A few mornings ago, I was hyper-aware of the details of my life for some reason. I woke up in a house I own, stumbled out of bed and got dressed in new(ish) clothes and boots. Then I put on makeup that was recently purchased and bore the man’s name of a certain lady whose cosmetics I never dreamed I’d own. When I went downstairs I made a green smoothie in my blender that costs more than a small car (as its motor might actually power a small car) and then packed up my kids with all their belongings into our new truck to drive to school and work with my fancy new purse tucked neatly on the leather seat beside me.
Six years ago, I never thought any of the above statements would be true. Six years ago, I just wanted to ensure I could continue paying for the rented roof over our heads and maybe even afford something other than canned soup at the grocery store. (Incidentally, I’m really good at creative meals involving soup.)
What is funny about this whole thing (interesting funny, not haha) is that none of the stuff I mentioned above makes me happy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still relish every morning sliding onto the heated leather seats of our new truck and I might inhale deeply to smell the leather of my new purse at least once a day (sense a leather theme?). I am deeply grateful for all that I have and some of it even brings me great momentary happiness, but none of it fills the part of my soul that yearns for joy.
I learned when I was forced to strip my life to nearly nothing, that no amount of stuff or money was ever going to make me happy. Instead, I had to find happiness within the life I had, even when it looked like we had nothing. Guess what? I did, and learning to be grateful for what I had allowed me to make room for more.
Six years ago, I thought the answer to all our problems and unrest could be solved if we just had a little more money. But no matter how much we made and then threw at the problems, they never seemed to go away. No amount of money or stuff to buy was going to make me happy. You know how I knew? I had racked up and paid down debt three other times in my life. THREE TIMES. Each time, I would come into some cash, I’d use it to pay off past sins and I’d just go right back to spending again soon after.
I always thought I just wasn’t making enough. I’d get more jobs. I’d sell more stuff and I’d tell myself, when I get to X amount, then I’ll feel peaceful and complete.
It never happened. Money doesn’t bring peace, especially when it is in control of you. The twisted psychoanalytical part of me has many theories about why I never was able to get ahead before. I won’t go into all my personal money issues, but I will say that until I was ready to face them, I was never going to be in control. I would continue to repeat the same habit of digging out and then burying myself over and over again because that was the habit tied to what I thought I deserved.
There is definitely a link between your thoughts and actions and when finances are involved this theory seems to be magnified. So, no matter how many plans you work or budgets you set, you’ll never end your vicious money circle until you figure out why you feel the need to be in it to begin with.
I had to learn money wouldn’t solve my problems. I also had to learn I didn’t deserve those problems and I sure as heck wasn’t going to ruin anything or offend anyone if I took control of my money. (I told you I had some stuff to work out!)
Here is what money can do, it can buy you the freedom to make choices that can bring joy. I loved this Christmas season, when we could say yes to just about anything for the first time in years. I loved the day we told our kids their house that they love was officially ours. I love after Saturday Mass we are able to take my family to dinner, where we talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company and I don’t have to cook or clean a thing. I love that we’re finally planning a trip to Disney.
I also love that we are packing away money for savings so that if anyone loses a job or crashes a car we are covered for a while. I love that we can add to a college fund for our kids. I love looking into the future and knowing our plan rather than wishing or hoping for things to happen. Taking control of my money and planning for my future was scary because of my particular brand of financial freak out. But I’ve done it and it’s all good. The peace is exactly as I’d imagined it would be even when I didn’t know just how to get it.
Financial freedom might even smell a bit like leather.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.