Hello, Day 30 of the longest government shutdown in US history.
This is the first time my family has been directly impacted by a lack of paychecks due to a government shut down. This post is not political. This post isn’t even negative (I’ll save that for a different post ;) ). This post is meant to shine a tiny glimmer of light on what I’ve taken away from this experience (thus far, and before I inevitably start to lose my glass-half-full mindset).
Let me start off by saying that in no way do I wish to downplay this horrible situational limbo that many of us have found ourselves stuck within. Things could be far worse for my own family, and I recognize that whole-heartedly. We’re fortunate to have a little next egg in savings meant for an emergency, and losing pay sure as hell counts as a valid reason to dive into that separate little savings account (even Dave Ramsey would agree).
But this experience has also put a lot of things into perspective.
I started the New Year with a few different goals, the biggest being to embrace a more minimalistic lifestyle. Ironically, part of this meant not only pairing down on excess things, but also pairing down on excess financial burdens. The shut down has made the latter pretty damn clear for us, in case it wasn’t already. If I wasn’t before (and apparently I wasn’t), I am now hyper-aware of every single bill, every debt, and every little ‘harmless’ monthly subscription.
Even when we thought this shutdown surely wouldn’t last (ha!), as a family we had agreed upon a no-spend January, meaning we had no intentions of buying anything aside from bare essentials. In a way, this mindset has saved our sanity thus far by, at the very least, providing us the illusion that we still have some control in our lives.
But it hasn’t been easy. Not only are we not spending money aside from food and gas, we now have the looming fact that other bills still need to be paid as well. This drastically alters the sense of control because now we’re down an income.
And it’s scary.
But it’s also an opportunity to take a step back and truly see what I have. Everything, every thing, that I own. But most of all, my home, my health, my family. Truly, isn’t this what matters most?
Obviously our livelihood relies on finances. However, I have the privilege and security of knowing our money will make it back into our pockets eventually. And in the meantime, in order to preserve my own sanity, I continue asking myself: What can I learn from this? How can I grow from this?
What I want to take away from this is that things are not what is valuable in life. It’s all the cheesy feel-good stuff: family, love, community, etc. It’s what makes us feel happy. It’s not the things in our life that are providing security to us, and it’s not the money that’s providing happiness. It’s all coming from our selves. I think it just doesn’t feel this way because we get caught up in the same routines and this becomes our own sense of normalcy that we continuously lean on, because comfortable equals safe. But comfortable does not equal happiness. And neither does money.
So while I’m still feeling incredibly stressed during this bump in the road, I can’t say it’s all been for nothing. I won’t forget how it feels to unexpectedly lose an income right after the holidays, but I also won’t forget what truly matters.