In previous posts (The Earnings Gap and Social Implications and The Fear of Sharing) I had talked about the difficulties that my husband and I encountered when approaching friends and family to share our financial struggle, and how that made us feel more alone in our journey.
Somewhere along the way, we have turned a corner and have somehow been able to overcome more of this fear of sharing, resulting in some very honest conversations with co-workers and friends. I’m not sure if this is out of loneliness or exhaustion from pretending that we’re in a “normal” season; certainly, our current lifestyle is very far from normal, at least for us.
This manifested itself in a few different ways:
One, I gave this blog address to one of my friends at work. Before that, I’d only shared it with my birth mother and one of my close (non-judgemental) friends. She and I had spoken a little bit about our situations before and we had both shared our disappointment in our selves and our spouses in allowing our family to have to face what feels like and insurmountable task (overcoming debt). Finally, I thought, maybe I should just let her read it all – it would certainly save time :). I haven’t checked in with her, yet, but I plan to soon.
Secondly, I was invited to lunch by some co-workers and I declined, citing that it wasn’t in my budget. When they told me that is wasn’t in their budget either, but that there was a full-sized salad for $6, I thought that maybe it would be good to actually be gracious and accept the invitation and cut back elsewhere. So we went on our merry way, and, to my dismay, they were mistaken and the salad was, in fact, $12. It was also the least expensive thing on the menu, making for an awkward situation. They decided that they would go ahead and order entrees, and I started thinking about asking for a sidedish as a meal and hope that it was less than $7 or so. I was sure that the sidedish and frequent refills of water with lemon would fill me up and I would still be able to experience the company of my co-workers. Thankfully, one of them was sensitive to my plight and offered to order a side salad with her entree and just have me pay the add-on cost ($5). I was really grateful and once we were done ordering, I figured that perhaps I should let them know why I didn’t just decide to order an entree, so I took a big breath and I said, “Thank you for helping me out. We’re in a tremendous amount of debt and we’re on a very tight budget.” I told them what percentage we’ve been able to pay off since the end of February and eventually they asked how much (wow, people amaze me) the original debt was. I took another big breath, looked them in the eyes and said, “more that I make in a year.” And what was I feeling in that moment…
Amazingly, I now had two less people with whom I had to hold a pretense of “everything is okay.” Two more people who could potentially cheer me on and while there is also a possibility that this information could make it around the office, I think there comes a point where you just have to quit caring what people think, because they aren’t going to affect your debt one way or the other (meaning, they aren’t going to add to- or subtract from- the debt), so they have no impact on the situation. Yes, it is humiliating. And it should be – it was born out of greed and folly, and it is part of the bondage of debt.
I’m truly looking forward to the day when I can proudly share with anyone that we were able to accept our new “normal” and face what felt like an insurmountable task…and succeed.