Archives for posts with tag: money

Sometimes things don’t work out as planned. Sometimes the expected fails us, and the unexpected takes over. I’m sipping coffee this morning and giving some thought to dealing with the many challenges life throws my way. Resistance is futile. Change is. Conflict occurs. Feelings are what they are. I have certainly “enjoyed” my share. lol

Yesterday I got home to an unexpected conversation. It could have been messy, fraught with contention, defensiveness, and emotional overload. Instead, different choices were made, and the result was productive, patient, clarified expectations and shored up shared knowledge. A partnership was strengthened, instead of undermined. The evening was relaxed and full of contentment.

So… what made the difference? Mostly listening. Yep. Listening made a huge difference. Just… listening. Actually halting my own urge to talk, to defend, to agree or disagree, to excuse, to scold, or to criticize, and listening first, and deeply. My next step? Affirming shared understanding, and affirming shared goals. Ensuring we both felt a sense of partnership. Planning next steps together, and explicitly clarifying expectations and desired results. It sounds more complicated that it was in the moment. It was a handful of choices to refrain from becoming needlessly defensive, and a handful of choices to remain open to another human beings words, and an assumption of positive intent. (Still takes practice. lol)

I nod my head, pleased, and sip my coffee. The clock on the computer suggests it is already time to begin again. 🙂 I remind myself that we become what we practice, finish my coffee, and head for whatever is next.

I woke feeling better this morning, after a rather dismal early night of feeling fairly ill. It’s behind me. I feel better. I’m grateful.

I made my coffee, and read messages from my Traveling Partner, while waiting for water to boil. I smile, reminded that today is payday. I didn’t quite scamper to my desk with my coffee; time to pay bills!! 😀

…Wait…

…I don’t even like paying bills or “dealing with the money shit“… What is this about?

I sit down and review my budget, look over the banking details and the pending and upcoming bills, even those set to auto-pay (which is most of them). The auto-payments are all set to minimums, though, and generally I like to do better than that, particularly on debt with finance charges or interest. So, I make a few changes, and hit send on some payments.

There’s less cash in the bank account very quickly, but this amazing feeling of contentment, achievement, satisfaction, and… safety. I feel emotionally safer when my bills are paid. This particular feeling “seems new” – it’s at least new-ish, in the sense that for many years I did not at all understand how much of my anxiety and day-to-day discomfort in my own skin was about debt, poverty, privation, not having basic goods and services, not having enough to enjoy small luxuries… “getting by” often did not feel very good at all. I didn’t really connect that experience with my shitty money management.  Back then, I “managed” my finances by way of fear, anxiety, desperation, and panic. It was a less than ideal approach.

Something has changed. My finances are decently well-managed. I’ve come a long way in my career, and my ability to manage my finances (with a lot of help and emotional support from my Traveling Partner). When I need something (like, say, a car), I can usually just go for it. I don’t have the resources to live a fully cash-based luxury life, far from it, I have to plan, and be mindful with my finances, and make it a commitment to look after my resources with care, aware of the future ahead of me, which still has a lot of fucking uncertainty. Still… I’m okay right now. It’s a nice feeling.

This morning, I’m also just… yeah, my mind is still completely blown that the high point of my morning has been paying my bills. lol Something has changed, over time, about the way I view money, and how my experience of dealing with it feels. Having a few weeks riding the ragged edge of dragging my cash accounts back in time to near-zero balances, however briefly (waiting a few more weeks to buy the Mazda would have been, perhaps, wiser) was some eye-opening perspective. Once I got past the initial anxiety, and became more explicitly aware that I was processing trauma associated with money, it stopped being so worrisome, and became nothing more than a few days of waiting, and an opportunity to share my experience with my Traveling Partner, and coordinate limited shared resources more skillfully, with great care, for a couple weeks. 🙂

What a nice place to be with myself. Oh, I no doubt still have some baggage about money, and about not having it. I can do better. There’s more to practice. More to learn. Still… these small celebrations of forward momentum, and positive changes that result in improved quality of life, are important; celebration means awareness, and holding these positive changes happily in my explicit awareness for a time, makes them “more real” in my implicit sense of self.

…And I just love feeling good.

I feel good. 🙂

It’s time to begin again. 😀

Yesterday I had to choose; a really cute floor cushion that is ‘just the right thing’ and a lovely set of high thread count king size sheets that suit my color theme quite perfectly… or not buying those things right now, at risk of having to pass on them all together – they are on sale, and not regularly available in any case. It’s a difficult choice, and I fight myself; I have a budget, and financial goals – one of which is buying myself a little home of my own, which, however small the home itself may be, is by far the largest budget impacting goal I can imagine for myself in this lifetime. Buying a set of sheets, itself, holds no potential as an individual purchase to derail my longer term goals…only…things like that are so rarely really individual purchases. I don’t mean that they are reliably associated with the purchase of additional (or impulse) items – I’ve gotten pretty decent at staying on budget and resisting those temptations – it’s that they seem small and insignificant in the moment, but annualized they end up amounting to a larger sum than easily predicted – because they are not entirely, fully, 100% planned.  “Needed but not planned” is a category of expenses I have yet to fully master.

