A bonus post this week, it’s all about gratitude:
I was remembering the other day what it was like to do without as I took a brisk walk to the latest place Elsa the Elderly Jeep decided to quirk out on me and not start. It had finally warmed up to about the teens and I desperately needed exercise so rather than cry uncle and ask for help I walked the mile and a half in below freezing temperatures. This was a big deal. Not the distance but the temperatures. I will do anything to avoid being outside for long periods of time if it’s less than 65 degrees.
It was a magnificent walk. I live in a beautiful place and I walked through the field adjacent to our land and down the hill to the lake. The lake had a skimming of ice on it. The snow was clean and crisp looking on the ground. The walk invigorated me and made me feel strong.
As I walked it was tempting to beat myself up over selling my very reliable car because I wanted the liquid cash to pay for my college tuition but now it looked like that cash was going to cover my son’s tuition. Blessed be I had a cushion to pay his tuition until I could get loan. For the first time in over a decade I was worried about money and I started to fret as I walked. But I caught myself short and looked at the bigger picture: no matter what I have always managed to either make or manifest what we have needed. And I was filled with gratitude and flooded with memories.
That time my credit was in the basement, we needed a place to live, I had close to 10k in credit card debt and my sons orthodontics were going to cost about that, too. My ex’s business was in the toilet so he couldn’t be relied upon. The only place I could afford was in a terrible neighborhood. I was terrified I wouldn’t even get that house with my credit. When the landlord asked me how my credit was I looked him straight in the eye and said: “My credit is terrible but I have a good job.”
I had tried to do something else outside of nursing and it was a failure. I made a bad decision and loaned someone money for this business and would never see it again. But that’s ok because had I not lived on savings for months I wouldn’t have met Landlord Bob who met my eyes and said: “I don’t care about your credit. I know you’ll always pay the rent on time.” Those words buoyed me. Bob helped me believe in myself simply because he trusted me.
A couple of weeks later it was Christmas and all I could afford to give my boys was a shared game: “Scene it”. We had a great time in our little crack shack playing the game together. They didn’t even want to go back to our old house nestled in the comfort of Stepford Knolls.
We limped along eating ramen, tuna fish, and peanut butter. Going to movies was a big deal and eating out an even bigger one. I only shopped at Goodwill and stayed home on the rare weekends I was not working and alone. When our computer died, we managed with the library or they just did homework at their Dad’s house for almost a year. I whittled away at the debt and I even saved money. We were happy in our crack shack, too. Every night I prayed we would be protected and we were. It was hotter than hell in that house during the summer and there was frost inside the windows during winter but we managed. The meth head next door was finally carried off to jail. The house and my heart heaved a sigh of relief when an incredible man and his baby moved in, changing the energy of place. He was also rebuilding and we shared the same metaphysical values and ideals. We lifted one another up with neighborly gestures and small kindnesses. I ran into him a few years ago, he is still clean and sober with a successful business and a beautiful family.
A few months after we moved into the crack shack I got a check in the mail from my father. My dad wasn’t one for randomly sending me checks, either. So not only was it a surprise but I was deeply moved. And grateful because it was just enough to pay that month’s orthodontist bill, which meant I could pay on a credit card. My father’s handwriting was terrible and I misread the numbers and the written amount. The check was for triple what I thought it was. I had to correct the deposit slip. She was very patient as I sobbed and even gave me a tissue. My kids were embarrassed I was crying in public. That was the day we dubbed my checkbook: “Mommy’s Magic Checkbook”. It was also the day I realized I would always find money for the things we truly need.
A few months later I was trundling my kids to the orthodontists office and had the magic checkbook out to make yet another payment on this gigantic bill. The young woman pushed the check back to me after looking up the account, telling me I no longer had a balance due. I argued with her that was impossible because I knew to the penny what that bill was. I started questioning her, badgering her because the last thing I needed was a missed payment, my credit was almost to the point I could actually get a mortgage on a decent house in a decent neighborhood. She was scanning the screen and stopped short to call the office manager. She was an imperious woman, always impeccably dressed and coifed. I coveted her clothing: Ann Taylor or Banana Republic matching her clienteles clothing tastes and styles. I always felt a little dowdy and trashy when I was in the office. A single mom surrounded by well heeled and well tended upper class suburban matrons. She motioned me aside and whispered the doctor had forgiven the rest of the bill. I was stunned and once again my sons witnessed a public weep. That balance was probably a weekend in Aspen for the doctor but it reduced my monthly bills to the point I could qualify for a mortgage. It was a life changer for me.
I’m grateful I struggled. Granted that struggle was mostly due to my own stupidity and irresponsible money management but those struggles taught me powerful lessons. I learned I could take care of my family on my own and I didn’t need anyone to support me nor did I need rescuing. Most importantly, I was the recipient of generous gifts. Gifts I will never forget and gifts I have had the pleasure of paying forward and will continue to pay forward.
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