I’ve struggled with money almost all of my adult life. I watched my parents struggle mightily with it as a child. I have a Diploma of Librarianship from the National Library of Australia from way back when I was young and still trying to live a conventional life and be a “good girl”. I have part of a degree in Library Science that I never finished because I started travelling and in the process began to find the real me, not the me I thought my parents wanted me to be. Finally in my mid twenties rebellion arose big time and there was no turning back: I had a “career” as a librarian for about three years, after that it was get any kind of job I could in order to make the big bucks to travel. I worked in the hotels in isolated iron-ore mining towns in Australia’s far north west – in the bars, in the laundry, cleaning rooms, in the kitchen, waitressing, and in reception. I worked sixty hours a week and saved just about every penny. Since then I have worked at over 100 different types of employment, and I’ve had many more jobs than that because some of them I did more than once. On three separate occasions over the years I’ve had my own small business as a domestic cleaner, which was usually out of desperation. Once I was down to 37 cents with no idea where the next money was coming from. On another occasion I was down to nineteen cents. Money was always a struggle. One friend once described my life as “poverty with dignity”. I am deeply grateful that I have never been homeless.
Over the years my real career gradually became clear. Unfortunately, for the most part, it didn’t pay me a penny. My real career was, and still is, a spiritual quest. My greatest passion and commitment has been to discover the truth, of myself and of life, to heal myself, to unload the baggage that created self-sabotage, to get free. A huge part of the baggage was to do with money. I’d taken on the beliefs that you couldn’t be both spiritual and wealthy and that money is evil and corrupts, to name just two of the many financial barriers I carried around with me. I was very afraid of money. I never let myself receive more than I needed to survive, and what I thought I needed was very limited. I both hated money and loved it. I wanted it, and at the same time I pushed it away as hard as I could.
Don, on the other hand had an education and a career. He was a Doctor of Neuropsychology, and although he has his own issues with money, he at least managed to put some away into a Canadian retirement savings plan. After paying off the mortgage and our other debts we have a chunk of money from the sale of our apartment. By western standards we are far from wealthy. By the standards of most of the world we are well off. Just the fact that we had an apartment to sell means we’re wealthy compared to most people on the planet. That, however, doesn’t stop us worrying about money. All things being equal Don could live another fifteen to twenty years. Given my family history I could live another twenty-five to thirty. That’s a long time.
Don and I started living together when I was 49 and we married three years later. Gradually over the many years we’ve been together I have finally allowed myself to be supported. It was such a relief to no longer be just trying to survive, and I had the time and space I needed to really delve into, and to a great extent to heal, my issues with money.
Over the past several weeks as we’ve done our research we’ve come to realize that our journey through South America will probably be quite a bit more expensive than anticipated. If we want to see the best of Argentina we face twenty-hour bus rides or expensive airfares. And then there’s the Galapagos – not an inexpensive adventure however you look at it, so we’ve been a bit anxious about money lately. Essentially we know we’re going to do these things anyway, we just have to find equanimity with it and live in trust and presence rather than fear.
Two days ago I accidently spilt water on my computer. What a panic that was – quick grab a towel. Suzanne yells use a hair dryer. I yell where is one? She’s changing Camille’s diaper so I yell again: get the hair dryer! and go stand by Camille while she does. Don gets on his computer to book an appointment at the Mac store as soon as possible. It takes us two hours to get there. The news is not good. The logic board is fried, and maybe the keyboard, and the estimate for repair is $730 and is not covered by our warranty. Okaaaaaaay.
I could feel Don dropping into that money fear place. I could feel it myself. It was as if the mind felt that it should go there, as if that would be the appropriate response to the situation. Then suddenly it hit me. Suddenly clarity arose. I am not going to worry about money again ever. Our investments may grow, or they may all disappear in a heartbeat, or anything in between. We may become wealthy or paupers, or anything in between. But I am not going to worry about money. I am no longer willing to put energy into that, no matter the circumstances. This is my solemn vow to myself. Worrying about it not only achieves nothing, it is actually counterproductive. I finally get it. I get it to my very bones. I will not worry about money again. Ever. And so it is.
Photo of the day: Bird of Paradise, Santa Marie Del Tule, Mexico
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.