Abundance: plentifulness of the good things of life; prosperity.
Where “the good things” are decided by the individual.
My parents went through stages in their life with different levels of wealth - my father was an immigrant from Holland who moved to Australia and grew up in different immigration camps before his parents found a home and settled down. I imagine it was a time of skimping and scraping together whatever was available, I know when he first started earning a wage he passed all of it to his parents to help with the household.
My mum, the second eldest girl of 8 children pretty much raised her sisters and brothers. A household always full of children, with another on the way. I’m sure not much was just hers, so she gave and gave and gave. She never stopped giving, but I imagine she also learned what it was to value, keep safe and cherish what was yours alone.
Whether intentionally or not, these patterns and habits must have formed the foundation of their relationship and entwined to form the basis of what became the families patterns and habits (as happens in all families).
I would not describe my childhood as one of abundance, not that I feel like I ever wanted for anything specific (except a puppy and maybe sometimes hair and to look normal) - I would not use the word abundance. I would describe it as safe, loving, supportive, grounded, caring. I would describe my sisters and I as cared for, cherished, lovingly disciplined, and well raised. With an eye for helping others, looking out for each other, and kept just a little naive (in line with my parent’s fairly conservative upbringings and the influence of the Catholic Church).
The word abundance comes up because in working through The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron) with my amazing friend and colleague Eugenia, Chapter 6 is all about abundance - and I’ve been pondering on its’ meaning, my resistance to the word itself, and its impact on my life (and my inner artist).
This chapter is all about redefining our relationships with money by looking at God/The Universe/Higher Power (whatever you want to call it) and creative abundance. It’s similar to the concept of power of attraction and practicing the art of receiving. Counting all the synchronicities and freebies in our life and being grateful and learning to trust that the universe will give us exactly what we need in any given moment.
Powerful stuff - huge mindset shifts for many, and a just a tad woo woo for those with your feet dug deeply into the ground.
I groaned when Eugenia announced the name of the new chapter, I felt my body contract at the thought and I literally did not read it until the day we were meant to discuss it - which brings me back to this morning - journaling - the chapter content finally settling into my brain and out comes this memory of being told to use only as much paint as I need.
A simple instruction, from an artist parent, to a creative child to simply only use what is needed. Was the parent trying to save money? Not make a mess? Teach conservation? I don’t know - I’m not sure I ever asked. But it was a lesson that stuck with me, and I feel like it was repeated in different ways throughout my life. As I started to look back at my experiences - this lesson had obviously made an impact beyond how much paint to use.
I never knew what to do at those ‘Eat Everything On Your Plate’ houses, because at my house we only took what we needed and when we weren’t that hungry, there were always leftovers for lunch the next day, or bubble and squeak on the weekend.
When I eventually received pocket money, I remember buying sheets and sheets of stickers, but when it came to actually using them - I couldn’t bring myself to put them to paper. They were a once used thing - and I wanted to save them. What if I needed them for something special later? I’m sure they all eventually got thrown out when parents moved house - I’ll write another post if I find them and just start sticking them on everything because I’ll have gone mad.
When I moved out of home I didn’t buy a bed that was big enough for my boyfriend and I to sleep in (even though I earned twice as much as my housemates at that point) and used the spare couch double instead for at least a month. Why buy something I didn’t need?? (drove my housemates mad so I eventually bought a second hand futon).
This dawned on me again in a conversation with my husband on day 8 billion of us working from home together this year (it’s probably actually only day 210 or something - sometimes it feels a lot longer). He said:
“Why don’t you ever just buy what we need in the Kitchen to make it more functional? I just realized I bought everything that’s in here. You probably wouldn’t even have knives if they hadn’t been a gift!”
His point - he is the only one who buys things that make our practical lives even a little easier.
And he is right. To do this day, as a 35 year old woman, (and this is a little embarrassing) - I boil my water in a saucepan to make my tea in the morning and I use the oven grill to make toast. I make do. I don’t even really shop for those things - I might look at a new kettle that a friend says is amazing because it’ll make your green tea to the exactly correct temperature for brewing - but then I lose interest and move on.
I’m not sure this behavior necessarily stems precisely from that lesson about paint, but it’s an interesting stream of a thought that seems to be consistent through these stories of my life. It’s like I’ve taken this lesson and applied it not only to the creative resources in my life, but also to the practical in life. As though the lesson wasn’t just “only use what you need”, but also “only buy what you need”.
