To have or not to have

July 19, 2008 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Way back in another lifetime, I was a kid growing up in the 1970’s. When I was ten years old, my parents were still together. We had a house with a mortgage, a recently-acquired second car, and were what I would consider middle class. We had enough to eat, enough clothes (and I got bags of hand-me-downs from my cousin, which was always a treat), enough books, and went to the movies fairly regularly. Mom was a happy homemaker and Dad had a small business.

A few years later, the parents split and my little world fell apart. Comfort became discomfort and I learned what fear is. Mortgage payments were missed, and there was an ongoing threat that we would lose the house. To save money, we had the heat down quite low and only turned on the hot water heater for 2 hours each day. As a thirteen-year-old, I fantasized that my ideal husband would one day make enough money to keep the heat at 70° in the winter.

When I was 15 I had two jobs. That gave me money to go out, buy records, clothes and whatever else I needed. I also had bulimia and used up my savings to buy food as well. My mother strongly believed in eating healthy food, so a lot of her money went for nutrition. She sometimes cried because we ate so much. My two brothers were growing ferociously and I was bingeing and puking on expensive stuff!

The following year I went away as an exchange student with AFS. Suddenly I had a real family again, and a comfortable, well-heated house. That was a year of “having” after many years of not. In the meantime, my mother had joined the work force and had a decent income. But the shock of post-divorce poverty (and her depression) sat deep in my bones and fear accompanied me for several years. Any time things seemed to go well, the thought would pop up immediately: “But how long will it last?”

After my AFS year, I went home and then moved to Manhattan, where I made good money as a typist/word processor. Despite my luck of having found an affordable apartment and earning well, bulimia reduced me to self-induced poverty. All of my money was spent on rent, utilities, phone, and food. Often the rent was overdue, as well as the other bills. The phone was turned off occasionally because of late payment.

In the early 1980’s I began to recover, and then saved as much money as possible for travel. On the first trip, I fell in love with a guy in Europe, and spent the next two years flying back and forth as often as I possibly could. I had a good income, but because of the travel, my daily lifestyle didn’t change very much.

When I moved to Europe, I had a job as a babysitter and relapsed, so again it was poverty, even though the cost of living was quite low. Eventually I recovered and got a great job working as a secretary in an embassy. But rather than change my lifestyle, I put away as much money as possible, because I planned to attend the University in 2 years and wanted to enjoy it without having to work. Sometimes I was miserable about my self-imposed hardship, but then an occasional splurge on a new pair of pants or a dress put me in a better mood. The secretary job required a certain appearance, and I was very creative with my wardrobe — getting by on as little as possible and becoming a true bargain hunter.

Despite all the years of living in hardship — both self-imposed and not — I survived. Although I had the usual childhood dreams about being a princess, or being rich and being able to buy anything I wanted, my general tendency has never been toward an excess of things. I’m content with what I have.

During the years of my youth, I felt helpless and my world was out of control. That continued during the years of bulimia. My happiest years were when I was recovering and coping. I shared an apartment with a girlfriend for a couple of years, earned a decent salary, went to night school, and looked forward to student life.

Eventually my boyfriend got a job. He’d been a student when I met him. As the years passed, he did quite well. We married, had kids, and I began to enjoy having enough money that I didn’t have to compare prices while grocery shopping. That was pure luxury. I was a happy homemaker and he had his own small business.

My husband assured me that I could simply go to school, and be a mother, and that I didn’t need to earn money. For someone who had struggled for many years, this solution was close to paradise for me! Now, almost 20 years later, I am reevaluating the situation and come to the conclusion that I want to stand on my own two feet. Financial security is nice, but it’s not everything. It does not compensate an unhealthy relationship. Nor does it entitle the provider to more rights or self-respect than the recipient.

Through this little history, I can better understand what forces were involved in my life decisions up until now. Fear can drive us to do things and accept situations which are harmful to our spirit, simply because they appear to be to our benefit. If you are wondering why you are where you are, try writing a little history of your life — without judgment. You may find patterns that repeated themselves and that could offer valuable insight. Perhaps you can understand yourself better and recognize clearly what you want to change. It might even help you make changes.

To be continued…


Entry filed under: Levels of Recovery, Lifestyle. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Thoughts on another good book To have or not to have (2)

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