“What good is money if it can’t buy happiness?” —Agatha Christie
I was on hold for over an hour… no one was picking up. I had the phone on speaker so I could work on other things, but I was a little taken back by how much effort it took to get someone to help me. I was applying for the Snaps program, ‘Food Stamps’, state aid to feed my children. It was awkward enough as it was and I just wanted to get it over with, but instead I had to wait. Was it this difficult for everyone?
How to Climb Up When You’ve Hit Financial Rock Bottom
I had just resigned from my job and had next to no income while I took a couple of more classes to be eligible for a license in professional counseling. My father suggested I apply a few weeks prior and I nearly scoffed at the idea. I didn’t see how I could apply for aid, I made a choice to leave my job. I chose to reduce my income temporarily. I chose to take a risk in hopes it would give me a greater gain. I didn’t think I earned the right to ask for help.
His view was that that was what the program was for – temporary help to get by. And more importantly, it wasn’t just about me. I had two children I had also made a choice for. They had to live with my risk and decision. For that reason alone, I decided to apply. I made a decision to live without, but they had not.
Lots of paperwork, several more hour long phone calls, an interview and escorting my pride out the door awarded my children a monthly allowance of financial food aid. I wasn’t personally awarded aid since I made a choice to leave my job, but my children weren’t penalized for my choice. Somehow, that made me feel better.
As my bills rolled in and my income did not, I was grateful for the help we were given…
As my bills rolled in and my income did not, I was grateful for the help we were given. And yet, I found myself uncomfortable every time I was at the grocery store checking out. Because of that, I swear, my card didn’t work and the cashier would have to override and punch in the numbers several times often asking if I was sure there were enough funds available. I was sure. I kept careful track. And I felt embarrassed, every single time.
I reminded myself that it was me judging myself. It was me who didn’t feel deserving. I wasn’t doing anything wrong and asking for help is more than okay. But I still squirmed. I still questioned what they thought of me.
I remember a few times being in line with another food aid card holder and feeling such compassion for them. I was wondering what their story was, how they felt about it and wishing I could give them more of what I had. But mostly grateful that we were in line together. I had hoped they didn’t feel the discomfort I did. I was certain they deserved it more than me.
The emotions I had felt during this time in my life were so raw and all over the place. One minute I was consumed with joy that I had the freedom to be pursuing a life better suited for me. And the next, I wondered if I had actually lost my mind. Even though my successes would make their way into my awareness often, I would only hold them for short periods before the next task at hand. I was in survival mode, day after day. I was hoping my faith and effort would pay off and I wouldn’t damage my children’s trust and wellbeing.
Every month my food aid card would fill up with our allowance, I was grateful. Despite my wondering, if I was deserving enough to receive, I knew I had made choices to not only help myself but to help more people. I wanted to learn and help more. I wanted to give more. And since all I wanted to do was to give, why on earth was it not okay for me to receive?? This was my continuous inner dialogue. The self-judgment and self-compassion were at odds.
I had a beautiful home I wanted to keep, children I wanted to keep comfortable…
I had a beautiful home I wanted to keep, children I wanted to keep comfortable, and a passion for supporting others on their journey of healing. But first I needed to heal myself. And that meant learning to accept my circumstances, choices, and trust that I deserved every ounce of help along the way. I was no different than anyone else.
What made me so special that ‘I didn’t deserve help’? Absolutely nothing.
It was a year later that I no longer qualified for state financial aid for food. I felt enormous pride to be able to afford to buy food for my home. I felt more excitement that the income I produced came from helping others on my terms, in the way I wanted to. And now I could help even more. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the majority of my private practice clients receive state aid of some kind. And I am honored that I had the experience to be able to relate and understand parts of the road on which they are traveling.
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” —Winston Churchill
I can’t remember the last time I didn’t give an extra dollar in line at the store when asked. I feel it is my duty to give back what I received. But more so, it feels amazing to give readily after learning to receive humbly. And that, it turns out, was exactly the lesson I needed.