My Overdraft

It’s not what you think!

Last Monday I visited my general doctor for a bit of a catch up. Remarkably, I hadn’t seen her since before The Quinsy, and had only been communicating via email discussing the other work I’ve been having and my abysmal bloodwork.

I’ve not been feeling physically great lately, and haven’t been able to put my finger on it. You know that general, crappy run down feeling, like you’re on the cusp of coming down with a head cold (or worse)? Yeah, I know it’s pretty common, but when you know your white blood cells are below the lowest of the safe range and had been feeling relatively good prior, it’s a worry.

My doctor never ceases to amaze me – she is a huge support and I am lucky to have her –  and the analogy she used to describe how I’ve been feeling was nothing short of beautiful. Well, to my financial mind anyway 😎 It was along the lines of:

To put it in a banky way, consider you’ve been in this huge overdraft for a long time. When you get back down to a zero balance, like you now have, there is no surplus cash balance to use, and even as the balance grows, while it’s small you can still spend it very quickly and end up back at zero.

How good is that? The run down feeling has passed, now, but by her telling me this I now realise this is what I need to continually tell myself when I become grumpy for feeling the need to rest by the time the afternoon rolls around, which is still most days.

I was in overdraft for 16 months, versus the four and a half months I’ve been saving since reaching zero balance. Now, I understand I need to save a bit more in order to be comfortable, and a bit more beyond that before I’ll have the cash for discretionary spending.

Radical Changes

My giant step towards minimalism.

For quite some time now, I’ve had something nagging at the back of my mind, which recently exploded into a need to take action.

Here is my humble abode:

DJI_0138.jpg

Or rather, 4,000 sq ft mansion overlooking Auckland city.

Consider I’ve just written a post on minimalism.

See where I’m going with this?

It’s excessive. No one really needs a mansion. Let alone a 20-something with no kids or dogs. What good is me living here doing anyone? Not any really. It means my friends and family have a place to swim on a hot day and that’s about it. This photo was taken on a drone by the realtor’s photography team – yep, she’s on the market! (Well, as of Tuesday the listing will be live, but there’s already a big signboard out front, so it’s legit for sale.)

This has all happened with a hiss and a roar – I don’t muck about when I decide to do something. The explosiveness with which the decision to sell my home came about following a throwaway comment from my mortgage broker, someone whose opinion I value highly, along the lines of “you’d just go and buy a freehold apartment and do your thing, wouldn’t you?”, when I’d told him its estimated sale value. (Not long before I started this blog, when my health was rock bottom, I’d had the local realtor around so I could assess where I stood in case I had to make drastic changes). We didn’t discuss that point further at the time – it was a business meeting – but it incessantly percolated afterwards.

I had a gander through some properties online, and my desire to change my living situation became heavily fueled by minimalist fantasies. I’d had the increasingly nagging thought that living here no longer aligns with my values (environmental, consumptive), and now the thought of being mortgage-free by 30 seemed to complete the trifecta of reasons to take action. In my mind it was done. The end goal was set, so, as I treat every other goal in my life, I then had to extract my mind from its fantasy world, drag it back to the starting line and map out the steps necessary to get there.

Believe it or not, I’m equally good at donning my sensible-hat as I am making outrageous decisions. Life’s all about balance, right? In this case, the sensible-hat made an appearance and before making any radical changes I wanted the green light from three people – my financial adviser, aforementioned mortgage broker, and the realtor. Even though I hadn’t originally considered the financial aspect as reason to move on, I had always considered the opportunity cost of selling as reason to stay, so despite initially being motivated by evolving values and moral realisations, the financial aspect was important in my decision, as it should be in any property transaction. I work in financial services, too, and live/breathe all things finance – so if something doesn’t make financial sense, I can’t justify it to myself (with the exception of owning fast cars which depreciate even faster) regardless of how strong an emotional pull’s involved.

Around the time this was happening I’d booked a day off work to finalise submissions for my ACC case so I also arranged on this day to catch up with my three human traffic lights, all whom gave me the unequivocal go ahead.

I was pleased, to say the least, that I wouldn’t be compromising my financial future by acting on this deep-seated intuition I feel toward making a radical change to my living situation. Within 10 minutes of speaking with my financial adviser, I could feel the unrivalled satisfaction from pieces of the giant jigsaw puzzle that is life slotting perfectly into place.

Here I am writing this, three weeks later, on the last Sunday I’ll get to enjoy without having to vacate for an Open Home. I don’t know where exactly I’m moving to yet, and that’s OK. In fact, I’m not concerned or stressed about that at all!  I’m reveling in the excitement of taking a giant step towards minimalism and looking forward to sharing the journey with you so that you, too, may be inspired to take a leap of faith into the unknown in order to live a life you feel better about.

Happy Tears

I ease my sleeping mask onto my forehead and slowly open my eyes to squint at the time on my phone, as I do every morning – it’s 5.a.m., yippee! Excitement flourishes as I swiftly place my phone back down and take 5 minutes to breathe, contemplate what the weather may be doing when the darkness eventually lifts, and consider how good it feels to be able to take those long, deep breaths, cocooned in a Tempur and feather sandwich with a purring cat by my side.

What was different this morning to other mornings, were the tears that flowed.

