My Fiction Put Me In Debt

Last week my father told me that his local Safeway had closed down, soon to be replaced with a Whole Foods. Normally this news would’ve tickled me – I’m a Whole Foods addict – but I was inexplicably sad. He now scans the weekly store flyers and shops the best deals.

Why did this conversation leave me feeling so tender, so emotional? I realized it was the first time I thought, I want to be like that. Like my father. Careful, methodical. Good with money.

The money story has always been big for me. As a small child I constantly compared myself to others – me often holding the short end of the stick. Everyone else got the best toys, the best food (hot dogs and sugary cereals), the best clothes. I got a dad who seemed to say ‘no’ to everything.

It made me angry. It made me sad. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me. The really cool things were reserved for other people, and I didn’t belong in that world. I let my money stories form the reality that is my life now. I rebelled against my father’s practical ways, to the point where I’m in major financial debt. I’ve been on a hamster wheel, running to catch up to some elusive ‘there’. And the older I get, the further away ‘there’ seems.

But I’m getting that no one is responsible for this, but me.

I’m the one who’s chosen to interpret my life events as I have. I’m the one who’s assigned deep meaning to old memories…and this meaning no longer serves. For years, I viewed my dad in a certain way because I’d trained myself to see only what supported my stories.

Yeah yeah, he put food on the table and clothed me. Yeah yeah, he was expelled from his homeland of Uganda and lost everything he owned. Yeah yeah, his own father didn’t talk about money.

So what? He should have known better. Been more successful. Given me more. Showed me how to manage my finances.

Right.

These past few months have been transformative. I’ve really felt the emotional impact of my judgment and resentment. And I don’t want to carry them anymore. I know we’re not supposed to be ashamed of ourselves; shame is so disempowering. But I am ashamed of how I’ve held others responsible for the situations I’ve created. I’m now seeing the power I have to choose and to create differently.

My financial situation is a reflection of my inner state. The more I willingly, authentically release blame, the more I find space in my heart, and in my finances. Blame doesn’t have my money in a chokehold anymore. There is room for me to move, to grow, to be free, and to allow the possibility for new, loving relationships with those most dear to me.

Aleya at alohaleya

83 thoughts on “My Fiction Put Me In Debt

  1. Hello Aleya. This is very thought provoking in that I, too, had a parent (my mother) who said “No” to everything. She had good reason, of course, just as your dad had. Sure I rebelled, of course, by pouting and grumbling. But when I left home, I followed in her footsteps. Which, upon reflection is something of a mystery! To this day, I hate spending and I hate shopping. I’m not sure what to make of this, but I thank you for making me think.

    • How interesting! It’s fascinating how we all have such unique responses to our conditioning. What made me choose debt, and not the tendencies of my father? Even siblings with the same parents can develop wildly different behaviours! Thank you for sharing your experience here. Aleya

  2. You know it is great that you are realizing this. People do not realize how much power they give away when they hold on to resentment. Sounds like you are moving forward.

  3. You know, I love this. So honest, so empowering. Shame does have a place for a short while, to bring an issue to our attention so we can resolve it. Just a short while though, because we don’t want to get stuck in shame. Discovering that the stories that we have told ourselves all our lives are wrong is painful but freeing. Be free!

  4. I’m pretty sure you’re not comparable to anyone else ;). Self-blame is another form of negative inner influence. Our challenge is to recognize the influences that sway our conduct in one direction or another. As we get better at that, we begin to see those influences in real time. As such, we develop a greater capacity to avoid the detrimental conducts (thoughts, actions, etc.) that feed the self-blame game. It’s analogous to walking through a deep mud bog to reach a destination, when we could have opted for the dry path just 20 yards away. Panoramic vision is far more insightful than tunnel vision. But I suspect you are getting this all figured out 😉

    • Hi Rob, it is great to see you here! Love all these blog world connections. Self-responsibility and self-blame can be a tricky line, and I’m learning to walk it as gracefully as I can. It really does take moment-to-moment awareness, doesn’t it. I do feel like I’m figuring it out hehe…that dry path is becoming more and more my reality. 🙂 Thanks for commenting! Aleya

  5. This is very powerful. Oprah was the one who introduced me to the idea that problems (overeating, overspending, etc) are just manifestations of underlying issues. Only by getting clear about those issues and owning them can we address the secondary problems, as you so aptly acknowledge.

