Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fear and the $5 gift card

I have been carrying this Starbucks gift card around since 2007.

Believe it.

Seven years ago I was laid off from my job at the literary agency. I was feeling very broke so I'd answered some survey just to get this gift card. So that even when I had no spending money to speak of, I'd still be able to treat myself to a super-deluxe-grande-latte-frappuccino-almond-hot-chocolate-with-gold-dust-and-hopefully-organic-whipped-cream-on-top.

This little gift card was a kind of security blanket, there to help me feel less poor.

After 5 months of job searching, just when the unemployment benefits were about to run out, I found a full-time writing job in February 2008.

Did I celebrate by spending my $5 gift card?

No. I hung onto it. Because you never know.

Fast-forward 5 years.

Once again, I'm a dislocated worker.

I make the brilliant decision to spend two months in London. No sarcasm! I have no regrets about that decision. While in London, I drank my share of comforting caffeine concoctions. I also ate a lot of desserts with intriguing names like "Banbury Tart" and "Victoria Sponge."

But did I use my $5 Starbucks gift card in London? Or when I got back to Minneapolis? Or during any of the subsequent 7 months of joblessness?


I have to ask: What's going on here?

True, I am not a fan of Starbucks, or of super-deluxe-grande-lattes-frappuccinos-almond-hot-chocolates-with-gold-dust-and-hopefully-organic-whipped-cream-on-top. Let that be said.

But I really think it goes deeper than that for me, and maybe for you.

I think it is about telling ourselves that we don't have enough, and we can't get enough, and we ourselves aren't enough.

And maybe about how a mean part of us whispers that we don't deserve the good things that come our way, only the bad ones. Or that we have offended the universe by spending our severance package on a trip to Europe instead of saving it for a month of rainy days, or that any good thing might disappear at any second so we'd damn well better hold on to it with the grip of death or suffer the consequences.

Ursula Le Guin wrote,“Fire and fear, good servants, bad lords.”

Wise woman.

I start a new full-time job next week. It sounds awesome. And do you know how I'm going to throw off the shackles of fear and lack and celebrate?

That's right. I'm gonna use up every penny of this G.D. $5 Starbucks gift card.


  1. Wise words! Congratulations on the new job, I hope it is wonderful :-)

    1. Thank you! It's been a long time coming...yet the timing is perfect.

  2. May it be a wonderful job for you!! And, enjoy whatever you get at Starbucks. I don't go there, either, prefer spending my money at the local places, but I do like their hazelnut lattes, last time I had one though, was probably two years ago!!

    1. Thank you! I had a hot chocolate. It pretty much tasted like Swiss Miss. But I spent it all and a nice woman stopped by my table and admired my winter hat so it was a good ritual, all in all.

  3. So now you've got that full-time job. But just think of all the great occupations you've had since the job wasn't there, like going to London, raising butterflies, observing the seasons so we can read about it, expressing your own folk myths, and that time you gnawed down that tree and said a beaver had done it (OK, maybe it really was a beaver; but I've wanted to imagine it as having been someone wanting to build a dam—somebody with good incisors).
    I am not sure Fear can be a servant without being a lord. I think people being wary or cautious of something & a-feared of it are two different things. On an individual level, fear keeps us from taking care & doing good for ourselves, and making choices with unknown factors. Being 'spooked' and afraid are two different things. If an animal is spooked, it takes positive steps to get out of there or whatever: when it's afraid, it cowers and shivers like a chihuahua.
    The thing about Starbucks is I think they owe a good deal in royalties to the mermaid depicted on their stuff. I don't think anybody should use someone's image without giving them due compensation & recognition. But mermaids can be forgiving and patient (to an extent).

    1. I definitely count all those things as accomplishments and you're right, they were occupations as well...I LOVE the thought that I was the one who gnawed down those trees, made me laugh and plus I was sure cheering on those beavers--I'll add it to the personal mythology, a modern version of Paul Bunyan. :)

  4. Carmine, I'm so glad you found a job and even more glad that it sounds awesome! I hope it is awesome, that you just adore it and it brings you many layers and moments of excitement and fulfillment! You've written some Truth here, sister... we all have our security blankets. The process of letting them go along with the fears and beliefs they represent is difficult... but also brave and transformative. I'm going to keep your bravery in mind as I begin Sacred Decluttering today. Sending light and love to you!!!

    1. I'll be writing at the state historical society, a great repository of stories and lore, which sounds about as good as a FT office job can get. :) Thank you for your kind wishes, your own transformations inspire me, too!


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