This weekend, armed with a pretty generous gift card, my partner and I escaped to the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake for a couple of whirlwind days. We stayed at one of the vintage hotels – an adorable and relatively unassuming Inn with a lot of history within its walls.
As we began to explore the streets of this really beautiful place, I felt at peace and instantly excited to lay barefoot in the sprawling park and read books. Alongside this peace, there was a nagging twinge of unease – the unsettling feeling of something-is-not-quite-right. The town began to look more and more like a Norman Rockwell type fantasy, like I was stepping into an old picture book or onto the manufactured landscape of a movie set.
The streets were lined with trees with neat rows of carefully manicured shrubs and explosions of vivid geraniums, roses, and tulips. The shops were bursting with overpriced designer clothing and garden ornaments (stained glass birds, floral windcatchers, and windchimes), dangling proudly from the trees, their rattlings like a frenzied, eclectic orchestra.
Everything screamed indulgence – from the multiple ice cream parlours, the specialty chocolatiers, the wine bars, the valet parking, multi-million dollar homes, the ladies with fancy hats and thick makeup lines. The songs of the birds were at times overpowered by the incessant noise of weed-whackers and other maintenance tasks.
A part of me lapped up these visuals and stimulations (part fascination, part hedonism), and the other part reeled back, screaming “privilege!”, “excess!”, “overwhelm!”, and “inauthenticity!”
It was a really interesting (and entertaining) internal process. I realize how much the topics of money and economic class influence my ways of viewing the world. From working in the social services field, living in a city with a notoriously high unemployment rate and an unjust amount of poverty, and hearing the personal stories of those I have known – I know that there is a very real structural power divide among those who own and control money and those who struggle.
Many of my own money related narratives that I carry around with me involve some guilt, anxiety, fear, anger, and judgement against those who control it and my own personal relationship with it. We all carry around stories. These stories are results of our politics, the way we see the world, our values, our experiences, our interactions, our learning, our societal messages, and our influences (for example, my mum has a lot of financial anxieties of her own that she transferred to me growing up and my dad’s relationship with money contradicts this experience – favouring spontaneity, putting upgrades on credit, treating and indulging yourself).
These are some of my (money fearing) narratives:
- “Those who have (an excess of) money are greedy and oppressive”
- “I must not spend a lot of the money I make because I could lose it one day and therefore lose my safety net”
- “I must be really modest about the money that I have because so many others are struggling”
- “My (somewhat) financial privilege makes me feel guilty” – aka: I can pay my rent and bills and still have afford to sometimes participate in different opportunities, even on my modest income
- ” Money is evil and corrupt and the Capitalist system is oppressive”
- “I will never make enough money doing the work that I love with my heart and soul” aka: traditional social work jobs are generally ‘overworked and underpaid’
- “I don’t even WANT to have any more money”
These are very real to me and speak to my commitment to social justice, but they can also be very detrimental to my own well-being and sense of self-worth (as well as immediately writing certain people off with bold, assuming statements – which creates further barriers and disconnection). I am trying to work on deconstructing these stories that I tell myself. What is no longer working for me? What can I not give up due to my underlying values? I am opening up new avenues for myself to explore with regards to making money from my passions and building something both meaningful and financially rewarding (and that these two things can actually go together in the first place).
Guilt is never a productive state of mind. Guilt is something that holds you back from yourself AND from others. Transforming yourself can further open you up to the possibilities of supporting the transformation of others. This is going to be huge!
I want to know: how can you stay committed to social justice and also allow yourself to receive these privileges? What are your own money narratives you carry around?
It’s funny how you start a post with one direction in mind, and then completely head into new, uncharted blog territory! Phew.
Believe it or not, there is still a really “rich” love list that brewed!
“Rich” = engaged all the senses.
- thick trunked, old trees towering in the park
- the way light and shadows interact
- picnic benches with abandoned newspapers
- reading under trees
- laying stretched out in the grass (intricate imprints of the blades of grass etched into my back when I sit up)
- a huge dragonfly landing on W’s knee and hanging out there for a few minutes
- hoards of old ladies having fudge induced orgasms in the chocolate shop
- having my own chocolate induced orgasm fantasies as I peruse the delactable chocolate shop aisles (surprisingly, I didn’t indulge!)
- deep bathtubs with curved backs
- morning caffeine
- Icewine flavoured coffee beans
- peering into shop windows at night when it’s quiet
- peaceful walks in the dark, street lamps lighting the way
- detours to Niagara Falls (reveling in the tacky overstimulation of it all!)
- helplessly driving around in circles, and laughing about it.
- so much hilarity and ridiculousness!
- rows of grape vines, miles of them
- wine tasting (okay, I came close to a wine induced orgasm!)
- Reif Winery’s Sensory Garden
- my heart leaping to snuggle close to my partner (I find little getaways such an important tool to connect and re-connect with intimacy because it gets you out of your daily comfort zone)
- wine, wine, and wine (Did I mention that Niagara-on-the-Lake is well celebrated for its wineries? mmm)
- listening to the Avenues on the way home, dancing and singing in the front seat