Ditching Denial

Have you ever had a moment of clarity about yourself that absolutely floored you?  I recently had one of those. I was asked to be a volunteer for someone who’s going through a financial life coaching program, and I thought, “What the hell - why not?”  I figured I might learn something in the process of helping someone. I didn’t know what to expect the first time we met, but I guess somewhere in my mind I was expecting it to be geared towards financial planning.  She asked me what my first goal around finances is and I told her to eliminate debt. And then she asked me how I feel about money. “What?” I literally didn’t know how to answer that question. I wanted to say, “...like I need more of it…,” but that’s not a feeling.  I was completely perplexed. Did I feel anything about money? I’m usually so good about understanding my feelings, being aware of them, sharing them when appropriate….why was I so stumped? Because I was completely silent, she changed the question. She asked, “How do you feel about yourself in relationship to money?”  I immediately responded, “I feel like a liability.” She asked what I meant by that and I went on to explain that I carry that debt from my previous marriage. Our finances were split down the middle fair and square, but I bought my ex out of the house, paying him for half of everything minus half the debt and half the cost of the divorce…..therefore I’m carrying all of the debt and maintaining my home on my income.   Keeping the home was the right decision, but my monthly finances run super lean. I would never expect a future partner to be responsible for any of that, but when I thought about it, I felt like I had heavy financial baggage. Every other area of my life felt healed and peaceful….except for that area. Getting back to how I felt about it...I told her that I wasn’t allowing myself to go there - allowing myself to feel anything about it all.  It was what it was and I had accepted it as a necessary part of the divorce. Focusing on my feelings around it would have had me frozen in fear and I didnt have the time or energy for that. I just need to put one foot in front of the other and move forward by whatever means necessary. And then I lost my job and was unemployed for 4 months, which stepped up the level of survival mode that I was in. Quite frankly, analyzing my feelings around money was not only the last thing on my list, it seemed like a stupid idea.  As we dove further in and started talking about possible solutions, I caught myself throwing up roadblocks to ideas before I’d even explored them. I was immediately telling her why they wouldn’t work. While what I was saying had very valid points, the fact is that I hadn’t actually explored those ideas in the context of my current financial situation. The moment I realized what I was doing, I stopped and looked at her and said, “Holy shit, I’m being THAT person. I’m the person who’s getting in her own way. I’m acting like the person who’s closed to the possibility of success.  That’s not who I am.” She agreed with me and asked me why I was doing that. I knew why immediately. It was because I was afraid. It was easier to deal with things the way I had been rather than to explore all the possibilities and find out that there really was no hope or help for my situation. I didn’t want to put myself in a position to potentially face not having a retirement plan, a nest egg, and to be saddled with an assload of debt for the rest of my life…..so instead I completely stuck my head in the sand and ignored everything except for getting the bills paid. She asked what I wanted to do about it going forward and I committed to exploring the possibilities we’d discussed.

I left that meeting and spent the following 2 weeks processing a million different things.  A bunch of puzzle pieces started coming together for me. I started wondering when else I had functioned like that, using COMPLETE denial and stuffing my feelings as a defense mechanism.  Most definitely when my mom was declining and living with my family. I had absolutely no time or space to fully feel my feelings. I was juggling too many balls to risk dropping any by allowing myself to lose focus.  And I also did it with the decline of my marriage. I was wading through the grief of losing my mom when that shit first started to hit the fan. I can remember going to counseling and the therapist saying to me that it seemed like I was dissociating; that I didn’t seem very angry.  I responded by telling her that I was angry - but it was all intellectual... I now know that I wasn’t really feeling all of my feelings. When we officially called it quits, just under two years after my mom passed, and I started sort through my feelings….it was like a tidal wave of emotion that felt like it would never end.  I had been stuffing my feeling for so long as a method of survival, that when they started coming to the surface, they brought me to my knees. The feelings were deep and they went back several years. Even back then, I didn’t realize why. I made it through it all and healed, but didn’t see the whole picture clearly until now.  Wow, what a powerful defense mechanism I have. It saved my sanity and helped to keep me moving forward, and for that I’m really grateful. It did the same thing for me about fears around money so that I could move forward with my separation and divorce. I was brought exactly what I needed at the time. And then again, when I could truly handle it, I was brought the opportunity to look at my finances in a different way, so that I could level up once again.  I have absolutely no doubt this whole thing was divine intervention, and I’m so glad that I was paying attention.

I stuck to my commitment about looking into the financial possibilities that were in front of me, and guess what...I found an avenue to pursue that will help me reach my goal of eliminating the debt that I need gone.  When you trust in the process, sometimes you are brought exactly what you need. I’ve also realized that I’m no longer in a time of my life where I need defense mechanisms. They do have a useful time and place, but I’m grounded, happy, and emotionally whole now.  It’s not only safe, but desirable for me to be vulnerable and truly experience all of my life.