I sat at a small white table on Monday night, half a dozen of sheets of paper in front of me, a pen in my hand and a young, fierce woman across from me, watching as a punched in numbers into my calculator, sighed, scratched out numbers and filled in totals. I handed it to her. She took a look and handed it back, pointing to an empty line. I handed it to her, she handed it back. Finally, I handed it to her and sat back.
And then we did it all over again.
This is my third financial counseling meeting. At one point, I was swallowing tears and feeling my face flush with shame. I raced home when the meeting was over and flung myself on the bed sobbing. I have talked about counseling now for at least six months. I have tried financial counseling at least three times. Two nights ago, I filled out the form for, what I call glamorously, “regular” counseling. I felt my gut churning inside me as I wrote in something about anxiety and checked off the “symptom” boxes: crying spells, inability to control thoughts, constant fear of money. I moped around in a daze for a while, terrified.
I am happy about counseling, but I did not know it would be this difficult. That it would mean re-examining the patterns that have shaped my life for the past ten years and slowly trading them in for better ones. It’s good, but it feels like someone is slowly pulling off a bandage that has been on too long. They’re bringing healing, but everything in the in-between is messy and painful.
I walked home the other night from the D train, through crowds of people bustling around Atlantic Avenue. Why am I putting myself through all this? I wondered. I have been okay for a while now. Can’t I just continue being okay? What if this doesn’t work?
Sometimes I don’t know how I got here and I’m not 100% confident that I have the right motives. Yes, I want to live unafraid and free. I mentioned stuff like that on my application. But what I didn’t mention was how badly I want to be normal, lovable, less needy. I didn’t mention how I think counseling can work like a magic pill, that it will erase all the parts of me I don’t like. I didn’t mention how sometimes, I wish I was a different person.
That’s the honest truth.
I wrote this out yesterday, confessing it to myself and then slipped on to the F train to be with friends on the Lower East Side. I sat down to write more this morning, listening to the rain fall outside. It’s taken me five drafts of this and 24 hours of thinking, but I can feel a change creeping up from the inside.
Yes, I am a bundle. I am strengths and weaknesses. I am flaws and scars. I cannot erase those things. But maybe this has nothing to do with becoming a new person and everything to do with becoming a whole person? Maybe at the end of three, six, nine months I won’t come out a brand new me. But maybe I will come out more whole, more integrated, more brave. I’ll not only know more about how money and souls work, but I’ll learn how to accept the reality that I am a bundle, and that is okay.
Consider this, from Donald Miller:
“It costs personal fear to be authentic but the reward is integrity, and by that I mean a soul fully integrated, no difference between his act and his actual person. Having integrity is about being the same person on the inside that we are on the outside, and if we don’t have integrity, life becomes exhausting.”