I believe we can be anyone

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best to make you like everybody else is to fight the hardest battle you can fight--but never stop fighting! E.E. Cummings

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Story of Stuff

As I met with my Bodacious Women's Circle a couple of weeks ago, once again I was amazed at the power of sharing and stories in a group.  I find myself becoming more and more grateful for getting to know these women.  I realize that "their issue" is also mine to some degree.  We are all connected and we are all humans struggling to overcome what blocks us and what keeps us stuck.


For example, our last meeting a woman shared about her "stuff", her actual physical belongings that were in a box.  She had accumulated some clutter, as we all do from time to time.  She couldn't face dealing with the contents in this box.  As she kept eluding to the contents in the box, I finally asked her "What is in this box?"  She shared with us that there were some personal things in it that she was avoiding dealing with. 

 

All of us deal with clutter and accumulating, it at some point in our lives.   And clutter can come in many forms and faces; either physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually.  Clutter anchors us to the past and can sometimes keep us stuck.  It can be difficult to move forward toward future goals if we aren't willing to let go of things that are not in support of us moving forward.  We need to let go of the "old" to bring in the "new" things into our lives.


It's funny how I sometimes go through resistance going to this monthly meeting because  a) logistically it's sometimes a nightmare to get to the meeting because I'm taking transit (well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little here, but sometimes it is a pain not owning a car) and  b) on some soul and unconscious level I know there will be some issue or issues coming up in the group that we can all relate to and that we will need to face and heal potentially, if we choose to of course. 

That's partly what the group is about; being able to share where we are at and overcome our blocks and challenges with the support of others. It's hard to do everything on my own and I imagine it's hard for others too.  Asking for support from others can be one of the most challenging and risk taking things we do in our lives.



Why is it that most of us believe we need to do everything on our own without help from anyone?  It's just not possible.  Successful people and businesses have great support systems and a team of people to help them run things.  They realize they can't do everything on their own and nor do they want to.  It's about becoming clear of our strengths and enhancing those strengths.  I don't feel it's always necessary to build on our weaknesses because there will be someone else better suited.  Why do things that aren't our innate and natural gifts?


Why do so many of us, and in particular women, think we need to do everything on our own?  When are we going to say enough is enough and reach out for support?  It's too hard trying to be SuperWoman.  I'm learning more and more that it's okay to collaborate, brainstorm and support one another.  We all have different strengths that we can bring to the table.  It's just impossible to think that we can or need to know everything!  Let me share a personal story with you.

For the last few years, I have decided to take care of the household bookkeeping.  I have never taken a bookkeeping class.  I have fumbled my way through, learning as much as I could from the few books that I have read.  Every month I would spend 5 to 7 hours calculating income and expenses, keeping necessary receipts, throwing some away, and then on top of it, dreading and cursing every moment.


For the last few years I proudly kept on top of things every month, up until last year when life got busy and the bookkeeping fell to the wayside.  Not that I looked forward to doing it anyhow. And so, it was easy to procrastinate.  But then 1 month led to 2, then 2 months to 3 and so on and so on.  Well, you know how that goes!  By 2013, I was not only behind 8 months in 2012, but also 4 months behind in 2013.  This is not how I like to start the year off, being behind.



Now I needed to get caught up because tax season was coming.  Good grief!  I remembered being in that place a few years ago where my pattern was leaving everything to the last minute and then spending hours and hours trying to play "catch up" and being completely stressed out and just getting our tax stuff in on time.  Can anyone relate to this??

As I spent hours over the last few months slowly getting caught up, this year I realized that I couldn't keep doing things the same way any longer.  I was miserable and I was complaining about how many hours I was spending doing this (to the dismay of my partner).  I realized the reason I was procrastinating was because I was dreading the bookkeeping every month.



I knew I needed to do things differently, but how?  I needed help.  But who and where?  I started speaking with my friend Destiny about my conundrum.  I was using Excel but in a very limited capacity as I haven't been trained in it.  Well, as it turns out, she's an Excel whiz!  She promptly emailed me a copy of a spreadsheet that she was using.  I looked it over and told her I was interested.  She agreed to come over to work with me on creating a new bookkeeping system. 


