The darkest mask of all

I have credit card debt.  Let’s start there.  It’s from a life where I made good money, and assumed that money would always be there.

In tantra Yoga, we talk a lot about getting to the truth – Your Truth.  Engaging more in your life, not turning away from it and building honest relationships with the people and things around you, rather than renouncing them.

Our Western society, in general, has a tendency to categorize vulnerability as a weakness, before recognizing its value, teaching us that it’s actually better to turn away from your truth. So, from a young age we are reared to wear masks; don’t cry in public, hold your tongue, play the part, pretend you have more than you have, a family, an expensive car and a big house equals success…and nothing else can symbolize that more than those things.

I recently moved into a new apartment.  Financially it was a stretch, I mean, I was pulling the elastic band till it was thin and white but I worked my budget and knew I could do it and it also meant that I had to work harder to book more clients – which is what I should be doing all the time.

However, I didn’t actually have much furniture – truth be told, I barely had any besides a large wooden Indian bench with two twin sized mattresses and my books (which make good side tables and seats if needed).  Friends lent me a Queen sized mattress that I could sleep on, on the floor and other than that, not much else.  I went to Goodwill and gathered up some vintage plates and crockery and my mother was visiting at the same time and she took me on a generous shopping expedition for kitchen ware.

My Indian bench, with both mattresses flanked either side, turned into my seating area in the living room, and my books served as decorations and symbols of a happy life.  The urge and tendency toward making its appearance seem ‘homely’ with more things occasionally kept me up at night, but I kept coming back to my priorities; my financial security.

I have been working with a life coach and one of the big things that we discuss is financial responsibility and creating an empowering context around it, this means shifting my language toward abundance and my habits away from instant gratification.  The idea of saving for things isn’t something that I laugh and cringe at anymore, it’s kinda my mantra.

As a result, within 3 months things started to show up for me. After I opened up my ‘My Amazing Bed’ savings account, the God of manifestation landed me smack bang in the path of my downstairs neighbor who was moving back west and had a 6month old king sized bed that he rarely slept in (he was a commuter from the west coast and always traveling) and needed to offload for $200 along with various other pieces of furniture..

The irony in all of this?  This same neighbor was a guy who took my apartment 3 years prior when I moved out and bought all of my stuff for a set price – it was a turn-key operation for him.  I had moved back into that same building and he was moving out.  Beside the bed, it was actually my stuff that I was getting back!  Symbolism abound.

I was hosting a dinner party the other night and surprisingly to me, the background chatter in my head was about the lack of seating in my apartment, specifically a dining table and other decorations for people to ‘wow’ at.  I was tempted every 10 minutes to whip out my credit card and go on a shopping spree that oscillated between furnishing my home in one big wow & spending on an elaborate menu so people wouldn’t notice that they weren’t eating with fancy dinner ware, on a fancy dinner table!

As I was interrupting the chatter; ‘it doesn’t matter’, ‘it’s not in your budget’, ‘keep it simple’, ‘your friends will love you regardless’ ‘it doesn’t align with what you want’, it occurred to me that this was the darkest, most hidden mask of all.  We talk so much about our emotions being the things we shield you know, our self-expression, intimacy, sadness, fear – the masks bearing the opposite of these traits.  These masks that we hold in front of our hearts cost us feelings of contentment, deeper relationships, fulfilling jobs, family closeness etc. but could it be that they cost us more than this?

They simply cost us money.  I am getting more and more intimate each day with money, and my relationship to it.   I have realized that in this life, living in the western world (and one of the wealthiest parts of the USA), my financial world is in a close relationship with my spiritual self.  My self- worth is not tied up in the things that I own, but it is tied up in the relationship I have with those things, and what I need them to represent.

I don’t buy things on my credit card any longer – I buy emergencies if needed, but not things I want, and even less now that I have an emergency fund ( which I have called the Life Maintenance fund – I am not fucking around with the God of manifestation!).  We often forget what we can do with, and what we can do without.  We are a resilient species, and creative if given the opportunity but have we become so diluted with convenience and easy access to consumption that we are weakening the survival response? Or worse, our creative response?

I had a conversation with another friend a few weeks ago who was also moving, and didn’t have a bed.  I mentioned I could lend her the one that I had recently borrowed.  She was considering going out to buy herself a new bed set she will possibly have to put on credit but her comment was ‘I think I’ll just go out and buy everything I need at once, I am such a person who needs to have her comfortable space’ – um – who doesn’t? But it’s in how you define it – no, actually it’s in how you CREATE it.  And how comfortable is credit card debt?

Our credit spending habits basically support these fake lives, and the more we spend the more we have to embed ourselves further behind the mask to pay them off as we pretend that our new bedroom attire or kitchen style is an affirmation of the abundant life we lead.  When in fact, it is the exact opposite.

I used to have this little card on my bathroom counter that read ‘What, you too? I thought I was the only one’.  More people than not are in debt right now and the more honest we are about it – i.e. showing the world what we actually have, not what we pretend to have we might just find relief from the shackles of the feeling of debt.  There is something really freeing is saying ‘That’s not in my budget’.

For my dinner party on Saturday night, my friends sat on the cushions on my floor.  I pulled out all my candles instead of fancy dinner plates; I cooked a good, hearty healthy meal within my budget that we ate family style, and we drank bottles of cava.  We laughed so hard that rolling over was perfectly safe and we told stories by candlelight over melted chocolate and strawberries, lying over pillows and hanging out … mimicking teenage girls in their bedroom.  There was no distraction of perfectly positioned things on a dinner table Martha Stewart would be proud of.

Part of loving yourself is having self-respect.  Be careful where you place the meaning, be mindful what side of the gratification fence you stand; instant or delayed – remember you get something from either.  And, if you haven’t already, start feeling rich in having to be creative, it’s so much more rewarding.

I felt completely free and abundantly rich that night, and that’s where it ended – not with a credit card statement the following month.

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