Just because you consider yourself wealthy, doesn’t mean that the possibility of being broke isn’t lurking around the corner. Let me tell you a story…
From 2009 to 2016, I survived on eleven bucks. I am not exaggerating. Somewhere around 2011, I thought about disappearing for a bit to get my life together. I also convinced myself resurfacing in a foreign country 10 years later with a new name would be OK. But when I returned to the real world, I convinced myself that although I wasn’t living my golden moment, it wasn’t the worst time.
I lived in the middle of a big city that was crumbling in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. I had zero savings and was living paycheck to paycheck. I was flat out broke. “Frugal living” was a necessity. Two dollars and eighty-eight cents bought me a family-size box of Cheeze-its, which fed me for the week. My own two feet were my transportation. I saved the quarter tank of gas for emergencies. I had no furniture – save for a cheap Ikea daybed that I used as a couch and a mattress that I had classily placed directly on the floor in my bedroom. My small TV and DVD player had been gifted to me by my next-door neighbor. They were propped up on a milk crate. I had a $5 antenna that gave me 5 stations – two played Spanish TV shows, two represented church services, and then ION TV. ION TV played Criminal Minds all day every day. I was frightened to be outdoors after dark for years!
While I admit I wasn’t the most financially intelligent person back then, my money problems were not caused by lousy budgeting or living beyond my means. Before 2009, I was in the FLOW of life, totally engaged in everything, and happy. But life took a few turns that I hadn’t adequately prepared for … divorce, death, betrayal, rejection, humiliation, loss of ‘self.’
Surprisingly enough, though, my biggest problem was not that I had practically no money or objects to my name. It was the first time I had ever lived alone, and I was lonely. After my first two panic attacks—full-on racing heart, hyperventilation, and cresting waves of fear and apprehension—I reminded myself that forever isn’t right now.
That’s when I decided I wasn’t waiting around for happiness to bust through the door—just the opposite. I was riding all the waves with my knees bent to absorb all the bumps. And when I needed to rest, I meditated. I like to call it meditating, anyway. It was more like napping.
I was tired of agonizing about paying rent every month. Working just to live was exhausting. At some point, it just became silly. I knew I didn’t need much in my apartment to get by. Still, I needed an attitude of curiosity, openness, and acceptance. I wanted to feel the freedom to choose my response to the ups and downs of life. While 90% of the work I did on myself couldn’t be seen, it was felt. My resilience and strength I brought to the table left no doubt that I could change my circumstances.
I started making decisions that changed how life flowed, and I changed my mindset. Acceptance, instead of feeling letdown, helped me cultivate patience. Patience allowed me to stay present during the struggles. And most importantly, I stopped thinking that I “needed more money.”
I started to find meaning in my life, and that’s when my life started to have meaning. I’m sure a philosopher or great mind has said something to this effect in a book, but this is a real process that has lit me up.
When you focus on something other than money, experiences like barbecuing with friends spending no money will give you far more than you can ever imagine. What I’m saying is, you decide the difference between rich and poor. Since money stopped being all-important to me, it started to find its way into my life again without me focusing on it.
Seven hundred words later and the point of this whole story comes down to four words: forever isn’t right now. If you remember this, you will be just fine.