Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Feelings About My Life, My Money and My Future

Last week I was asked two interesting questions. The first was "Was I happy?" and the second was "Was I angry?" Two different people who know all about my life asked these questions in reference to my financial situation. My answer to both is the same, "Not really."

Let's start with the anger question. I don't like to go into the details of my divorce here. As I have said before, this is not the place for it. Honestly, it is very easy not to talk about it though - simply because I don't think about it all that much. As a dear friend of mine says, "It is what it is." This little repetitive phrase might seem trite, but actually I have found a lot of wisdom in it. Life is what it is. To be angry about what could have or should have been is a waste of time and energy. I have far better things to do. I refuse to spend my time wallowing in the past. I move on and try to take each situation on as it comes.

Don't get me wrong, I do get frustrated sometimes. I get really irritated when things around the house break or when there is trouble with my car, like my recent accident. I feel like I am walking on a knife's edge sometimes and those unexpected expenses have a tendency to make me say a few foul words! I also get the blues - specifically the money blues. There are times I wish I could afford the things I can't right now - home remodeling projects I would like to do, places I would like to travel, luxury purchases I would like to make. But who in this day and age doesn't feel that way? Even when I didn't have financial worries there were always things I wanted to buy but that were a little beyond my reach, and let's face it, in this economy it is the rare person indeed who isn't tightening their belt a bit. We would all like to find a winning lottery ticket* and change our lives.

The good thing is whether it is frustration or a case of the blues, I find these feelings never last very long, 48 hours at the most. I've found ways to combat these feelings with a glass of wine and good book, a long hot bath, dinner with friends, writing about it in my blog, or sometimes just counting my blessings and remembering that there are people who are far worse off than me. Usually the blues stem from a sense of isolation - from a day where I am feeling like I am the only one out there who is dealing with this stuff. Spending time reading other personal finance blogs - and seeing how many other ones there are out there - is a great way to remind myself of reality.

Recently I was talking with an acquaintance about finance. I have found over the past few months that the more open I am about my situation, the more open others are with me about theirs. She was telling me about how her husband had gone through a recent job change. I knew about the change, but what I didn't realize is that with the change came a huge pay cut. If you had asked me before she and I talked which one of us was in a better financial place I would have said her - hands down - they have two full time incomes. When we talked though, she confessed that each month she and her husband were sitting down and deciding which bills would get paid, which would be paid late, and which ones wouldn't get paid at all. They were moving money from one account to another, trying to make all the ends meet, and failing. It made me really look at my own life. Yes, things are hard but at least all my bills are getting paid on time, and should something happen, I have a great network of friends and family that would help if I needed it.

In many ways, there are a lot of silver linings. I have never felt more loved and cared for as have since all this happened. I have never had so many people rooting me on - not only friends and family, but the friends I have made online. Even from a financial standpoint - there are huge silver linings. For one thing, I am learning skills that will last me a lifetime. Our parents and grandparents knew all about being frugal. My mother tells stories about her financial hard times, about when she and my father first were married. She was about 10 years younger than I am now. These lessons I am learning will help me for the rest of my life. Had I not started down this path, I never would have learned about passive income streams and better ways to make and save money. Then there are the actual assets. I'm struggling to pay for real, genuine assets that will only continue to appreciate. I don't have a lot of fluff I am trying to pay for here, I am trying to keep up payments on two pieces of real estate, both of which are going to be worth a pretty penny some day.

As for whether I am happy, well, let me say this - I am far happier today than I was a couple of years ago.

Spending time with friends and family I love makes me happy, having space of my own (and space is something I have an awful lot of) makes me happy, cooking, gardening, theatre, reading... things that I care about make me happy. Looking around and seeing all that I have accomplished makes me happy. Thinking about my future and the possibilities within, makes me happy. But day to day... well, I've got a ways to go.

Brunette on a Budget wrote this great article "Does Money Buy Happiness? In Short, Yes." Her point of contention is that while just having money doesn't make you happy, what it does do is buy you time. It provides the means to travel, to go back to school, to work part time or not at all. I would agree with that. I would also say that having money frees you from stress. It can take away the worry of whether you will be able to pay your bills... what will happen if your house forecloses... when you'll get your next check. I've been thinking about this concept a lot - frugality is only loosely about money, what it is really about is peace of mind.

I don't have that peace of mind or that freedom of time... yet. But that is a huge "Yet." It is only a matter of time, because you see, this is all temporary. Today's financial crises, my day to day struggles, it all will pass. Human beings tend to believe that however we are feeling right now is how we will always feel (which is why it is easy to start a diet when you have just finished a meal) but the truth is, things are constantly changing. I'm not angry and I'm not quite happy, but what I am is hopeful. I can see the better days ahead - and it isn't all that far off.

Photo by: The Carol

* I say "find" because we are too frugal to spend money on the lottery!


Frugalchick said...

This is almost exactly how I have been feeling lately. With such a money-draining month ahead of me--right when it feels the economy is crashing down around us--it is very easy to get the money blues. It is even harder if you feel like you have given a ton of time, energy, and money to others without seeing an investment in yourself ever returned. So thanks for the reminder to simply be hopeful!

Dawn said...

You are most welcome!!

I have to admit, I had to cut my news intake down for a little while. I have so much on my own plate - listening to what is happening with the economy is just making my mood worse. I've only got so much energy to give to worry.

Frugalchick said...

I totally agree. I have had to cut a balance between burying my head in the sand and simply overloading myself with info. I simply reexamine my money priorities and decide what works best for me!

Dawn said...

Amen! I'm like you - I don't want to be out of the loop, but too much of the news tends to make me feel helpless. It is as though I start feeling that there is no hope - and hope is the one commodity I have!