There is a reason I have never once written about money or how to get by financially as a newly single woman. I will not be going into the details of my situation, but I will simply say this: in this current season of my life, I do not need to worry about money.
However, I have been number-crunching, and I am very, very aware that this sweet season is winding down.
And I am very, very scared. (Though I’m working on it.)
I met with a super sweet friend who helped me think through some business things and I meet with an amazing leadership coach who is helping me reconstruct pretty much everything that has to do with how I look at my ministry/business, and I am beyond grateful for the time and energy of people who care about me and how they pour into my work and life. And yet, after these kinds of things – though I feel fine while I’m in the midst of the actual meeting – afterwards, I want to cry. And I sometimes do. And I feel overwhelmed. And I am scared and sad about my future. And I feel panicky.
So, I was talking this through with a friend who, as a man, doesn’t quite understand why I seem to be slightly more terrified than excited about my future, and this is what I told him.
My experience in Christian culture as a woman has been this: though I was encouraged to go to college, and I always knew I’d go to college, and I went to college and worked pretty hard (-ish) and got my degree, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Except this: I knew I wanted to be a wife and I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but beyond that, no idea really. And I didn’t really feel like I had to know because I knew I was going to be a wife and mom. (Yes, I fit the stereotype of the girl who went to college for her M.R.S.)
So I got my degree, got married, had two babies, and did the stay-at-home mom thing. While, on the side, sort of for fun, I wrote and started speaking and fell into this little hobby of mine. And I was able to spend my time as I wanted, taking care of my home and family, and writing and speaking, and leading a ministry and going on staff at church for a stretch, and it was a sweet life.
And I did all of this, the way I wanted, taking things as seriously as I wanted or not, getting paid with money or getting paid with a plant, spending hours or minutes or no time at all on my quote-unquote work, for years and years.
Because I could.
Because I had a cushion in the form of a husband.
Because I was a girl.
(Hush…let me finish.)
I am not saying this is okay or not okay. I am not saying that I believe that was right or not right. I am saying that, whether I realized it or not back then (and I don’t think I did), I never once (even when we were just getting by as newlyweds), I never once was worried about money. Never. I didn’t have to be. I had a husband. He maybe worried, I don’t know. But I never did.
Fast forward some years. And I no longer have a husband.
And in this moment, I have a different kind of hybrid cushion, but this cushion is deflating sooner than I want to admit, though I have thankfully and finally admitted it and I’m looking my reality full in the face.
So I said to my friend that I think men are hard-wired to know that it all falls to them. I am not saying this is good or bad, I’m just saying. (For the love.) Men know that they will get jobs and have to support themselves from day one. Women, again – just saying, don’t necessarily know that. At least, I didn’t know that. I didn’t have to know that. That was not my experience. I have always been taken care of. (I hate this post.)
But up til soon-ish – as a 43-year-old woman – I have never once had it all fall to me. I have never once worried that I had to take care of myself financially. (I already know: I’m a princess. Please do not write me that.) And I still don’t; but that time is coming.
John Eldredge is one of my favorite authors and part of what he talks about is his theory (that I completely resonate with) that men and women are each born with questions that we spend our lives trying to get answered.
For men it’s do I have what it takes?
For women it’s am I beautiful? and am I worth fighting for?
I’ve spent my life searching for the answers to my female-specific questions, and unfortunately, I have believed lies.
But I just realized that I have written in my journal time and again recently the following fear: I don’t think I have what it takes to take care of myself.
And it just hit me. That is the man question, the man fear, the man issue. Because of my singleness, because I am partner-less, because for the first time in my life it is all about to fall to me, I am – in a sense – having to be the man. I am having to ask myself the wrong gender’s question.
NO WONDER I AM OVERWHELMED.
NO WONDER I FEEL SO UNCOMFORTABLE.
NO WONDER I’M EXPERIENCING SWIRLY PANIC.
NO WONDER I’M SCARED.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I believe I was created for partnership. I believe that men and women are created equally but differently. I believe I was not hard-wired to have to sit with this question and bear this burden on my own and so therefore I am, of course, living in discomfort right now. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
And so here I am having to rethink decades of one way of looking at life and I am having to face new fears, fears I’ve never had to face before and therefore almost don’t know how – the biggest ones being that I do not have what it takes to take care of myself and that I may, sooner than I wish, have to give up my dream of helping women for the rest of my life through my writing and speaking – and this makes me so sad to even contemplate, I can’t even tell you.
But I’m working on it. I’m working on all of it. And I’ve talked about all that I’m trying to do. And I’m not ready to give up yet. But that’s not what this is about.
Today is about my fear. And it’s about my sadness. And it’s about questions. And it’s about me hoping I can keep doing something I love but really thinking I might not be able to anymore sometime soon. And it’s about the unknowns. And the future. And it’s about choices, and how back then, I didn’t have to worry about money, but other things were really not good. And now there is relational calm at every turn, but I’m scared about finances. And how life is sometimes hard. And how I know that I know that I know that I’m blessed.
But everything is so blurry right now. And I hate blurry things. (I’m crying right now as I write this.) And I have a feeling you might hate blurry things too. And I have a feeling, you sweet woman, might be bearing this burden too, in ways I’ll never even understand.
And so I pick up the rock from the beach that says that it’s all going to be okay, as it sits right next to my laptop day in and day out, and I shake it in my hand and hold onto it and rub it (rubbing the words off, I’m afraid) and pray that those words will sink down deep into my soul one of these times.
And I will wait.
And I will hope.
And I will ask myself the uncomfortable questions – even if they are the not-right-for-me questions – because this is my current lot.
And will keep toiling at my dream until I just can’t toil anymore.
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