It’s May 1st. Yesterday I entered the final amount spent during April. Today I took time color coding each expenditure, so I could group them and see how much I spent on different “categories” throughout the month. I haven’t even looked at Mi.Vida’s spending yet; I will admit that my biggest goal this month was to get an idea of my own spending habits so I could fix those. After all, I’m the one who is falling into debt, surely I’m the one who has the spending problem.
In fact, I was sure I had a spending problem. My inability to control my spending brought me immense shame. So much shame, in fact, that it blinded me to the reality of the situation:
Even if I am making some unwise purchasing decisions (and I am), they are not what is creating this massive debt. I have not been given a fighting chance at staying afloat financially. I took am 20% pay cut so that our in-laws would watch our son (definitely the best decision financially, but one I carried all the burden for). I was on maternity leave for 3.5 months, during which time I made a fraction to NOTHING of my 80% pay. My disability coverage was meager. In the last nine months I’ve earned only a fraction of what I normally earn. And yet I still had all the same financial responsibilities, PLUS FOUR MONTHS of insurance coverage (totaling $6,000 of extra costs for me) that we did not budget for at all.
There was absolutely no way I could have kept out of debt. And yet my shame kept me from seeing the reality of the situation. I was so hung up on the fact that I’d buy something unnecessary here or there, that I couldn’t see that I was never making enough to pay my bills to begin with. It’s basic math, and yet I couldn’t let myself do it. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees, because the trees were blinding pillars of shame.
I can’t believe I let this happen. I can’t believe I put myself in this situation. Mi.Vida and I have never managed to combine our finances (one of the bigger reasons for this is because I have been too embarrassed for him to see how I spend my money–again, a shame response), and I let myself get screwed financially because I didn’t stand up and say, look, I can’t afford this. We can’t afford this. We need to do something or I’m going to fall into debt.
But I didn’t say anything, and now I have $10,000 in credit card debt. Mi.Vida has absolutely none. He’s living pay check to pay check sure, but I’m the one who’s also living pay check to pay check, while simultaneously trying to pull herself out of a financial shit storm. Before I thought I deserved it because it was my own doing. Now, looking at the numbers–just my numbers–for April, I know that’s not the case. This wasn’t my fault. We were woefully unprepared for the financial reality of having two children and a mortgage. We didn’t face facts, probably because we knew the facts weren’t pretty, and now I’m paying the price. Part of me wants to be mad at Mi.Vida but I know this is my fault. This happened because shame–my shame–kept me from seeing the truth and standing up for myself. And now I have to deal with the consequences of that.
I spoke to Mi.Vida about this today. It started ugly but we got it under control pretty quickly. We’ve agreed not to rehash the past but to move forward proactively so that we can BOTH be working to counteract this problem together. We’re going to have to make some SERIOUS sacrifices, the kinds of sacrifices we’ve never had to make in our lives. It’s going to be drastic. We’re going to feel crappy about it. We’re going to be frustrated and annoyed and bitter and resentful. We’re going to be angry, really fucking angry. We’re going to have to ask ourselves some tough questions and we’ll rarely like the answers. It’s going to be a really, really hard transition, and we may never find the comfort in our lives that we had before, at least not for a long, long time.
This is going to be really difficult, but for the first time I think we can do it. And the reason I think we can do it? Because I’m no longer letting shame call the shots. I’m speaking my shame, and stealing its power, so I can face our situation pragmatically.
I just hope Mi.Vida is as ready as I am to make these hard changes. If not, we may not make it out of this with our financial viablity in tact.