We Earn the Right to Live by Truly Living

We Earn the Right to Live by Truly Living

"We cannot live without our lives," quote and picture of Barbara Deming, feminist activist

We earn the right to live by truly living. What does this mean? Find out in this post. It reminded me of the feminist activist Barbara Deming’s book title, “We cannot live without our lives.” I have the same passionate feeling toward it. Here is more about Barbara Deming.

A few weeks back, I mused about the period in my childhood that came “before I discovered doing.”  This, I reminded myself, was where RAISING CLARITY comes from: the return to that state, because “before I discovered doing, there was being.”

In response to that post, Marissa asked:

How does one escape the idea one must earn the right to live when one MUST earn? Do you think it’s a mindset shift?

As Marissa already surmises, RAISING CLARITY is a mindset shift. All our work starts there, because you can change your reality. (If you can’t, are you sure it’s reality?) I won’t argue about whether we “create our own reality,” because frankly, I only care about noticing the reality we experience. Changing it is well within our power–and “just” noticing starts the change process.

So the short answer to Marissa’s question is “yes,” it’s a mindset shift.

This post however gives the long answer.

The Need to Earn is Never the Right to Live

What about that need to earn money? Most of us have such a need. Yet the need to earn money is never the need to earn the right to live.

The right to live is our birthright.

The right to live is quite different from the right to life. There are many voices for the Right to Life–RAISING CLARITY is a voice for the Right to Live.* As Barbara Deming said, “we cannot live without our lives.”

The right to live is your birthright to have a life that is meaningful. Deeply satisfying to you and probably also those around you.

I don’t think we have the right to live with a houseful of stuff, or with a bank account the size of a small nation’s GDP, or with a whole lot more than we need, in other words.

I don’t believe in “deserving” these things because I know everyone is deserving. But no one deserves to oppress others with their deserving.

Lies About Earning the Right to Live

We can’t earn the right to live by making money. But as I pointed out in “Before I Discovered Doing, There Was Being”, we learn as very small children we have no right to just be. We learn that we have to DO before we can earn the right to be:

“I could earn the right to live if I would only

do this

do that

do that third thing.

But there is always a fourth thing.”

Exploring Who Deserves the Right to Live

We are born with the right to live. We don’t earn the right to live by making money. This is radical because so much of our culture contradicts this. We even begin questioning the right to live of other people–people who don’t have enough, who may be poor, even destitute. We allow ourselves to think they aren’t deserving.  (Here’s a way to check our privilege that is a blessing.)

If you catch yourself thinking this way about other people, watch out: it’s a serious abundance blocker, because part of you thinks this way about yourself.

Capitalism and the Right to Live

Marissa, in her original question, referred to my blogging on capitalism. It may sound cynical, but it really just seems realistic to me to think that a culture such as ours would find other ways to make people feel insignificant if we didn’t use money to do it.

Capitalism insists we are what we earn (and own). This is the opposite of earning the right to live by truly living.

We Earn the Right to Live by Truly Living

What does truly living look like to you?

What does truly living feel like? What does it mean? To you?

The how-to part of this post will not tell you how to truly live. We help you truly live. That’s just our job. And if we don’t like how you want to live, we can’t help you. (Literally.)

Earning the Right to Live When You Must Earn

Here is the how-to part of this post: how do you earn the right to live when you MUST earn, as Marissa put it so well?

How do you truly live when you must also truly earn?

RAISING CLARITY is for people seeking all kinds of ways to beat the equation of time = money. This community is for people who don’t just want more money but more time and more space, more meaning. For less! For less money-making. For less selling their souls and themselves to The Man, who is really us introjected in disguise.

First Step

The first step, therefore, is to acknowledge we are powerless as long as we think we are. We are powerless as long as we think it is someone else’s fault we must earn.

We are powerless as long as we think we must earn.

Observe yourself making the decision you want to earn. (Hint: You’ll find it just prior to the thought, “I must earn.”) I think we can want to earn. I also think there are many ways around earning. (See also * below.)

Second Step

The second step is to take charge of our money. This includes our spending–of money and time. (There are a zillion posts on time in this blog. Here are some to get you started.) RAISING CLARITY coaching (for individuals) and consulting (for projects and organizations) can definitely help you figure out how to empower your income.

Earning how you want to earn is not reserved for a privileged few. It can take some doing, some unlearning, some collaborating and cooperating, and sometimes literally reducing expenses by increasing awareness. 

Third Step

There are things it is unhealthy to cooperate with. This is one of them: do not go gentle into doing.

I could not write this post, I could not answer Marissa’s question, until I wrote that line and others in last week’s blog post.

I am never busy. I may be many, even unhealthy, things. But busy is not one of them. “Busy” is designed to keep us doing so we can finally feel important–some day. Some day never comes. We can never do enough to feel important. We can never feel important by doing. (Hard lesson for we recovering workaholics.)

This is because we were born important. The third step, then, is to remember:

It’s all your time.

What are you buying that’s already yours? Read the post, ask the question. Enjoy the answers. They come to heal you.

*There are many others: basic minimum income advocates; the movement to increase minimum wage and reduce the workweek or otherwise help restore more of people’s time to themselves without sacrificing ability to meet basic needs; people who barter, exchange, live in intentional community, share income. Anyone who elevates  what is called “quality of life” over things that could be called “quantity of life” (such as owning more stuff).

