Since publishing part one, it’s made me feel very sad and this second post has had some re-writes after further thoughts. However, I feel this is even more powerful so here goes.
I know this present anxiety has been created by one old feeling and one fairly recent event. The feeling that your sense of worth is based on what you are paid, and the decision to venture out into self-employment.
Several years later:
My decision to leave the National Health Service at the end of 2011 (after ceasing Midwifery training- It wasn’t my strength) brought me a complete change of direction and some of the happiest working years. It also helped me to restore my mental health.
I started working in a school (encouraged by a friend, how I thank that friend, dear Linda) as a teaching assistant but my salary was halved overnight. However, the antidepressants were ditched soon after and never return. I would do it all over again, for the experience and the marvellous children and people I have had the pleasure of knowing and still do. It has been one of the best decisions of my life.
This brings me to an important point. When I first qualified as a nurse my career prospects were good and I was told I could become a nurse tutor with my ability. Sadly, my poor decisions meant that my first marriage effectively trashed this dream very quickly. I didn’t return to formal studies until the age of 40 and have spent the last 17 years climbing my way up to the summit of my earliest aspirations. My business English to Care (Medical English Tuition) was never planned but which I am very proud of and something that atones for all the years of what I see as my nursing career failure, in terms of promotions, prospects and a salary that matches a good position. On saying that I know I was a very good nurse but being a good nurse isn’t enough to ‘cut’ it in an NHS world.
Remember, as a child, I always wanted to be someone better, particularly because I had seen the tragic waste of my own Mother’s life. My friends know me as ‘busy.’ You can be as addicted to busy as I am. Busy means you can’t think or feel too much. It numbs the pain. You keep moving forward in the hope that one day you will feel worthy enough. But that day never comes and you just end writing blog posts pouring your heart out over money and success!
I may have been complicit in wasting money but I will die knowing that I have not wasted my life as my mother did. People who know me, know I have a packed CV from Nursing to Floristry, Adult Education tutor, Midwifery, TA, to English as a Second Language, a million interests and now trying to run a business. I can be a workaholic and everyone tells me to rest and slow down.
Going back to 2014, I had been earning my much reduced full-time TA wage for three years. A Saturday morning job and working as a PA (Personal Assistant) in my SEN role in the school holidays just about covered things, providing there were no emergencies. My husband had taken early retirement due to his predicted poor health. Personal savings in the joint bank account by then were virtually zero.
One winter’s day and things breaking in the house, I was praying for a miracle. Christmas was around the corner and I always feel for people at Christmas for those who financially struggle. The stress of providing and buying, the winter fuel bill and the annual car service. I was trying not to drown and was determined not to go down again with depression.
Yet, I had started to learn about the Law of Attraction. It seems pathetic that I hung on to such a small thing, and I still have the tiny piece of paper to this day. A fortune cookie in the shape of a Chinese meal, that was bought for us, told me that fortunes were changing that next April. I walked Bramble, our labrador, on a cold, grey afternoon on our estate and I held on to the belief that help was coming from somewhere and hopefully then from God.
And help did come most unbelievably. Due to my Midwifery training, I had been given a bursary and not a salary and so one day a letter appeared in February and my mouth dropped open. A cheque for returned NI contributions and a request to fill out a much longer tax return. By April money was pouring in as I had been taxed too much over five years. I doubled the mortgage payments and my husband’s credit card was being cleared. We were nearly there and soon we had done it. We owned our own home three years earlier than forecasted, something my parents had never achieved. Also, a close relative of my husband died and we received a modest inheritance but of huge significance.
The Realisation, the Guilt and the Shame:
You would think by now that this story would come to its conclusion with a happy ending but it hasn’t.
At the beginning of 2016 life was good and I had to face the truth. Despite those earlier scripts about money an awful realisation had to be faced. Having money was simply marvellous. The arguments stopped and the experiences began. A trip to Austria in the autumn to meet some people running an NGO we had helped with for several years (a donation was made- of course!!) and a trip to Belgium the following spring made memories. Our daughter graduated that summer and I had the choice of two new dresses and I bought both, unlike my Aunt’s and Uncle’s 50 wedding anniversary where everything was on a budget and partly from a charity shop.
However, I felt emotionally bankrupt and very anxious. It took largely someone’s else’s money for us to have money in the bank. All those years of work and what had we really to show for it. I started to feel envious of the people who I felt ‘had- it -all ’ because I realised how great it felt having cash. I was so scared we would eventually go back to nothing. I had to hang on to this precious resource. I tried to enjoy the pleasure of this new founded financial liberation but always a mental break was in place and having money did not stop me from being anxious about the subject. The old questions returned:
Can I afford this?
Can I justify this?
Do I need this?
Can I go without?
Do I deserve this and have I worked hard enough? (memories of dad)
Should it be spent on something more worthy?
Should I have this when people in the world have less?
Should it be given away?
Everything about this money was carefully considered. It had to last a long time until my NHS pension could be taken at age 60. A slide rule on spending and always stretched to the maximum efficiency. When it was gone, it would be hard to put it back in the bank account. My obsession with it continued. I felt greedy, needy, envious, jealous and I hated myself for it.
“For goodness sake, Helen, you should go to Africa where people do have nothing. What have you got to complain about? You know nothing about hardship.”
