Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

14Mar/200

Withdrawing

The first day of not really going anywhere. We’re discussing a plan for monitoring for any sign of fever. Noting holes in my long stock up of long-storing food items.

I woke up early, needing to pee, and was surprised at the brightness of the room in the predawn. Then I noticed the snow.

I returned to my warm bed, in a house with a furnace programmed to come on when we rise and well stocked with food and medicines, and thought about the houseless women who sit just inside the community center I teach at. They keep not-quite warm, dry, and safe. There are toilets.

Yesterday the centers and libraries all closed. Warming shelters closed for the spring. Where did people go?

My Mother and I were briefly houseless when I was four after she was fired from her job. She blamed me for it. We went to live with my aunt and her two kids. My Mother also was in a car accident during this time which extended our time there.

It was a terrifying time in which I learned that no one in my family was on my side. None of the adults, therefore neither of my cousins by extension. I gained tremendous shame around money, a terror of being without a home, and a fear of “rocking the boat”.

This experience is one I’m currently integrating in therapy. I’m wondering if I’ll be going to my session on Tuesday. I don’t want to take a break, I want to keep taking care of it and getting past the way it undermines everything I think about money.

I’d meant to text more people and connect over teleconferencing with friends. Instead I tried not to fret too much, nor read a lot of news.

26Oct/091

Support

I live in one of the best examples of my lack of skill in recognizing when I have accomplished something. It is coming up on 3 years in my home, purchased in a hurry when my 10 year old rental was sold. I get glimpses of ownership, literally of my accomplishment. It is not insignificant that I alone qualified for the loans to buy a 3 bedroom, 1926 Craftsman style home in my North Portland neighborhood.

Yet most of the time I still feel like I'm an irresponsible child about finances. Any minutes now the authorities will discover I'm just faking and escort me off the premises. I feel like I never live up to all the goals and expectations a "grown up" should have around money.

CK and I sat down and talked budget and debt tonight. I've been feeling really anxious about this conversation, fearing that she'd discover I wasn't a "real adult" and call things off. I've also been feeling a lot of hurt, some bubbling up in the form of anger, about how finances have been handled in the relationships my entire life. I feel sabotaged by the people who should have been there to help and support me.

She's so calm about money, it is just another process to her and it isn't tied up in a lot of triggering memories. I'm a bit jealous at her skill around finances and business. I hear my Inner Critic compare my own skill and find me lacking.

I finally pulled open my spreadsheet with all the debt statistics on it. Amounts owed, to who, at what interest rate, etc. CK very calmly got out her calculator and figured how I could pay it all off in just over 3 years without her help. Then she pointed out how she planned to spend what I find to be a serious amount of her own earnings helping pay the debt down after building up our mutual savings significantly in the coming year.

I teared up. I really can't remember anyone wanting to do this for me. I put myself through college and in high school didn't participate in a lot of things because I couldn't afford the fees and my parents weren't willing/couldn't afford to pay them. It wasn't really until I was in my 30s that my Mom started being more giving with money to me. Then I moved onto relationships with two men who were equally destabilizing financially, one in a more outright emotionally damaging way than the other.

I've felt kind of aimless and tired for a few weeks now. I'm having a hard time focusing on work, overall. It's made it feel extra urgent to get little things done around the house. Not only grounding in the mundane tasks of home, but being buoyed up by feeling like I'm getting some tasks done!

I'm accepting that some of this may be months worth of low-grade infection slowly gobbling up my energy reserves. I also feel like I'm reacting to the support I am feeling in my relationship with CK. To be in a relationship with another person willing to be entirely wholehearted. Sadly, I find it entirely unknown territory to have another person say they're going to help and feel like they really will follow through. I don't know how to relax and let go, enjoy the stability that working together in a relationship can bring.

5Feb/090

Money

All my dragging of feet over talking to CK about how much debt I have right now came to an end when AM wrote a blog entry (public), not considering how I would feel about people knowing that fact. Suddenly it is out there and I felt anxious, ashamed. Finances are an area where I never have felt quite like I really get it. I get that I need to pay people certain amounts by certain dates and through painful error learned I must do this.

That I bought a house in 2006 is astounding and a little frightening to me, still. I never lived in an owned home growing up and within a few years of my parents finally buying a manufactured home my Dad was dying and my Mom ended giving the house back to the bank after all the planned upon pension payments dried up. When I was young my Mom and I lived in early Section 8 apartments, the first Christmas there we were one of the families "adopted" by the local fire department. I believe I got a tea set for present.

Cash was always short when I was a kid and the resulting tension was a constant companion, even while playing in the apartments of other kids I was friends with there. It got better when there was some more money, but I've come to have the perspective to see how poorly finances were managed. How sometimes decisions were made to spend money not because it was the right time, but because something was wanted. It was an environment impossible to learn good skills in.

Enter my first husband who ended up putting all the effort of household finances on me, not helping out when things were tight if it impacted his bills, quick to suggest that my bills be short changed, and even quicker to anger when things got messed up. I would try so hard, but even he provided the example of impulse spending to be made up for later (only later never arrived). When a roommate (his idea to have move in) began forging checks, stealing from us, once causing a short-fall and bounced check that then caused a utility to be turned off he was livid with me. After the truth came out, why there was a short-fall, that it wasn't my fault, he never went back and apologized for yelling at me. I still feel like at any moment I'm going to be screamed at for doing things wrong.

And into another relationship where immediacy was more important, impulse and gratification. During a time when there were two good incomes I managed to just stay ahead of the debt and what money I did save paid for a wedding. We would talk and talk about budgeting, getting better at staying within our means, and it wouldn't happen. Decisions would be made, effort wasn't made int he right place, and a couple of major feelings of disappointment over the fallout. So here I am hugely in debt, embarrassed about it.

CK has been calm, loving, supportive and positive. So much so I am unnerved by it. Here I am looking at things to cut out of my life, telling myself "no" to purchase after purchase, and feeling deeply ashamed of not being good with finances. Like I'm a very poor sort of grown up.

And instead she's talking about going to Hawaii for my 40th birthday in August. And she means it, if finances go well, which she thinks they will.

I've gone on very few big trips in my life. My parents sent me to one with my older step-sister when I was 13. An "American Heritage" tour of the D.C. area. It was probably debt they couldn't afford but did anyway. We took several car trips and would go camping, but most often my summers were spent partly with my Aunt J or, after she married my step-dad, with my Aunt D and Uncle J in Bremerton.

AP and I talked about a trip. I even got a map and hung it on a wall, pinpointing the journey. After a while I came to see that it would never happen, would never be a priority. I saw it at first with AM, but then he stopped working, wasn't really able to find anything and we adjusted. I knew we weren't going to make a lot of trips after that.

I felt unsettled by the discussion. At once excited, hopeful, and yet still feeling like I couldn't trust it. My mind was equally certain that something wasn't right and thinking, "after all I've messed up, why am being rewarded? Why isn't she yelling at me?"

Maybe just all along I've needed someone who is willing to share knowledge with me. Show an example of another way to approach things. Like so many things in my life I feel like I've had good ideas, but with no support or guidance they have never come to be what I imagined they might. From school projects, to artistic endeavors, to saving money.