Self soothing for the millions
Growing up, I know someone who would pray. This isn’t remarkable in and of itself. Who they prayed to was. Though their idol was likely not unique to them, it was somehow was suitable for our increasingly secular society. This person prayed daily to Santa.
By praying to Santa Clause, they could soothe themselves with a vision of being seen, cared for and having all their desires realized and delivered by an omnipotent being. As they aged, the Santa fantasy slipped away.
I remember as a child when my Santa dream died. I found the presents and realized that what I thought was a well built man in a funny red suit with a whole lotta elves was actually a slight woman with a credit card, a love of the mall and a desire to let her children know that above all else they were loved. Thank you mom. You made Christmas magical.
My friend who prayed to Santa? When they moved on from Saint Nick, they found a new religion to sooth themselves with: Jackpot lottery winning fantasies. Now, given that the turkey has been eaten and the presents put away, it may be a bit too early to discuss the financial panic that typically sets in in January for many of us. At the same time, scratch lottery tickets have been part of my Christmas stocking for as long as I can remember.
Lotto tickets are interesting things. The value of investing a dollar doesn’t come from the probability of the investment being delivered. The power of a lottery ticket is hope. Lottery fantasies are dreams that we can use to sooth ourselves at night. A lottery ticket is a light in mental darkness. A lottery ticket is a flicker of hope in a long dark night of the finances and a shitty workplace. A lottery ticket is a great way to beat insomnia.
For years my friend was working a job they did not like. It was filled with pressure. Combine that with their poor spending habits and they became trapped in a golden caged job. Too many debts to quit and too painful to stay, they would sooth themselves to sleep at night by imagining winning the lottery. What would I do first? The game was on. The fantasy would begin.
What would you do if you won the lottery? Do you imagine that it would solve your problems? I’m not certain that this is true. I know someone, an old acquaintance, who was a major lottery winner. At first she attempted to stay normal. She threw a huge party and invited all of her friends. People celebrated with her. The loved the show. It wasn’t long before things turned ugly.
Normal people who benefit from a massive windfall are delivered from the regular financial and vocational stressors that most of us face every day. They experience a kind of relief. The pressure to make hay while the is shining? It’s gone. They have been the one out of millions who have their desire for stability, certainty, and wealth realized at the snap of their fingers. In doing so, they cut themselves off from the rest of us. That’s when the fantasy becomes a nightmare.
It happened fairly quickly to this person I knew. The vultures started circling. People wanted what my acquaintance had. They were resented, labeled greedy and harassed for more money. It seems their experience was not unique.
People get mad at windfall lottery winners. It’s as though the masses say: You were one of us and now you’re one of them. The winners don’t belong with the wealthy and no longer are part of their ‘tribe’. The isolation can be horrific. Lottery winners go broke. Lottery winners commit suicide a lot more than you think. Lottery winners are generally pretty miserable. Why is this?
Lottery winners are natural scapegoats. This acquaintance became the scapegoat fortheir group. Though they ‘won the lottery’ and received unimaginable freedom, those without lashed out. Life as it was became hellish. They had to move. Their parents had to move. Over time they had to find and develop new friends and new circles to roll with.
That’s how lotteries work. Instead of having dissatisfaction of those who have experienced the freedom of intergenerational wealth, lotteries allow plebs like us a target for our viciousness. Lottery winners are ‘regular people’ just like us. Only with the millions, they aren’t like us anymore. They become the representatives of the rich bosses who pull all the strings. Lottery scapegoats protect the super wealthy from scrutiny while at the same time giving the rest of us a place to direct our wrath at having less.
So, winning a lottery isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But the fantasy is still intoxicating, relaxing, hopeful and above all, empty. Lotteries allow us to take an imaginative gap between how we’re living now and how we’d like to live. Lottery fantasies can be more than soothing however. Lottery fantasies can be instructive.
I can’t write the next part any better than the master fool himself, Mr Alan Watts:
What do you desire? What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like?
Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, "we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do". So I always ask the question, "what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?"
Your lottery fantasies can send you in this direction. What are you not doing now that you would do more if money were no object?
And if things are that important, how can you start moving in that direction today?
What are you already doing now that leads to your desire? How are you already rich? What do you really enjoy most about life?
What’s getting in the way of you doing more of this?
There is a more effective way to soothe yourself. Take action daily. Then, instead of asking yourself what would I do if I won, you can ask yourself, what have I done today and what can I do tomorrow to bring me closer to living the life I desire?
Consistently working towards the life we desire takes time. Sure the fantasies of a windfall can be soothing. The contentment that comes from loving what we have already is a balm against uncertainty. And, if you’re in a situation where you’re lulling yourself to sleep with lottery fantasies, what is it that you can do right now that is step in the direction you want to travel?
This hit home.
As of next February, I can receive 50% of my salary for never going into work again. It's a small lottery win, that I paid half of, called a defined benefit pension plan.
I can leave or I can stay and earn 2x that for the foreseeable future.
I love my work, but it is not good for me. I am seeing that clearly. It's not just me. My location supervisor, admitted at our going away for Christmas lunch, that she was told to not say "Thank You" to the troops. There aren't great words to say to people who sacrifice their health and are working nutso hours without any additional benefit. The last week, since work came to a holiday end, was spent watching my stressed out body return to normal functioning. Not okay.
Tomorrow, I must begin several days work on my vacation, so I can do my job, when I get back. I see no other way. I am resentful. I am resentful because they call it vacation, but they know many of us will need to work. Each day I do this, I am saying yes to being treated poorly. Resentment is being angry with yourself. We speak like we are upset with the abusive party. But, in truth, we are saying yes by staying in the abusive situation. We are angry with ourselves.
One work friend, just retired from his job, gets the 50% pension, and took a leadership role in another organization for the final 10 years of his work life. He'll work on a second pension there while making 150% of his regular earnings in the meantime. Smart.
I am working on making my job less work. It does make sense, but you may have to read it again.
The next six months are crucial. If I can make the changes I need to make so I can work a 40 to 45 hour work week, I can think about staying.
I am not interested in working for another organization. That ship has sailed.
The other option is a leap. I co-own a small business that could replace half my salary with a few small strategic moves. I can't bet the farm on this. I need to ramp up.
Another business is calling me. I can't do this one while working full+ time. This one needs time bound attention. This one could provide good paying work to my family, myself and several friends.
So, I did talk to the Big Guy about a lottery win this morning. Before reading this. I told him, a lottery win would tell me it's time to go. I won't be retiring from work. Just from my job.
I have about 18 months before the first docking of the ship I am on. Lots of time to make progress on the many things I want to do during this lifetime.
Now, it is Mommy's Christmas (Boxing Day). I have no responsibilities. I am making French toast once I get my ass out of bed. Yes, I am still there. Then I am reading beside the tree with the lights on, basking in the glow of the magic of Christmas. Tea will happen. I will avoid work today. It is a sigh and a big spiritual inhale at the same time.
Tomorrow, I get to work. I have one third of my life left and there's stuff to do to make the most of it. Giddy up.