This Relationship is a Struggle

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I have a love/hate relationship. It’s one I had since I started getting allowance. It’s one that continues as I budget, pay bills, balance my purchases, look at my finances and sign on dotted lines of my credit card receipts. Yep, I have a love/hate relationship with money.

I think it began when I could care less about Math. Yeah, yeah, yeah. One plus one equals two and all that, but where’s the back story? What was One’s motivation to get together with the other One and create Two? How did One think, feel and move? Why did One get together with another One when there were so many other numbers out there? You get my drift. Of course, I’ll admit, I was okay with Algebra. Algebra uses logic and I like logic. It steadies my active mind. But don’t get me started about Geometry or Trig. All I am trying to say is numbers did nothing for me. To this day, they still bore me. (At this point, I hear the gasp of my best friend, the accountant.)

I lived on my own for five years before I moved in with Peter, and I made it through those five years. I knew how to balance a checkbook (and this was before computers or apps), but I didn’t always balance to the penny like Peter or even my mother. Still, there were very few bounced checks – maybe one or two – and I paid my credit card – not the entire balance like Peter, but enough to keep creditors at bay. I paid the rent, lived on grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, drove a car, had enough money for my smokes – it was the 80’s! – and had some money left over for a night out. I might glamorize my days back then, but I know it was a struggle in part because of my love/hate with money.

So, when Peter and I married and he took over the balancing of the checkbook, the paying of bills, investments, etc, I was completely fine with it. I welcomed it. Through the years, I would sit down with him from time to time in the “just in case something happens” scenario. I paid attention until my mind, like always, drifted off to places far away, or not so far like the thinking how sexy Peter looked as my teacher. Afterward, Peter would ask if I understood. I would nod and think “hell, no”. It was foolish of me, not to pay attention but I never, ever, thought the “just in case” would happen…until it did.

It was scary as hell to be stuck with the money stuff. And I will beat you to the obvious, I knew then and I know now, I am blessed and lucky and luckily blessed to have money stuff. I do understand that. To the core of me I know how much Peter cared and loved me to leave me with any amount of money stuff . He was an incredibly thoughtful husband. Still, it was scary. The unknown is always scary, and oh boy, that stuff was unknown, unfathomable, to me. Thank God I was blessed with two bright children. My daughter pretty much took over the finances the first few months after Peter died as I glided over life in a zombie-like state. Both of my kids, to this day, will help me understand numbers and money. I also had a kind friend who, right after Peter died, took me by my broken heart, and led me into the office of a financial advisor, one who forever changed my life. It’s not so much the amount of money left me that I needed advising on, it was more the navigation through what was left to me and unlocking the mystery of those numbers.

I shed many of tears in those first few months after Peter died, besides the obvious ones shed from missing him. The frustration of not-knowing money/numbers with a bit of self-loathing for not having paid attention, added to my-life-sucks feelings. I wanted not to care about money, like I did when Peter was alive. I only wanted to know it was there or when it wasn’t, like my once-was, without doing the grunt work. I just wanted everything pertaining to money to be done for me.

I will say now, I tell married couples or partners, know your finances. Even if one person does them, know them. Because I didn’t and I was shocked to find out my lack of knowledge on things I thought were so obvious. Peter knew my apathy and took over because of it. This was his shouts of love in the language he knew. Bless him for it. Still, if I had paid attention, I would have probably done things differently. I hope now, I can use me as an example for others, for my children, to do things differently. Some of you might think of me as lazy, and I was. I was money lazy, but I wasn’t life lazy. I was active and vibrant in other parts of my life, my marriage, and my parenting. After Peter died, for a long time, I chastise myself for my ignorance. Now, with a year removed, I am not so much. Besides, it happened. It was what it was.

This past week, I have been faced with some difficult and stressful decisions. They will have some impact on finances good and bad. When I think on the financial issues I’m facing today, I am proud of me. I am proud because I am reminded of what I have tackled, continue to tackle in my relationship with money. Sure, I’ve had a lot of help from my kids, friends and professionals, but it still, in the end, it all came down to me. And when I look back, I remember my nods to Peter as he struggle to teach my wandering mind, and I hope he is somewhere looking at me in pride as well, perhaps biting back I tried to show you. And as I continue on in my second year of my worst case scenario, I face money and say, you’re not going anywhere, let’s try to get along….as I continue my love/hate relationship with it.