burning 100 dollar bill

Throwing good money after bad

Man, I am just full of idioms. I love them. I’m pretty sure I have one for every occasion. Today we will be working with the idiom “throwing good money after bad,” and I assure you, there are no orange trees involved.

I’ve written already about the fact that I struggle with Bipolar II and hypomanic episodes, which usually take the shape of me becoming convinced that some ridiculously expensive and ill-planned enterprise is a good idea. That is something that, although I accept responsibility, I can’t always predict. But life happens, and when I find that I’ve gotten myself into some kind of Guy Ritchie movie starring as the madcap spendthrift, the rational thing to do upon waking would be to back OUT of said situation.

Here is what happens instead:

Rational Me:  Hello, is this another sticky wicket I’ve gotten myself into? What is it this time?

Manic Me: Yeah. Sorry about that. It’s just…

Rational Me: Don’t talk to me.

Manic Me: *exits stage left*

Rational Me: Well, I have assessed the situation, and although there is NO WAY on earth I should have even considered this thing, the fact remains that I’m now in it. And by Zeus, people are now depending on me to make it work. I’ve invested so much in this stupid idea that I’m now obliged to try my damnedest to make it happen.

Rational Me:  Invests more time and money to “protect my investment.”


No! I’m sorry, but that is the WRONG ANSWER!

This, folks, is called “throwing good money after bad.” There is really no rational reason why I should try to make a foolhardy idea work simply because I’ve dumped 10k into it. I believe this is what passes for “taking responsibility.” But is it really responsible?

First of all, I end up in a situation I resent, because this is not an activity that gives me any kind of joy or happiness. It is an exercise in guilt. The only reason I’m continuing down a path is because I have some over-developed and yet misguided sense of moral obligation to keep a stiff upper lip and make the most of it.

Second of all, what do you think happens to the next 10k I spend trying to salvage the first 10k? You guessed it. Shinola.

The responsible choice would be to acknowledge that there was a royal fuck up, and extricate myself with great haste.

There are, of course, less extreme examples of this behavior. Maybe you bought a house that is nothing but a money pit, but you keep on dumping money into it by the truckload to try to “save” your investment. It is quite possible for a reasonable person to end up in a situation where mistakes were made that they need to unwind, and that isn’t a happy prospect for anyone.

It’s more than money

You got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
— Kenny Rogers, “The Gambler”

I have to add that you can apply this “throwing good after bad” concept to more than money. You can apply it to time. To effort. And to relationships.

Aside from money, the other “really great idea” I have while under the influence of mania involves relationships. For the few weeks that the episode lasts, man, it is the greatest thing on earth. But when I wake up and look around, I realize there was never any way this was going to work. But what do I do?

Rational Me: Who is this person? And why am I with him?

Manic Me: He’s my new boyfriend. It seemed like a good idea at the time. By the way, he flew across the country to be here, and is living with me now.

Rational Me: *facepalm*

Manic Me: Have fun. *exits stage left*

Rational Me:  I owe it to this person to make good on my promises. Maybe I should marry them to show them how committed I am to pretending this wasn’t a mistake.


And that is how you end up divorced three times.

Have I mentioned that divorce is expensive? Why yes, it is.

Let’s break this down

My intention for this post is not to confess my sins. It is to offer a cautionary tale about behaviors that are definitely within my control. Manic stuff aside, there always comes a time when I find myself facing down a situation that is untenable. Yet instead of acknowledging that it is not going to work, I have engaged in the following:

  • Guilt and shame that I got myself into the situation in the first place
  • Fear of letting other people down
  • Desire to prove to myself and others that I am actually a decent human being
  • Desire to prove that I’m not actually a wasteful person

(It’s mostly just a bitter cocktail of fear, guilt, shame, and tears.)

Eventually, I have always ended up cutting my losses and starting over. It is possible though that I could have saved myself a lot of time, energy, money, and suffering by simply surrendering to what’s so and dealing with it head on. Doing that would not only liberate me from a bad situation, it would also liberate others who are operating on the belief that I actually want to be in the situation.

Again, it is my belief that that would be the responsible choice.

So. Are there any areas where you are throwing good after bad?  If so, what is it that has you doing that? What would happen if you stopped?  Is postponing the discomfort worth it?

Is postponing your life worth it?




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