My hubby bought a new jacket and matching snow pants last week, perfect for sledding with the kids. He looks like a million bucks in them, even though they only cost $18 – at the Goodwill. Oh, how we’ve changed.
A decade ago, the only reason we had to visit a Goodwill store was to donate clothes and household items we no longer needed, in hopes they might find a second home. We never imagined one day we’d need – much less choose – to shop there.
Back then, we both had full-time jobs that paid very well; we wouldn’t have batted an eye at buying Brad’s snow pants and jacket at a high-end store…at full price (a discount would have been a victory, not a necessity). We went out a lot – for dinner, to shows, to family events. We paid loads of money for our young son to attend a full-time, top-notch daycare. We finished our basement and added a bathroom in our urban bungalow. And when that house felt “too small,” we moved to the ‘burbs – into a house with plenty of space (and a great big mortgage). We said we were blessed…but I’m not sure we really knew it.
I was pretty awesome at manifesting whatever we desired: more money, great trips, new opportunities. I trusted the universe would take care of us and frequently set my intentions on creating more material goodness in our lives. It was easy to do when things felt easy.
Eventually, I longed to leave my high-stress communications career; it was wearing me out, and I wanted more time with my son. So I envisioned all I desired – flexibility, creativity, financial stability – and trusted it would come. And it did. I left the corporate world in 2007, able to make even more money doing freelance work, writing my blog and hosting a new radio show. For more than a year, all I’d envisioned came easily, but my energy was off. I had a hard time adjusting to working from home and frequently felt worried or isolated.
This is what almost no one knows: that our precious little life caved in on us. The recession hit in 2008 and I felt it big-time. Clients pulled their projects. Radio sponsorships dried up. My income dropped by 80% and, as we lived our two-income lifestyle on one income, thinking it was temporary, our savings disappeared. In the meantime, I had a baby (oh, bliss! oh, bills!). Soon after, I needed minor surgery. And then the furnace broke. And the washer/dryer. And the air conditioner. The hits just kept on coming – hits that would have been tricky to manage even with my old income. We got by on credit cards, assuming we’d bounce back to our old normal sooner than later, and that we’d be able to pay all quickly-ballooning bills with ease. But reality set in as creditors started to call; every unrecognized number on the caller ID made me sick to my stomach. I considered going back to work, but our youngest son’s mounting special needs left us perplexed and paralyzed, unsure how and where to place him all day long; the thought of it weighed heavy on our hearts.
We borrowed money. We leaned on my parents (hardest request I’ll ever make, but they were amazing). We sold books, toys, jewelry, baby clothes. One day, I pawned a ring Brad had given me years before just so I could buy groceries. I was a ball of nerves, trying to keep up appearances while feeling like a total failure.
Saving money turned into a part-time job: clipping coupons, finding deals, shopping at secondhand stores. And you know what? I got really good at it. Getting a cart-full of groceries for $50 or a kid’s Halloween costume for a buck was an energy high. I felt good figuring out new ways to help my family and increasingly optimistic about our ability to climb out of debt. I was reminded of the buzz that comes from feeling productive, being resourceful, trusting the universe. And I made a conscious decision to follow that high.
I started focusing more on the blessings in our life (there were still so many). Instead of feeling disgruntled when Facebook friends posted pics of their tropical trips or expensive family outings, I chose to be genuinely happy for them. I sought out learning opportunities with payment plans and scholarships, determined to figure out how to turn my creativity into revenue. I started tapping into the power of intention again, envisioning our family beautifully secure and content. I fed off every moment of inspiration, every bright spot in each day.
My small business was gradually reborn; I leveraged my marketing expertise and keen intuition to mentor women who felt clueless about marketing or intuition. I taught classes. I sold my art. I gave speeches to whomever would have me. I made mistakes and brushed myself off. Every step felt big, every sale I made felt like a miracle (still does, quite frankly).
It’s been a bumpy ride, to be sure, but so much goodness has flowed into our lives as we’ve intentionally focused on gratitude (best fear-fighter ever), cultivated positive energy, revamped our relationship with money and created new sources of income. Now, to pay for something we need or want – whether secondhand or high-end – is so much sweeter now, having known the crippling anxiety of serious debt. I still clip my coupons and get jazzed seeing the price go down at the register. We still high-five over perfectly good snow pants found at the Goodwill. And I thank my lucky stars that Brad and I grew together through this, rather than apart.
Until now, almost no one knew this chapter of our story. But over the weekend, I got choked up while finalizing a payment plan for Project Light Year in response to many women wanting to join but needing some help to do it. I realized the powerful shift from once needing such assistance to creating it for others. As I sat there, breathing that in, I realized I should tell you I’ve been there…I get it…I know the shame of it and fear in it. I realized I should tell you that even though things could always be worse, they can also get so much better. I realized that should I reveal this piece of my journey, it might provide a little light for yours.
(Note: For info on the payment plan for Project Light Year, just scroll to the bottom of the info page here. I’d love for you to join us!)