Thursday, August 29, 2019

Three Questions, Part Two

How are you going to manage your financial goals?

It's taken a long time to get here, but my first order of financial business is to chill the heck out. As a friend has recently and lovingly reminded me, I overthink things—a lot. I have spent so much mental energy on worrying about how long it will take to get out of debt. With this gentle reminder, I recognize it's time to cool it. This obsessing about exactly when I will be debt free is unproductive. If I could monetize the worry, I might be on to something, but even then, I know it's not worth it. So now finally I am taking a deep breath, paying down what I can whilst living life to the fullest.

Before I stopped overthinking my financial situation, I was tangled up in knots about having debt in the first place. This guilt doesn't make sense when I consider the big picture. I sat down with a financial representative to review the retirement account I contribute to through work a few weeks ago. He held space as I tearfully gave an overview of the last few years. I was there to make sure that I was doing the most with my retirement account and to course correct if I wasn't. What I learned in that session was that I was on the right track from a financial professional's perspective. He told me it took courage to simply make the appointment. He reminded me that looking at the numbers rather than living in denial was brave. He commended me for my behaviors that were moving me forward out of a difficult time.

I am clear about my goals: I want to be free of credit card debt. I want to continue to transform my yard season by season into a beautiful space that nurtures and nourishes me, my family, and anyone who sets foot on my property. I want to return to regular travel.

Being a minimalist helps. I have purged a lot of the extraneous things I don't need in my home, and am happy with the cleared spaces. I don't feel an impulse to refill those spaces, so when I go to a store, I'm able to pick up only the necessities. When I am interested in something, I talk myself out of the purchase by remembering that those few dollars will be better used toward my main goals. I also remember that my home is not a display case and whatever has piqued my attention will not look the same in my house. I walk away not feeling deprived but really clear about my goals. And that feels good every time.

I have had so much success breaking down big tasks into smaller, easier chores. I'm going to apply the same strategy with my finances. I only have five summers with my daughter before she graduates from high school. I want to have a few more trips in our memory bank before her life as a young adult begins. Waiting to be completely out of debt will be cutting the timeline too close, so I have committed to taking her to one of my travel destinations next summer. The goal is to pay cash for the trip, so I don't add more debt to the total. I'm withdrawing cash each pay day from now until the trip, and have committed my tax return to the trip fund. I've come around to the idea that living my life beside my debt instead of against it will be more fulfilling than completely putting my life on hold until those balances are zero.

I really am making good progress. I always pay far more than the minimum payment. I am done with taking a punitive approach to this debt. I did not spend my way unwisely into this situation. Life happened. Over and over. Car repairs, other repairs, and honoring a commitment that meant sometimes there was more month than money.

In so many facets of life I have noticed the rhythms and cycles that come and go. My finances are no different. Some seasons are abundant. Others are lean. What I've learned is that my creativity and resourcefulness surge in the meager times. I have stayed afloat, never foreclosed in these bumpy times. That is something significant to celebrate. And my retirement continues to do well. Having the long view firmly in mind helps.

I am not in financial ruin like my critical inner voice would like to insist. I am simply in a season and the sooner I relax, the sooner it will pass.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Three Questions, Part One

I've had a three questions quietly percolating for months. They were big,defining ones for me. The past four years have taught me the best answers and next steps will come if I let them arrive naturally without rushing or forcing them. I have learned that I have a trustworthy gut instinct (see Calliope), and my practice of trusting this instinct and her process has a proven track record. I found myself in yet another liminal space, but this time I welcomed it with a sense of curiosity and adventure. While I've waited for these answers to materialize, I've been busy living my life filled with enriching pursuits: day job, mothering, writing group, gardening, faith community, and daydreaming.

The first question I've been asking myself: Are you going to teach yoga?

My injured elbow really slowed the momentum I'd gained in my yoga practice as yoga teacher training came to a close last December. The pain in my arm was nagging, but intermittent depending on my activity. I gave it time to rest and heal. I reluctantly stopped going to class afraid that I'd make the injury worse. I hoped that a few weeks off would help, but those weeks turned into months, and I realized that I wasn't feeling demonstrably better.

I was referred to an orthopedist who confirmed I had an injury I couldn't pronounce and that it required a nine-month course of treatment. I left that appointment with a brace and my first cortizone shot.

That's what was happening physically. Mentally, I visualized being in front of a class of people standing on their mats. I couldn't imagine any of the verbal cues I'd learned and memorized coming to mind let alone exiting my mouth. These visualizations (a critical part of how I process, practice, and gear up for something) turned into little panic attacks. Stuck in the middle of this, I felt a swirl of emotions: I'd paid a lot of money for this training. Teaching yoga had been a dream I'd had for years. Was I really giving up on it? I had friends who wanted me to teach them private lessons. I'd be letting them down.

I sat with all of these things. I let the disappointment, frustration, embarrassment, and shame wash over me. I also visualized what life would look like if I didn't teach yoga. What if the training had been only for me? For teaching me new things about myself. Giving me a deeper appreciation of yoga, my teacher's masterful offerings, and knowing my own body better. Those thoughts brought me peace consistently enough that in time I knew my answer. There was nothing to be ashamed of. Education of any kind is an investment in one's self. I hadn't wasted my money by not doing with the training what I'd originally expected. I loved the community I'd become a part of. I liked what I'd learned in the process. I was tough. I took challenges head on. I did not quit in the face of adversity. I like being reminded of these qualities. They will serve me on and off my mat. I cannot put a price tag on that kind of self-knowledge.

Yoga teacher training also taught me about the nature of dreams. I am so glad I put teaching yoga on my list. I'm grateful I pursued that dream. What I didn't know firsthand about dreams until now is that like everything else in life, dreams can change. And when they do, let them go. The pursuit of the dream may be what I was supposed to get out of it rather than the dream itself.

Since I've made the decision to not teach yoga, I've had three friends ask me to teach them. These felt like tests to see how I'd respond. Would I change my mind? Would I say yes so I wouldn't disappoint them? I passed the tests. I told them that I'd figured out that teaching yoga wasn't for me, but I'd be happy to do yoga beside them and point them in the direction of a class they would be comfortable attending. This response gave me a new answer to the question of what was the point of taking training if I wasn't going to teach? My intensive training has made me an knowledgeable yoga ambassador for others who are interested in the practice. This role fits me well. I like being a companionable presence for people.

With this question settled, I moved on to the next...