Abundance & Losing It: A Shamefully True Story

I’ve been doing a LOT of inner work on my money mindset lately.  I’m growing my business in ambitious proportions, and we’ve been enjoying a quality of life that’s really pretty excellent for the past few years, even with the difficulties that we may have.

In short, I really love my life.  

People seem to think that earning more money is the best/quickest way to change your life profoundly, tho this isn’t actually true.  You might be able to afford new things, new superficial markers of recognition…but the truth is, earning more money generally just brings you MORE of what you’re already experiencing.  If you have shitty relationships, for example – having more money will ensure you have more shitty relationships, or else, that your shitty relationships get even worse.  If you eat crap now, you are not likely to switch overnight to an all-organic whole-foods diet…even if you insist it’s “only” money that prevents you from eating healthier.

If you don’t love yourself when you’re broke, you won’t automatically find the wherewithal to start a yoga practice, meet new, uplifting friends, and find your authentic self when you’re richer.  It’s just not true.  

Money is an amplifier – not a magic ticket to awesomeness.  

You’ve got to add your own bit of awesome, regardless of how much you make – to experience awesomeness in any capacity.  

 

So, I know I have a lot of “baggage” with money.  I was a spoiled only child, and money was used to manipulate and dis-empower me – by my parents, and later, by my ex-husband.  

I feel like there’s certain stories in our past, for all of us, that need to be told – released, like a catharsis – to be able to heal, grow, and move past them.  

This is one of them – a terribly humiliating story to share…  

 

It’s the story of how I blew nearly 100 grand in less than a year.  

 

(Sounds positively appalling, doesn’t it?  Toe-curlingly irresponsible.  Ridiculous.  Definitely, absolutely shameful.)

I feel like the things I write create this image of me as someone who’s always lived in poverty – but that’s actually not the case. I had a relatively “rich” childhood.  When I moved out at 19, I *thought* we were poor. Then I got divorced and realized a whole new level of poverty.  I got remarried, but not “back on my feet” – not by a longshot.  

Then, something huge happened:

My husband finally got a settlement check, for a legal case that we wish hadn’t even had to happen. His share was a lump sum of over $90K.

We were so broke we had to borrow the money for gasoline to drive an hour away to find a bank to cash the check. Our own bank wouldn’t honor it cause we were so overdrawn – and we were so jaded and distrustful of banks at that point, we felt terrified to even open a new account to deposit the money into.

 

It actually felt safer to drive home with so much cash it barely fit in our glovebox.

 

We KNEW what this meant: the END of all our bullshit money troubles. We would never have to tell the kids no about petty things again. We would get out of debt; buy a proper home, a new vehicle that wasn’t slowly dying, finally honor our hobbies and pursue our interests – we could travel.

We would take a trip to the coast, see the ocean, stay in a beach cottage, and give the kids amazing, fun memories to cherish. FREEDOM…such sweet escape, we dreamed of.

 

We did pay off our credit cards. I put just what I needed to pay them all off into a new account, and did so with a few quick phonecalls…boy, did that feel great.

We kept our clunker car for backup, found a modest but nice minivan that fit our family, and paid cash for that too. The sales associate didn’t know whether to peg us as crazy conspiracy theorists or bank robbers, when we showed up to buy that van.

We even found the perfect home – older, smallish, out in the country, far away from friends and shopping – but it had everything we truly needed. Space for the kids, a great yard and garden, etc. We imagined, even if we had no furniture or stuff, how wonderful it would be to never fear the possibility of losing our home for failure to pay every month – because we had enough to buy the house outright.

Incredibly, we were the first ones to notice the little gem, and we made our offer – they accepted!  We even signed a contract on it, but then – I freaked out.  In Texas, you have three days to nullify a contract on a home, for whatever reason.  

 

I was paralyzed with fear.  I realized that after paying closing costs and moving expenses, we might not even be able to afford to buy the one other big-ticket thing I really felt we needed: a nice mattress.

We’d been sleeping on the floor for over a year, living in project apartments.  I gave up most of my furniture in the divorce, and we’d yet to replace any of it.  We were constantly scrambling, and It seemed like there was never even enough money to buy an air mattress and pump, in all that time…

 

I was mentally and emotionally destroyed.

 

We voided the contract.  Passed up the house at my insistence (bolstered by my parents’ bad advice).

Instead, we decided to rent a place from my FIL, who turned out to be not as interested in philanthropy as I initially assumed. I deluded myself that he’d eventually sell us the house at a loss, since he didn’t want to live in it.

 

I decorated the place inside and out. It felt wonderful, like I was creating a personal sanctuary for my family that could never be destroyed or taken away.  We made loads of repairs, bought furniture, even installed a pool.

We got cats, which we’d always wanted but couldn’t afford to feed or take care of before.

Then the bills started rolling in: The house seemed to lack insulation; I was flabbergasted at the $450-$600+ electricity bills, when we’d previously been paying just over $100/month. The pool upkeep cost tons of money every week.

