I am the oldest of 5 kids, born into a “good Catholic family” nine months and sixteen days after my parents’ wedding. I grew up in a house filled with tension.  My dad was a functioning alcoholic and my mom felt trapped and miserable.  And then she had 4 more kids.

I distinctly remember making an important decision at the age of 8. I would make all the money I could so that I could move out of the house on my 18th birthday (the moment it was legal).

Two or three years later, I enlisted the help of two of my sisters and a friend to build a two-story fort. A peaceful home for us.  Complete with carpet, windows, screens, curtains and a safe – for our snacks, of course.

When I was 11, I became nervous that I wouldn’t get any babysitting jobs (my first significant move toward financial independence). Never mind I had been taking care of my infant baby sister since she was born a year earlier.  So, I took a Red Cross babysitting course and got certified.

I’m not sure why I ever worried. Probably because earning the money felt imperative.  I needed to buy my freedom and a good life.  Well, earn money I did.  I babysat every available minute for the next few years.

At age 16, I graduated from babysitting and more than doubled my hourly pay rate by taking a job at KFC. A year later, I learned that I could double my rate again if I worked at a sit-down restaurant and made tips.  I climbed my career ladder to Country Kitchen.

My senior year of high school I worked full time after school. I turned 18 that May and moved to my own apartment in June after graduation.

Right before I had moved to KFC, I started to worry I’d never have a boyfriend. Again, I think I worried because a boyfriend felt imperative.  I needed a boyfriend to finally have someone who loved me for me.

And again, I needn’t have worried. I was one of three girls to take Auto Mechanics my junior year in high school.  I also became an avid hockey fan.  I dated lots of car guys and hockey players.

I see now that I thought I would finally be good enough when I had money to get away from the oppression of my parents and could find a boyfriend to love me. While it is wonderful to make good money and always have a man in my life, I had made both money and “the man” my god.

Needing something or someone to make me okay has caused a lot of suffering in my life. While I enjoy great health, fulfilling work, many deep friendships, a wonderful home, a love affair with nature and a rich spiritual life, I’ve felt stressed around money and heartache around men most of my adult life.

Day by day, I am learning to loosen my grip on money. I am learning to trust the flow.  I am noticing that I am always provided for, rather than stressing about what will happen in the future.  I love the “Give us this day, our daily bread” line in the Lord’s Prayer.  When I live in the present, all is well.  Truly.

I’ve also found that appreciating money rather than needing money seems to create a much better relationship with it. I’ve argued with myself for many years that I really do “need” money.  “Everyone needs money to live,” I’ve told myself.  Even as I write that, I feel my stomach tighten.  No wonder.  The implied message: “If I don’t have money, I’ll die.”

As for the man, I am finally consistently experiencing me as the person who is right here and can always love me for me. After decades of self-abandoning, I am now loving me and taking care of me as I’ve always wanted the man to do.

I still love being in an intimate romantic relationship with a man. And, I realize I don’t need it.  I certainly don’t need it to demonstrate that I am worthy of love.  I more and more consistently experience myself as love and experience the love that surrounds me everywhere I go.

Desperately needing something, anything, completely overlooks the fact that I already am all that I think I am missing. I lack nothing.

I lack nothing. I AM Love

As I write that, I can feel my body relax. I know the truth.

I don’t always remember the truth when I feel insecure or I’m in a low mood. I don’t always remember that I will remember again soon.  I still occasionally react in desperation when my thinking is murky or my mood is dark.  And, I’m still learning to be kind and compassionate with myself even when I do something I judge as desperate.

Ah, to be human. And to be Love.

About the Author:

Ann is currently writing her second book:  Strong from Within: Simple perceptions and practices for returning to the joy of you

She writes about and teaches how the human mind works – from the inside out – to create our own misery or happiness.  Learn more at www.AnnStrong.com.

“She is the best combination of head and heart I have ever had the pleasure to work with for the past 6 years.  She helped me face my codependent behaviors and deal with all of the losses I’ve had in my life.  She transformed me spiritually from the inside out.”   Mary Cucarola, Founder-Cody’s Fresh Start

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