Spreadsheet Zen

Each year is a workbook of 12 monthly spreadsheets with columns and rows by category. That is how I account for my life. It does not escape me that what it orders most in my life matters least, money.

From time to time, a friend and I talk about the carryover on our credit card, having paid the monthly amount but not having quite enough to pay the entire balance. We might pay no interest but the sheet is not clean.

Yet, if I look beyond my current expenses, I project balances that do not exist. I cannot know next month so I confine myself to the columns and rows that I can complete. But this spreadsheet is not without its Zen.

Every month I mine my finances, drilling down to every penny, as I record each receipt. It’s not that time-consuming as I don’t have many receipts. There are advantages to being “almost poor.”

Not the least of which is letting go of living in lack. That in itself is quite a discovery, having enough, and exploring all that I might do with it. Working within my labels, and looking forward to it, something I used to dread.

It was not the actual labels of personal care or household supplies that confined. It was lack. Before I looked at what I had, I was sure the month would outlast me, as if it were a contest, which it never was. It was a spreadsheet of columns and rows, choices.

Sounds like spin, and it may be, but living in lack is wandering a wasteland with no way out. Life in an infinite loop. Everything is never enough.

When you realize nothing is lacking, the whole world belongs to you. 
Lao Tzu

I dive into each budget category, to its bottom dollar. It will always be 100 cents but shifted here or there, it becomes a receipt paid. It’s expanding the category, understanding that in some months the label of household supplies pays for personal care.

Rent remains rent even when it increases, like utilities, phone, and Internet. Bandwidth and a roof over my head are among the first paid. And then, food.

Life is not constrained by any label, and every time I try to make it fit, all I find is lack. It’s not the label, it’s my attachment to it. Best to roam the range of labels, keep my boundaries loose. That seems the Zen of it.

Being Lily

“Originally, the word power meant able to be.
In time, it was contracted to mean to be able.
We suffer the difference” (Mark Nepo, Book of Awakening).

In a world weary and wary of power, I doubt the distinction that comes from rearranging words—even contracting them—is noted when we  consider our power, inner or outer, globally or individually. Usually, we find power and ourselves lacking, somehow; “…the wish for more always issues from a sense of lack” (Nepo).

Yet, there are times when lack results in abundance sans want and wishing. I think of Lily, a dog story of joy ever after because with Lily, lack is always more.

A white-muzzled, chocolate lab kind of canine, Lily found herself at a county animal shelter; she was too old to care for, she was too fat, her hips were bad. Lily lacked everything she needed to continue her life as it was so she began a new life, incrementally.

Second Chance Farms Inc. Photo

First, there was Underdog Foundation whose main operations are not in the area Lily lived nor is Underdog usually contacted about dogs like Lily. Underdog provides funds for various rescue operations but it is not involved in any physical rescue nor does it have its own facility so  Lily found her  funding but no place to be.

Yet, home was always near. Lily was in a county shelter that was part of the network of Second Chance Farms’ sanctuary. The sanctuary takes in older animals of almost all species, offering them forever home for the rest of their lives. Lily would live with dogs, cats, a tortoise, ducks, chickens, a horse named River, two goats, a donkey, and at that time, an opossum.

But with Lily, there was still more.

Second Chance Farms Inc. Photo

In under two weeks and entirely unexpectedly, Lily met and fell in love with her permanent foster parents who also care for cats, dogs and horses. At first, Lily slept a lot, as always, but her new life moved fast. With her human mom, Lily learned about her barn, her horses and having all around  romps in the barnyard grass. Her personality perked.

Lily was no longer quiet about life. Eagerly, she showed her humans that she could howl like a wolf, if needed, yet with a little eye contact, she was just as capable of carrying on a conversation, of sorts, with humans.  Lily being Lily, she ascended to alpha dog in her canine pack of three.

Second Chance Farms Inc. Photo

Lily’s family travels quite a bit. In particular, her humans are serious college football fans. In less than six months and in time for her first football season, Lily shed the weight that had been too much for her age and for her hips. She was on her way to a victorious season of football trips, especially the pre-game activities inside and outside the family RV.

When it came time for an extended family wedding, Lily attended, of course, and was included in the official wedding photos. In her first year of so many firsts, Lily’s world of canine and human contact is ever more. Lily no longer lacks for family, for care, for life in any way, a true alpha dog of her canine and human pack.

It’s the kind of story that takes us out of lack into what is best in all of us, canine or human. Lily, lacking all except her ability to be, created a chance for humans to prove they are able, always, to be more.

Christmas, 2011 (SCF photo)

And that is powerful.

Rhythm of ROW80 Sunday Scheduling:

This week, I begin a month-long workshop with Bob Mayer on Idea and Conflict. For the rest of this round of ROW80, I will work with the idea of my current manuscript so I may actually turn the story into a novel.

Daily, I write for at least 30 minutes, often longer, generating at least 1,000 words per day  for blog posts as well as some creative nonfiction.