So, what is it about a million dollars? Isn’t that what so many of us wished for when we were little…or older? “Gee, if only I had a million dollars, I’d be set!” Then, we’d make a list of everything we wanted: a mansion with a pool…the best car out there…not ever having to work again…all the clothes we could ever want…and the list went on. You know, I still hear people say this (except in this economy, it’s more like “I wish I had a couple million dollars” 🙄) but I think about whether or not it’s really the thing to want…to desire…to dream about.
Yes, I do believe money can buy certain non-tangeable things like security, better safety, and the such, but what else can it REALLY buy? Happiness? Love? Fulfillment? Respect?
Hmmmmm…now that’s I’m a cough-cough…tad older…I’ve come to realize that what I truly want in life isn’t connected to me winning the lottery at all. Over the last few years I’ve come to see money very differently. Much more utilitarian…and not so much as what dreams are made of.
Let’s take happiness. Now, some might argue that money CAN buy happiness. “Look…it’ll get me a boat, a truck and a cabin in the woods…that’s happiness!” And that’s right. It will get you the stuff you want that can make you happy…but is it the moolah that’s actually causing the happiness? I’ve known people with these things and they still aren’t happy. Still aren’t content. Are actually, still wanting more.
I remember when Hubby #1 (shutty, peeps… 😬) and I moved from our orange and brown, 1 bedroom, teensy tiny kitchen, hideous bathroom apartment to our trailer! I was in heaven! My gosh…no more neighbors clomping around upstairs (although we did have the best neighbors possible 😀) and no more parties blaring downstairs. No more having our allotted parking place being taken over by some boob who had no idea what a ‘reserved’ sign meant and no more traipsing up rickety stairs juggling 3 bags of groceries and an armful of school books.
Now, we had our own driveway…only a couple of stairs…no more people surrounding us with only a piece of drywall separating us. It was heaven on earth. Even the avocado color scheme was a welcome change from the darkness of what we’d had. Could we ever be happier? Would we ever out-grow this nirvana? Well. Yes.
The trailer that was HUGE when we moved in suddenly became just as full and cluttered as our apartment had been thanks to my penchant for thrift shopping. Whenever I found something that I just knew we had the space for, I bought it…not realizing that each item actually did take up an area of finite space that was shrinking with each trip I took in the car. And the avocado color scheme I thought was so beautiful and fresh and nature-y? It started looking like someone puked up spinach all over the place. 🤢
SOOOOO…we bought our first house! YEA! Now this was IT! I would never want anything else than our own house. This is where we’d raise our family and have dinners for our grandkids and throw parties and do whatever it was we wanted. And, it was all well and good. Until 2 weeks after we moved in and Hubby said he wanted a divorce. Heh? We finally ‘made it’ to where we had dreamed and he wanted out? Hmmmm.
Why is it we still live in a society where having money means ‘you made it.’ Because someone else’s bank account is bigger than yours, they just have to be happier. I’ll share a secret with you. I believed this for a long time. Then, my world got shook up and I finally realized what I really needed…and what could actually be in my reach if I worked at it. It didn’t have to be a dream…it could be a reality.
Instead of dreaming about being a millionaire, I decided that I’d rather be loved, happy, and content with a feeling of purpose. Just 4 things…instead of a million bucks.
For so long in my life, I thought of myself as being unlovable. Face it, after 2 years of being sexually abused, 3 divorces (yes, you may roll your eyes 🙄) and a couple of break-ups, it’s pretty hard not to feel this way. After Hubby 3 and I divorced and then J and I had our tumultuous relationship, I felt more unlovable than I ever had in my entire life. Hubby and I still talk daily…and lately he’s told me how much he regrets leaving and that he still loves me. No. He doesn’t. At least not in the way he’s talking about. He loves what we HAD. He misses the life we had built. He’s found out that doesn’t happen often. BUT, he doesn’t love ‘me’. If he did…well…he wouldn’t have walked out that door.
