Right after we lost our house and moved to Woods Cross a few years ago, I wrote a number of really miserable posts. Most of them I never published. They were too dreary, too angry, too everything. I kept writing those posts and then deleting them, or putting them back in drafts. Exhibit A:
I don't want to talk about where we are because I hate it. I hate where we are, I hate our current situation, I hate that nothing worked out the way we planned and worked for. I know it does me no good at all to dwell on it.
So I will not sit here and describe Woods Cross to you. It is like any other place you don't want to be - none of the good things about it can make up for all of the resentment you feel about being where you are.
People ask how I'm doing, and I always tell them I'm fine. I've been moping, but its been a busy kind of moping. I'm feeling very Marilla Cuthbertish these days - the picture of grim faced endurance and practicality. This is a situation that calls for putting one foot in front of the other. This is a situation that calls for just getting on with it until I can feel cheerful again. This is not a situation that calls for self-indulgent analysis of "how I feel" about things.
BUT SINCE YOU ASKED.
How do I feel?
I feel crappy about it. But sitting around thinking about it does me no good. I can sit and wallow in it or I can move forward. I think I choose moving forward, even though I'm not all that thrilled about where we're starting from.
I am trying not to wallow. Instead I am just a blank. I feel like a character in a Wallace Stegner novel, grimly living out futile predestined patterns of certain economic doom and personal failure.
And if anyone tries to tell me to look on the bright side I will punch them in the face.
I felt like we couldn't catch a break. That every time we tried to pick ourselves up, we got knocked back down again. I felt like the world was an unjust place.
(I will stop and say right here that yes, I understand that these were first world problems. We were not living in a shack, we were all safe, we were still immensely privileged. But that is not how I felt. It is hard to have perspective when you feel like you are losing everything, even when you continually remind yourself to have a little perspective. Gratitude journals only take you so far. That's just human nature, and I was very human. See how that works?)
The hardest thing I ever had to do was to walk into the Bishop's Storehouse a few weeks before we moved out of our house in Highland. (If you don't know what that is, see here. It's like a food bank for Mormons.) We had no food left in the cupboards. I don't think any of my friends had a clue about that, because I didn't tell anyone. I took my shopping cart around and picked out free produce and canned food, and cried the whole time - feeling both grateful for the food and ashamed and embarrassed that I was in that situation.
Things were pretty bleak.
At the time I closed myself off from everyone around me and irrationally resented all of the people who didn't have to deal with what we were dealing with. "You think your life is hard?" That was my super pleasant personal motto.
A lot of people emailed me who were going through the same thing, and by and large I just could not answer those emails. It was too hard. I had no advice to give, I could barely advise myself.
But I understood it. I got the anger, I got the pain. I got the feelings of "how did we get here" and "how is this my life"?
What it is so hard to see when you are in the middle of it is that this isn't actually your life. This is a small part of it. It is something to get through. It is something you can get through.
Maybe you won't ever be restored to your former financial place in the world, I'm not saying that. Life really isn't economically fair, that's just a fact. You do your best to work hard and make smarter choices and sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn't.
I don't think the reward for righteously working through your "trials" is financial "blessings". I think that's a crock. I say this because I know plenty of Mormons who think that if they do all of the right things, God will bless them with a financial house of order. I don't think it works that way. I don't think God blesses righteous people financially unless everyone in the third world is an unrighteous piece of crap. What does it mean to God if I have to live in a crappy rental instead of a McMansion? What does it mean to God if we had to shop at thrift stores for a while instead of at the Gap? What does it mean to God if I have to humble myself to bring home a cart full of free groceries instead of whipping out my debit card?
Nothing. It means nothing.
Frankly, I don't think that God cares about my financial well-being at all, which isn't to say that He doesn't care about me. He just doesn't value upper middle class financial stability. The reward for being a good person is not having free reign at Nordstroms.
If He cares about anything, He cares about how I respond to my situation. He cares about what I learn from it. He doesn't care about what level of privilege I think I deserve based on how hard I work. He cares about how I let it shape me.
And the thing is, this doesn't define you, unless you let it. It may not feel like it at the time, but you do have choices. You get to choose how much you let it seep into your soul. You get to choose what lessons you want to let your actions teach your kids about how much you really value money, Sunday School platitudes aside. You get to choose whether or not you want to try to gain a little perspective. You get to choose exactly how bitter you are going to be at the end of the day. You get to choose if you are going to hurt yourself by holding on to your ideas about what is fair.
You get to choose.
It doesn't have to destroy your marriage either, although it can. It can make things really hard for a while. You may not even realize what toll the constant stress is taking on your marriage. Who else are you going to take it out on, but each other? Nobody else is there in the trenches with you. The person you should be leaning on the most may be the person you use most of your remaining strength to push away. It is hard to get through it unscathed. Be careful. Be so, so careful.
I guess all I really want to say to all of those people who emailed me is - hang in there. Life is not a tunnel with no light at the end of it, even if this moment, or this day, or this week, or this month, or this year feels like it.
Life will not always be so grim. Try not to lose your sense of humor. Try not to lose your sense of joy. Try not to lose yourself.
After all, you've lost enough already, haven't you?
PS: You can read more about our financial meltdown and recovery here. Hope it helps.