A recent experience with money reminded me that our relationship with spending is programmed way down deep, from the earliest of days. It’s like we have a default setting – or it’s like we are fresh water fish, and when our lives change, and we are out in the salty sea, we are confused, wondering how the salty sea fish deal with their surroundings. Well. That analogy needs work, but you get it.
It was my 21st wedding anniversary this past New Year’s Eve, and we were in downtown Miami. We thought we’d booked at an appropriately special restaurant to celebrate the day, but when we got there, it was a gong show. Short staffed, different menu, sat at a table for 20 minutes and no one came over – not a very nice atmosphere and generally it felt like a cafeteria with burnt pizza. So we left.
We managed to get into this beautiful restaurant that literally served me the greatest meal I have ever eaten. Not kidding. Beautifully made, highest quality, with the utmost care and the right amount of refinement – anything too fancy and I get confused – like, do we eat it, or stare at it? Why am I still hungry?
Our family loves food – we are passionate about cooking, which makes it tough to find restaurants. So I was thrilled.
But there was one problem. It was a set New Year’s Eve menu, with 5 courses, and a lot of truffle oil. When I asked for San Pelligrino, they left the bottle. There were servers on hand to change our silverware and crumb the table. My husband and I looked at the bottle and he said, “well you know you’re in trouble when they leave the bottle.” lol.
Just to give you some context, we road trip, it’s affordable. I keep a spreadsheet of everything we spend. We pick hotels that are outside the downtown area, that offer free breakfast wifi and parking. Stretching two people’s money for a 4 person vacation is an art form.
So…I started to feel antsy, like, shouldn’t I be more proactive, shouldn’t I ask what the menu costs? Could we order from half of it? Could we share? We were two adults and two kids who eat like adults – shouldn’t we be more economical? I sat and listened to all these thoughts, swirling in my head, really trying to pick out the overriding thought. And I found it. It was: AM I ALLOWED TO DO THIS?
Am I allowed to sit down in a beautiful restaurant with my family to celebrate this amazing occasion of 21 years of marriage, New Year’s Eve, our health, and our happiness?
Am I allowed to just eat and think about the price later?
Am I allowed to be here? It’s a long way from the days of student welfare and living on scraps. It’s a long way from fighting so hard with every penny to pay for school, start a life, buy a house.
It’s not the fresh water pond of scarcity, lack, and fear. It’s the great big, briny ocean of abundance, joy, security and self-assurance.
Swim little fish, swim on.
I do not regret one penny of that dinner. I will remember it for the rest of my life.