Yesterday, my post focused in on the benefits of forgiveness, including forgiveness as the first step toward a profitable life. All this thinking had a surprising side-effect. I realized something important. I owe someone an apology. I owe my money an apology.
Many personal finance experts speak to the need to understand your relationship with money before you truly affect a change. Dr. Joe Vitale calls it your “money biography.” Amanda Worth refers to it as “money clarity.” I don’t think it matters what you call it as long as you do some thinking about your history with money, its impact on your life, and the emotions or feelings you have toward it.
So in an effort to dig into my own relationship with money, it turns my money story took the form of an apology letter.
I have been thinking about writing you for a while but I really wasn’t sure where to begin. All I do know is that I’ve wronged you and you deserve an apology. However, I’ll admit that the apology is not completely altruistic. Forgiveness would help me move on and my hope is that we could, one day, grow closer and have a more mutually beneficial relationship.
Truth is we have hurt each other a lot.
Looking far back into my childhood, I can see you and I got off to an extremely rocky start. You presented yourself to me first as shiny silver dollars. You were cherished little glittery gifts that I stashed safely away in my little miniature mailbox coin bank. I was infatuated with you. Not because of what you could get me but because you were beautiful and you were mine. That is, until the day you ran away with my sister to the video arcade. You traded yourself into dirty little quarters which granted my little sister hours of Asteroids and Ms. PacMan! How could you!?!? I was so hurt. I felt betrayed by you and my sister. Now, in hindsight, my sister was just a little girl who wanted to play and took something that wasn’t hers. That’s what little sisters do. And you? Well, I suppose you weren’t responsible. You didn’t abandon me. The child in me only remembers the loss. The child in me didn’t appreciate my parents attempt to give me an allowance in such a special way to teach me of your value. I FORGIVE YOU, MY SISTER. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
As I grew, I felt ashamed how you seemed to avoid me and my family. You really weren’t making yourself available to us. It was embarrassing to have to shop at the bargain stores when my girlfriends all gossiped about their weekends at the cool CrossGates mall. They sported their Jordache jeans and Sony Walkmans while I hiked up my no-name leg warmers and feathered my hair with the generic comb, tucked safely in the back pocket of my jeans from Caldor. Our family was “middle class” with a working dad, stay-at-home mom, and 3 kids (staggered 4 years apart.) Where were you? The child in me remembers the government chunks of Velveeta cheese and special reduced-priced lunch tickets. I remember wearing “high-water” jeans and scruffy sneakers. The child in me remembers feeling like “having money” wasn’t something attainable for us. The child in me didn’t appreciate how hard it must have been to budget a single-income and feed a family of 5, especially during dad’s 18-month long union strike. I truly wonder how they did it. We were well-fed, well-mannered, well-educated children living the American dream. I FORGIVE YOU, MY PARENTS. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
When I was in college, reveling in the new-found independence of my first apartment and my first true love, you bailed on me with him-that-shall-be-not-named, when he dumped me and took off for Florida. I had nothing! You both broke my fucking heart and I was literally starving. I’d scrounge up $10 and buy a pizza from down the street. That pizza was my breakfast, lunch and dinner until it ran out. I had no phone (the old kind), no friends, tons of difficult schoolwork, and a broken heart. I binged watched China Beach on TBS and cried my eyes out for months. The victim in me put everyone to blame, especially you, Money. The victim in me didn’t acknowledge that I was successfully scraping my way through college. I was tough and building up my resiliency. Most importantly, I didn’t acknowledge it was temporary. I FORGIVE YOU, MY FIRST LOVE. I FORGIVE YOU, MY MONEY.
And while I could continue on, elaborate the times in my marriage when you were such a hot topic, I really want to focus on what I feel like was the most profound disappointment you ever gave me. You know what a trial my divorce and custody battle was. You saw me fight with every fiber of my being to build a new life for me and my child. You saw me move 3,000 miles away to reclaim the person I believed I was but never felt comfortable being. You watched as I started a new job and suffered one of the greatest tragedies of my life. I’ll admit you did support me a bit when I had to tuck my tail between my legs, admit defeat, and once again uproot my life for the benefit of my child. You knew it nearly broke me. And yet, when I was in exile in a desert land, miserable, lonely and afraid, you left. I got fired because I was miserable. I got dumped by the love of my life because I was miserable. And you were no where to be found. The victim in my felt punished for trying to be independent and doing the right thing. The victim in me didn’t acknowledge that I put myself in that absurdly vulnerable position with no safety net or plan B. The amazing truth is that you did come back for me. You returned when I was at rock bottom. First, you were gifts from the man who loved me but couldn’t “save” me. Then, you were a comfortable and loving place to stay while I got on my feet again. You were the great-paying freelance contract I landed straight out of the gate. You have spent the last year surrounding me, comforting me, rebuilding my life and my dreams. You’ve given me the strength to live life on my terms. I FORGIVE MYSELF. I FORGIVE MYSELF. AND I THANK YOU, MY MONEY.
Since I’m now quite literally in tears, I suppose I’ll just sum it by saying that it was me that chose to remember you in a negative light. It was me who cast you as the evil villain and myself as the damsel in distress. You are just you, Money. I see that now. And now that I’ve pulled up my big girl panties and committed to truly taking care of myself in every possible way, I hope that you and I will have a very positive future together.
And even if you try to take off one day, I won’t let you. You aren’t everything to me, Money, but you are important and I plan on keeping you around.
Your Repentant Friend,
The Lady in the Black
P.S. – For those of you considering doing a similar exercise, I strongly suggest it. I also strongly suggest a box of tissues and a nap. It’s a cathartic exercise to be sure. It also kinda makes me want to vomit.