Here’s the thing…
Sometimes I worry about not having enough money. Not enough for later when I am ‘old’. This worry is not new, and has variations on a life-long theme of “there is not enough”. And “there’s something wrong with me”.
Recently, I checked my bank account and was unpleasantly surprised to see I was in overdraft by $42.00. This pissed me off because I thought I knew how much was in my ‘working’ account. I noticed my immediate reaction was a barrage of “I am a failure when it comes to managing money. When will I ever learn? Everyone else knows what they are doing and doesn’t fuck up like this” and so on – with attendant feelings of shame and anger.
My parents argued about money when they thought I was sleeping. Through the wall, I could hear them shouting. I knew it had something to do with me. I was a burden. ‘If I hadn’t been adopted into the family then there would be less arguments and more money. Would I be sent back if there wasn’t enough? If I wasn’t enough?’ Next morning nothing was spoken. I too was silent and pretended all was well. I learned that speaking of money generates fear, shame and anger. As soon as I was able, I managed the emotions by reading everything in sight. And I waited. Maybe my ‘real’ parents will come and get me?
I left school when I was fifteen. How the hell does a small town girl with little education or financial literacy get by in the wide world? I adapted and became emotionally and oftentimes financially, dependent on men. I was afraid to be alone. I became a serial monogamist. Mostly. Consequently I couldn’t be ‘me’. In a sense, I had to like what they liked, be quiet and play nice. Defined by my adaptation of ‘I will be whoever I think you want me to be.’ I sold my ‘self.’ In the words of Donna Summer, I worked ‘hard for the money.’ Unsurprisingly, I didn’t learn how to manage money in this context either. I learned to manage the unruly emotions generated by this behaviour, this denial of my true self, by consuming increasingly large amounts of mood altering substances.
I got to a point where the drugs weren’t enough. They had stopped working. That was a nightmare and blessedly I found myself in rehab.
Long story, short. I made a decision to recover. My life, with the support of like-minded others, transformed. I trained as a social worker and got work that I loved and was good at. Hurrah!! At last, I was the breadwinner for my two daughters. I was bringing home the bacon. Me! I thought I had cracked it. Until it dawned on me, I was spending just a bit more than I earned, and had no idea why it was disappearing. I had ‘terminal vagueness’. I was anxious each time I was in the line at the supermarket or standing before an ATM. What if…? I solved this problem by getting a credit card. You can see where this is going…The years passed. Along the way I picked up compulsive shopping FFS! Talk about mood altering? That’s another story. Needless to say, financial wisdom did not come with age. Old habits do indeed die hard. Especially when they are a secret.
What has all this to do with ageing, I hear you ask? Well,the shaming of the ‘the baby boomers’ is upon us. Articles are appearing along the lines of, and I am paraphrasing here, ‘There won’t be enough left because a silver tsunami of unmanageable old people; recipients of all that free education and that plentiful employment; hanging onto jobs, spending the inheritance (in my neck of the woods anyway) on Harley Davidson’s and Deadly Pony handbags, as we gleefully await Winnie’s Golden Ticket, so we can sit on our arses on the Waiheke ferry as we bleed the country dry’.
These days, thank the baby lord, I am learning not to keep secrets. When I noticed I was automatically giving myself shit about the overdraft, I called a friend who knows the pain of being money drunk. And told on myself. She listened to my story then lovingly reminded me I am not broke(n). To show some mercy. That it was merely an oversight.
So, the surprise overdraft is not proof that I am not going to be living in poverty and eating cat food, in my dotage. Who knew? Despite that enticing invitation, I decided not to go down that well-worn neural pathway of believing there is not enough. Blessedly, there is a fork in that road. Solvency is my goal. Solvency is a feeling of being comfortable with money, and not careless with it, either. Solvency is about balance money, time and love.
I have a choice today. I have enough. I am enough.