  • Marissa
    Posted at 00:12h, 03 September Reply

    I’m contemplating this deeper. Thoreau comes to mind for me when thinking about as a human, a birthright to “just be”. And/or Winnie the Pooh. I mean… of course. Trees have the right to grow; flowers and grasses have the right to exist; animals simply exist…. we (humans) are part of the natural world, too. I think we get mad at others (homeless, for example) when we feel as though their existence is imposing on ours for some reason… in this example, maybe because we feel guilt for not giving money to the person standing on the street corner who we pass every day on our route to work who stands there every day with a sign asking for help and looks us in the eyes through our car window. I wonder if that’s exactly the same thing you are talking about (questioning the “right to live”).

    Anyway, I think I finally get it (where you are coming from). To live, we must work. Work is a part of life. It always has been, and it is for animals too for example (it requires effort of energy to hunt for food for example to keep oneself alive). MONEY doesn’t necessarily need to be attached to work, though. That’s a human invention to do that. So, we don’t necessarily need to earn money. We DO need to work. If we can negotiate our lives so that through our work, we earn a lot of money, and then life is easier for us and we need to work less and have more free time to enjoy more… then, great! At least, I imagine that’s one way.

    For me right now, with my current income, if I am honest quality of life is pretty darn high in many aspects, thanks in part to the awesome healthcare system where I live and thanks in part to some of my important relationships with other people who help provide me with certain resources I wouldn’t have on my own. One major bummer is what I do to earn income currently, which is something I really dislike and which drains me and my precious life energy. We’ve spoken about this, I’m simply musing underneath your post. So it’s interesting for me to contemplate that although I complain a lot about money….. perhaps underneath that is a fantasy desire to have so much money I don’t have to work anymore, because I feel so miserable doing (some of) the work I currently do. To clarify, there is also work I do that I love — lol. I just haven’t been doing much of that kind of work (that I love) lately.

    Thank you for the deep thoughts!

    • Beth
      Posted at 23:30h, 04 September Reply

      Thank you so much for sitting with this and thinking more along with me. I, in turn, want to sit with what you’ve written and see if I have anything pithy and wise to add. :))

      • Beth
        Posted at 18:41h, 02 October Reply

        It turns out: I don’t! have anything to add. But I did reflect again on what you wrote, and really appreciate its depth and the dimension it brings to what I wrote originally.

        • Marissa
          Posted at 21:12h, 08 October Reply

          🙂 Thank YOU, for always writing such thought-provoking work!

  • Marissa
    Posted at 23:56h, 10 August Reply

    Whoooooooo! Beth, thank you so much for answering my question. I am going to comment more when I have more thoughts. Right now it’s simmering.

    • Beth
      Posted at 18:16h, 12 August Reply

      Marissa…thank you!!!

  • Danielle
    Posted at 14:44h, 01 August Reply

    My husband and I work together to manage our money with bimonthly budget meetings looking forward and back on our spending. This has taken fortitude and persistence. It still doesn’t always happen. And for me it is almost always stressful. I think because he and I have different approaches to our money management. He is happy to spend what we have on the things we need/want and if earning more is required so be it. And he is spending the $ we’re going to have. Whereas I am spending the $ we have at the time we have it. Or after we have it. This incorporates a sense of time. But the time spent making that $ is just as important to me. And many times I am not willing to believe it is normal to spend all of my time earning the $ to spend on what we need/want. So if I can see forward I will forgo the $ for the time.
    It is a work in progress to get on the same page. To look far enough into the future to our desires and plans to allow time with one another. To balance providing for six children and enjoy life.

    • Beth
      Posted at 14:56h, 01 August Reply

      Danielle, as usual, this is so thought-provoking. The sense of time is especially “up” for me in what you have described. He is using time in one way; you are using time in another. Time is an abundant resource that belongs to each of us, we get 24 hours/day, renewable each day. It’s not unlimited, but it is abundant, and it’s free.
      I would like to learn more here about any thoughts you have about how to harmonize the way you are each thinking about time in this budgeting work you’re doing together for your family. I wonder, for example, if you each value your time differently. Or if not, if you value the past and the future differently. I’d love to learn more!

      • Danielle
        Posted at 17:58h, 01 August Reply

        Thank you Beth for your curiosity.
        I think the main difference in our perspectives of time is our starting point for a 24hr period. I have time already spent before the day begins. I spend 8-9hrs on sleep, 1hr to wake and get dressed, 2hrs at the end of the day to put the kids to bed, etc. He starts with 24hrs and each day decides how it should be spent. He might only sleep 4hrs if he has something that is more pressing. He spends his time on what feels most urgent in that day not based on a plan or schedule. Or not to the extent that I do.
        I am not sure how to harmonize our differences. Currently we use a family calendar, I try to communicate the most important things for a day or week to me, he tries to accommodate those things but sometimes doesn’t. The main thing I ask if he can tell me when he can’t meet my expectations as early as possible. We’re very resourceful people and I am not afraid to ask for help or not meet an expectation if it means missing out on time with my family. He makes our money and I provide stability at home. It is team work but not usually harmonious. I feel constantly defending my time and asking for help.
        I get overwhelmed at times as does he. But usually in these respective zones of family life and work life.
        I try not to criticize but many times I don’t understand his priorities. We just keep trying to talk about it. Talking about how we value time, past present and future could be a good exercise for us.

      • Beth
        Posted at 18:36h, 01 August Reply

        Danielle, this update is great on your family life, which you’ve written about before in blog comments, and even in posts. I would love to hear if you do talk about how you each value time–and more importantly, since it’s clear you each value it from your great description of your way and his way, how you use it. I’m thinking that since you understand his way very well, you could think in terms of translation. Can you translate from his way to your way, and express what you want an need in his “language”? That may be clunky, or sound strange, but it could work. (I’m a French translator, and I think that even more generally, I was born “translating” between my reality and other people’s! So I think in terms of translation a lot.)

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