More Than Money
Issue #27

Lifestyles of the Rich and Simple

Table of Contents

“Creating Balance”

My life is incredibly full and rich and I love it, but it doesn't have a lot of extra slack in it. I'm going to change my life. I'm going to get greedier. I don't use the term in reference to money-I mean that I'm going to become more protective of my time. I'm greedy for my sanity; I hunger for less stress and more peace of mind. That's where I'm simplifying my life.

Twenty-five years ago I was a painter. I was good at it, but I stopped. I see now that I was depriving myself of something that gave me incredible joy, because I was uncomfortable with the privilege and freedom of wealth. I call it "survivor guilt." I thought I had to do things for others instead of for myself. Once I realized my survivor guilt was keeping me from painting, I started it up again. I now schedule two sessions a week. When I'm painting I'm not answering the phone, not running a function, not doing anything for anyone else. I'm just painting-because it gives me a sense of inner peace.

I have always given abundantly to others-to my family, friends, organizations, the world. I needed to learn to balance that by giving equally as abundantly to myself. I now live in a beautiful home. I take exorbitant trips, long and luscious vacations. This is quite a change from my earlier hippie days. My sister and I both inherited money. She lives a simpler life and considers my lifestyle bourgeois, decadent, and extravagant. When I moved from a small house to a much larger one, her reaction was disgust-envy, too, I think. She looked down on my choices. They felt too much like my parents' for her taste.

I am still over-committed and work more than I want, giving so much to my psychotherapy patients and to organizations. I have a ten-year-old daughter and she'll be gone in a blink. This is especially troublesome when I find myself donating my time to help other people's kids while my own kid has to be without her mom. That's commonly done in the donor world I live in. People neglect their own children in the service of giving to those less fortunate. A trite example is that a board I'm on scheduled a meeting on my daughter's birthday. When I said I couldn't go to the meeting, I was looked at askance. "Why couldn't you postpone celebrating her birthday?" was the unspoken question. I believe that's a message that a lot of people with wealth grow up with. They watch their own families giving to others, but not to themselves. I want my kid to know she comes first.

I view making lifestyle choices as an evolving process. I am careful about taking dogmatic or rigid perspectives or believing that there's only one right way to be wealthy or to be a good person. I've found I need to allow myself to evolve to wherever I end up, knowing that it might not be where I would have predicted.

-- from an interview with Pamela Gerloff


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