“It is a strange thing, but when you are dreading something, and would give anything to slow down time, it has a disobliging habit of speeding up.” ~ J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I have an irrational fear of being broke. Anyone who spends a small amount of time around me will realise that early on. Its very easy to explain why that is so and yet I have never explained it….not even to myself. My sister has the same fear born of the same experience….hers is a little worse than mine because unlike me, she doesnt have to keep it together for her siblings.
When my mother fell and hurt both her legs we all assumed she would be fine in a couple of months. Tearing tendons in both knees is difficult at the best of times…..at 50 years of age its brutal. It was heart breaking to watch her struggle on her crutches day in day out. Despite this, I never ever doubted for a second that she would be fine. For me it was obvious that it was just a matter of surviving a few months.
My siblings and I were all in school at the time. I was in my final year at university and my brother and sister were in high school.
As the months progressed, she just didn’t recover. In fact she seemed to get worse in general as her legs got better. In hindsight, I should have realised there was something more than her legs that was wrong with her. Despite my street smarts and the fact that I had seamlessly stepped into the role of head of home, I just didn’t have the medical knowledge or experience to know why she was not healing as fast as she should have been. The doctors that did missed what I saw entirely. We all focused on her legs. Noone spotted the cancer until it was too late.
While her physical condition took its toll on us emotionally, the fact that she had no insurance, medical or otherwise, and was unable to work took its toll on us financially. Perhaps I should say it took its toll on me because everyone looked at me to make a plan for rent, food, medical costs every month. I was the oldest child wasn’t I. Who would do it if I didn’t? I was unemployed and there was no hope of getting a job. Every time I left my mum’s bedside to go jobhunting she went into a full panic attack. Sometimes I just sat there and held her hand and listened to her ramble about things that made no sense. The morphine made her delirious but she was calm as long as I was there. Sometimes the nurses would tell me to leave and come back during visiting hours but the ones compassionate ones let me stay there all day. Sometimes I would be bone tired at the end of the day but in hindsight, I am more than grateful that I had that time with my mother. It’s worth more than gold to know I could make things easier even though I could never take her pain away. As much as the memory hurts, and at times threatens to break me, it keeps me sane. It is my most prized possession.
While that was happening, I slowly starting to run out of ideas to make financial ends meet. I fell behind with the rent. I dreaded that call from an “unknown number.” We barely ate. I cant imagine it now, but at times my sister and I survived on one loaf of bread all week or on just porridge. After a while I couldn’t stand either and I would just not eat. I became stick thin. I had shoulder length jet black hair. It started to fall out bit by bit. The stress was taking a physical toll.
Even now, as I type, I find I am incapable of telling the whole story without feeling the little cracks in my soul reopening so I wont try to finish it. In time, when I’m ready, I will tell you the rest of it.
What matters is that in the midst of all that I vowed that if I ever got a job, I would never be broke again. That I would always keep something aside for a rainy day and that I would have medical aid and life insurance. I eventually got a job and I am financially stable. I am still leagues away from where I need to be to be completely comfortable. I suppose by the time I get there I will want even more. What remains now is my complete and over powering fear of not having money in my bank account. I’m young, I just started working. I bought my first car. It’s expected that I should be broke after I pay all my bills and yet my mind can not process that. Everytime I have an unexpected expense I freak out.
Perhaps it is for the same reason that I obsess about gaining weight (which I struggle to do but I want to) Everyone tells me its irrational. It may also be for the same reason I obsess about the health of my hair. My fear and panic is largely unfounded and yet I can not shake it. It defies logic.
There are times I find myself on the verge of panic and I quietly recite the same verse to myself over and over:
“Fear not for I am with you. Be not afraid for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” ~ The Bible
If God has not brought me this far….I dont know who has because it certainly is not me. Therein lies the hope and the faith that pulls me back from the brink each time. Eventually, these fears will subside and perhaps even disappear because nothing lasts forever. Already, they are much better than they once were….
“Put blinders on to those things that conspire to hold you back, especially the ones in your own head.” ~Meryl Streep