Martin and I decided that the only thing missing from this blog is me. Who am I? How did I end up being a 52-year-old financial organizer and consultant who writes a blog about getting finances organized and on track? What have I learned about money in my own life and how did I learn it? What are my values, and why?
This will be a narrative, an unscrambling of my life. My story as sociological experiment: how does a person start adulthood so royally screwed up and end up finding meaningful work and personal happiness?
Some ground rules. I have to protect the privacy of many living people, most especially my children, former husbands, friends, living mother and brothers, my stepmother and my step-siblings. My father died in 2001, so I can talk about him and share photos of him once in awhile, but there will be no photos of anyone else except me (and the occasional odd stranger, like the little neighbor girl on the right in the photo above, taken when I was 10 years old. I’m on the left, holding a couple of pups).
This is not going to be the usual my-parents-really-screwed-me-up story; I certainly don’t think they meant to, and I know they suffered in living with their decisions and actions as parents. I honestly believe my parents loved me and did the best they could, and I forgive them for everything, though family relations have been strained over the years. One of the relationships has completely broken off–no contact whatsoever–and another remains difficult to this day. In retrospect, this was inevitable. Ties of affection cannot usually be completely broken, then fully repaired. And forgiveness does not necessarily lead to reconciliation.
I chose this photo as a starting point because it is the last time I remember feeling happy, before the real trouble began. The years of belt lickings, hair brush spankings, yelling and other forms of emotional abuse had not killed my spirit. I won’t say which parent was the main culprit because it doesn’t matter. That was part of the problem, actually; I couldn’t be beaten into submission. I was a willful one. My pets were my best friends and I loved them with a passion. When my cat, Motorboat, (pictured below) died only a few months after this picture was taken, it ripped my heart out. He somehow managed to survive a horrible accident–he crawled up into the car engine one cold winter morning, then freaked when the car started and got sliced up pretty bad exiting via the car fan–only to die several months later of kidney stones.
At 10, my parents were still unhappily married. They divorced two years later. My brothers and I stayed with our Mom and struggled financially (significantly enough that one Thanksgiving, a charitable organization gave us a canned turkey and fixings). We were even on welfare for awhile. There had always been financial struggles–my Dad’s employment history was pretty spotty (more on that later)–but not this bad. Though I did always sew most of my own clothes to save money, which made me quite unpopular with the more fashionably dressed girls at school.
From age 10 to the point of their divorce, I had many house chores, including fixing supper and doing the dishes every night, cleaning the basement area daily where the pets slept and peed and pooped, and a fairly complete housecleaning job each weekend, including the bathroom, kitchen floor, vacuuming, laundry. My friends were annoyed by how time-consuming this was–I couldn’t come out and play till the chores were done. So my friends would sometimes come over and help. As my Mom worked nights as an RN, she needed to sleep during the day and her patience for noisy kids ran thin. We tried not to laugh or talk loudly during breakfast, but inevitably did anyway, waking her. She was often upset with us.
After my parents divorced, the financial struggles put quite a strain on parent-kid relations; at 13, I was more or less disappearing on the weekends to hang out with friends and my boyfriend. I made the mistake of documenting everything in my diary. Why are kids so stupid they think parents won’t rifle through their drawers, break the diary lock and read everything?
That was when the real fun began.