I have been following a thread on a budgeting forum. As you can well imagine, most of the information exchanged is about budgeting, money, spending, debt, etc. This particular thread is written by a woman with a large blended family and serious money issues. With 7 children – 5 living with them, 2 with their mother – one income, large mortgage, and a newly imposed child support order (for the 2 who chose to live with their mother), it’s chaotic, hectic, stressful. She is still spending on unncessary items (her admission) and basically beating herself up for it and then spending more to make herself feel better about it. A troubling situation, one that I have billions of other people have been in at one time or another. High debt and expenses seem to overwhelm income.
She titled this ongoing thread “miserable state of affairs.”
Now, the people who have been responding to her posts have been overwhelmingly supportive and positive, no gratuitous snarkiness to be found. However, one of the practical ladies of this forum did point out the obvious – you’re drowning in debt, have a new child support order, yet you are spending money for a book on frugality? The suggestion was gentle – perhaps try the library first before buying a book – and the follow-up comments were equally generous and kind in suggestions to cut expenses, cut spending, get the most mileage out of their dollars. Through all that, there was one voice that spoke up: perhaps she should start by changing the name of her journal/forum thread to sometehing more positive. Perhaps regaining some financial control should start with a change in perspective.
In my current regrouping recovery from the “woe is me … sky is falling … the world is an awful place … hate and discontent are running rampant …” mindset, this stood out like a beacon in the night. It is true that changing my attitude does not make problems magically disappear, but it does make me more open to suggestions and accepting help. When I box myself in with my own dark and dreay thoughts, I build walls between myself and anyone else who might desire to help me. M and I have our most hurtful arguments when one of us is in a funk, largely because one of us gets frustrated with the other and then with ourselves for not listening and not hearing. Communication is in the toilet because the “woe is me” is echoing loudly throughout the house.
I am fortunate in that my doldrums are transitory, my head hitting the downer button can be traced to specific influence sources. When we were in debt and digging our way out it was depressing and my poor choices made me feel like such a loser, so I can completely identify when others struggle this way. Sometimes you just have to accept the consequences of past bad behavior and get through it in the least uncomfortable ways and manner possible. My kids were young when a lot of that was happening, and to this day their memories of that time are largely positive – going to the park and meeting/playing with other kids, community musicals and events, hikes and neighborhood walkabouts, pouring over the sale ads for what was on sale for lunches and dinners. It is so easy when you’re in the periods of misery to overlook the good times had and memories made.
Attitude is not everything, but is is a lot. I am not afflicted with depression; my bad moods and lingering sadness is definitely circumstance-driven. Adjusting my outlook is, for me, a first step in improving my mood and changing my future experiences. In truth, at my core I feel very insecure and undeserving of the good life I enjoy and as if I have earned every bad thing that has ever befallen me. But M knows just about everything there is to know about me and still loves me. I must have done a lot right in their formulative years to have these remarkable young adult children who visit and hang out because they seem to enjoy the company. I want to feel worthy of the relationships I have, because my family and my friends deserve the best version of me, warts and flaws and cranky days included. If I can believe and see the good and the positive in others, surely I can find it in myself as well.
And that’s my daily battle – believe in me. It has been going on so long I rarely think about it consciously much less write it down or express it in words. I know it’s there, though. When I have my negative feelings they always start with me and my personal shortcomings, real or imagined. I choose to be positive. I choose to believe what I value is good and that I am good enough.