 

Our “friends” expected us to entertain, and we did. Barbecues and parties…we drank a lot at that house – first because it was fun to revel in not having to worry – and then, because we WERE worried.

 

My FIL asked us to either pay double or move out. He could charge someone over twice what we were having extreme trouble paying him every month.

At first, we thought we could take what money we had left and use it as a down payment to buy another modest home, and finance the rest. However, our previous credit and distrust of banks proved to be our undoing.  We got financed, but for an amount just barely enough to buy a home at all.

In two months, we offered on SIX homes, and were outbid every time by some opportunist investor (whom I referred to as ASSHOLES at the time) with cash to spare. I cried every time we got the bad news.

 

My husband’s illness got worse. Seizures at work. He had to quit his job. The credit cards that I’d almost cut up started to be used in constant succession for everything, as I had no other way to buy groceries.

It got colder, and we resorted to buying firewood to use in the “decorative” fireplace – because we were terrified to turn up the heat another degree and be slammed with another $600+ utility bill we couldn’t pay.

 

The kids and I cried bitterly, very hard, when we had to rehome the cats. I still sometimes have trouble mustering much feeling for the dog and snake we have now. I shut off that part of myself – the animal lover.  Intangible losses…

 

I was in utter disbelief. HOW could this be happening to us?

We tried so hard to make the right decisions, but my damned fear brought me right back again. We SWORE we’d never go back to this life again.

 

My husband found some apartments that offered reduced rent to low income applicants. We got back on food stamps. We sold many, many things at a pathetic, desperate loss – things that I’d bought with a satisfied smile on my face, “knowing” I’d never have to sell my things to make ends meet again…

Here we were, in the very hell we thought we’d escaped forever. Ironically, it felt about 100 times worse, being here after experiencing “somewhere else”.

 

I had to ask my parents for immediate help with our bills until assistance kicked in.

I had to swallow my pride and admit, with extreme nausea, that we were down to less than $400, when less than a year ago we had had $90K.

 

Just writing these words is so hard for me, even all this time later. Hot tears prick my eyes, and a wave of deep, disgusted shame is coursing through me still.

 

My deepest fear about earning more money is that I’ll just lose it all again somehow. It’s not even an unfounded fear – for I’ve lived through this nauseatingly, shameful scenario in real life. We had the funds we needed to make just about anything happen – and we utterly, completely, profoundly FAILED.

 

I resolve to change my story.

I AM worth more than this.

 

I deserve more than what I’ve been receiving…and I KNOW that I will never let fear hold me back from making the right decisions again.

 

I am a good steward of money – I will do wonderful things with it, for mySelf, my family, and for others as well.

The more I have, the more I can responsibly give back to the world. With great power comes great responsibility.

 

I release this story of the past, and embrace my new reality of financial abundance, prosperity, and responsibility!

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5 thoughts on “Abundance & Losing It: A Shamefully True Story

  1. I don’t think you should feel any shame. There’s way too much shame around discussions of money, and not enough open and honest dialogue. Some people are really good at holding onto money, and they’re often not all that generous or kind so I’m not sure it’s anything to be so proud of. My husband and I don’t really “care” about money that much… it comes in, it goes out. He makes a decent living, despite a childhood with no advantages, because he’s worked hard and I’m basically pretty frugal. But we always spend as much as he makes- we’ve had four kids and I’ve been a SAHM and we homeschool…. I’m just glad that we’ve been able to make it work. We have nothing financial to show for all our hard work. What we are doing now is staying committed to living within our means and paying off our debt. Which is enough of a challenge! It is SO easy to spend money, especially if you don’t have a deep attachment to it. You are not alone… and it’s wonderful that you’ve shared your story. We live in a culture of debt, regardless of how much money people make, they’re still in debt. Lots of people spend more than they should.

  2. Ahh, well – I was in the flow of writing and so it didn’t occur to me that I should clarify 🙂

    I use the word “shameful” mostly because this is the socially and culturally appropriate emotion to feel, in the opinion of most of those around me.

    I haven’t told this story before – but in writing it down, I am healing from the feelings of shame.

    Writing is absolution for me.

    I did the same to recover from my traumatic childbirth experience…in both cases, taking many YEARS to finally write about the experiences.

    In writing and editing, re-writing and re-reading, I experience those emotions from the past with the clarity and compassion of the present – and it’s a profoundly healing experience. 🙂

  3. Great post! You’ve learned lessons. You’ve moved mountains. No shame. Your life is better for the experiences. I am very sorry that your FIL put money over family. I think that was the saddest part of the story for me.

  4. I like what you shared about bringing in more money actually bringing in more of what you are already experiencing. I think you are right, if it is not done mindfully. Right now, I am not bringing in much, as I am getting a business up off the ground, but my relationship with money is habitual. I have certain beliefs that need to be examined so that I can truly have a new relationship with money. Thanks for the reminder.

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