We have what we have, right? We earn whatever money we earn, and that is what we have to spend. We are the age that we are, and we all pretty much maintain a steady activity level, whether it is very active or inactive. So it follows that our bodies need a consistent amount of energy to function. No?
Our bodies need nutrition and they need to be cared for in order to function properly.
We have 24 hours in a day.
We have a fairly consistent amount of energy. It varies from person to person for a lot of reasons, by I have a fairly consistent amount of energy, even if it is different from yours.
We need 7-10 hours of sleep each night, experts tell us. And when I get that amount, I can tell that they are right.
We need to rest. We need to play.
We need to eat our veggies.
We need our significant relationships to be healthy and alive.
We all read these articles and nod our heads in agreement. We experience these things to be true in both our own lives and in the lives of people we know. Often.
So why does it feel like we are restricting or depriving ourselves when we live within our means?
What is it about living this way: not spending more money than I have, not eating more fuel than my body needs, not burning the candle at both ends, not saying yes to more than I have the energy to do, investing time in my important relationships, and in resting, playing, exercising...
What is it about that that feels restrictive? Do I really think I am, in truth, so much bigger than these external realities? Or do I think I should be beyond these limits, or that I need to function outside of them? Why do I want to? What am I trying to say about myself or trying to be? Super-human? What do I want for myself when I try to live outside these realities?
I say try to, because they are realities we cannot actually live beyond, not in any kind of sustainable way.
Or maybe we can. I can live outside my financial resources by borrowing. As a result, I can live with less financial restrictions. Or can I? Even with borrowing, there are limits. And I add to my life the weight of owing money to someone, some place. That burden feels restrictive.
I can eat whatever I want whenever I want to. Or can I? When I don't get the nutrition I need, my body doesn't function well, the way I want and need it to. The extra gets stored on my body as fat. The fat and its effect on my health restricts me from doing certain things easily and freely. (It also gives me an inner nag, a regular critical voice I have to listen to every single day: when I get dressed and take a mirror check to see how do I look? and when I go out the door each morning thinking how do I feel today? Up to it, or not up to it? Living with that is depressing and restrictive too.)
I can choose to stay awake as long as I need to, to get things done or in order not to miss something, or in order to avoid the dark and the quiet and being with myself. (Not to be confused with insomnia - which is not a choice) Or can I? The resulting fatigue is restrictive, on my well-being, my mood, my creativity, my energy level...
So why do I feel restricted and deprived when I decide to live within my means?
It's not just me either. Other people have said things to me like "don't you feel like you are depriving yourself?" and "you deserve that doughnut", piece of cake, chips, new pair of boots, dress, expensive vacation, whatever. And, very ironically, - "you should accept yourself the way you are!" (vs. losing my extra weight). Most of us are not comfortable living within our means. We don't want to, and we don't like it when other people do.
Somehow we connect this stuff with our freedom and our worth.
Being in debt feels anything but free.
Being overweight doesn't feel free either.
Being tired and/or being unhealthy feels like the most limiting feeling ever.
Having no relational support feels lonely and horrible.
Being out of debt feels like I am free.
Being a healthy weight feels amazing - I feel good about myself both physically and otherwise.
Being rested and having energy feels empowering and I feel much more cheerful and up to the task. I feel free to do what is in front of me to do.
Having good friends who are there for me and a spouse who loves and supports me empowers me and helps me keep moving forward.
Overall I actually feel less restricted and more free, not deprived but blessed and grateful, when I live within my means.
In our culture our 'freedom' in the moment is more important to us than our overall freedom. And feeling good about ourselves in this moment of time is what we want, more than feeling good about ourselves as a whole person in our whole life. Even though the result is what we actually want, we struggle to live within our means.
Not only have we completely forgotten about eternity, but we have zoomed in on right now so much that we have forgotten about our lifetime as a whole.
The truth is, there is incredible beauty, value and freedom in each moment of time...and that beauty, value and freedom exists because each single moment creates the whole story.
Without the whole story, there is no significance to this moment.
Beauty, value and freedom do not exist outside of the whole story.