What will you think about when you don’t have to think about money?

by P. Braithwaite

The New York State Lottery Board has these really interesting advertisements all over the NYC. For years we had that little short ‘hey you never know’ guy, but it seems that the new advertisements are much more effective (to me at least). At the top of each ad there is a random thought like: …The word ‘bed’ actually looks like a bed…new-york-lottery-thoughts-car-1024-10725

And at the bottom there is a slogan: What will you think about if you didn’t have to think about money?

I treat these advertisements as tiny gifts from the universe. When they cross my path, I take a moment to ponder the ridiculous thought (Wow, the word bed DOES actually look like a bed….), and then I take a few more minutes to imagine what I’d think about if I didn’t have to think about money. No thoughts actually come to mind, but this really nice calm feeling washes over my body as I wait in the freezing cold for the B1, or as I bobble back and forth on the R train.

There are a lot of changes afoot. I’m moving into a new apartment which will allow me, for the first time in two years, to think about other things besides money (we can substitute the word ‘think’ with ‘obsesses’ or ‘stress’). The feeling is an interesting one, and when I remove the obsessive obstacle of ‘making ends meet’ from the forefront of my mind, some unfamiliar thoughts and feelings emerge…

They say when you’re on the ‘right path,’ the universe sends you signs – books fall into your lap, messages reoccur, and the world organizes itself to shepherd you forward. This seems to be happening to me, students are handing me biographies about Nelson Mandela and Marcus Garvey. I’m stumbling upon PBS documentaries about the international exploitation of Africa, and I’m learning about poverty from every angle. I’m serving soup in East Harlem and learning about government-funded Methadone clinics. I’m being hit on by homeless men in Barnes & Noble and share ideas about the spiritual nature of money.

Today is MLK’s birthday…

All of these thoughts exist against the backdrop of my leadership training. All these feelings swirl around the central questions: What does it mean to lead? What does it mean to see clearly? What does it require to act, and to what do our actions amount?

I’ve spent nine years of my life deeply committed to my emotional health. I have scraped the sides of my psyche, excavating gunk, removing grime, and examining thoughts that clog the movement of my soul. I had the benefit of coaching, therapists, and support. And now, though there is always more work to do, I’m realizing that the walls I’ve been scraping are invisible, I’ve scraped through and, suddenly, I have re-entered the world.

The thought of world scares me. The prospect of working outside is unnerving. The prospect of affecting change seems daunting.

To stop thinking about money is to stop thinking about my….self.

I’m safe…and I suspect it’s time to share the wealth.

What pops into your mind when you don’t have to think about money?