I bought a new sofa on Monday. That may not sound like a really important fact to many people, but it was a BIG thing for me to do. Instead of spending money over the last year, I have saved every penny possible, and used the rest to pay down debt. Financial crisis will do that to you! And having a sense of impending doom–at almost sixty-three, I felt I had the spectre of major poverty ahead when I no longer had a cushion of money to use in my elder years.
Losing “everything” is never actually possible, but I did feel a great loss when I realized what had happened last year. For the first three months or so, I mostly had panic attacks. This morning I was sitting in a chair and noticed some papers next to me with notes I wrote last summer trying to get my bearings. They were about trying to feel I could have some modicum of control. My friend Beth had advised me to look at my life as if I were running a projector and could change the film thus change the picture of what I had before me. The film was essentially my own thoughts–which were the only things I had any possibility of controlling.
I spent days writing notes to myself, struggling to get a grip on myself. I felt hopeless, stupid, idiotic, foolish, incapable of handling the slightest stress. I cried and cried. Lida says one of the best things that happened from that period in my life is that I literally burned the shame out of myself.
We all grow up with a certain amount of shame–it is endemic to the human experience–but there were hidden stashes of shame inside me that I hadn’t wanted to know about. They all rose to the surface and I had to look at everything. I had no choice. I was vulnerable and exposed–with nothing left to protect me.
As I slowly built back my sense of self, I realized that some of what I had valued in life had been more about my external identity than the essential things that were there all along: love of family and friends, opportunities to keep growing and learning, seeing wealth as the abundance of life and experiences that are always around us. I re-evaluated everything and found that my true wealth was ever present and had nothing to do with how much money I had in my accounts.
I did start doing the Forced Accelerated Savings Technique I learned from John Demartini (start with an amount of savings each month and increase it by 10% every three months, because you won’t feel it and it will grow exponentially). I have saved a lot of money since last fall, and I keep saving and raising it as prescribed. The theory is that as we commit to that kind of self-discipline and love toward ourselves, it will also bring evidence of abundance from other sources. I have found that to be true. Other things in my life have increased in value since I re-started that process. [For more information, I recommend the book How to Get to Heaven and Still Make a Hell of a Profit by John F. Demartini.]
But most of the change in me is from my commitment to myself, what I value and, as I’ve written a lot about, listening to my inner voice and valuing myself. I remember a few months ago, sitting on the floor exercising and realizing that I had done so many things in my life to help others, and some of the motive behind that was so I would be important and have value to them. I realized that in some ways my identity depended on that recognition from others. The question that came to mind at that moment was this: when am I going to be that important to myself?
It set off a process of re-evaluation that I hope will continue for as long as I am on this planet. I’ve had to catch myself a few times agreeing to do something then realizing it wasn’t really something that worked for me, so having to back out and not do it. That sort of goes against the idea of fulfilling all commitments, but it supports the idea of listening to my inner voice.
Back to the new sofa. When I called Lida the next morning to tell her about buying it, I heard myself say something monumental to her: I’m not afraid that I will run out of money anymore. I truly believe that I will figure things out as I go, and that I won’t end up destitute and desperate. That is why I was able to take some of the money I got from my tax refund and buy the sofa. It doesn’t mean I’m going on a spending spree, it just means that I am taking care of myself and allowing myself to do something I really want to do.
As for the year I have spent working toward this point, I can only say thank you–to the situation that put me into the panic, to the people who have helped me along the way, to my mother who has been a rock and constant reminder of how important it is to be grateful to be alive. To crawl back from what seemed to be complete devastation makes the pain and challenge of it worth while.
I am doing okay. I am continuing to save money, I am being careful how I spend money, I am actually enjoying doing laundry and taking care of many of the things I used to delegate. Maybe even when or if I could afford to delegate those things again, I would just keep doing them anyway. I like taking care of myself and my home. I keep being reminded of what Thomas Moore said in Care of the Soul: carrying water and chopping wood–doing menial tasks around his home was a fulfilling, rewarding occupation, kept him grounded and present and grateful for everyday life.
And that’s how I’m feeling right now. I’m grateful for my everyday life. And I’m really grateful that I get to have a new sofa!