Autumn always carries nostalgia for me, but this year, the season seems a bit more poignant. So much loss surrounds us right now. Houses transformed to flotsam and ash by fire and storms. The passing away of friends and family and teachers and heroes. Leaves beginning their turn to gold as our hearts protest that summer, with its cookouts and concerts and camaraderie, never fulfilled its promise.
Over the past Labor Day weekend, my soul kitty, Asiago, died. He’d been sick for a long time, and he died snuggled in between my wife and I in our bed. Thanks to the weekend, I was able to sit with him, cuddling and petting him for his last two days.
Last weekend, the reaping ramped up. I felt the blow of losing the feminist icon, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Cat Bordhi, a knitting teacher and innovator – someone who taught me not only how to teach and design but inspired me to find the joy which lies right before us, passed away on Saturday morning. And then I learned of the passing of a beloved college professor – someone few of you would have heard of, but a decent fellow who helped me form my being during that influential time.
Finally, an older dear friend slipped away on Monday morning. She was closer to my wife than me, but a friend nonetheless. My heart didn’t feel it could take another beat when I heard her daughter’s voice on the other end of the phone call.
Sometimes I think the worst that can happen is losing everything. And then in the next breath, I feel the freedom that lies within that loss. The moment where I can walk away and fly again because I don’t carry all that baggage with me.
I can understand the need to relinquish everything and rely totally on myself, people who push themselves into vision quests and live in RVs or just carry a backpack and a sleeping bag and rest under the stars.
This is not something I want to do. I don’t like camping.
My point is that I can understand it, and I feel it sometimes in moments when I feel trapped or wildly unhappy. Walking away from everything I know and love.
And then I think of my beautiful wife smiling in the sunshine, the warm fur of my cat snuggling beside me, the grin of my dog as we head out on our daily walk. I run my fingers over the yards of books in my bookcase and stroke my cheek with a skein of fluffy cashmere and alpaca yarn. I am caught by the brilliant pink that an artist captured in a swoosh of paint on a canvas in the dining room.
But what are the most important parts of your life? What bits mean the most and which can you sweep out of your life like dust?
For me, my family is the most important – and by family I include my pets as well as my extended family. Next are my friends, some of which fall into the family category. Then, my art, my work, my home. Everything else falls below that.
Notice that none of those things I spoke about were money. They may be obtained with money or supported by money, but they were not money. And I know for myself that I wouldn’t have been willing to trade any one of the beings I lost this past weekend for money.
And yet, money is something that most of us depend upon. Our society encourages us to base our worth on the amount of money that we have or the amount of money we can make. We become afraid of not having money and ashamed of asking for money.
With these thoughts, we begin to believe that money is a being – some great and powerful Oz who reaches down and touches some and leaves others by the wayside. Those who are “good” receive money and those who are “bad” are left in poverty.
But money is not a god. Money isn’t even a being, much less one with reason and judgement.
Money is a tool, like a hammer or a knitting needle or a paint brush or a pen.
The tool of money works like water more than a hammer. It ebbs and flows and uses both slow action and rapids to create giant pressure. It pushes open locked doors and slams others shut. Its power is undeniable. It travels through our lives and communities, sneaking into tiny estuaries and tributaries, invading where it has no right to be, leaving a dearth where it seems needed.
But it is only a tool.
As business owners and creative artists, we use that tool to facilitate our activities.
And money is only one – one! – tool out of the many in your toolbelt.
What other tools do you have in your toolbelt? What are your skills? What other resources do you retain? Make a list of all of your tools – everything you can do or are willing to learn. Include your ability to learn in that list.