I’ve come a long way with learning to handle my finances with some measure of skill – my TBI being what it is, I also rely on a fiduciary caregiver – someone whose role in my life is to assist me with managing my money, through budget assistance, financial planning, coaching, reminders, regular activity monitoring and regular reviews of progress to goals. (I have been financially abused in prior relationships often enough to be uncomfortably aware how much I need the help – and how risky even the help has the potential to be; it’s scary sometimes.) I still have challenges – and most of my day-to-day challenges with managing my money fall in the “needed but not planned” category. It has been the threat of potentially facing old-age destitute that forced me to consider having help with the money piece of my puzzle, and so far it has been a very wise decision.

Yesterday on my lunch walk I wandered through a nearby retailer filled the with joy that the sense of the recent payday tends to provide me. I spotted the cute cushion – and it is so perfect – and oh hey, those sheets are just the right color! I resisted the impulse purchase (hey! go practicing!) and assured myself that I could easily walk back after work and buy those then. I got back to my desk some time later and checked my budget and my bank account – which has become a habit, a regular practice, when I consider any unplanned expenditure. I expected to feel that satisfying feeling of confidence and self-assurance that comes of managing my affairs so skillfully these days…and…oh. Wait…what?? My balance was lower than I expected (not low, just lower), and I felt crushed for a moment, and deeply disappointed with myself. What had I done ‘wrong’? I emailed my traveling partner, agitated and stressed out by my findings, and feeling worried and somewhat frantic. He called me back with gentle reminders that goals are ahead of me, progress is incremental, and that everything is okay. Reassured I moved on with my day.

Heading home, I felt the pull of that cushion and those sheets… the urge to walk that way, look at, and touch those things was very powerful. I also know so much more about how my injury works, and why there have been so many times in my life when I would literally be checking out at the register paying for things I could not realistically afford, all the while negotiating with myself, trying to talk myself out of it…until I was at the exit, at which point I would switch to trying to justify the mistake I had so obviously just made. Disinhibiting injury. Loss of executive function. Not a game – and holding so much potential to destroy my future. 😦

The only thing in life that's all about the money is the money itself.

The only thing in life that’s all about the money is the money itself.

Yesterday, the power of incremental change over time, and practicing the practices, made itself clear; I kept heading for home, thinking about the cushion and the sheets, and the purchase I am not making now – but may make later. I get home, and add those things to my list of ‘things to have maybe’ (I generally  use my Amazon wish list for that purpose), which I consider each payday with great care, and an eye on the future. “Needed but not planned” is restricted, these days, to things like grocery essentials, and toilet paper – stuff that just can’t wait if I have run out, truly legitimate needs. Everything else goes to plan. This is what works for me, day-to-day. [You are not me; your results, and your best practices, may vary.] Any time I recklessly stray from that practice, I end up facing some moment of fearfulness and panic – or regret – when my budget and financial planning suddenly don’t add up. (That’s what caused me to be taken by surprise regarding my account balance yesterday; a reasonable, affordable – but not planned – purchase, made on the recommendation of my traveling partner, definitely affordable – still, not planned – and I had failed to account for it over the following days of other spending that had been quite planned… but not adjusted to account for the unplanned expenditure.)

I’m not good at skillful self-indulgence. I get easily carried away and take things too far, spend too much, lose sight of my longer term more important [to me] goals. I’m not good at managing panic and regret, either. The extremes of too much and too little mess with my head (thus the ongoing emphasis on sufficiency, contentment and ‘enough’). Attempting to practice austerity or extreme frugality to balance poorly planned spending, or reckless over spending don’t work very well for me, either; I react to the emotional sense of deprivation, privation, and ‘you can’t have that’ and find myself acting out against those feelings before I take time to remind myself that “I’m in charge around here, and I did this to me” – I would call it childish, but truly it is simply part of living with the combined challenges of my PTSD and my TBI. Struggling to work around the damaged bits isn’t ‘childish’ – it’s just complicated sometimes. I am very human. I have grown so much, though! I am actually frankly delighted with myself this morning, even joyously celebrating the small win that is not buying that perfectly cute cushion and that exactly right set of sheets – it’s a far bigger deal that I managed it so comfortably, than I know how to share. This morning I can see a future where I may not be destitute, living in poverty, homeless, abandoned, broken, and finished off by inevitable starvation or disease! Wow. Win and good. 🙂

When I consider money from the perspective that it is the spendable form of my very life force, I understand more easily what value it has, and find it easier to respect the needed planning and careful decision-making required for a comfortable lifetime.

When I consider money from the perspective that it is the spendable form of my very life force, I understand more easily what value it has, and find it easier to respect the needed planning and careful decision-making required for a comfortable lifetime.

My lack of skill at long-term austerity, if required, or basic day-to-day frugality when resources are limited drives continuous practice of those practices that seem most effective for me – and most of those have to do with planning, and capitalizing on the fact that I am good at planning, enjoy the planning, and leverage the planning for the joy of anticipation – which is quite as exciting and nice as the joy of spending right now, for me. Relying on my ability to plan, and follow a plan, not only gives me great delight in minutes and hours of happy anticipation and eagerness – those feelings give me opportunities to practice day-to-day resolve to stay on  plan (yep, reinforcing feedback loop for the win!) and give me a window of opportunity to carefully reconsider what I really want and need in my life – often things that are exciting in the moment (like a really super cute cushion, or just the right set of sheets) may lose their luster over a few days of consideration. I remove things from my wish list regularly, happier that I didn’t make the purchase, at that point, that I would have been to enjoy the item if I had bought it. It is rare to actually feel regretful over things I did not purchase – in fact, that generally only comes up with things like art, where a piece is one of a kind, never to be duplicated; in those cases the sting of regret is unavoidable, and may last a lifetime, for me. It is what it is; in some cases I will never have the funds to afford some piece I yearn to see in my home – in a roundabout way it is an element of what drove me to become an artist, myself. 🙂

Today is a good day to remember that resources are limited, and to plan accordingly.

Today is a good day to remember that resources are limited, and to plan accordingly.

Funny…so many words this morning, and really just to say ‘practicing the practices is effective’ and ‘incremental change over time does happen’ – and of course, ‘choosing the most appropriate practices is a pretty big deal’ and finishing it off with ‘your results may vary’ – because of course, ‘we are each having our own experience’. 😀

 

Everyone has a story. Everyone. Experiences, traumas, delights, memories, connections, associations, thoughts on things, values – all these things are common to each of us. We all have so much more in common than any of us have that is truly ‘unique’, don’t we? Most of the stuff that makes up our differences aren’t ‘differences in kind’ as much as ‘differences in degree’. We build our ideas of the bits and pieces of who we have been, what we have learned and done and experienced, and from there we take on a future of goals and targets and benchmarks and expectations, and in my case it became a present filled with the seemingly unachievable ‘pursuit of happiness’.

Today I’m simply one person, on a quiet Summer Solstice morning, cobbling a thought or two together and smiling because I have indeed made some progress toward one of those once seemingly unachievable goals. A fitness and weight loss milestone that has eluded me for some time, and today I looked at my feet and saw that I had passed it by as I turned 50, focused on other things. Yes, smiling, and yes it feels like an achievement. I’m happy about it, satisfied with it, but strangely silenced by this new perspective on it that I seem to have awakened with; it isn’t actually ‘important’ beyond the importance I give it myself. Huh. I feel good – that matters more than a number on a scale, and it makes sense that it does. Numbers are clean and clear and honest on their own, but easily used to mislead and persuade – I work with numbers, I know how that works. lol.  Feeling good is more ephemeral, easily lost in the moment by distractions and OPD (Other People’s Drama), but far more important that a numerical goal.

That’s true with money, too. Oh, I won’t try to look you in the eye and tell you that money has no value, or that life in the culture I live in would be easy without it.  There are uncountable numbers of people trying to get by on too little money, and the people who have the most of it often don’t seem very aware of the struggles of those that find it hard to come by. What I am saying is that it lacks the power over my heart and experience that it seems to have for some people. Dollars are not a performance measure for me personally, and income is not a criterion for my affection. Money is nothing more or less than the exchangeable form of my effort, at its simplest. The world gets ugly fast when the exchange isn’t actually fair, appropriate, or ‘value for value’.

Why mention money at all then? I mean, why let such a problematic subject come up at all? Well…’performance to goal’, ‘success’, ‘achievement’ are often things that are measured in dollars, rather than in moments of delight or great import. The world keeps its eye on the money, far more often than the things that really matter. An actor dies, and a retailer ‘honors his memory’ by pushing a product. Parents often reward a child’s progress with money. Corporate whores struggle to prove their ‘worth’ – to get more money.

Everyone has goals. We’ve built a world where many of us have an expectation of a ‘pay day’ if we achieve them. How many of my own every day moments of disappointment are because over time a hoped for outcome, a simple goal, became a feeling of entitlement about ‘the pay day’ of getting there, instead of being about getting there, itself?

I wonder if I am making sense. That’s what comes of writing over my first cup of coffee in the morning. lol.

It’s a quiet Friday morning. I am enjoying it in solitude. I am spending time with me today. I am not the woman I was at 20, or at 48. I am someone new to myself, and it bears examining gently, tenderly, and with great compassion for pain that has been, and great hope for what is ahead. Today I am taking time for that – as much time as I need. I am inclined to paint this weekend, too. I have something I want to say about turning 50, about reaching goals, about ‘finding my soul’…but I don’t think I can say it in words… and doubt that ‘the world’ would listen, anyway…or hear me. Some things are not easily shared in words, I suppose.

I look around as I finish this, and realize that we’ve nearly gotten ‘all  moved in’ now…the house is lovely, tidy, quiet. The morning unfolds softly. I feel great contentment and satisfaction in this moment, and I observe the feeling happily, and without expectations. It is Friday. It is mine. I am enjoying it.

The time is...now.

The time is…now.