Today marks the end of Month 1 of The $20 Challenge, and I’ve been struggling trying to find some way to wrap it up because it’s been bringing up lots of issues.
What’s really going on, I’m certain, is that the impetus for the challenge is what’s actually causing upheaval, and I just can’t write about that yet. I’ve felt quiet, withdrawn, and filled with doubt and curiosity — but I’ll share what I can and hope you get it.
The Challenge has been a success. I came in under budget, but that is feeling overshadowed by the fact that next year I’ll have to work even harder at this. And THAT is complicated by the fact that I’m also worried that if I focus so much on stretching a dollar, so much on how little I’ll have, that’s exactly what I’ll end up with. It feels very tricky — walking this line of practice and practicality but at the same time finding some time and space to imagine something better for my future, not cutting this and forgoing that.
This has given me the opportunity to consider not just how I spend my money but also how I spend my time. And I’ve been noticing averse reactions to things I used to do just a few short weeks ago, books I liked to read, where I directed my thoughts.
It’s led me to question what I really believe, what I really want, how I should go about determining that and whether those wants and desires are sincere or ego-based.
I know this is a lot for a post about spending $20, but some day it will all make sense. Right now I am just trying to stay open, notice, and not judge myself for whatever’s going on in my head. When things are turning over and evolving like this, I suppose it’s natural for it all to feel like caterpillar soup.
In the meantime, my mantra this week is from one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems — and it’s this idea of non-judgment and patience and “an undetermined sense of love” (thank you Mark Nepo) that I am clinging to:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Because for me there is something about this challenge that is inextricably linked to her words — letting myself love what I love — and maybe what that is is the “challenge” of letting it be even when I don’t always have the means to indulge outwardly. Loving what I love is an inside job. And luckily, I don’t need to spend any more money while I continue feeling my way through this.
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