I was sitting in a gorgeously green & lush garden café in Byron Bay with my beautiful bestie who was happily tucking into her second glass of Prosecco (I was on another kind of fizzy – water- as I had 5 more hours of driving to do that day) when she said something that jolted me like a cattle prod. “It is so good to owe nothing to no one. To be able to do whatever you like and not have to worry about any debts or upcoming bills or anything like that.” She sighed happily and ordered another glass of wine, while I buried my face in my water, hoping to all hell that she hadn’t picked up on the “oof” that came out of my mouth when her words hit me in the solar plexus or seen the flash of envy that turned my eyes bright green for a second.
I can hand on heart say that this was a defining moment for me. This was the moment when I said
It’s Christmas, the time of year when all my angst and anxieties about money are dusted off, dragged into the spotlight, dressed up in tinsel and baubles, and sprinkled with glitter. I buy too many presents for too many people who don’t really matter to me, there’s always those little (or not so little) things I get for our loved ones even when I’ve already bought all the presents that I planned for them, I buy in enough food and drink to end a small famine and we all spend the next week (or two) eating leftovers. As time goes on and the preparations for the Big Day get more frantic, I grow more anxious and stressed, and there’s this underlying feeling of overwhelming guilt and fear lurking just beneath the surface of my seasonal cheer, that I desperately try to pretend isn’t happening.
I’m very lucky in one way because I don’t have to do the whole invite-people-round-that-you-don’t-get-on-with-but-you-have-to-because-it’s-Christmas thing. We live in Australia, a long way from most of our family members, and people tend to stay with their families or go away for the holidays over here. I am heartily glad that I don’t have to invite people round that I wouldn’t normally see, just because it’s Christmas.
I have my money stories like everyone else. I hug them to my chest and hold them close, treasuring them and trying to protect them from prying eyes. Sometimes, I fail miserably, and my precious stories get hauled unceremoniously out of their safe, cosy hiding place, after which a dazzling spotlight is shone on them for all the world to point at and analyse.
Today is one of those days. There’s a certain point where my money stories and John’s money stories meet. It’s a dark and seething maelstrom of twisted beliefs and painful, partly-formed ‘facts’.
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...
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