Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The F Word

I just had one of the most difficult conversations that I have ever had with my mother. I have been in trouble. I have told her that I was gay. I have nearly failed out of school. I have had all sorts of conversations with my mother over the years but none was as real as the one we just had. It was about one of the single most non-talked about issues in my family. It was about finances. It was about financial well being.

Right now I am frustrated and sad. I am frustrated because I feel helpless because there is so much that I feel like I cant do and have not done. I have but a thimble full of knowledge about personal finances but I wish that all at once I could pour it into her and she would find herself full and empowered. But I know that it does not happen like that and I wonder how could I learn what I have and she in her years hasn’t learned as much or more.

I am sad because I know where her journey could lead her. Just the other day I spoke with Oh-Canada about my deepest fears about the financial well being of my very working class family. I have prayed for years that God would continue to keep us in good spirits and in good health. As we grow older my prayers for good health has taken on more meaning and I have extended my prayers to include prosperity and favor. My mother is aging. My older sister and brother aren’t young as they once were either. I wonder how will they/we survive.

It had been heavy on my heart for the past few days. I suppose that it came to the forefront of my thoughts some months ago really. My mother is still working and she is getting up there and as I begin to think about my mortality and how I will take care of myself when I am old, I turn my attention to her as well. The woman who cared for and nurtured me, the woman who loves me more than anyone on this Earth, how will she take care of herself in her golden years? Will I be charged with taking care of her? What am I doing to prepare myself to take care of the both of us if need be. She is my mother and as long as I have, so does she.

So tonight, I called her when I got home from work and just flat out asked her what she was doing. Her answers were not enough. I took out a pen, paper and a calculator and started asking her questions to really get to the bottom of her financial state. As a child she and I never talked about money. As an adult, until tonight we had never really had an open discussion about it either. She only knew that I always paid my bills. For her that was enough. One thing I asked her tonight was who does she talk to about her financial security. She said that she spoke to no one.

I told her that she goes to her preacher or her women’s group when she needs spiritual guidance, and that she calls her doctor when she is has an ache or pain or just wants to schedule her annual physical and in the same token, professional or knowledgeable friend she had to start talking to someone about her finances and her plan for financial well being. There were times on the phone when I was shocked. There were times when I felt sympathetic because I knew that some of the reason that she had gone without in the past was because she was making sure that I did not go with out anything. Now, who was looking after her?

We developed a strategy to reduce her short term debt and we also had a very tough conversation about reducing her monthly lifestyle expenses so that she could increase her monthly savings. What made that so hard wasn’t talking about the thing that she was going to cut – but the reason she enjoyed that ‘luxury.’ I knew it meant a lot to her but I couldn’t support it.

I still feel all over the place. I am glad that we had the conversation and I know that it was good and better results will come from it. I hope that she will become more empowered and make sound and reasonable decisions about her spending. I told her that there was not a human being on the face of this Earth that I loved or valued more and that I wanted her to place that same value on herself. Minutes after the conversation, I suppose now I don’t feel as helpless because I think that I may have been able to provide a path and Lord willing some hope.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I know you are but what am I?

As children we had countless arguments and as adults we have not always agreed on everything. However, in all of my years I don’t think I ever called my sister the name I called her tonight. I know that she loves me and just the other day I telephoned her just to tell her that I love her but that couldn’t stop me from feeling how I felt this evening. That couldn’t stop me from calling her the name that I did.

Of course, I know that in sum she isn’t what I called her. She has been very good to me and everyone else in my family, to her friends, to my friends, to the young people she works with. But tonight we had a disagreement and I called her selfish.

On the surface it is a simple matter. Everyone in the family has come to a consensus on an issue. My sister is the sole dissenter. She says, for the same reasons she always uses when it comes to matters like this, that she can’t afford it and that when looking at the grand scheme of things she can’t side with everyone else because it is not in her best interest. That pissed me off. That is when I told her that I needed to get off the phone with her because I was disappointed and there was nothing else at this hour for us to discuss. She had made her decision and on this issue we would agree to disagree.

Yet, what I battle with now isn’t just my feelings about what I said to my sister, or how I feel about her decisions, or my concerns about her reasons for coming to her own conclusion, moreover, not even that I need to step back and try to see this thing from her point of view - but what I am wrestling with now is her response to me calling her selfish. This in some way really makes me the selfish one for making it about me.

She ended our back and forth with – Sometimes we all have to put our individual self ahead of our families. You should know that. Where do you live? Not here with us.

It is true. I live hundreds of miles away from my entire family. I graduated high school and with the exception of a few summers in college and the occasional holiday visit I have not looked back. I am not there with them on the day-to-day. I have created a world of my own in a new place, planted different roots and moved on. I have placed my individual self ahead of my family, and not just because I moved away and cannot participate in the activities of looking after and caring and sharing with them immediately and in their presence. There are also other reasons.

More often than not I am cognizant of those reasons and more often than not I do not feel guilty. My me has over the years become more the focus than my we. The last two years, seeing my grandparents age from visit to visit, the relationship with my brother and sister mature as we do and quest for centeredness has brought this to the fore front of my mind more than it had been in the past, yet I know that my me is still priority over my we. I don’t know if that is a bad thing or a good thing. Right now I recognize it and it is what it is.

Twenty years from now I don’t want to be resentful or resented. I suppose I have to figure out what it means for me to be true to myself while at the same time truly balanced and present in whatever ways as a son, brother and member of the tribe.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Choice Destinations

I am delighted by choice. I have often said that life itself is simply about choices. And so it is often in my past that I did not even know the strength and power in that thought, in that call to live.

It became clearer to me today, more than it ever has before what choice is. Choice is not just an instance to select or an opportunity to choose. Choice is something much more tangible and real. Choice is a place. Choice is a place because when you make one you live in it, become a part of it and it gives you life in that it is the very air you breath. All around you is choice. So life is about choices. Furthermore, life is about where you live.

Today I chose love and not fear. Thus I am able to live in peace and happiness.
Today I chose progress and not regression. Thus I am able to live in development.
Today I chose to speak and not be silent. Thus I am able to live in confidence.

Life is about choices, the choices we make on how to act and react, how we view, understand, interpret, stand still or move on. Life is about the state of mind and consciousness we place ourselves in. Choose well. Love. Progress. Speak. Be.