Daisy Mae and Powder Blue

flickr, libertygrace0Note: This piece is about my struggle with my own poverty mentality. In a way, what you are about to read is truly a prosperity problem. I haven’t unknotted the whole thing yet; so, bear with me as I allow myself to be a work in progress.

So, I recently had a mini-midlife crisis.  Or, actually, maybe I just felt like having a whole lot of brand new treats at the same time.

Unfortunately, I had my checkbook with me.

So, I got a puppy. And a cute car to match her.

First, the dog. Her name is Daisy Mae and she is a Bichon Frise. She’s teeny tiny and absolutely sweet and just a love.

Now, the car.

It’s a VW bug convertible. Powder Blue.

Now, here’s the breakthrough on that: for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a convertible – ever since Aunt Susie got her super-cool ride back when I was a little kid.

But, I never got a convertible. Or a fun little sports car.

I always bought “sensible.” And, most of the time, used.

Bought the station wagon for the first baby. She died, and I had to drive around that “family car” for a whole year without a family in it until, finally, my first son was born.

After that, more kids, and a minivan.  I hated that minivan. But, it was practical and I could lug stuff.  And, if you know anything about me, you know I LOVE to lug people and their stuff.

Um, completely not!

But, I had responsibilities and my car matched them.  I ran that minivan into the ground.  And then I got a little SUV that was cooler, but still not what I wanted. It wasn’t the color I wanted. It wasn’t the brand I wanted. It wasn’t cool. Or hip. Or fresh.

But, it was PRACTICAL. (See where I’m going here.)

Last weekend, I got sick of it. That car, and all the others before it became an unbearable symbol of all the ways that I’ve forsaken what I WANTED to do for what I was SUPPOSED to do. (And, truth be told, what I felt I had to do.)

I have felt financially choice-less for such a long time. A lot of it was based in reality. There have been so many frighteningly lean years. The problem is, even when things eased up, I’ve still lived in financial crisis mode.

I’ve made countless other choices like that:

  • I lived in a town I hated for two decades so the kids could keep their good school.
  • I lived in a house I couldn’t afford, for the same time for the same reason.
  • Because of that, I couldn’t have the things I needed for a basic life. Neither could the boys.  But they did have that school system that none of them cared about.
  • I did “mom things” because I was supposed to.
  • This left little time for the thing I WAS supposed to do – speak, teach, and write about adversity and triumph. (I know. Ironic, right?)

I know you know what I mean. And, thank you for that.

Anyway, back to the car.

It was not a “practical” time to get the car. We are still paying two college tuitions. Also, HS Senior doesn’t even leave until August. So, we can’t all fit into that little bug convertible (Someone say “Amen.”)

When I told my mom, she reminded me that convertibles aren’t safe. When I was younger, they weren’t safe because random scary guys could grab me. Now, they’re not safe because of the snow on the road.

Oh – as an aside – have you ever NOT bought the car you wanted because of the 7-10 days a year there is snow on the road? This is the perfect example of the kind of screwy thinking that keeps us tethered to a joy-less life.

We don’t get the thing we really want, because 2% of the time, it won’t be practical. (Click to Tweet)

My husband wondered if I should wait until after the next one leaves in the Fall. But you know as well as I do, that then there would be some other reason not to do the thing I wanted to do.

So, all my life, I’ve wanted a convertible, but I haven’t allowed myself to have it because it was:

Too small

Too expensive

The “bad man” might get me

My family won’t fit in it

Or, if they will, their stuff won’t

It won’t be great during the three snowstorms we have each year.

The canvas roof looks tired after a bit

It’s not a “mom car.”

It’s gonna snow 2% of the year.

Last weekend, as I was hanging out with a girlfriend, it became clear to me how completely nuts this whole line of thinking was.

When will I be free of all the responsibilities I have in order to do some of the things I want?

NEVER.

In fact, it’s not even supposed to work that way.

I’m not supposed to be free of my responsibilities. If I were, that would mean I love no one, I create nothing, I am indifferent of my impact on the world. I was completely disinterested in my legacy.

And that would mean I lived completely alone and apart in this world.

The challenge seems to be, how do you live Shakespeare’s suggestion, “to thine own self be true,” while also living in community with others?

It’s a continuum of choices spread over a lifetime.

This last weekend, I chose the car.

And the pup.

You?

Love, Jen

P.S. Please join our LAT community. We’ll send you your very own Comeback QuickStart to help you have a fresh beginning.

Photo: libertygrace0

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32 Responses to Daisy Mae and Powder Blue

  1. Sherrill says:

    I am totally with you on this Jen. I am 57 . 5 years ago I put myself in Rehab as I was so filled with shame over my alcohol abuse I was suicidal. I told my husband new life or new car .I choose life. It was the best thing I could have ever done. I took $30,000 dollars out of my 401K to pay for it. I have since paid myself back and feel better than I have in 15 years.

    So last May I went to look at cars . I have been wanting a “Juke” for 3 years but my family said “you don’t need that , your car is fine. Only 120,000 miles on it , it will probably be fine until 200,000.”

    Well this is more than about a car. I have been married 36 years. Never had the final say on anything. I have a horrible sense of direction and always have so I felt trapped and never went anywhere on my own.
    I found my car, with navigation (a God thing) ,moon roof and all the bells and whistles. I bought it. My family texted me to see why I was gone so long and I told them I was buying the car. I got multiple texts back, “no, don’t do it”, ” wait, we need to look into this more” etc. I am a professional and make excellent money so that was never the issue. It was more about control and staying “small”.

    I now feel so free! Have my power back! I am worth this and more. Still very sober and proud to have gotten where I am today. I teach empowerment classes to professional women now so if that may tell you how life changing this all has been.

    So I am totally with you on this one sister!!!

    • Jennifer says:

      congratulations on all fronts!

    • Leah says:

      Reminds me of how I feel when I ride my bike… where is that tire pump???
      Seriously, I get it. I was so blown away when my husband agreed to buy my dream car last year – now he has started to hate on it and it feels like a personal assault.
      Tho at least my grown daughters are supportive.
      I’m working to have the courage and ability to buy my beach house before I die (without anyone’s permission)…
      Thanks for sharing!

  2. I just wrote a piece (for The Shriver Report, fingers-crossed) in which I talked about about the consequences of good choices, responsible choices. In my case, the responsible choice was not to become a single mother when my biological clock was striking midnight. The good choice was canceling a wedding- instead of almost certainly getting divorced. The consequences are that I am single and childless/childfree, on the sweet side of 50.

    But, in that same piece, I also said I am one of the happiest people I know. My blessings, shoes and friends are many. My champagne flute and lingerie armoire runneth over. My problems are manageable, and more importantly, they are my own. I am loved and loving and trying to spread the word that single ain’t so bad.

    But back to convertibles and dogs.

    I got my convertibles in my 30s but like Jennifer, didn’t go overboard. I had a Jeep Wrangler and a life-size Barbie car- a Geo Metro Convertible. Got rid of them both because, ultimately, they were not practical. I live in the city and walk to work so an off-road vehicle with a huge engine is a crime against the environment. So I got the Geo- which ran on three cylinders and a rubber band, and got rid of it when I got rear-ended.

    Word of warning Jen, it’s essentially your own rear-end that gets hit when your car does. But I’m a magnet. With terrible peripheral vision. I’m sure you’ll be fine.

    I am looking for a pup now. My Dempsey has lymphoma. He is 11. I’ve never been more than a day without a dog since I was seven years old. All Boxers. Love the breed, not the sport.

  3. Beth says:

    Congratulations on your new wheels and puppy. I wish you many years of joy and contentment with both of these precious additions. :-)

    Your post stirs up a few thoughts about my lifestyle and attitudes. To me, the poverty mentality has manifested itself in my eating habits. As a chubby kid, my mom restricted food instake/choices so I wouldn’t struggle with weight like she had. Consequently I never had “enough” or “should be eating only ___” and food remains a trigger to fix whatever emotion or problem I face – I just want to feel full… to have it all… Twisted thinking that I’m slowly learning to set aside in loving myself fully.

    You also articulate the battle between wants and the reality of practicalities – cars, houses, life style. I have a tough time justifying spending resources on new flooring, for instance, when there’s nothing really wrong with the current lino, except that I don’t love it. My heart breaks because there are children starving or in slavery – organizations and close friends working on the ground to make a better future – and I’m going to deny hope by dropping a grand on hardwood? Balance, contentment and patience have been themes this past while.

    Thanks for sharing your heart. I appreciate the insights.

  4. Deborah says:

    Wow Jen,
    That struck a cord. Since my divorce I have been in the most poverty mentality of my life. Continuing to fight the voice (sounding like his) “you will never make it, you will be nothing without my money”) and somehow that is all coming true.

    I have downsized over and over to the point of living in a friend’s garage apt, with a dog they don’t like, and staring at bills that I am not able to pay……first time for that… praying to God….just let me pay my bills. And I am realizing how small my life has become…..just enough, please to pay bills????? This post may be neither relevant nor witty, I just feel safe enough to say it here.
    Thanks

  5. Kaari says:

    Oh, this resonates! I am in a struggle right now between what I really want to do, which seems huge and impossible and maybe frivolous, and the course I set myself on where I work for a few years and live in my parents’ summer home so I can save as much money as possible and do what I want to do when this job is over.

    I’m finding it a major struggle to keep going. My health is poor, I have no energy for the little pieces that will set me up for that life I want, and because I’m unhappy I keep spending money. Well, also spending it on trying to regain my health, and fixing my car after an accident on black ice rather than buying that new orange Subaru I wanted – so Powder Blue speaks to me. I do like my car, but it’s not a good car for Alaska (I bought it when I lived elsewhere) and I’ve never liked the color.

    Like Deborah said, I don’t want my life to be small. I have big dreams! And to live big dreams, I can’t sit in safety and watch. I have to go risk and do.

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your courageous journey. I am so sure you have helped a LOT of women today. Jen

  6. Dr. Anna says:

    I thought it was just me :) I’ve had a number of cars over the years..most bought for some sensible reason. But I never allowed myself to have what my heart really wanted…a BMW. Until 2 years ago. I was getting ready to quit my job and knew I could get a loan easily. So I said, F*&K IT, I’m getting it. Done.

    Your article gets me thinking about all the times I’ve “done the right thing/been the good daughter/kept a level head” just to please someone else. One of the joys of midlife (in my experience) is that we are more likely to give ourselves permission to not give a rip what people think. Love that. Keep carrying the flag!!!

  7. Carole says:

    I so empathise with all of the above but to me it is pretty much about being told what to do. The mother who used to tell me ‘Why do you want more books, you’ve got books’ ‘Why do you want another skirt, you have skirts’ and so on.
    Two weeks ago my husband had the nerve to say to me ‘There has to be a limit to the number of scarves a person can have’. Hmmmm, red rag to a bull. Last Saturday on my way to an International Women’s Day Salon I felt the need for a red scarf to complement my outfit, I nipped into the lovely House of Fraser here in the UK and bought it in a flash and a new jacket too…9which is actually unlike me!)
    The thought I have as I write this… is DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO and as for the comment ‘We might as well go down to one car, we don’t need two now’… that’s enough to ensure I have my own car for ever, well at least as long as I live and breathe…

  8. Cheryl says:

    I too have chose a life of security for my children, for myself… my story is not unusual. I’m an independent woman who attracted an easy-going nice man on the outside, who was a deeply insecure man on the inside, married him, had children and slowly found myself struggling for my freedom against a controlling husband who found that my independence brought up all his past fears of abandonment. Kids grew up and left, counseling (individual & couples) followed, while I continued to fill the house I thought I wanted with the ‘things’ I thought would bring me joy (right down to the beautiful aqua painted walls that remind me of the ocean) – while my soul slowly died a little every day.

    Finally, I shifted my focus from ‘what do I want?’ to ‘how do I really want to feel?’ and got my soul’s ultimate answer, FREE! So I’ve painfully, decided to listen to my screaming soul and get out of this suffocating loveless marriage. We own a house and a business together, so there is a lot to work out and it is going to be quite a process since we are continuing to live together to save on expenses. Timing wise, it is hard to make plans when so many of the final detail are still unknown. I’m learning to live and get comfortable with the uncomfortable, all the while telling myself that I am doing the best I can and that that’s enough right now.

    The things I know for sure: I’m losing my job – which I’ve never liked, I losing my house with the incredible english garden I created over the course of 30 years, I’m hoping my husband will agree to buy my 49% share in the business so I will have a bit of money going forward, I’m going to sell almost everything I own (incase there is no buy-out) and store the few things I can’t bear to part with, I’m going to move back to California – where I grew up, where both my children now live, and where my soul resides at the sea shore, AND when the divorce is final I’m going to put the small amount of money I’ve saved toward my deepest desire and travel the world for as long as I can.

    At 52 I’m consciously choosing to break the mental bondage of security and throw myself into the unknown. I’m choosing to believe that the Universe will have my back and that everything will work out the way its supposed to. I’m choosing the freedom to live life on my own terms seeking & finding joy where ever I may be. Ultimately, I’M CHOOSE ME!

  9. Lesley says:

    I spent the majority of my adult life unfettered so I could make my own choices about things and money and all that. There is a long back-story here but it has a point so bear with me. I was raised in an environment that was so life sucking and oppressive that I celebrated making it out alive by doing all the things I never got to do. I bought Pop Tarts and ate them, with butter, all through my 20′s.

    I did not marry until I was thirty-five and never had children, because I knew I would resent having to make the responsible choice over and over and over. My parents raised us by chance, the fact we lived was more a matter of luck than any forethought or planning on their part.

    My reaction was to do everything the opposite. They were irresponsible and inconsiderate; I was hyper-responsible and overly considerate. Somehow I knew that I could not maintain such levels as perfectly as my little ego had decided was necessary to make up for my parents lack, so I never hitched up in anything that would be long term or require responsibility. But I treated myself to stuff.

    I loved the man I married with all of my heart, and I was willing to break every bit of my old ways to be with him. I married him at his best and we had six good years, then pain medications took over and he became an opiate addict, in his addiction he became the perfect combination of both my mother and my father keeping me hooked, trying to ‘fix’ ‘save’ ‘rescue’ him, and that would somehow magically make right all the hell I went through as a child.

    I did so much self-denial and selling myself out during those years, there seemed to be very little of me left to save when I finally had enough. Which brings me to my lesson, I went into some deep therapy in order to bring myself out and recover my strength. My therapist was a Godsend, she was kind of half spirit coach, half energy worker, not that she called herself that.

    She asked a lot of questions, and I had to write down my answers. One of the most profound and life changing was. “If something is not right for you how can it be right for anyone else around you?”

    This was earth shattering for me, as I pondered it I realized that when I do something purely out of obligation but it is not right for me, then the energy I put into it will not be clear, it will be tainted with my resentment and desire to be somewhere else doing something else. If I make the choice that is truly right for myself in my heart, not my look good, then it will be right for everyone else around me, because they will not be polluted by my resentful thinking. They may whine and complain, but that is their journey, not mine.

    That was always the hardest part. I did so many things to keep people from whining and complaining that I thought it was the first criteria in making a decision. Women, how many of you can give me an “amen” to that one?

    She gave me a test to put things through before committing to doing anything.

    If it is not a YAHOO YA, it is a no.

    In order to have a true “yes” we must first have a “no”. Our own “no” direct from our heart, not put on us by responsibility and societal standards. I needed to be extreme in that direction until I had developed a “no”

    I have come back from my marital meltdown and the devastation it caused on all fronts, financial, emotional and mental. I held true to the things I learned and have rebuilt a life that is beyond belief, I am able to travel and participate in my favorite activities, I am free to choose my path, I am in a supportive loving relationship, and I have friends who show up. None of those things existed for me before I learned my own lessons around why I choose to be responsible or not.

    Take a risk and ask yourself how many things you do that are a YAHOO YA!!

    • Jennifer says:

      Amen and Yahoo Ya. AND, OMG I HOPE you are writing somewhere.

      • Lesley says:

        I didn’t mean to turn it into a blog post, but you hit a nerve!! :-)
        There is a second story about my little convertible sports car and my marriage that I may have to write too. It was a pivotal and defining moment for realizing my worthiness.
        Let’s hear it for worthiness!

  10. Marie says:

    WOW to all of you and to Jen for putting it out there. I think I have lived the “responsible” life since I was very young as I have always felt like an adult. Always making sensible decisions, work harder and harder, sure every few years get into debt, work my ass off to get out of it. Always got out of it though on my own. Always to be responsible and dependable how those two words sometimes drove me mad. Always the serious hard working self reliant, etc. really do I need to say more. I have always bought my own cars and have always gone for the reliable although truly what I wanted from small cars to SUVs – I never wanted the sports car or convertible.

    Now that I’m learning to say no a bit more and doing more of what I want there is guilt on occasion – if I feel I’m not being “responsible” and/or “sensible”. But it is getting a little easier to look for the fun instead of the responsible. I am doing more for me rather than because it is expected.

    I praise all of you for finding your voice and what excites you whether it is responsible and sensible.

    Enjoy the car and the puppy!

  11. Carol Francisco says:

    I really enjoyed reading this today. I am 57, mother of 5, grandmother (Noni) to 5 & wife of 35 years.
    I so relate to your words Jennifer & the comments that followed. I’m glad you followed your heart & didn’t wait for the time/situation to be “right”. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Louise (from Thelma & Louise) says:

    You just wrote another chapter right out of my life!

    Interestingly- you started writing LAT at about the same time I started on my own mid-life change journey. Just substitute a Mini Cooper for your convertible and a Golden Retriever for your Bichon Frise and this article would be titled “Ginger and Blaze”.

    I am an organized, responsible adult. (Highlighters are my friend.) Like many of you, I can be too responsible.

    In 2013, I had many losses. There were 9 deaths, including a friend that committed suicide and my 13 year-old Lab on Mother’s Day weekend. One of my sons went away to college ( a mixed bag of emotions for any parent). I also had to let go of a long-term friendship that had way too much drama.

    I bought the Mini after the 8th death, and 2 weeks later one of my family members died unexpectedly.

    These deaths and losses once again showed me that- Life is precious, short and not a dress rehearsal.

    Three years ago – I started to gauge my life and living by these questions-

    “Am I really doing what I want?”
    “Am I truly living? -Trying all the things I’ve always wanted to do?”
    “Am I surrounded by the type of people I really want to be?”

    What I’ve learned is that when the answer is “No”, I need to take action and take chances to change it. Sometimes it takes 9 deaths for me to review my life (again), wake up and actually change.

    By the way- after the initial guilt of buying my Mini, I have to admit that I truly enjoy my illogical choice in a “Mom’s” car! Zoom!

    “Leap and the net will appear!”

    -Louise

  13. Pari says:

    Oh Jen I am so happy for you.

    I too have made the automobile change.

    First I bought the small RV so I could go to the beach. Everyone said how can you get that, you don’t have anything that will pull it.

    Then I bought the land. It is in an “impractical” place. Why do you want to be out there?

    Then I bought the truck. Oh, that beautiful truck. It can tow the RV and it has 4-wheel drive so you can drive down beach. And it is a manual transmission so you can show off to the guys in the next lane. Oh, and it is NOT a “Mom” van.

    Now I am packing to move into the house, in the “impractical” place, that will be completed next month. It is JUST right. The girls are saying “hey Mom, where is my room?” and I am saying “you need to live on your own”.

    The thing is that ALL of this, and especially you and your work, have given me the courage to contemplate quitting the job that has sustained me for the last 6 years and step out to do something totally different. For that I want to say thank you.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Pari

  14. Laurie S says:

    Working on it. :) Giving myself permission to say “No, thanks anyway” to anyone and everyone else, as needed, in order to… get enough sleep on a consistent basis; buy and prepare and eat healthy food instead of quick and cheap junk food available on every other corner; spend the time and energy to go for a walk – exercise AND sanity; save money for a new computer and maybe my own me-sized home (condo?) in a few more years; etc.! I bought my first non-minivan vehicle two years ago (a few months after my youngest graduated from high school). Makes sense as a starting place for so many of us, in our mostly car-mandated society, doesn’t it? Go us!

  15. Sam Hunter says:

    Bravo Jen! I have been driving one of 4 convertibles I’ve had over a span of about 22 years…. my most recent is a 2001 Miata that now has over 200K miles on her. I’ve had a lot of “it ain’t practical” crap from many quadrants over the years, but phooey. 99% of the time its just me ad a bag of groceries in there, and it’s plenty of car for that. Wishing you miles of the insanely daffy smiles that convertible owners wear! And FYI… I helped my son buy a Miata as his first car… everyone thought I was nuts helping him own a sports car, but let me tell you…. 2 seaters only fit one other distracting buddy, not the usual FOUR that a sedan can carry. (And thx for your deep talk at RevU last Sat. I didn’t come hug you because I would have blubbered, and had blubbered enough that day already… just know that I’m thrilled to know who you are and be counted among your ladies now.)

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