July 8, 2008

Getting Unstuck

Posted in Backstory, Equilibrium, Inspiration, life, personal finances tagged , , , , at 12:05 am by otherdeb

I was answering a comment from fivecentnickel here, and it got me thinking. I noted that until I saw what needed to be done in terms of making better choices, rather than making sacrifices, I was overwhelmed and paralyzed.

Thing is, I had climbed out of debt twice before, when I was coming from what I call punishment thinking. By that, I mean that the steps out of debt were my punishment for being stupid enough to have gotten in there in the first place. So instead of the changes becoming permanent, sooner or later I felt my punishment was over and reverted to my old ways, only i managed to dig a slightly deeper hole each time around.

This time, when I got the wakeup call two years ago, I figured it was my last opportunity, and I was gonna do it right this time. So I did something different. While I was dealing with the collection agencies, I started reading (what the heck – I had no money to go out with…). I read books and blogs on getting out of debt. I read books and blogs on personal development. I started putting together an idea of how to reframe things to the positive. My dear fiance, Dee and I had long discussions about the financial decisions we had made (both jointly and separately), and about where we wanted to go (again both as a couple and separately).

Somewhere along the way, I ran into the one piece of advice that had kind of stuck with me from when i did est back in the day. One of Werner Erhard used to say was, “It lives in your language.” Both as a word lover and as someone familiar with the concepts of Rational-Emotive Therapy, this was a concept that rang true for me. It put the control and power over my life squarely into my own little hands.

Dee and I made conscious attempts to reframe our thinking (an ongoing process, which we are still very much in the middle of), and found that it made a big difference. We stopped blaming ourselves for the mess we were in. This gave us time and space to look at where we wanted to go, and how we could get there. We made lists of our goals and values (again, both jointly and separately). We made lists of what we blamed ourselves and each other for. Then we had one huge blow-out discussion about the past, after which we have done our best to let it go. We made a conscious decision that the past was just that, and that holding on to it would just keep us mired in it.

We are not perfect, by any means. Each of us has a complicated life (and I bet you do, too), with our own baggage. However, we are facing forward finally, and it’s all good, even the rough patches.

You hear all over that those who don’t learn from their mistakes repeat them. This is true as far as it goes. What is less known is that, having learned from them, you must let them go, instead of clinging to them like Linus van Pelt to his blankie.



  1. Blame seems to play a huge part in debt. My husband and I have been married 11 years. 7 of those 11 were spent on blaming ourselves for a huge financial mess we foolishly got ourselves into. But as you point out, blame gets you nowhere. The year he had to go to Iraq was probably the best thing that could have happened to me (and us). It forced me to take a handle on our bills and money. I learned (again) how to manage money more wisely (had to learn how to stretch that money to make it last through two weeks). I still get caught up (mentally) sometimes in the bad choices we made, but the past is the past. And we are so much better off right now than we’ve been in a long time, even though it’s still a struggle at times. It really is a mindset.

    Awesome post! I didn’t mean to blab so much, but you got me to thinking about this again. 🙂

  2. otherdeb said,

    @ Hope Wilbanks: First, welcome and thank you for the feedback!

    Second, yeah, blame is one of the two big paralyzing forces we deal with (fear is the other). But I think blame is more destructive in some ways. When you fear, you think you might not be able to do it, be it, whatever. When you blame, you not only have judged yourself guilty, but you beat yourself up for having been stupid as well.

    One thing that I found amazing when I worked corporate, which I did for over 20 years) is how many bosses talked about fixing the problem rather than spending time assigning blame, but how few even attempt to do that. In all that time, I only had two bosses who actually were focused on handling the situation rather than playing CYA. Those two bossses (Joe at Helmsley-Spear, and Mary at American Express) made a major impression on me, and convinced me that not blaming was the way to go when trying to fix something.

  3. Great post! Yeah, when I saw that Ed McMann was up to his eyeballs in debt recently, I thought, wow, we should all take a lesson from that. We look at what our neighbors have and think they “have it all.” Truth is, they probably don’t *own* any of it. They showed Ed years back on one of those shows that profiles millionaires’ homes…can’t remember which one. Things are not as they seem. And the emotional toll may be greater than the financial one. Keep chipping away at it and soon, living within your means becomes a way of life. And the peace of mind is priceless! ~Karen

  4. Ari Koinuma said,

    Hello —

    I totally agree about not continuing the blame. What’s done is done — there’s no point in beating oneself about it.

    That said, it’s not the same thing as not taking responsibility, either. You do have to own up to the fact that it is you who got yourself in your situation. And just as you came down here, you also have the ability to get rid of the debt.

    It goes both ways. One can screw up or build up. It’s a choice.


  5. otherdeb said,

    @Ari Koinuma: Hi and welcome. I manually transferred your comment to my blog’s new home The Dangling Conversation, but just in case you check back here, here is my response:

    @ Ari Kouinuma: Welcome! Yes, you have to acknowledge that you got yourself into the hole but some folks, having done that, continue to beat themselves over the head about it until they cannot move to get out of the hole.

  6. […] (Deb Wunder) presents Getting Unstuck posted at The Dangling […]

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