    Like you, my dad was very financially conservative, and I had lots of anger towards him as a result, but he did what he had to do to raise me. I always had food and a roof over my head. So what if my clothes were hand-me-downs? Interestingly, I followed his example, and became miserly, but I do go on spending binges, and when I pay attention to my emotions during these episodes, I notice that the high I feel is flimsy and short-lived.

    Nice post.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    • Thank you Elizabeth. I think it was Oprah who introduced me to this too! 🙂 My finances haven’t been in great shape for years but only now am I getting to the heart of it. That being angry at my father could never result in a peaceful financial state for me. It may take some time to get things in order, but the situation is more emotionally manageable now. I appreciate your thoughtful sharing about your own experience. Thanks again! Aleya

    • “when I pay attention to my emotions during these episodes, I notice that the high I feel is flimsy and short-lived.”

      I really appreciated this, E. We don’t usually stop to look under our crazy behavior and see what’s feeding it. Behavior is just that, behavior. Manifestations of the battles in the heart.

  6. We have all made these decisions, and you have shared it in a most telling way. Very nice posting.
    I have found that often people who misuse money also misuse emotions and relationships, too often we don’t see these as a form of currency as well. Friendship, loyalty, kindness can all be squandered and bring a form of debt, when we take it upon ourselves to correct this, we find a new wealth in various currencies.

    I liked you posting and so did many others judging by the response.

    • Thank you…it is a real blessing to have this space to share, and have so many relate.

      I agree with your insight that money, emotions, and relationships are very much linked as different forms of currency. As I have become more authentic with my close friends and family these past few months, I’ve become more authentic about my finances, and what now needs to be done. Fortunately it doesn’t seem so overwhelming as it once did…because my relationships are more loving and solid. Thanks again, Aleya

      • Yes and like standing on firm ground, standing on solid financial footing helps to view the world with out a jiggly viewpoint. One that lets us pause while viewing because we are not running towards or away!
        Thank you for responding.

    • “often people who misuse money also misuse emotions and relationships, too often we don’t see these as a form of currency as well. Friendship, loyalty, kindness can all be squandered and bring a form of debt,”

      Yes, our relationship to money actually reflects our relationship to other resources and people. I thank you, as the hostess of this blog, for your time and for connecting.

      HW

      • I enjoy reading your blog. Time is a valuable thing, and when we take time to read others blogs we “spend” our valuable time, I think it is the best compliment we can pay each other– a form of currency!
        Thanks for replying.

  7. You have been honest and helpful to the rest of us as usual. I came to the same conclusion as you long ago. We are responsible for our own decisions and to a certain extent, our condition health-wise and otherwise. The most important thing in life is to own our decisions, have goals and put out effort to achieve them. Be happy if you don’t reach all your goals, audit what you’ve done to see if you could do better and be happy with the conclusion. Happiness in life is more important than money but of course we need to be responsible, not stingy with our money also. Our focus should be the enjoyment of being useful to society.

    • All very good points! I’m glad you found the post helpful. I don’t think we’re ever truly free until we fully own our decisions, and take the steps needed to create the life that is best for us. It may include a lot of money, it may not. But that kind of happiness and peace far transcends the number of dollars in our bank account, doesn’t it. 🙂 Thanks, Aleya

  8. Who says we are not supposed to be ashamed of ourselves? ‘They’ have no idea about our real selves–only the selves we show to people…because we are too ashamed of ourselves? Oh, what a vicious cycle..the hamster on the wheel you spoke about. You are enlightened, Diana. Maybe I would change with word ‘ashamed’ to ‘enlightened.’ This from a fellow Whole Food addict. Yay!

    • Hi, thanks so much for your comment! This is Aleya here – Diana kindly offered me a guest post on her wonderful blog. Shame is not a place I visit too often these days…but in this case it took me somewhere I needed to go. And finding my way through it has resulted in more authentic and loving relationships with those around me. Perhaps enlightenment is the next stop hehe. 🙂 Glad to meet another WF addict, thanks again! Aleya

      • “but in this case it took me somewhere I needed to go.”
        I love that. You didn’t stay stuck in the shame but traced it to a broader place with fresher air. Such a rich post. Love how you owned up – to yourself and to those around you. Has your dad seen this? =) (And no more thanks allowed.)

