After work yesteday, I walked a few blocks, thinking about what I wanted to do. Never an easy question for me, but now even harder, because what I want to do is almost always something that I can’t do, because of funds.
What I really wanted to do yesterday was what I’ve done plenty of times: I would have taken myself out to dinner. I would have found a place where I could sit outside and sip on a beer and read my book. I would have ordered a salad with beets and walnuts and goat cheese or pears and parmesan and arugula. Or I’d get the lentil burger, with fries. (One lucky thing about moving to New York right when I also gave up my credit cards is that I haven’t had the chance to fall in love with all the restaurants in my neighborhood. I can imagine what it’d be like to sit in them, but I haven’t sat in them. Most of my restaurant and bar fantasies are across the country.)
I think these little daydreams are so persvasive because, just months ago, they are exactly what I would have done! I would sip on my beer and read my book, my shoulders relaxing, my phone put away. When the waiter came to ask if I’d like another beer, I’d pause for moment—knowing that the answer should be no, knowing that one was a treat but two was a stretch—but then I’d say, yes. I wanted one and why should I deny myself one, really. Six dollars is nothing. I would think about how nothing really matters, but in the good way. That I can’t really afford this beer doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I can pay for it now, and worry about it later. Would I like the same? I’d like the same.
But that was before, when I had credit cards. That’s where all my money went, really. Getting off of work or out of bed and thinking: What do I want to do? And having the answer be, sit in a pretty place, eat good food, drink good drinks, talk with friends, read a book. Of course these things are all still options for me, and I still do them. But I used to be able to buy atmosphere and experience and food and drink at any moment, and now I can’t.
The replacement I’ve found doesn’t last as long, and still involves using money to buy some moments of happiness, which I suppose is my drug. But I’m okay with that, for now, and I will be until I realize that I’m spending all of my money on ice cream or that none of my clothes fit anymore. Yesterday I didn’t buy dinner and drinks. Instead I left work and walked to the gelato cafe and bought a single scoop of stracciatella ($2.75) to eat on my walk. I made it last all the way home.