Penance, Paid

The camera will be here next Wednesday. :)

Andy tells me that when he pays his penance, he lingers over it for months. What can I say, I’ve always been a bit of a fast learner.

A Year Ago, Today

My neighbor down the street called me and told me Mookie, who had been lost for 7 days, was hanging out, safe and sound, in her garage. I had just gotten home from work, and I got this news in the form of a message on my answering machine. I dropped everything and ran down the street. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day.

Perhaps I will buy a camera to commemorate the occasion. 😉

The Penance

It was a couple of years ago when the term “Penance” was coined in our family. Apparently it’s a trait, on my husband’s side (I would like to be crystal clear on this point), to identify an item of merchandise that you really, and I mean really, want, and then pine away for said item for an indeterminate amount of time. To my recollection, Andy and Brian were together with their folks discussing this phenomenon when Andy, while describing the amount of time and research spent before actually purchasing his guitar amp, said something to the tune of, “… I had to pay my penance.” “Yes! Exactly,” Brian said, indicating that Andy had just described what he goes through before making a big purchase.

I’d like to take a brief aside to note that my family does NOT work this way. While, it is not unheard of to take stock of the pros and cons of making a certain purchase; it is equally possible to have your parents run out for everyday errands and return with a brand new car.* That being said, I will point out now that our family was always conscious of financial ramifications of these freewheeling purchases, and never, not once, put ourselves in a straining or unsound financial position because of them. As my Dad once told me, “Most of the time, you’re going to make calculated moves with your money, but sometimes you just have to have fun with it too.”

It doesn’t take a marriage counselor to understand that there is a grievous disconnect here. (And it bears mentioning that it didn’t take a marriage counselor to point it out, either.) You’ll all be happy to know that Andy and I have always gotten along okay when it comes to that touchy subject of money. However, since “The Penance” was identified as standard operating procedure with Andy, it has become an, often frustating, entity to be understood on my part.

Case in point, my new hobby-to-be. That’s right, beloved readers, I have figured out something else in this wide and wonderful world that I want to learn. Photography. It stemmed from my seeking out new reading material on the Internet. I love browsing the web in my time off (you all need to start blogging, by the way, because I’ve taken to reading about complete strangers due to a lack of interesting reading from the friends and family I actually care about), and I’ve recently found all these websites, not unlike Something Fischy, that have a personal blog and photographs sections attached. Except the photographs all look professional. See, the composers of those websites are amateur photographers, and darn if it doesn’t look like they’ve got a photojournalism major hanging out at their house all day long. The pictures they have of their families: the husband, the kids, the pets, the house, the vacations – are absolutely breathtaking. I won’t lie; I want that. Since I think the chances are slim that I’d actually be able to convince a photojournalism student from UT Dallas to bunk at our house, I suppose I’ll just have to learn this myself.

I admit: the idea for this new hobby came on suddenly. So, when I presented my well-documented proposal for why this should be the next Debbie-endeavor to Andy, I expected more resistance than I met. After all, there is photography equipment to buy. No, actually, having a photographer around the house didn’t sound like a bad deal to him either. But then, there’s The Penance.

I’ll stop for a second to clarify that The Penance, albeit extremely foreign and uncomfortable to me, is completely self-inflicted. After all, it seems like good horse sense to make darn well sure that I want to exchange my hard-earned money for a shiny new widget, and when there’s nothing intriguing staring me in the face with it’s intoxicating gotta-have-it-ness, I nod and make an oath to myself that I will practice The Penance heretofore, forever and ever. Amen.

But eeeeeeeevery so often an idea crops up that is just too good to sit on. Take the widget for example. Say you think that this particular widget would be perfect for a party this Saturday. Or the widget’s on sale right now, and the sale ends at 5:00 today and the sale only happens annually and you can make time to go at lunch and I know you haven’t seen it but I have and it’s perfect and arrrggghhh THE PENANCE. Or, take my current situation. I want to learn photography. It’s an art that takes a lot of hands-on learning and trial-and-error. It’s really hard to learn photography without the camera that you want to use. (Yes, I have a camera, but it’s a point-and-shoot…. not really helpful here.) No, there’s no looming event. No, there’s no expiring sale. It’s just something that I want to learn, and now I have to wait. Where’s the fun in that?

These are the situations where I try and cheat The Penance. I had a fruitful conversation with Andy – my spirit-guide, so to speak, in The Penance – over breakfast on Sunday morning. “Okay,” I said, “I’ve gone to the library and checked out all the books I can find about digital photography. What’s the next step?” “Finding the camera that you want,” he said. Oh ho! Based on several credible sources, including personal references, extensive professional reviews and even consumer advocacy group ratings, I’d already had it down to two top contenders. Research has always been my forte, I suppose that’s why I get paid to do it. I just needed to see the actual cameras for myself. “So, I’m close on that one, then what?” “Then,” he said, “you have to figure out where you want to buy it.” We bantered back and forth on this for awhile, because we’d both been seeking out sources, Internet and retail, and doing some price comparisons.

“What’s after that?” I pushed. Andy paused to think and then laughed, “You don’t get it. The Penance isn’t just something we [in our family] try to do; it’s inherent. It comes from a) Not wanting to spend money and b) Not wanting to regret the purchase that we made, wishing it was something else.” Finally, I got it, at least from Andy’s point of view. The Penance is constantly checking and rechecking to make sure you’re getting what you want. That way, after you’ve parted with your money (painful part “a” of Andy’s illustration), when you look around at everyone else’s widgets, you can still look at your widget, smile, and feel satisfied that you’ve made the right choice (part “b”). If you look around and realize that you like someone else’s widget better, it makes having spent the money an even more excruciating experience. This was one of those moments where the clouds part and the choir sings. Hallelujah, I understand The Penance!

I also understand that I don’t work that way. Once I’ve made my decision, I don’t go back. I don’t care what everyone else has, I like my widget. It’s perfect for me. So there. This is why The Penance is so frustrating for me. It simply feels like time spent agonizing for no reason. You have the money, or you don’t. It’s the right time, or it’s not. You want to pursue photography, or you don’t. Now, THAT is the decision I really need to make.

*Yes, example proudly taken from actual history.