My family always had a thing about money.
Sometimes we had it, sometimes we didn’t. And during the times that we didn’t, we never let on … it was a secret. We kept up the appearances of having it and nobody was to know.
Money was not that big a deal to my dad. His point of view was if he had it, he spent it … and if he didn’t have it, he still figured out a way to spend other people’s … they would either loan him money (which he rarely repaid) or gift it to him. For my mom, appearances were important.
I grew up in an affluent suburb of Boston, in a beautiful old house, surrounded by fields and woods, with a river just over the hill. My childhood consisted of private schools in Boston, summer camp in the French Alps, a boarding school in central France, and multiple trips to Paris and to the south of France. By all appearances, we had money.
And yet, there was always an undercurrent … a darkness regarding money. What was unsaid was palpable. One summer when I was home from boarding school, I worked as a life guard at the country club. When I received my first paycheck, I gave it to my mom and told her it was for her to buy something for herself. She thanked me, and, used it to pay the electric bill.
That darkness about money … the secrets of family members taking money from each other, with promises to repay or not … of family members literally spending money on themselves that they had been entrusted with for the care of aging relatives … of family members lying about money … of others incredibly generous with gifting money … that undercurrent and those secrets that were not spoken were what I based my financial reality on as an adult.
And I created stories from them to justify my money situation. Since teenage years, I have always worked. And, I have lived with the ups and downs of sometimes having money and sometimes not, and when I had it of giving it away or spending it or having it stolen, and when I didn’t, of maxed out credit cards, of living paycheck to paycheck, of counting pennies, of not affording things, and blaming everyone else for all of that … until the day it changed.
After listening to me tell a story about how a relative had taken money from me that I was using to justify where I was financially, a friend said,
“That would be a great story if it were true. What if it’s not about the story, what if it’s about whether or not you can have money? What if it’s about having money?”
Having money, as it turns out, was something I knew nothing about. And it’s something I am discovering … and loving! How am I with money today? So different!
Do I have money? Yes!
Is it significant? No!
Do I worry about it? No!
Is it easy? Yes! And fun? Yes!
What’s it like? Like sucking through a straw, like inhaling air to breathe.
What changed? Everything!
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