I lost a foster mother, a father and a dear aunt in the space of a year. I begun putting myself back together the day I moved into the apartment I now call home. It became my safe house. It gave me refuge at a time when I was falling apart. It represented much more than four walls. It was a sanctuary for starting again, piece by piece. A small space that taught me to appreciate the things I need. A gift to a wife who had never left my side. The first streak of light that gives you hope of a brighter day. The dawn that followed the darkest night of my life.
Today I’m saying goodbye to it. Not because I want to, but because I have to. Because we can no longer afford to live in it. We have been preparing for this day for a while now, but it’s still difficult to come to terms with no longer having the things you love. Throughout the process of accepting the things I can no longer afford, I find myself surrounded by questions that I try so hard not to answer.
Why am I really sad? Is it because I was moving out of the apartment I really love, or is it because I am embarrassed at how it will look to my family and friends? Why did words stop at my throat when they asked my reason for moving out?
Is it really sadness or is it fear that this is just the beginning of a long, slippery slope. That there was more money leaving my bank account than there was coming in. How long could I keep that up?
Where was I supposed to take all the anger I have for clients who refused to pay on time or even at all? Would I really be moving out if they had been true to their word? Who is supposed to protect me from their selfishness?
These are tough questions to come face to face with. It’s easier not to. I want a reset button for the emotions I am trying so hard not to feel. If I couldn’t be alive and well, at least let me be alive and numb. Let me be asleep for longer hours than I can suffer being awake. If I had to be awake, I’d rather spend more time with food than with myself. Don’t tell me today’s date because I’ll start counting down to the day we have to move out.
I was happy to talk about anything! Anything other than what I was feeling. To talk is to accept that there is a problem and I just wasn’t ready to.
I grew up in a home where talking about money problems was not tolerated. When I was a child, I watched as my mum’s best friend threatened to take her to the police for not paying her debt. That incident would remain unspoken until the day she died. That’s how I started believing that being broke was something to be ashamed of. Something you should burry deep down. Now as an adult facing tough times, I am still wrestling the same demons. I still want to be seen the way I wish and not the way I really am. I still want to put on a show for an audience I’ve convinced myself will only accept the version of me that keeps winning.
I can fool everyone but I can’t fool my mind. It will always know. No matter how much I try to drown my feelings, it will always find ways to wash them ashore. My anger will float to the surface in the form of a grumpy husband. My sadness may take the form of an unavailable brother. My fear will hide behind a crumbling self esteem. I can sleep all day but my emotions are happy to wait for me. They’ll still be there when I wake up. I can stuff my face with all the slices of bread I want but when I step on the scale, my guilt will come flooding back with all those extra kilos.
Running away from how I feel is like racing without a finish line. It’s relentless in the way that it never ends. Circle after circle, lap after lap. Enough is enough. The finish line will not appear until I decide this is my final lap. That I’m not running anymore. It’s time I made room for all the emotions in my life. They belong to me and no one else. Whether it’s joy or pain, I am built for both. My body is wired for both whether I accept it or not. To own them is to accept them, and acceptance is how it starts.
Yes I’m afraid, but I can fight back by being proactive.
I can help my wife house hunt. If I am not myself, then I am not with her. I can find the things I no longer need and cut them out of my budget. Fight with less if it gives you a puncher’s chance.
I can try new ideas for growing the business. Doing nothing is the only risk that guarantees no results.
These are all things in my control, the things I fear are not. If I have a choice to make then I’d rather give myself even the illusion of control. It is better than lying in wait for fear to consume me.
It doesn’t make me a bad person to admit feeling hateful towards the people who have contributed to my suffering. I can feel hate without acting on it. I can sit with it and watch it throw a tantrum. Like a baby, it will eventually cry itself to sleep.
I don’t have to believe that what I feel and who I am are the same thing. I can feel sad without being a sad person. The water and the tide are not the same thing, eventually the tide passes and the water settles into a motionless silence.
I don’t have to believe everything my emotions tell me. I can look out from inside my own head and be present; here and now. I can start noticing what’s really true about my reality. That the new place being cheaper has allowed me to continue living a life that is debt free. That I can learn to love it in much the same way I learned to love the old place. I still decide the terms of my life. That my friends and family are my support not my opposition. They are useful now more than ever. This is what’s true regardless of what I can and cannot afford. That is what has always been real.
How I pay attention to my emotions, changes how they affect me. Nothing has been taken from me that all of us were never going to lose eventually. Nothing has broken that can’t be fixed by changing how I look at it. How I feel doesn’t have to absorb me. I can sit with it without being one with it.
I am over here and it is over there. It can be a tide, and I can be water.