Yesterday my daughter and I got to ride home in a police car. There we were, just a couple of gals in the back seat of the SUV cruiser, separated by a pane of plexiglass. She was much too big for the plastic bucket seat and I held back tears as I tapped hello to her with my index finger, trying to keep light about the whole thing.
I’d been pulled over by the same cop that pulled me over exactly a week ago, for my inspection sticker being 6 months expired. No big deal, right? We’ve all done that. But my license was also expired by about nine months. And I owe an absurd amount in parking tickets.
The first time he pulled me over he took pity. Gave me a ticket and told me to take care of my shit.
Yesterday, not so much with the pity. He had my car towed, shook his head in disbelief as he wrote me a bigger ticket that’ll require me to go appear in court, and told me I was lucky he wasn’t arresting me. The mile or so home, my daughter asked a million questions and all I could do was breathe, tell her to just hold on and buy her an ice cream from the shop under our house.
I know. I KNOW. Why would I be driving after all that? Why didn’t I take care of all my shit last week?
The long answer is, I don’t have the cash to pay all the tickets I owe (yes, that much) so I was waiting until I got paid again. I needed to run an errand and I had my daughter with me and it was too freezing and too far to walk. I didn’t want to ask people for rides; I didn’t really even consider it, to be honest. I can’t get my license without paying all the tickets, I can’t renew the inspection without having a valid license, etc. etc. etc.
The short answer is, I’m buried under about 20 years of consequences for my lack of accountability and responsibility around money. And I still don’t totally grasp that the rules apply to me.
So there we were. There I was. Learning my lesson the hardest way possible, again.
Since getting sober I’ve had this notion that certain things – like money – will just sort themselves out naturally. I’m not blowing all kinds of cash on booze and food and cabs and DUIs, so shouldn’t this ship right itself? I’m not a big shopper, haven’t been on vacations, and I certainly make enough with my big girl job, right? So it should all even itself out. Right?
Money is my biggest blind spot (well, now it is, with drinking out of the way). It’s maybe the one area in my life where I have absolutely zero consistent awareness of the economies of energy flowing in and out. I make money, it is spent. On what, I’m not exactly sure. I’ll go days upon days without checking my account. I don’t really have a grasp on what could come out each week (hello, random Evernote Premium fee, Netflix, Spotify, IRS bill!). I’m constantly juggling this bill or that fee or this due date. It's an intricate, but fatally flawed system in my head, similar to how I managed my drinking. I’ve got student loans in deferment for as long as they’ll allow, even though they're just piling up interest and I could feasibly budget the payment. But somewhere in the back of my mind they’re going to evaporate. Some magic money fairy will pay them for me, or I'll get the first ever student loan pardon based on...charm? Pity?
That’s a joke, but sadly, the denial is real. I’ve always been bailed out one way or another. By my parents, by my own earning potential, by a tax refund or some weird twist of monetary fate. I’ve never really faced my own money music, not 100%, with sustained action. And now I'm 37 and I don’t know how. I honestly do not know how and that terrifies the FUCK out of me. I hate writing about it and thinking about it and talking about it. Which is exactly why I'm doing it.
Because I am done. I am done being a slave to my poor money habits and the vibe of lack I’ve come to accept as norm. I am done looking at 95% of the issue, but ignoring the 5% that will grow into 60%, with interest, over time, quickly and quietly, like a tumor. I am sick of financial death by a thousand tiny cuts. I am sick of saying “I can’t afford it.” When I made $25,000 a year I could afford more things than I do today. "Affording it" is not the root issue here, it's a symptom and a mantra that keeps me stuck. The spending has increased with the income and I’ve created so many landmines I don’t even know where they all sit anymore. I have burrowed myself into a teeny, tiny corner and I’m using a broken straw to breathe when it comes to money and I don’t believe I have to do that anymore.
I write this to get honest. To shed light on the area I would reeeeally like to keep just a little bit dark. To say to myself, to you, to the universe the same things I did about sobriety:
I don’t know how to do this, but something inside me does.
I need help.
I will take suggestions; I will be teachable.
I will do it one day at a time.
I will pray my ass off, then do what is necessary, and what is asked.
All I kept thinking as I was riding home in that damn police car yesterday was,
“Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.”
Fine, life. You got me. Point taken. I own this shit. All of it.
Danielle LaPorte writes that money is just another form of energy and it works best if you enjoy it. She also never, ever says she can’t afford it.
Kate Northrup has shown up in my life recently and that’s clearly no mistake.
Like everything else, I will follow those who have gone before me. I’ll keep it really, really simple. I'll speak honestly about all of it, and I will ask for help. I have spent the past 24 hours straight asking for help.
Any suggestions you all have would be welcome and appreciated, too.
It’s time, kids. All the love.