a too-transparent tale of things financial

Posted: January 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

Today G and I spent our day examining and discussing our finances.  We wrote down in detail where we are today.  We wrote down goals for 2015.  We made an exacting and detailed plan for meeting those goals.  We created an accountability and documentation/tracking system.  We worked out next steps.  We discussed scenarios.  We left no stone unturned.  This was for sure an exercise in both DISCIPLINE and INTENTION.

It was not easy.  It took a lot of research and study.  I wrote multiple drafts at every stage.  We had to go back over details from the past year together for clarification.  We had to discuss vision and priorities.

It WAS rewarding.  We have a concrete plan.  Things feel under control once again, in an area that had been slowly sliding in the direction of less control.

Most importantly, we are both fully informed.  Since I’m the administrative type, it is easy for me, accidentally, even, to just take over and handle thing and leave G out of the loop.  Here’s one of the ways I know I’ve grown greatly:  I do NOT want G out of the loop.  I want him to know every detail.  I want him to participate in all decision-making.  I don’t want to hide anything, and I don’t want to be in charge.

This feels especially good to me because I lived years being the exact opposite.  In my first marriage, while I was frustrated at being given the duties the main money manager, I also reacted to that frustration by being really dishonest and manipulative in that role.  I shared as little information as possible.  I hid bills and letters.  I made shady arrangements to try and solve financial issues, including but not limited to several rounds of loans from American General, complete with impossibly high interest rates and a repayment plan destined to prevent me from ever actually paying off the debt, all in secret (and some of it in his name).  (If you ever get mail from American General, just do what I do now – rip it up without opening it first.  You’ll never regret that.)

I also chose to just not deal with our finances at all, for long periods of time.  I would pile up bills and mail until I had enough unopened stuff to fill a large laundry basket.  Then I’d spend one awful day opening, sorting, and tossing and get it down to a small pile of bills, which maybe I addressed or maybe I set aside for another day.  Things that could be shut off got paid when I got a shut-off notice (if you don’t habitually receive shut-off notices, you may be unaware that they have a distinctive look that lets one notice them immediately, even amongst a pile of unopened mail.)  I dreaded the ring of the phone, which was as likely to be a collections agent as a friend.

My prayer partner is a postal carrier in the town where I lived during that time.  We didn’t know each other well back then.  We chuckle sometimes now, remembering our interactions back then…how she knocked on the door with some sort of official notice and waited patiently while I came slowly to the door and then creaked it slowly open, my face full of all the dread in my belly.  I always considered just not answering the door, but while that strategy may occasionally work with collections agents, the fact is that mail carriers and city utility staff are just gonna keep coming back – no point hiding.

I like where I am now.  It cost me A LOT of pain, embarrassment, shame and consequences to get here.  It cost me learning how to be consistent…by choosing to be consistent…over and over and over. It cost me humbling myself to seek help, and then follow the advice I was given, even if it seemed sometimes too hard. It cost me doing hard work I didn’t want to do.  Making phone calls I didn’t want to make.  Admitting and owning my part, so many times that I was good and sick of myself by the time all was said and done.  It wasn’t a day or a week or even a year.  It was a long, drawn out process.  It wasn’t smooth nor linear – there was backsliding and misunderstanding and calamity and continued embarrassment and shame along the way.  You know what?  It was WORTH all that, to get to this place.

I tell this story not to brag about how much I used to suck, nor to get anyone to feel sorry for me for former hardships.  I tell it because someone out there is facing a new year with a lot of old debt, unopened and/or unpaid bills.  Someone feels like a sword is hanging by a thread above them, just about to sever their head with one more wrong move.  Someone feels like a victim and is too busy complaining and feeling bad to take the first step.  Someone is hiding important information from a spouse.  Someone is making shifty moves to try to slide out of a situation that can only be met head-on.  My appeal to that someone, whoever you are:  if I could do it, you can do it.  There was never a more reluctant, depressed, messed-up person than I was, when it comes to finances.  If I could do it, you can do it.  In 2 or 3 or maybe even 5 years, you can be clear of much of what pains you today.  But there’s no hope of that, if you don’t change directions.

Change directions.  It’s worth the pain.  Come to where I get to live today.  I have not “arrived” – still got miles to go before I’m financially where I should be – but today I live in the land of the financially unashamed.  It’s still not effortless nor easy, but it’s very, very good.

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