I have to admit, it’s all the more interesting to me because it doesn’t necessarily apply to everything. I will splurge my savings on training, self development, physical experiences such as travel, dance classes and food and drink. Physical things are the kicker - I buy clothing - but usually only from the bargain bin or second hand. I also spend money on others fairly freely, though I’m notoriously bad at choosing things for my husband (a story for another day perhaps).
I should note, if I do buy a really expensive piece of clothing, or jewelry - I’ll often not wear it for fear of ruining it. I admit, I'm bad at taking care of things.
I love and adore my parents, and this isn’t about laying blame, it’s more about - what comes of these small thoughts and phrases uttered maybe once or maybe repeatedly through our childhoods. They make an impact, and I can’t say for sure it’s always the intended one. I think it intellectually makes sense that with my father’s family having to start fresh in a new country he would pass on the skills used to overcome those challenges to his children. In the same way, my mother cherishing objects of her own while constantly giving care, love and affection away freely would also instill similar patterns in her children. And then as children, our brains just process these lessons into whatever beliefs and stories they become.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I work through the material for my upcoming coaching program for Women with Alopecia and Hair Loss. Considering what words we hear and say to ourselves as well as their impact on who we are, our stories and what we believe. So much of who we are as an adult is shaped by early experiences - some we’re not even aware of unless we do the work to explore and feel into them, more deeply understanding ourselves. And not everyone is drawn to do that, which is fine. Each to their own - of course.
So I’m curious …
What happens when you hear the word - Abundance?
Does it cause your body to contract, or expand? Maybe you’re bombarded with memories of restriction or extravagance. Maybe some words pop into your head about what you were taught, or what your grandmother thought of the new jelly shoes you bought with your pocket money. Is there a teacher, a parent, a friend whose face is brought to mind when you hear the word. Maybe it’s a feeling you can’t shake, or a sense of ease because you already feel like your life is so beautifully full. Perhaps your babies first steps, or your partner’s hands on your body cause you to break into a smile and a bubble of joy pops in your heart.
Conversely - considering the meaning of the word,
What do you want Abundance feel like to you?
Perhaps warmth, comfort, safety. Maybe it’s spacious, cavernous, giant open expansion. Maybe it’s relaxing into a deep darkness. It could have textures of squishiness, softness, or feel like an energizing, sunlight speckled morning. If you could breathe the word abundance into your body and let it sit inside you like a seed - what would grow there? Luscious plants and flowers? Golden stones and crystals? An animal clawing to be released, or a kitty curled up sleeping?
In this current climate abundance could be difficult to grasp onto. So many of us are doing without - without our friends, our family, travel. For some of us without our teachers, our school or religious communities, our hobbies and our classes. For many of us without the ease of access to things we used to do, and without a clear end in sight - abundance sounds almost laughable. I would also gently nudge that it’s not comparable - what feels like abundance to me may feel differently to the elderly Spanish lady down the hall. While she may feel abundance when the door man goes out of his way to bring her groceries up to her (instead of her going down to get them) - the mother of the family another couple of doors down might feel abundance in the space she receives when her husband takes the kids for a walk. We do not need to justify why abundance could be hard to hold onto - but if it has been - it might be nice to acknowledge it and explore the two questions above.
You could then softly and gently inquire -
How can I bring in this feeling of Abundance??
In her chapter on abundance, Julia Cameron recommends practicing being grateful for the small things. The synchronicities, and freebies we would normally ignore because they are too small to take note. She recommends indulging in the luxuries we would normally deny ourselves - such as time for journaling, self-care and fun or relaxing activities. Luxuries such as space for ourselves, our pillow, our chair - “Remember your artist and a youngster and youngsters like things that are ‘mine’”.
For me I’m going to wear one of those dresses that I’ve been keeping in my wardrobe for the right day (even if it’s just a normal work from home day and only my husband sees me). I’m going to take out my craft box and see if there are any stickers in there and I’m going to stick them on something. I’m going to keep writing indulgent, reminiscent blog posts about my story - even when I should be creating content for my coaching program instead and this feels a little irrelevant.
And I’m probably going to go buy a kettle - maybe - no definitely. A pretty one, for green tea.
Oh, and I’m going to call my parents and make sure they know I still love them