Note: I quickly eliminated these feelings of envy as morally this was a one-way ticket to emotional bankruptcy. I had a choice over these feelings and truly celebrate my friend’s good fortunes and success. I realise though that anxiety is not as simple as a choice. You try to have a choice, but the anxiety is still there. That’s the difference.
I scolded myself for my wanting, my weakness and pathetic self-indulgence. I believed my cure was to get on a plane and go out to the shanty towns and mud huts and come back exorcised from my demons. But despite all this self-lecturing, the anxiety would not go away. The love, hate relationship continued.
My letter to money:
Then in June 2019, I had started some writing again and I came downstairs at around 04.20 in the morning and I wrote a letter to money addressing it as:
My friend and my foe.
“As the need for you got greater, the weight of you got heavier.”
(reflections as a private stock market investor)
The remainder of the contents of this letter remains deeply personal and confidential but it brought a sense of realisation that I had to forgive myself and others. I poured my heart out to money and realised the rawness, the pain, the mistakes and the regrets. I knew I had to change this dysfunctional relationship and start again.
Learning about business, I began to read about wealth acquisition and some basic reading told me that to attract the real wealth you had to go from a poverty mindset to one of seeing abundance. You attract what you think and if you think of lack, then lack is what you get. So, you have to frame your life by saying you have plenty and life is already rich to be on the same energy frequency to attract money into your life.
In contrast, I do partly agree with Darren Hardy who is an expert in personal and business success. He argues the Law of Attraction is pretty much fairy dust. Yes, you can have positive thinking but all the wishing and vision boards don’t generate wealth unless there is ACTION, every day, rain and shine, consistent commitment and over many years. I believe in both the Law of Attraction, plus action. The problem for me is I don’t have so many years left. I do have a vision board.
I learnt that wealth has to be created, through passive income streams, long-term investments, the compound effect of delayed gratification by putting a little aside each month for 40 years plus. and not touching it, and ideally investing in property. Trading hours for cash does not work in most cases. It’s termed being a wage slave. Making money while you sleep is the way to go.
On the flip side, there is hard evidence supporting the statement that money does not make you happy. This irritates me a little because it sure does make me feel happy. Personally, there is nothing more stressful and miserable than being skint and I do feel that the argument “money doesn’t make you happy” is all very well and good coming from people who probably have no idea what real financial hardship is. Nevertheless, this is what the research says and who am I to argue with the data?
I feel what should be said is that yes, money can’t buy you happiness or vitally health, (remember when I earned the most and was still miserable and depressed) provided that you have a balance between what counts in life, health and healthy relationships and being able to pay your way and live within your means. To achieve this, if you have a partner, then they must be financially aligned with you. If you can achieve this then in my humble opinion you can have both a psychologically and financially rich life and true abundance. This is my biggest heartache, especially when it’s joked that on my gravestone it’s going to be inscribed with my name and below it my legacy:
“We ain’t got the money.”
Business and Being Paid What You Are Worth.
When Covid struck in March 2020 I eventually took voluntary redundancy from the school at the end of that year, being ready to try and go it alone, and subsequently, our combined annual income plummeted to a new all-time low triggering massive anxiety. Despite being almost a student in business for over a year, I still hadn’t got the hang of it at all as far as being paid what I was worth. I was still trading hours for little, excusing myself that I needed experience in my new field of Medical English to be worth something. Asking someone to pay me for my time and sending that first bill out was a huge milestone for me. Now, it’s become easier, though I am still told I don’t charge anywhere near enough to have a successful business which is correct. I attract people who have little to pay or who want my services for free.
Considering all of this, the last year has been some of the happiest times I have ever known as I continue to grow both personally and professionally. See my former blog about keeping a journal for a year. I can get up every day and choose what I want to do which I am so grateful for. I am healthy and I still have my meaningful job as a PA, now one day a week which helps a lot. I have also learnt
Time is one of the most precious resources you have.
Money is a tool: no more, no less, to help you live the life you want.
And this is why I am so desperate to keep it, having worked continually since age 18. However, quite frankly people could rightly tell me to shut up whining and just go out and get a proper paying job again, instead of playing with one, PA role, being the exception of course.
Post writing this and sleeping on it, I am close to just going back to paid employment next year, if anyone will have me in my late fifties. I want to keep my PA job going though and English to Care is staying, all be it in a different form. I’ve been lucky to have this year but my husband knows the threshold, where if we dip below a certain point in savings, this is the trigger point for me going ‘ back-out-there. I am hanging on for as long as I can though. Norman Hill tells you to ‘burn the boats’ so there is no way back when it comes to business success (the boats are comfort, a paid job and bailing out, well that’s my interpretation anyway) but I am tempted to tow one back in and get in it, to financially stay afloat.
Conclusions and work in progress:
I am not saying here that all my thinking is correct but just an honest account as to how I feel and how my early years shaped my life and my attitudes towards money. Also, negatives habits of financial attitudes are hard to shift. I would like to come back in a year and let you know my progress. I want to change and have a better relationship with money. I still don’t have it yet but feel writing this may just help me turn the corner.
Thoughts and if you got this far, thanks for reading to the end. It’s been cathartic writing it along with surprising feelings of personal loss but this has been long overdue.
Think and Grow Rich, Norman Hill
The Secret, Rhonda Byrne. (On the Law of Attraction)