Lately I’ve been feeling more secure about my money situation (and I’m almost scared to put that in writing — don’t want to jinx myself). Or should I say my lack of money situation.
Talking to people who have a lot of money but who choose to be very frugal has helped. These people have crossed my path; I haven’t actively sought them out.* There’s my neighbour, Rex, who’s very, very wealthy and very, very, very thrifty. Without any knowledge of my bankruptcy and limited finances, he’s helped me out by giving me some furnishings for my place that he’s bought at thrift stores and left sale flyers for me in my mailbox. And there’s my chiropractor, Marie, who in casual conversation while I’ve been on the table, has told me she can’t justify the expense of buying lattes and desserts at coffee shops. Both of these people are very caring towards me and helpful. I’ve been very ashamed of my financial situation and knowing them has helped ease my judgement of myself about not having much money to my name.
Somehow in my life I’ve confused spending money on myself with caring for and loving myself. There have been periods in my life — long periods — where during my work week I’ve bought two lattes a day and sometimes more, as well as food items from coffee shops!! I was caught in an endless cycle of self-criticism and self-soothing with lattes (and other things I spent my money on). I was numbing myself by spending and numb and in denial of the damage I was doing to myself by spending. Talk about superficiality.
I can trace my confusion about money and love to my childhood experiences of living in lack. For my father who sought me to fulfill all of his endless needs, I could never be enough. He treated me differently and unfairly compared to his treatment of my three siblings and I internalized a belief that I was owed more, that I did not have enough.
I hated his cruelty towards me. He was a man with a high status profession and so he and our family had that ace in our hand. But he struggled tremendously with his career and with his life. He decided I had talents he could use and insisted that I work for him from a young age. This was something that was demanded of none of my three siblings. He helped them financially through post-secondary schooling and gave them gifts of property. In contrast, he demanded that I not attend post-secondary school, but rather that I continue to work for him. And there were no gifts of property or anything comparable for me.
My father was a desperately selfish and a very frugal man who didn’t believe in or understand the concept of luxuries. I confused his meanness and his inability to love me with his attitude towards luxuries. As I grew older and had money of my own I began to associate luxuries, like lattes, with well-being. And I confused loving myself with spending money on myself.
But love is not about spending money. And it’s not about not spending money for that matter either. Love is about knowing who you are and being able to feel what you feel. It’s about knowing the difference between primary, secondary and projected feelings and it’s about loving yourself through all of that. (Bear with me, that last part is a mouthful and needs some explanation that goes beyond the scope of this post, but I may write about it later.)
When you can love yourself in this way, then you can truly love a child. And when you love your child, you facilitate in them the greatest gift of all which is the means for them to love themselves, truly and fully. Spending money on luxuries has nothing to do with that. Knowing the place of money in your life, however, does.
Yours in learning how to love,
*If you would like to seek out some guidance about being frugal, I highly, highly recommend checking out the blog, “Frugalwoods”(http://www.frugalwoods.com). It’s been great company for me on my journey.