom Deepak Chopra has been trying to share all these years: that what you focus on becomes your reality. That’s probably WHY his podcast finally resonated with me --I was living his teaching!

But that wasn’t the whole thing. There was one final realization that cinched up the bag: a synthesizing of what I believe is an extension of Chopra’s teaching, namely not just that what we randomly focus on becomes our reality, but that we are in control over what the object of that focus is. This teaching came from Brooke Castillo. Perhaps it wasn’t an extension of Chopra’s pedagogy, but just a more digestible presentation of it. I was able to synthesize it, though, not through any teacher, but by listening to a knowing inside my own body. I am now, for better or worse, in the fitness profession. That means my body is my instrument for teaching and generating income, which in turn means that I have begun to think of it more carefully. When my physical body is exhausted, I have begun to listen to it and respond with rest. When it is resistant, I have begun to get curious about whether that means I’ve done enough or I need to push through a barrier. When it asks for fuel, I have begun to select the nature of that fuel more lovingly. Etcetera. You get the idea. What all that means is this: I have started to focus on the incredible precision and design that is my physical body. What a gift it is to have a body so exquisitely created to do the things it does! All by itself, my body IS WEALTH! And focusing on that wealth - without my trying - overflowed to all the wealth around me --my home, my family, my plants, my neighborhood, my mind that imagines, my hands that create. It shifted my attitude from “I don’t know how,” and “I can’t,” and “I’m afraid,” to “My body knows how, and I gotta learn to listen,” and “I can try and learn from failing,” and “I’m afraid, but that’s my body’s protective response to something about which I can use my brain to evaluate and intentionally make a decision.”

AND THAT IS HOW I SUCCEEDED IN DOING 100% OF MY CALENDARED TO-DO’S. I did it by focusing on the wealth I already have. By genuinely appreciating the abundance that exists in my life today, WITHOUT the $100K that is my goal for this year.

Even if you have not a single posesion in the world, you have your body. Whatever scrap of your body that functions is your WEALTH, so ask yourself what the most loving thing is that you can do for that bit of body today, even if the most loving thing you can muster is to literally stroke it and say something nice to it. Treat it like it’s your most valuable possession - because you know it is - and see what unfolds.

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