On the business end of what is are decisions and clean up. A year with value, my word of the year has left me feeling somewhat spent. I feel like what New Orleans looks like after Hurricane Katrina with a year or two of sleeping with inefficient government. I'm sober in the knowledge, as well, that another storm will forever be brewing in the wings. I've had a sketchy time of it this year. Picking through what is now valuable to me after weathering mortality issues this year left me a bit weary, lonely and confused. Still, I'm satisfied in the knowledge that I'm a valuable wasteland.
The truth is, value is a HUGE subject encompassing more than just the economics of living, learning and spending. People with a far clearer intellectual grasp than I, write great, knowledgeable tomes on this subject. All I can say is what I learned this year and what became readily apparent immediately was that I live and support a society that is based on the dollar. Money in an economic based society like ours is ALWAYS the bottom line in everything and it will ALWAYS be the bottom line. As well, money will ALWAYS be inflated in value in the United States over alternatives. Did I mention the word ALWAYS? It is critical to recognize it in the context when thinking of the United States policies, money and reality. We may have a vote in this country but nothing says screw you and you better change your wicked ways faster than not buying something.
Closer to home, I realized this year that every penny I spend at Target or Costco is not spent at my local store downtown and denies them support. As citizens and as people we are where we spend. I do not take people to Costco when they visit me. I take them to the charming downtown area and the market and restaurants and what-not. Do I stop going to Costco? No. I still believe I can't afford to go spend 30 cents more for the thing in the shop in town and I lack conviction and the imagination necessary to follow through. I can tell you this: I am aware I am screwing the pooch every time I darken Costco's door and the awareness has taken the fun out of my spending. Shopping at Costco feeds something base in me that I am in the habit of nurturing. I await the day I get a gut full of that exchange and finding the strength to remember my alternatives.
As far as how I get the money to spend at Costco, I make it from an institution that takes advantage of people wanting to belong. The business of education is an exercise in madness. Everyone knows it and no one knows what to do about it because learning is a good thing, right? The fact that I work in a library and that for a small fee of $25.00 annually anyone who could read or operate a VCR/DVD/CD or record player and who has the personal motivation mixed with a little effort could allow themselves a profound education . This softens my guilt somewhat but there is an aftertaste of tin. I am still a part of the problem in education. Will I quit my job? No. Might I be fired for writing this? I hope not but it could return to haunt me, possibly. Would I be willing to be part of the solution? Sure but I find it hard to believe anything short of a major overhaul of the system could help. (...see above - the bit about an economic based society). Certainly the intention of doing "good works" is there. I see it in the eyes and smiles of my co-workers. No one would be more surprised and happy than I, should good intentions carry the day.
I learned this year about the economy of movement after my stroke. This is the great value of aging. It turns out that time condenses experience in the aging physical body and there is a direct correlation between how old one gets to be and how much they are required to run around like an insane person to get anything done. I'm well happy to leave off the running around bits but I notice that people my age around me are very attached to the activity of courting youth culture. They could well be right that I'm not moving around enough but they are incorrect about intention and the unhealthy desire to heal aging as if it were a disease. There is great value in being still and applying the knowledge age provides; like when to strike with the least amount of effort and the maximum amount of impact. (Thank you David Whyte for so eloquently explaining these things).
Regarding the value of virtue: I discovered that virtue, like fortune can turn on a dime when misunderstood. Being thankful daily, as my Facebook adventure in thankfulness in November reminded me, can be difficult. Even though I am obviously a very fortunate woman in light of my track record, I couldn't quite stomach my own spin. I had a long list, of course, but there was something about the exercise of announcing 14 consecutive things daily to be thankful for that made me want to poke out both my eyes with a #2 pencil. In hindsight, I was on the cusp of realizing that being thankful for a thing does not give a person "points" to be applied to some sort of mystical mathematical algorithm that grants a safe haven from harm later when things don't go so well. This is something I'm vexed to admit that I actually unconsciously believed. Obviously virtue cannot be purchased and, of course, its not taxed ...except in terms of ones patience occasionally. It is all very zen....
How I value, what I value and who I value all came up for assessment this last year and while I moved no mountains, I certainly empowered myself in the focusing. I have moved into a greater understanding of the choices I make and the consequences of those choices. I also found out there is a lot more housecleaning involved in surviving a loss of valuables than I ever would have imagined.