Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The more things change…

So, wow. An anonymous tipster reminded me that it was ten years ago today that I wrote the last of a series of long-winded posts on The Motley Fool’s Living Below Your Means board. It was my way of giving back a little bit to a community that had seen me through some of the biggest, hardest changes I have faced so far in my life.

When I first started scouring those boards and articles for help I was still coming to terms with a lot of things; I was just sure I was doing pretty much everything wrong, financially.

I had no choice but to get better at it…but I was sure worried that I simply wasn’t capable of it.

I’m having trouble with the concept of it being ten years since I wrote those. It doesn’t feel like ten years. Or like it’s been fifteen since I decided to change course so dramatically.

But at the same time, it does in a way. Sometimes looking back feels like remembering a movie about somebody else’s life or something. Did I really do that? Did I really feel that? Really? Because…I just wouldn’t now. So it’s hard to fathom that I did, back then.

It’s almost surreal to go back and read those things again. Remembering those days – both the ones I was writing about, and the ones I was writing during.

A lot has changed. A lot is the same. There has been water, and it has gone under the bridge, and over it on occasion, and once or twice it has swept the thing clean away.

I’ve had to learn some new tricks; I’m still learning new tricks, actually. And the definition of what I want most continues to be a remarkably changeable thing.

But other things haven’t changed at all.

I still stubbornly believe that every single one of us has within ourselves the capacity to have, do and be anything that we want; that our biggest blockers don’t come from Outside Forces, but rather from our own lack of belief in our own power.

Further, I know for a fact that doing that I did back then – stop, think it through, plan, and then do what I’d dreamed up – was the best thing I ever did, for myself, for the family, for the ever-expanding network of people who rely on me to more or less have my stuff together on a day to day basis.

And that it still is. That whenever I remember to stop, and to step back from the situation and survey it from as much distance as I can manage at the time, and to do my best to trace through all the various paths and possibilities, pick out what I expect to be my best shot at getting out of the mess quickly and with the least damage done…I come out way ahead versus the times when I’m too busy running around with my hair on fire screaming that the sky is falling to notice that the door was standing wide open that whole time.

And that if I don’t also take that same pause on a regular basis, even when I think everything is going just swimmingly and there’s no reason to do so, I have a way of wandering way off my desired course; or of not realizing that it’s not actually going where I want it to go.

It can be a darned hard thing to do, taking that step back from a situation to consider it without actively reacting to it right immediately then; just walking away from it for a bit so that you can look at it without the wild swirling of emotion, the smoke of panic and choking gas of disappointment clouding your judgment. Your instinct says to just keep throwing energy at it. Just keep digging. Keep running. Keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing…if you stop, you’ll lose ground…!

But, lose ground to what? or on what? Where are you digging to, and is it even where you really want to go?!

How many of us are caught flatfooted by that question! We’re on the treadmill, running with all our might – but what do we hope to accomplish, what will be the signal that we have won this endless footrace? What is it you want to have? To do? To be? When you get to the end, when you break the ribbon…what does the trophy say on it?

“Congratulations, you ran really hard for a really long time and, uh, we all…admire that, we guess…”?

How much better it would be to know what all the huff and bother is for, huh? To be able to say “I really don’t want to do this right now, but, it is how I am going to get this glorious, shining thing, so, suddenly I’m not as bothered by this have-to thing I’m doing…”

I think the only difference in my feelings on the whole subject is an addendum, which would be…for gosh sakes…make sure “enjoy the journey” is on the list as well! Life is far too short and uncertain to have all your goals, all your “and then, I will be gloriously happy!” events in the distant future, and nothing but hard work and drudgery in the now.

Now is where life actually is; this, this right here, right now, this…is your life. Not in {20, 30, 50} years, when you’ve {retired, saved a million bucks, acquired a mansion and the servants to maintain it, etc}.

It’s here. It’s the meetings you have at work. It’s the commute. The bagel. The people you encounter as you go about your day. It’s the feeling of your favorite shirt when you put it on. Sunsets. Sunrises. Making your home a welcoming, comfortable place for yourself.

It’s in your laughter, your tears, your exhaustion, your exhilaration, you, ALL of you, you RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.

Love yourself now, too. Be kind to yourself now. Don’t steal all the good things from yourself now, in the name of having something “better” much-much later. Honor yourself however you can, while you do yourself the even greater honor of believing that you can also have the bigger, shinier things.

I still totally believe you can.

And I’m still totally ready to clap at your parade when you do.



jfb said...

For the last several years, one of my browser's favorite links has been to the list of those Motley Fool posts you did.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I was the anonymous poster! I also sent you an email to the yahoo account you list on this blog. Really delighted you enjoyed that trip down memory lane when I reminded you about the posts. And I note you've posted again on TMF - prompting lots of joy there too! Best wishes. Robert (you can find me at lcjitsu with the usual ending...)

Steph B said...

Thanks for the reminder...I needed that!

Monday's Child said...

Those posts of yours also put me on a different path, from which I can look back with surprise at who I was... and look forward to where I want to be.

They're still some of the best, most helpful, most relevant that anyone ever posted there.

Thank you

JustGail said...

Wow. I knew you had financial woes, but did not know how serious they were. Congratulations on digging deep and getting them paid off. So many would have just declared bankruptcy.

I think I'll forward those posts to DS. Not that he has a problem (yet), but he seems to take the advice and words of others more seriously than mine. Hopefully, reading other's life experiences will show him my words are not just hot air when I say "learn to cook", "reliable & cheap to keep is way more important than fancy wheels", and a big one - "55 is way to late to start saving for retirement!!".

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