Then I had J for 3 years. Manipulative, gaslighting, cheating, emotionally and physically abusive J. And, I loved him. A lot. (Doesn’t this just show how irrational our emotions are?) And, he said he loved me. A lot. It’s took quite a while to realize this, but no. He didn’t. You know, I’ve never laid a hand on my son…and yes, he was always well behaved. I’ve never laid a had on my poochies…and yes, they are cough-cough…’sorta’…well behaved. And why haven’t I done that? Because I love them. You do NOT hurt what you love. (PLEASE don’t give me a lecture on physical punishment for kids…that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open and discuss…but when every single medical association, psychiatric/psychological association, school organization, etc. ALL say that physical punishment is wrong, I’m in pretty good company. Let’s leave it at that.) NOW, I will admit this: there were times I was so angry or upset at my boy or dogs that I had an ‘urge’ to lash out…but my love for them stopped it.
Then I was alone for a year…during a pandemic where I had only myself to be with for the great majority of the time and I got to know me in a way I never had before. I started liking me. Even loving me. And that felt great! That I could give myself what I needed was something I never knew was in me. Then, Bill came ambling along and he loves me too. We love each other when we’re crabby and tired and stressed…and not just when it’s good. He’s never threatened me with anything…talked poorly about me to others…blamed me for things outside of my realm of power…and has always either asked for or accepted forgiveness. At the age of 54, I finally can see what love is from the inside and the out. That, my grasshoppers, is worth more than a million bucks.
Contentment. Now that’s an interesting word. Synonyms include being comfortable, satisfied, and fulfilled. I was really content when I was married to Oliver’s dad. I loved loved loved our life together because I was raising a family which had always been my dream. But I also worried that this could be taken away from me if I didn’t measure up to the standard of the his family. And believe me, this standard was high. So I worked my ass off for this ‘contentment’ and maybe that tainted it in a lot of ways. B’s family is a cutter-offer type of family. There’s a divorce? Cut the person out of every picture that ever existed of them even though they are the mother or father of your grandchildren. Piss one of them off…and you’ll need to beg for their attention once again. So, yes, I was content in raising my family and being a mommy…but I was also worried it was an illusion at times…something that could be taken away with any stumble on my part. That was a shit-load of pressure…particularly for someone who’s bipolar and stumbles her way through life anyway.
I’m content now. Finally now. It’s not because I’m with Bill or because my career rocks or because I have the best kid in the universe or because I live in a cute house or because I have family that loves me. It’s because I’m OK with me. Satisfied with me. If I had to be alone, I’d be OK. I’ve come to realize that. I don’t worry about stumbling anymore. Because, for the first time in my life, I’ve learned to pick my own self up and keep moving forward.
And purpose? I think we all have this question that’s been around since the beginning of time: “What am I here for? What’s my life all about?” I’m going to be honest here. I always saw myself as another Oprah…someone who asked the hard questions and dug deep into issues and looked great on TV. That was my dream. Still is actually. But, my purpose is 2 fold: to be a great mom and to be a great professor. Am I great? Depends on what day you ask my son or whether or not I let a student make-up an exam. But I feel like I’m doing what I was put on this earth for. Along with the purpose of teaching, I know I was meant to teach as much as I can about mental illness. I believe everything happens for a reason…I also don’t pretend to know what those reasons are. There’s so much I don’t understand. But, I finally understand why I have bipolar…because I can use my opportunities of teaching to help others understand mental illness and start to break the stigma of it themselves. Does this make up for what this fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar puts me through. Well….no. It does not. But, does it make it more tolerable…knowing I’m using it for others to learn from? Yes. It does.
And then there’s happiness. The word that’s so different for everyone but so widely sought after by us all. Let’s see…I’m loved, content, and have a purpose in life. Yes. I am happy. Happy with me. Happy with my life. Happy with what I have.
If I were to win a million dollars tonight, my world would change. I could go out and buy to my hearts content. But…would I alienate family? Would I suddenly quit my job and forget the purpose I have? Would I have to worry about how to spend it…who to spend it on…what charities to give it too? WOULD this windfall make me happy? Is this the end all/get all in life? I don’t think so. Not anymore. Because, my sweet peeps, I’ve got all I need right now.