# # The Necessary Year - Day 22: Defining the Parameters (part 4) Social Obligations and Family

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

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The Necessary Year – Day 22: Defining the Parameters (part 4) Social Obligations and Family


(this post is part of an aborted 1 year experiment in material abstinence I called The Necessary Year)


As mentioned previously, no man is an island and further, being a family man, there are certain financial obligations that are simply unavoidable but that would otherwise seem to be flying directly in the face of The Necessary Year.

Certainly I could play the immovable object and insist that the earth and everyone on it revolve around my whims but I don’t function like that. I believe that one can hold true to their core ideals without being a pain in the ass to those around them – and that the world is often a better place when you do.

With that in mind, however, The Necessary Year takes a whole hell of a lot more careful thought: which concessions are truly “necessary” and which are made out of laziness or weakness?
For example, I am presently in a situation where I provide the bulk of the groceries for three people. This means that I end up buying a lot of stuff that I have no use for and seems contrary to the aims of The Necessary Year. However, I am in a state of compromise at the moment. If it weren’t for the agreement, said money that is going for such things as coffee creamer and flavored syrups would be going towards other bills that I presently do not have to pay – so it all equals out in the end.

On the other hand, one of the things my daughter truly loves to drink is … licorice tea. If you’ll recall, not quite two weeks ago I ran out of the last of my supplies of this very stuff and bade the nightly practice goodbye -or did I?

One recent evening after replenishing her tea supply (she drinks a different and more expensive brand of said tea than I), my daughter made a cup and offered to let me have some as well. Since I’d paid for the stuff in the first place and she was offering, I went ahead and had a cup – it was wonderfully soothing, as I knew it would be.

The only problem is that this one trip down liquid memory lane proved too much for my will power and I proceeded to have a cup of tea every night thereafter for a week, running down her supplies considerably and earning me a skeptical eyebrow from both my daughter and the (devilishly handsome) face in the mirror.

Yes, I slipped up, folks. More blood on the tracks. I didn’t feel too bad at first, since I would have bought the tea anyway, but I ended up seeing it for the poorly justified backsliding it was and I will have to ding myself for the replacement box of tea I will now have to get for her. *sigh*

Now let’s take a look at the last two weekends. Decisions I made regarding my activities required me to do quite a bit of driving and, in the case of yesterday, I ended up buying coffee, a pastry, tickets to a museum, and ferry passage.

Can I justify such behavior?

Last weekend’s decisions were fairly well explained in my Father’s Day post -and yesterday’s expenses are, I feel, similarly justified: it was a day-trip with my daughter.

We went to Seattle to visit the Science Fiction Museum and Experience Music Project. The coffee and pastry were for her; I went without (truth be told I wasn’t hungry and there were numerous water fountains at the museum that I used to slake my thirst).

While I did have to pay for entry into the museum as well as the return trip, we walked rather than drove onto the ferry, thus reducing the cost a bit, and also walked from the ferry to the museum – perhaps 26 blocks or so – rather than hail a taxi. I also had us eat a rather large breakfast prior to leaving the house with the idea that doing so would keep us from being too hungry after our walk.

I initially considered bringing sack lunches but discarded the idea in favor of the large breakfast idea. It worked well for me but, as noted above, my daughter still wanted sustenance after we arrived at our destination. Habit perhaps but she is a growing adolescent and I did not begrudge her the snack, paying for it with my money, though she offered to use her own.

Prior to entering the museum, we went to a store I’d walked past months earlier to see if they still had something I’d seen, then. Inside, we discovered they still did: a Dia De Los Muertos skull-headed staff. Eager to clinch a potential sale, the clerk told us it was “only” $27 and soon to be sent back as it was not a regularly stocked item but part of a special Shakespeare-themed display (the clerk’s explanation, not mine) they’d recently taken down. I’d love to have bought it but, as I told the clerk: “I’m not buying any things this year – I just wanted to show my daughter.”
Uh, okay. Sure buddy.

For the rest of the day I relied rather heavily on the hospitality of others; an internet friend and his wife met us at and toured the museum with us, then walked us to their nearby home for a sumptuous feast of barbecued meats and beer (yo ho!). Afterwards they drove us back down to the ferry dock, sparing us the return walk. I offered them monetary recompense but they politely refused – however, should they come to my side of the water as I invited and truly hope they will, it will be my turn to host, which will mean spending some money in a way that might seemingly go against The Necessary Year but is, in fact, nothing more than my half of the balancing act we humans call being sociable.

And so it goes.

While I could have chosen an entirely free distraction for my daughter and I instead of this weekend’s trip, it is something we have long talked about doing. Further, during our walk to the museum, we saw the Seattle Aquarium and decided it would also be a good destination for us – perhaps this upcoming weekend, perhaps next – but soon. Entry will again cost, and of course the ferry, and gas to get to the ferry but I do not feel it goes against the goals I have set with The Necessary Year. The expenses are not extravagant, I am practicing new, consciously less expensive ways of doing these things, and quality time with my daughter is not only necessary but priceless to me and, I hope, her.

Further, I would not have gone were it not for her. The Necessary Year asks me to look at what I can do to curtail my unnecessary activities, to look inside myself or at what I have already collected for meaning and purpose. Were it just me, I’d have likely stayed home and done a mix of chores and hobbies, eschewing expense in both travel and recreation beyond that incurred in normal usage of materials already purchased. But even with my reclusive, contemplative tendencies, I am part of a social species and thus feel a need to mix with others, a sense that I owe a certain debt not only to the friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who provide so much of the rich tapestry of what I call my life but also to myself, to continue to learn and grow through interaction with those around me and without whose influence I would soon fall stagnant and dark.

Honoring them and myself, in our present culture, sometimes includes seemingly extravagant expense and discerning between the necessary and unnecessary in these situations is tricky and fraught with potential social blunder but my abilities to make such determinations both accurately and tactfully grow stronger with each challenge.

(to be continued)

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