I thought I was being Oh So Clever at the beginning of August by paying my credit card payment early. That is, until I got my statement in the mail and it showed that I still had a minimum payment due. Immediately, I started stressing.
Then I called the credit card company.
“Oh, no”, she said. “Your billing cycle closes on the 3rd…any payments made before that go in the previous month.” End of story.
I didn’t feel entitled to ask for more than that. Financial stress is so familiar to me that I hung up with resignation. Where was I going to find more cash to make the upcoming payment?
In a perfect world, I would have funds set aside for emergencies. You know, ten percent into savings and all that. I was on track until my mainland bank changed it’s policy on small business line of credit and demanded full payment by November. That’s when I started going backwards.
After the phone call, I started ruminating on the all too familiar scenario, beginning the long, slow descent into hopelessness. Thoughts went something like this: what is wrong with me…why does this pattern keep repeating itself? Why do I keep having money problems? Then came the familiar rallying phase: well, I just need to work more hours and make more money and I started planning how to fit those hours into my busy weeks. Let’s see….
It’s not that I can’t work more hours. It’s that maybe a different response would, in the big picture, be more satisfying… more sustainable.
And then a radical new thought bubbled to the surface. Maybe the question is not “why do I keep repeating this pattern of financial stress”, but “why do I keep responding in the same way?”.
Is it possible that the financial issue is a gift which invites me to bring forth new solutions?
Years ago, I heard that the best way to swallow pills is to tilt your head forward, not back. Counter intuitive. I recently reminded myself of this when I had a big purple pill that I was having trouble with. I put my chin to my chest and tried again. Much better. With the next one, I added something new to the mix… calling it “soft swallowing”: not forcing the pill down. Total success.
So I applied this to my thinking about money matters. How could I respond differently?
My first assessment had to do with anxiety and the way that it immobilizes me. I needed a way to get started. OK, I thought…. tilt yourself forward. Do what is in front of you to do in this moment. So I called the credit card company again. This time I was prepared to advocate for myself and, when I got the same response as before, I asked if there was anything else we could do. Aha. This person was willing to send me on to another person in the payments department. I explained the problem and he explained the same billing cycle information. But he also listened to my intention about the early payment and agreed to, this one time, erase the minimum payment due. Yes!
That solved the immediate problem… eased the anxiety…freed up some energy for the next thing in front of me: making money by turning complicated measurements into a three dimensional cover for a recumbent bicycle. I forged ahead as if it was all that mattered and got it cut out. This left me with the fun part ahead… sewing! Then, because it was Sunday, I needed play time…hmmm.
I had an idea earlier in the year for a new product using my scraps which are starting to stack up in the corners of my studio. I had made a first attempt at the design and then lost momentum when it didn’t quite work. The pattern I made was missing and I had forgotten what needed to be done. But I was determined to come up with new, creative responses to my financial challenges and so I began again, using the same strategy as the other canvas project: get it to the sewing phase.
Colors were my inspiration… and interesting shapes. I dove in with gusto and got so excited that I sewed it together. Not quite right. I took it apart and tried again. Better, but still not right. Hmmm. What would “soft swallowing” be? It would be setting the design aside and celebrating progress. It would be slowing down and reading a good book. It would be riding the wave of momentum into the week ahead with creativity at the helm.
These steps are just the beginning of altering a lifelong habit of always trying to do more. I suspect that slowing down and considering alternatives will reveal some wonderful surprises. Re-framing the old familiar question about self worth into a statement of gratitude has turned an anxiety producing issue into an interesting adventure. And I like new adventures.