Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Shadow of Poverty

God posted it forward on facebook, and I clicked the link, "16 Brutally Honest Confessions From People Who Used To Be Homeless." My family has never been homeless. Through all of our struggles, unemployment, illnesses, and underemployment, we've always had an apartment or house to call home. Scrolling through the list I was surprised at the way it resonated. I'm not saying I know what it was like to be homeless, or that our situation was "just the same." Obviously neither of those things are true. However, the shadow that the past struggle casts over the present is undeniable. 

We are only a few months into a whole new life of having a paycheck that pays all the bills, plus enough that we can budget for things like clothes and household repairs. It will be a long time before the backlog of needs is fulfilled, but we are able to make small purchases already. Our tax refund came and, instead of using it to pay the day to day bills, we could use it to pay off some debt, pay for car repairs, and even put some into savings for upcoming medical bills. We are doing really well, and yet....

I still check the bank balance to make sure we have enough money to cover expenses. Actually, sometimes I check it just to check it.
I look at that balance and have to remind myself that in a matter of weeks there will be another paycheck that will pay all the bills for the following month.
I wonder how much money we need to have in savings before I will feel secure, how many paychecks it will take before I trust they will keep coming.
Every time we spend money I think of all the things it could be spent on, and I worry that we aren't making the right choices.
I want to do more for other people, but I worry about taking that too far - giving too much. As hard as it is to see others struggle, I am reminded that while we have more, and we have what we need, we don't have a lot extra.
When I told my daughter that we would no longer be getting food assistance she asked, "But how will we survive?"
I'm worry about saying "yes" to too many splurges, and yet I worry about being unnecessarily tight fisted with our funds.

Pretty much, I over think every purchase or expense.

We are in a time of transition, from living in poverty to having an adequate income. Some days that feels really good. Some days the fear and stress and worry creep in. We are working really hard at being fiscally responsible, having a budget, and creating priorities. I do think about how growing up poor may have affected our kids and their relationship with money. Hopefully now we will be able to set an example of how to manage money, rather than how to survive poverty. Thinking about that strengthens my resolve to be responsible with the money we have. I wouldn't wish the struggles we've faced on anyone, and I do wish we could have provided more fun and educational experiences for our kids along the way. Hopefully our kids will have futures that don't involve poverty, but if they do face financial struggle I know they have the skills they need to survive, and that's not a bad thing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Create Your Own Expectations

What four words of wisdom would you give your 17 year old self?
I came up with a few ideas and settle on these four words:

Create your own expectations.

Most of my life I have lived to meet other people’s expectations. I think this is true of most people. We start internalizing the expectations of others from the moment we are born. As an infant and child the best way to survive is to meet the expectations of others. In fact, most children are punished if they fail to meet the expectations of their parents, teachers, or other adults in their life. During the teenage years, when our biological imperative is to create our own identity and separate from our families, the pressure to conform to other people’s expectations often intensifies as the adults in our life try to assure themselves that they are doing everything they can to make sure we end up successful adults. By the time we are adults the pattern of accepting the expectations others have for us, without question, is so ingrained that we are often unaware of its impact upon our life.

With the empty nest years approaching, I have realized that I need to create my own expectations for the rest of my life. As my children have become teenagers, and are catching glimpses of adulthood on the horizon, I have realized that the best thing I can do is to let go of my expectations for their lives and support them in creating their own.

Expectations can push us toward greatness or keep us on a path that we should have abandoned. Expectations can create the potential for feelings of success and accomplishment or lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction.

How can we experience the benefits of expectations?

1. Stop creating or holding expectations for other people.
2. Examine where the expectations we have for our self and our life originated.
3. Create expectations with intention.
4. Adjust our expectations as we learn and grow.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Impossible Things Challenge

Alice laughed.“There’s no use trying,” she said, 
“one can’t believe impossible things.” 

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.
“When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day.
Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things
before breakfast.”    (Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 5) 

We create a frame and then we try to stuff our life into it. 
“This is who I am” and “This is who I will be.”

We have help creating our limiting frame from our parents, teachers, religion, and other voices of authority that have left messages in our minds telling us what we are and are not capable of accomplishing with our lives. 

How often do we say we can’t do something, that something isn’t possible, or there’s just no use trying because… How often do we assume something could never happen, and by that very assumption limit ourselves?  When we believe something is impossible we don’t even try. When we believe something is possible we are open to the possibility, we are willing to at least consider ways to make it happen. 

I will not tell you that nothing is impossible, however, many more things are possible than we imagine when we are focused on limitations, or what we think we can do, or what we already have done. 

It is time to start practicing believing impossible things: 

Practice believing impossible things to open yourself up to new opportunities and adventures. 

Practice believing impossible things to learn more about yourself.

Practice believing impossible things to strengthen your imagination.

Practice believing impossible things to avoid accepting internally or externally imposed limitations
that are based on faulty beliefs or invalid facts.

Try believing something impossible, but don’t just believe: explore, challenge, and research. Every one will have different impossible things. What seems easily doable for one person feels feels completely undo-able for another. 

Impossible things we may need to practice believing: 
I am beautiful
I can love my body
I can be successful
I can enjoy exercising
I can learn to paint
I can climb a mountain
I can start a business
I am worthy
I can be happy single
I can be happy in a relationship
I will write a novel
I am a badass

Take the Impossible Things Challenge: 
Try believing impossible things for half-an-hour a day. 
Try coming up with as many as six impossible things to believe in. 

What would your life look like if that impossible thing was possible? 
How would you live your life differently if you believe that impossible thing?