Monday, August 29, 2016

Mind over matter

One day I was walking along when I found scattered about a sidewalk dozens of tiny scraps of paper upon which were inscribed those “fortunes” which you find in those clam-shaped “cookies.” Among them were the following messages:

“You will take a chance in the near future, and win.”
“Tomorrow you will find the item you have been searching for.”
“You will do well to concentrate on practical matters this week.”
“You deserve to have a good time after a hard day’s work.”
“Focus on your long term goal. Your wish will be granted next year.”

One will notice that these “fortunes” are decidedly vague and don’t necessarily promise anything. If you cross a railroad track while the “no crossing” bar is lowered and you don’t get hit by a train, does that qualify as taking a “chance” and “winning”? Will I find that bag of money that I’ve been searching for tomorrow? What qualifies as a “practical” matter this week that didn’t last week? Sure I deserve to have a “good time” after a “hard day’s work,” I just don’t have the money for it. 

Now, I do have a “long term goal,” one which I have had for at least 35 years, which has never been granted the following year, no matter how much I “focus” on it. However, I do have a short-term goal currently, and that is to save as much money as I can. I know I can do it, because I have done it before—except that I gave it all away to the damned dentist for five crowns and two root canals. Is there never an end to what new faults in my teeth he will find? 

But since I’ve done it before, it can be done again. It is just a matter of mind over matter. Usually I am derailed when  I tell myself that I’ve purchased all the books and DVDs I need, and then one day I find something I “need” and I decide “Well, if I buy this, then I might as well buy this other thing, because my savings goal is already shot for this period.” This might go on for weeks before I convince myself that I don’t “need” anything else to complete my library; there always is, but is a matter of “not now.” 

Since I don’t own a car and walk everywhere, that leaves food as the principle target in the savings agenda. For many people this is obviously difficult, but I frankly cannot understand people who allow their frames to balloon out-of-control. It need not happen. I have a skinny frame, but on occasion I have had a bloated belly which I find embarrassing to be seen with. But when I put my mind to it is remarking easy to put mind over matter for both problems. Before, if I went for a long walk or bus trip, I would purchase a cup of coffee and some sweet comestible to pass the time, not necessarily due to some craving I had. I had to decide that I really didn’t need it, and when I decided that I didn’t, I did discover that I really didn’t need it. So I just keep walking, eventually not even thinking about these prior “needs.”  At worst, instead of buying a snack and some over-priced soft drink, a cheap flavored liquid like a sweetened ice tea could satisfy both needs at once. Additional savings can also be found by acclimating by taste buds to a simple lunch of noodles and crackers purchased at some value store for lunch at work, and nothing at all on my off days, spending hours sitting in the library or out for a walk. Looking at these cost reductions and my budget, I discovered I can cut my food expenses by 50 percent. In time I didn’t even feel “hungry,” because my mind apparently no longer register the idea of food. 

All this cutting down didn’t seem to add up to much week-to-week, but over time that little bit of money saved would eventually be enough to pay for a bi-yearly set of new pants, jacket and shoes. Even more rewarding was the disappearance of belly bloat. 

This is not to say that I would prefer to live and eat like a monk; it is hard to overcome one’s habits and addictions, but if it is required to achieve a goal that appears to be achievable within a finite length of time, one can overcome these physical obstacles with mental toughness at least temporarily, as long as they are fixed in the mind as “temporary.”

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