    • Ah yes…seems to be this way for many of us. It’s now time for me to roll up my sleeves and do what needs to be done. This is the next phase of my journey, and I’m kinda looking forward to it. Thank you, Aleya

  9. I go through stages in which I rebel against how I was raised…the ” Do you really need that?” or “Let’s wait until it is on sale.”. Whether I am splurging or role modeling my frugal parents, it seems I am allowing money to have a power over me that is unhealthy. Insightful responses appreciated.

    • You said it well – allowing money to have an unhealthy power. This is where I have struggled in the past; not seeing myself as able to direct or manage this force. Thank you for this insight. Aleya

    • Wonderful insights, the power we give money so that we’re under it, not on top of it. Seems it’s a minority that knows how to manage and steward it wisely. Extremes with any resource is unhealthy and dangerous, whether it’s overpurchasing, overeating, even overworking (as in exercise or at the job) our bodies, or being stingy with money or food (undereating), etc.

  10. Amazing realization. My mother never taught me to be fiscally responsible. Instead she used me as the scapegoat as to why she couldn’t keep the financial wheels running in her checkbook. Not to mention when I got credit she had an attitude with me because she had to borrow money from a college kid. Fast forward many years later I finally stopped using credit and paid off many debts but I have a long way to go.

    Through your writing I finally see that my mother’s problems were hers and hers alone and mines are just that mine.

    • Wow. So great that you can separate your mother’s stories around money from your own. I too have a very long way to go but I’m so relieved to know I can start anew in any moment – it’s really up to me. Yes there is lots of work to be done, but thank god I don’t have to carry around all that heaviness anymore. Thanks so much for sharing! Aleya

  11. Alohaleya, please don’t beat yourself up. In the U.S. money is more taboo then sex. Most of us didn’t learn anything useful about money at school and so we were left to pick up scraps from our often dysfunctional parents. If parents used money to buy love or withheld money to show their displeasure, their children will likely behave in a similar way when they grow up. Congratulations on having broken free from this sad circularity.

    • Thanks Malcolm. I don’t know that I’m beating myself up, or just experiencing a level of compassion and understanding that I couldn’t access before. I agree that money is so taboo that most of us are bound to have some dysfunction around it…but I hope that the more we talk about it openly, the less shame and self-blame we all feel. We can then focus on creating healthy relationships that naturally translate into healthy money relationships. 🙂 Aleya

    • You summed up well the ignorance that is so common in regard to money, Malcolm. I don’t use the word disparagingly but literally. We just doN’T know how to handle money through all the vicissitudes of living. Seems for many if not most adults who emigrated late in life, extreme thriftiness was the law of nature they obeyed to survive.

  12. I to understand, some of what you have gone through and going through at the moment. Although it is Dad who blames himself for our financial situation now. He did mean well with his gamble, but did not see the risk involved till it was to late. Now I do what I can to help him and lift him up when he is down. As I can do only so much without him blaming himself again and again. On top of that the holiday season when students are out of class he will be out of work very soon so he will be stressed more so as I will look for work to help out where I can. On top of that the brothers family has spent there share of Dads earnings to a point where Dad has cut them off financially which was needed to stay sheltered as he says.

  13. Now that healing has occurred, the real adventure begins. Some people never learn these lessons, but you have a second chance! Wishing you all the best and thanks for inviting us to accompany you for just a little bit on this journey!

  14. Aleya,

    I can really relate to you about growing up in a “no” household. In my growing-up household everything I owned needed to be a “hand me down,” especially up to the ages of about 12. My sibs were so much older than me, it was like having everyone be a boss of me. That is, I only got something that my siblings decided they were done with – and believe me – sometimes they weren’t sure if their discards were still theirs (even after they were mine). Otherwise, our fictions were that we knew one another as people (siblings). We did not – though we were years apart – none of us had a sense of security, consistency, stability. We all adapted in different ways – ways that aren’t even compatible with one another!