I, in the meantime, streamlined the expense categories (although there were still too many categories in Destiny's mind).   After reading "Your Money or Your Life" a couple years ago and rereading it again this year, I was reminded of why I had so many categories to begin with.  To her dismay, she gave in.  She and I both realized that it was me dealing with it in the end and if I was okay with it, that's all that mattered.  Besides, I could already tell that this new system would be WAY easier for me, even with all the categories.

As we spent time together setting things up and with her teaching me, I started to see how this new system would completely simplify things.  I also realized that we needed to simplify things in the way of NOT using credit cards (we have 3) plus our joint chequing account for paying all our expenses.  Dealing with 4 different accounts was in and of itself already challenging and I realized it just took too much time and energy to deal with it all.
 
After speaking with Destiny some more, I realized that this too was causing me extra stress.  It was hard to keep track of 4 different accounts and then doing the bookkeeping on top of this. For me, this was the last straw.  Things needed to change this year.
 
I decided to speak with my partner about just using our chequing account for all the expenses. We both came to a mutual agreement of paying off the credit cards completely by the end of April. 


With a fairly generous tax refund we were able to pay off the 1.  We then took some our savings and paid off the other 2.  By the end of April we were completely debt free and on a "cash only" basis like we were a few years ago. 


I can't tell you how much of a relief it is to be debt free.  There is something to be said for the feeling of freedom that comes with it; to say to ourselves "enough is enough" and to become more conscious and aware of our spending habits. 


Because we have been tracking our expenses for the last number of years, this new system worked with budget amounts for expense categories as well.  I was somewhat opposed to budgeting because it felt limiting to me.  But then I realized it's okay because it tracks any potential overspending in any one category.  It's not about "sacrificing, but about keeping track so we can reach any goals we have that we would like to achieve.  To be able to track expenses with this wonderful new system is exhilarating. 

Actually, I am now excited to do the bookkeeping and I look forward to it because of this simplicity. All thanks to my friend and thanks to me too for being willing to ask for support and being willing to change.  That's where it all starts and big changes can happen that way.


I realize that debt is not free money.  There is a high price to pay for it and so much energy is tied into it.  There was a huge shift in my physical energy this last month.  I finally realized how much of my energy was tied into this old exhausting system and also into our debt.

It's not that I think credit is bad.  In this day and age it's difficult to not get by without it.  We can't always pay for things with debit online.  But I have decided that as soon as that purchase is made on the credit card, the money needs to come out of the chequing account to pay for it.  If there isn't any money for that purchase, then it shouldn't be purchased to begin with.

It's simple and yet, not always an easy action to implement.  It does take commitment, determination, patience and persistence.  I can still get caught up in the spending madness and it takes a conscious effort to not get caught up in it.  With books like "Your Money or Your Life" and "The Soul of Money", I realize that I need to become in touch with who I am and what is important to me so that I don't continue these unconscious and unsupportive spending habits.



Ask yourself:  Is how I make my money in alignment with my values and who I am?  Is how I spend my money in alignment with my values and who I am?  Am I achieving the goals I say I want to achieve?  These are the deep questions we need to ask ourselves in order to heal our relationship with money and to get out of the consumer rat race of spending ourselves into consumption prison.


For years I have said I wanted to travel.  And yet, for some reason, I haven't travelled as much as I would like.  Why is this?  Is it because I'm just a big fat liar?  No.  This is the tragedy of unconscious spending and not having goals.  Our behaviours and actions speak much louder than our words ever can, ALWAYS. 

This is why I am on a mission to become empowered with my relationship with money.  This is why I realize that I can't do everything on my own and sometimes I need help and support. There is no shame in this.  Shame, on the other hand, is a whole other discussion to get into for another time because sometimes shame stops us for asking for help.  This too, is something that needs to be healed.


Thank you to (I will call her Bodacious Woman "P" to honour her privacy) for being vulnerable, open and willing to share your struggles about your "stuff" in our group.  You are not alone, we are not alone, we are all in this together.  I am grateful to all the teachers in my life.  Thank you and I look forward to sharing and learning more.



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