19 January 2018

Living Within Our Means

For years the start of a new year, for me, was the start of stressful times. The joy of celebrating Christmas was over and now the reality was setting in. How was I going to pay for all of this? I gave the kids some amazing gifts… everyone of them was paid for with a credit card. Not one card, not even two cards… at least three cards, maybe four.

The time was coming that payments would be due. Of course, there was no way I could pay them off in full. Not all four anyway. Hell, I couldn’t pay one of them off, why even think about four? So began the minimum payment cycle on all of them. Months would pass and it seemed like I hadn’t paid anything on them. My checking account was getting smaller but the balance on those cards didn’t seem to be shrinking at all.

I look back at those days and see how insane they were. I was trying to buy love. What was really amazing was how much control children had over me. They were great manipulators and knew how to fill my head with shame for broken promises throughout the year. I can’t blame them. They were kids, I was suppose to be the one in charge. And certainly, I was the one supposedly in charge of the money.

I was the one who knew how much money I had for gifts, not including credit cards, yet it never seemed to be enough. I can still catch myself in that trap of thinking that the gifts I gave were not enough. The other part of it is when do I quit giving gifts to the ungrateful?

For years I have given money to my kids, so their families and their kids can have a nice Christmas without falling into the traps I fell into. Yet, not once in over a dozen years did I ever get a thank you note, heck I rarely even got a Christmas card. Don’t mean to sound like I’m whining, my question is when do we stop trying to buy love and just move on?

This past holiday season I saw in myself how much of an addiction the holidays can be. I purchased a beautiful gift for my wife. One gift. Then my mind started wondering. Is that enough? Surely, I can find something else! I searched and looked and in the end I stayed with that one gift. I did also get a Christmas card for her and that was it.

When we opened our gifts she loved her card and two days later was still looking at it with love. The expression she had when she held her gift wrapped present was priceless. It is a photo that I will have in my mind forever.

It was perfect. One gift. Perfection. She didn’t want more… nor ask for more. One gift. And the ultimate gift? It is paid for and the books on this Christmas are closed – paid in full.

My life has been always trying to please others. The best way I knew how to do that was by buying their acceptance. The messages of my childhood that I was “less than” has stayed with me my whole life. Getting rid of those messages is a daily struggle. I don’t need to buy love. I don’t need to do anything special to earn acceptance. I don’t need to lose my own identity to please others because in the end, by doing so, I’ll never please myself.



No comments: