Oh how I have missed my writing! It’s so nice to find a passion! My brother came for a visit and we haven’t seen him in over a year! So I took a short break. It was wonderful. I told him about my blog and we reminisced for a bit about our childhood.
There was one point of our conversation that brought me to tears. My brother said, “Remember when you told me that you would probably work till the day you die, while I will retire with a nice monthly income backed by investments?” I nodded. He replied, “After watching you and your family this week, I would give all of that up to have what you all have – in a heartbeat.” He was referring to our love for one another, and the respectful, strong, well-mannered, God loving boys we have raised. We are insanely close. Our boys are now 15 and 17.
Here again lies more evidence to back my belief that our culture needs a shift. We need to shift from a money centered unit to a family and community centered unit. I can hear the screams already. I realize 78% of us are living paycheck to paycheck and it feels as if we have no choice but to be money centered. But, I have come to firmly believe that we can change that if we are willing to make the right decisions. I doubt I am the only one that eventually believed that having a joy filled, comfortable life, nice friends and acceptance in society came with money. My childhood wreaked of this fallacy. I worked myself tirelessly in my 20’s and early 30’s, even taking client calls while the rest of my visitors sang the happy birthday song to my son. It was a sad day that I wouldn’t even recognize as such till some time later. But, I never found true happiness from the money and I really don’t think anyone does. We have been sold a lump of coal. Money can set you up for a great life which allows you to pay for greater experiences, but the love you have for your family during the experience, or independent of the experience, is the true joy.
And, while money can set you up for a great life, it can also rob you of your life. More times than not, people encounter the latter and not the former. They spend mega hours creating money to have the experience, and oftentimes accomplish said goal, but they do so with a broken family unit, ending with a joyless experience. Fighting, complaining, whining, emotional distance, and emptiness are oozing out from a place of lack. Emotional disconnect. The time it takes to create the money is time lost to build the relationships of love within the family. Too many don’t see this happening until it’s too late. My brother was one of them, and I very well could have been right alongside of him had the good Lord not thrown me a curve ball.
If you compare me and my brother on paper, he wins. His total net worth smashes me like a bug. But who has more joy? Perhaps the idea of me being without assets has lost you on this concept, but let me explain. My husband and I had a multi-million dollar real estate portfolio by the time we were 32. We lost everything over the course of the next five years due to a horrible medical diagnosis. The story is long and complicated, but the end result was that both of us faced nearly 40 years old with nothing but our skills as entrepreneurs. We went from being landlords to having landlords. Here is where I made my shift.
I could have gone back to what I knew and was very good at, real estate sales, to earn a six figure income again. But, I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know the depth of truth to the reality that life is short and time is precious. When I sat through my treatments, I faced the potential for death. Those wrapped up in their beds across the isle faced the same potential outcome. It shocked me. Thirty-two years old and I could die. All that work for nothing. All that time lost from my family and friends and marriage. One of the first things I thought of when I got my diagnosis was the aforementioned birthday party. I was sick to my stomach. I would never get that memory back. There was no do over, so I could see the smile on my sons face when he blew out the candles. And, I may not live to see very many more birthdays. For someone who believed they were pretty smart, this was a more than humbling moment. So, upon “re-entering” the world, I decided I just couldn’t go back to seeking money above family. I prayed hard for an answer to having both, but it took years to find it. In the meantime, we lived poor. That was my short term answer. Poor was better than loss. I would rather live poor, which is perceived as a loss, than to wake up every day and know that I had less love and growth of relationship with my boys and my husband. Losing that love would be the real loss in my world.
I made a decision. I focused my life on serving my children so they could rise up and be the truest form of who they were meant to be in adulthood. I focused on giving them the love, guidance, discipline, knowledge, wisdom of God, and even appropriate food that would form the recipe for their future. The food part is striking to me. We eat all organic and always have, even when we had no money; even when we were on food stamps. My brother mentioned this to me during his visit. He said he could never understand it at the time it was happening. Why would we spend greater money on food when we had an alternative? But, food is life. To me there wasn’t really an alternative. The other “food” only looks like it’s good for you. There is a reason it’s cheaper and a reason we are getting sicker. What I put in my child’s mouth, and teach them to put in their own mouths, will define their health for life. I refused to sacrifice their fuel for their bodies for my ability to buy a cup of coffee or treat myself to dinner at the local restaurant. It’s all about decisions.
Do I wish things could be different? You bet. I wish I could have learned my lessons early on, but guess what? I wouldn’t change a thing. I will gladly work till I die with few to no assets, if that ends up being the case, for the chance I was given to mold two lives in the best way possible. If tomorrow was my last day, my best work is done. I have no regrets. My heart is filled with joy every day from the love we have for each other, and I know that I have set a foundation for these two boys to go out into the world with their priorities in the right place. They will raise strong families based on decisions that will allow for one parent to always be available to love, nurture and guide.
Here’s the good news! You don’t have to live broke to raise good kids! My story is unusual because of my medical circumstances. But, 78% of us are making decisions to live broke while spending on more and more stuff, forcing us to sustain a two income household! If we can keep a two income family. This decision is impacting marriages too, which leads down another slippery slope. What would our world look like if we all decided to live minimally, with few shiny things, but money left over in our bank accounts and peace, love and joy in the home each day? How would that change our children, our marriages, and our communities?
Parenting sets patterns. It’s time to create a pattern of joy for our children. That begins in the heart, not the wallet!