    It’s interesting how we do develop our fictions. For me, I kept the “no” and didn’t really buy things for myself, except for school. I bought school for myself through loans initially, and felt like I was always working to “make good” on my investment and find a meaningful job. I did, and that worked for a time until I felt spiritually bankrupt. I didn’t realize that I had my first meaningful job when I was 12 as a hospital volunteer.

    Recovering from my own fictions has been a livelong pursuit. I’m still working this out to this day. What we choose to do with what we experience is up to us. I have spent a lot of time “re-framing” but ultimately, life is unfolding as it does. Please don’t be so hard on yourself.

    Love,
    Ka

    • Dearest Ka, so lovely to see you here and thank you as always for your heartful comment. So interesting that you and your siblings were in the same environment yet adapted in different ways…same thing for me and my sis! Our journeys are so unique and I’m with you…I’m still working out my fictions to this day, and probably will be throughout my life. But this now feels really beautiful to me. Like this journey of self-discovery can now come from a place of compassion for self and others. Seeing the illusion that these fictions are, and coming to relationships with something much more real and authentic. I think I am inspired for my next post. Thank you and xo, Aleya

  15. Beautiful and inspiring… a story of debt that I felt left readers like me feeling more empowered. Thanks for your vulnerability and sharing (congrats on the guest post here) and great job curating, Diana.

  16. So many ways that we can make the same mistakes. Leaving home very early (12-13 years old) and as fate would have it, finding a job with a carnival, earning 25% of whatever monies I took in each day. Imagine a 12-year old with no adult supervision, earning $400-$450 per day during the carnival season paid cash every night. Now at the age of 57 I still have serious trouble managing my money because of all the bad financial habits I developed. So I can really appreciate the difficulties you describe, and admire your strength in getting out from under, and also your courage in sharing. Thank-you very much, it really is appreciated.

    • You are very welcome. Yours is an amazing story; I can only imagine what it must have been like to have so much freedom and responsibility at such a young age, and to still be feeling the effects years later. For all our unique journeys, so many of us are facing similar struggles with money (as you point out). Thanks so much for sharing your story here. The more we can courageously speak about money, the more power we collectively hold to shift our relationship with it. Aleya

  17. Good blog. Sometimes it is hard for children to see that it is really great to have parents who act financially responsible and live within their means. To get into debt just to keep up with the neighbors or your peers really does not make for a happy life in the long run.

    • Absolutely. It took a long time for me to see the value in my father’s responsible ways and though I have a long ways to go in getting financially back on track, I am very grateful that I got to this point. Knowing that my loved ones are my priority in life, and focusing on those relationships instead of money (or debt). Thank you for commenting! Aleya

  18. My mother was always so full of quotes that fit situations. She would have said, “Every tub has to sit on its own bottom” even when you were young enough not to know what that meant.

    If I ever had a phobia, it might have been the fear of being in debt. I pinched pennies, did without, struggled to earn my own way so as not to ever be a burden to anyone. That was all before I married, but marriage somehow took that power out of my hands and I have had to face poverty many times. But the one consolation was always that I did not cause it.

    • I’ve never heard that quote before. 🙂 It’s so interesting to me that despite our awareness and best efforts, life can still throw us curveballs, and we find ourselves in those very situations we’ve worked so hard to avoid.

      The world needs more open conversation about finances…our society is rampant with money fears, and families don’t speak about or know how to deal with them. Thank you so much for contributing to this conversation. It sounds like you know you did your best. Aleya

  19. Hi Aleya, I was that kid with the wheat bread and boring cereal …while my friends had all the good snacks and fun toys. My mom was stingy with money as well which has definitely imprinted a sense of lack in my world. I think the more we can view these kinds of stories as just that…stories — little narratives that swirl around the brain with no real grounding in present day reality — then we can move on and act from a place of authenticity that best expresses who we are now. It sounds like you’ve already figured that out! Thanks for sharing your “story”.

    • You nailed it…it’s all story, with “no real grounding in present day reality”! This is not to say we don’t discount our memories or experiences. But we can see them from another perspective, and create a new present-day reality for ourselves. And everyone in our lives can move forward too. Thank you! ❤ Aleya

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