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My Year of Living Experimentally: Chapter 3

Epiphanies erupt into my life more frequently now that I am four months into my experiment. Writing keeps my imagination set on “high” and ideas are flowing nicely. Living non-traditionally in my traditional mid-western, Americana town creates a wonderful opportunities to expand my thoughts. The unplanned research for this chapter has been learning to receive.

In this, my season of simplicity, which is a nice way to say that I am poor, I am learning the value of both the tangible and the intangible. Objects often come with a price tag, but their intrinsic worth may be less obvious. For instance, my couch might fetch $50 in a garage sale, but feeling hugged by its soft cushions is far better than holding money in my hand. My flute would cost more than my couch and a bit less than my car; but, the joy of playing it is indescribable. I have developed a new lens for how I appraise my life.

I had a large insurance bill to pay recently. I scraped and scrapped, took some interesting day work, and literally gathered my pennies. I had enough resources to get the thing done, but fear gripped me. What is it about writing a four-figure check that makes me panic? I do not know, but blowing that much money $20 at a time doesn’t seem to faze me. I must get a realistic handle on what scares me and why I readily allow fear into my life.

I walked into the office to pay this bill and was met with kindness not, “Kansas nice,” as we do here in the heartland. Kindness. Knowing that paying the full amount would have made my life “interesting” for the next several weeks, my agent found a way to make the process easier. Accepting that level of thoughtfulness and receiving help from people challenges me. When others are willing to assist me, I am grateful. But, when they bestow dignity in that process, I am quite moved. Beauty blossoms in my life as I embrace the compassion that I am offered.

This flower of receiving makes being poor a strangely wonderful state. Don’t misinterpret this statement: I have no intention of remaining here. God blesses those who take a vow of poverty, but that’s not my calling. In this moment, what this fiercely independent woman recognizes is that receiving is not as humbling as it is beautiful. My friend who created short-term work for me, my Veterinarian who lessened the expense of caring for my huge Labrador, and my insurance agent all demonstrated that mercy is exquisite and incalculable. No one wants to need benevolence, yet it is so lovely.

“What am I buying?”

That was the question I asked myself as I worked a job that I loved to hate. That position brought security, great benefits, and the knowledge that every two weeks a paycheck would be deposited into my bank account. My quality of life was fairly barren, though. I worked such long hours, ironically, that I hardly had time to use my benefits. The job was not secure at all, so the paychecks came to a halt. However, I felt self-reliant; and, I certainly purchased my self-sufficiency with purpose and intention. That cost me a lot and I paid with worry, self-doubt, and missed opportunities.

Now, I ask myself again, “What am I buying?”

It isn’t security! My purchase is expensive and it is also very precious. I am “buying” myself the life I have always wanted: the freedom to be who I am. My life is costly and beautiful. While tight finances are worrisome, I consider them temporary. But, to be, to live the life I was always purposed to live, I cannot think of any “thing” I want more.

Perhaps the lesson I am learning is that independence is a great quality. Fierce independence, which can motivate me greatly, may rob me of something greater still. Interdependence with my world brings me into communion with good people who enrich my already wonderful life. Those acts of kindness ushered me into gratitude, which is a beautiful place to dwell.

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
(William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV-Scene 1.)

(Image by: Flickr User James Watkins, with quotes added)