My greatest fears surround the safety of the people I love. My second greatest fears are all tied up in money. Not like the neat string around a butcher’s package either. Tangled like the drawer full of 312 old TV and computer cables, maybe even some from your stereo (replete with turntable) from 1978 which you’ll probably never use again, but you’re not even sure what they’re for anymore, so you’d better hang onto them in case Dad or Boyfriend is trying to help you out with some electrical mojo one day and asks for that cord, and they’re all balled up in that drawer together, inextricably linked for life (which makes good for the argument that you couldn’t throw any away because that would require hours of untangling that, frankly, you just don’t have to devote to something so inconsequential.) Whew. THAT kind of tied up and tangled.
Why, for me, is money so devastatingly fraught with fear and…um…fear? I wish I knew. I grew up in a middle class household. Mum was pretty good with managing money. Dad was pretty good at making money. You’d think things would work just fine. Dad was also good at spending money on the toys he wanted in the here and now. Mum was not a fan of the conflict that arose when she managed the money, so she handed that task over to dad. Dad worked in a business that paid big chunks at semi-random intervals, as well as a base-level income on a regular basis. But those big chunks often heralded a shopping spree…not like, “Ooh, I bought a couple of new pairs of shoes!” kind of shopping spree. More like, “Check out my new Mercedes!” kind of shopping spree. We had plenty of nice stuff in the here and now.
I also remember some hard times. His business was hit hard by the recession in the late 80’s. There were other hits they took over the years, but that was the biggest one I remember. All of a sudden there was talk of selling the boat or this or that car, or maybe even the house. There were no vacations for a while. All of these things impacted the niceties in life, but never in my childhood do I ever remember being worried that there wouldn’t be a roof over my head or food on the table. My older sister remembers lots of PB&J dinners before I was born, but it never got quite that scary again. That being said, there was never any sense of ongoing security. When everyone at Dad’s company took a pay cut to keep the company afloat, there was not a lot in the way of savings in the bank, put away for just such an emergency. And when Dad retired, he was pretty darn grateful for the RRSP’s that his union had automatically invested his money into, because he hadn’t made many alternate plans. But STILL nothing points to a reasonable fear of being out on the street with nothing to eat and nowhere to live.
You would think, however, growing up and seeing the positives and negatives in the ways that my parents dealt with money (quite consciously and as objectively as one can from smack dab in the middle of it all) that I would formulate a better working model for myself. You’d think. If you have read other posts of mine, you may have been lightly introduced to the concept of what I should do and what I do do are often rather at odds with one another. This would be one of those times. I have grown up to be less than fabulous with money. Restraint is something I dream of, but have never really tasted for myself. Money management requires restraint. Hence: me, 3 kids, 37 27 years old, with no savings, still living paycheque to paycheque. Still getting my gas or TV cut off from time to time. Some of that is because I don’t make enough money. Some of that is because I’m not diligent enough about staying present, focused and engaged in the financial side of my life. And a little teensy-weensy (OK, maybe not always so teensy-weensy) part of it is because I am a complete, self-diagnosed, unadulterated, unabashed shoe whore. But I digress.
So for the past 7 years, I have been in a complicated financial arrangement with my parents: my house. Complicated because initial intentions were never put down on paper. Complicated because the time-frame of the arrangement extended far beyond the initial intent. Complicated because through divorce, retirement, injury, bankruptcy, economic downturns, hell and high water, no one’s current financial picture is what was anticipated 7 years ago, and the tax man cometh. The long and the short of it is that I cannot afford to live here any longer.
But my kids were babies here. I was married when I moved into this house. I watched my parents split up, my mum move in, my dad sail around the world, my mum move out, my mum date her high-school boyfriend, my dad try internet dating, and my parents get back together, all from this house. I’ve gone through debilitating depression in this house and made it through the other side…so far anyway. I’ve watched my brother work his ass off to become a household name with a certain demographic, and finally watch his records go gold and platinum. I’ve watched my sister fight tooth and nail to support her kids while delicately extricating them from a damaging relationship with their father. I moved from this house with one husband and three children aged three and under, all the way to England, returning 6 months later with three children, less the fourth child husband. I started smoking again in this house, and quit 6 years later. I spent a year stoned out of my fucking mind in this house. I spent a lot of years being not present enough with my children in this house, and those are years I will never get back. Which has brought me to this place: it’s time to simplify.
The thought of moving out of this house is staggering. I amass a fuck of a lot of shit. Those who know me will stand up and testify. I may feature heavily in a future episode of A&E’s Hoarders. But it’s not just that the work involved is staggering. It is terrifying to me to contemplate losing the security of the first family “home” I have created as an adult, without having anything as or more secure to move on to. I don’t know what will happen after this. I may have to go back to renting for a while. I may have to go back to renting for a long while. (At least until my Sugar Daddy shows up. Him or Prince Charming. Whoever gets here first. Ready, set…aaaand go!) The reality is, it is entirely possible I won’t ever be able to get back into the market again. And I have to swallow that one whole.
So I’m thinking…I have lost everything at one time or another over the last few years. I lost my financial sense of self, and a whole lot of pride when I had to file for bankruptcy. I lost my sense of family, security, and to a degree, hope when my parents split up, shortly followed by the implosion of my own marriage. I lost my physical capability when I injured myself. I lost my sense of self when I lost my ability to work. I very nearly lost all my marbles (and I say that only minimally in jest) thereafter, when I plunged into a debilitating and suicidal depression, which turned into a diagnosis of bipolar II eventually. I lost contact with most of my friends…and much of reality…when I spent a year on prescription narcotic painkillers. Through all of these things I have lost bits of my kids’ childhoods, through my own inability to stay present. My house – overloaded with unattainable responsibility and unspoken expectations though it has been – has been the one constant throughout all of these disappointments. It has been the one sense of security as I have watched everything else in my life shatter around me, little bits at a time.
It is the one thing that I have had a deathgrip on, clawing at its porous bones, terrified that if I let go, I would be letting go of the last vestige of my personal sense of safety and security. But the time has come. I have made the decision. I have told my kids. I have posted it on Facebook, for Christ’s sake. (NOW it’s final, if it’s on FB!) I have chosen to be stripped bare.
Bare could be taken to mean Empty. Devoid. Without. Or it could mean Blank. Awaiting. Ready. It’s the old glass half empty, or glass half full. I am choosing – and yes, I do believe this is my choice – to make this a new beginning. This is Bare. Blank. Ready to be Rebuilt. Reborn. Renewed. Redefined. Reawakened. So is it terrifying? Absolutely and unequivocally. Is it redemption? I choose to believe so. Redemption in the form of a new start, unhindered, without strings, without the weight of all that has gone wrong before. It is redemption in the form of the opportunity to simplify and come together as a family with my children – rediscover and redefine who we are and what is important to us. It is redemption in the form of flying free of outdated responsibilities, energetic roles, expectations, and fears. That which you fear the most can set you free, if you let it.
I choose to let go and let God.