I’ve gotten into the weird habit of intuitively placing my hand over my stomach when I get up in the morning, a hangover from when I was quite sick and would pray I feel nothing there, rather than the pregnant-like belly which was so unfamiliar to me and disappointingly there without fail every morning for much of last year.

I walked into the bathroom and was about to weigh myself (another daily occurrence at the moment) when I caught my reflection in the mirror – more specifically, my pancake-flat stomach. As I proceeded with my belly check-in, my top exposed that shadowy line between the oblique and ab muscles: the muscle definition more like I’m used to seeing; a stomach that is some semblance of mine, not a distended, foreign one.

For whatever reason, the magnitude of what my body has been through and the progress of my recovery hit me like a freight train, and the happy tears flowed.

To top it off, I descended into the foyer and was immediately greeted with the stunning framed L’Instant Tattinger poster gifted to me by a grateful client yesterday which, in my recently-woken state, I’d not quite remembered had happened yet. (How hypocritical to mention this when I’ve just written about my contempt for “stuff” – will elaborate more!)

My heart filled with gratitude. I am able-bodied, I can get out of bed in the morning. I have fresh air to breathe, food to nourish my body with, and I get to go and do worthy work that people appreciate beyond words.

I am happy.

Minimalism & Mindful Consumption

Until now I’ve only touched briefly on how this health journey has changed me and one facet of change which slaps me in the face on the daily is how surrounded I am by “stuff”.

In my mind, change within oneself occurs in one of two ways: One either consciously coaxes it upon oneself until the desired behaviour becomes habitual, or it pompously announces itself through your subconscious, triggered by prolonged or repeated exposure/experiences; the speed at which change can occur in either fashion varies from tortoise-like, over a period of years, to cheetah-like – overnight.

Surprisingly, minimalism and mindful consumption crept up on me subconsciously; so subconsciously in fact that they became intrinsic parts of my being before I could even recognise the change myself. It definitely started last year, otherwise I can’t imagine what else would have triggered me to commence a shopping ban mid-January. I noticed enough change in my behaviour to bring it forth to my consciousness, hence I now consider myself an aspiring minimalist and actively exercise more mindful consumption.

Have I asked myself why this change was brought about? Not really – it’s pretty obvious: I temporarily lose my health, embody the mantra “health is wealth”, and start to realise shit means nothing. It’s almost sadly cliche, really. Maybe just a little surprising given I’ve never really put much weight on possessions nor accumulated to the level of my peers.

Ultimately, it is a positive (and exciting!) change. Less stuff = more, in so many ways, and I hope to expand on this topic in the future. In the meantime, though, it’s positively annoying! I cringe when I put my watch on in the morning, I yearn for a capsule wardrobe rather than a moderately full walk-in and heaven forbid I have to put something into the rubbish rather than recycling.

It’s so important to embrace change and I am both grateful to have been enlightened to the truth that we are a brainwashed, consumerist society, and proud of myself for adopting values so against the grain of it.

 

 

 

Guilt

On Tuesday, I was woken at 4.29am by a severe dizzy spell when I rolled over in bed and for a minute it felt like I was going to fall off the edge of the earth. Fortunately it was short-lived and I was only a bit woozy and jaded afterwards, but enough to know there was no way I could safely get in my car and go to work in a few hours’ time.

The problem with this happening on this particular day was the arrangement I’d made to spend the day with a new staff member who was travelling from out of town especially, as well as being on chauffeur duty for my visiting boss from Australia. The “old me” would have dosed up on migraine medication and attempted to do all as planned. The “new me”, however, knows that doing this represents potential jeopardy to the ongoing recovery of my health, so instead of popping pills I sent the necessary messages and after making myself some breakfast, donned my eye mask and ear plugs, and fell back into the slumber my body was craving.

3 hours later, at 9.36am, I woke to 8 text messages, 6 missed calls and 21 e-mails which, on the face of it, was a shock, until I realised that on any given weekday this is the usual volume of activity my phone sees – it’s just that normally I’m awake and at the ready when they start!

It took continued, conscious effort all day to keep my guilt in check over reshuffling plans, but the effect of doing this on my physical and mental state was profound, and reinforced to me how valuable my recognition and acknowledgement of self-imposed stress stemming from guilt being a barrier to complete health restoration, was.

Guilt is a fascinating emotion. In a way it serves us well, helping us identify how we may have strayed from our behavioural morals. To that extent, for those who regularly check in with their emotions and are willing to explore them and their reasons, guilt is useful. It signals that we need to apologise to someone, or not eat the other Toblerone hiding in the back of the cupboard. For the most part I do well at this.

For those who carry on in emotional ignorance, guilt is quite destructive. It harbours other emotions such as worry and anxiousness, and can be stressful to an individual. This is where I now know my emotional intelligence level was amateur, at best – harbouring stress as a result of guilt over not being able to perform for others (my employer, my staff, my family, my friends).

It is through a lot of self-reflection I’ve learned this about myself, and I am learning to let go a bit more as the weeks go by. It is gradual and takes some effort, but boy is it freeing.

Flextime

Up until my more recent implementation of flexible working, whereby I am actually going to make making an effort to accept the need for flexible working hours/locations for a while, I have fortunately been afforded unwavering support and understanding from both my manager and my staff over the last 12 to 18 months when I’ve needed to leave the office or work from home.

As I write this, it’s 7.12 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and I’ve just done half an hour’s solid, productive work. Shortly, I’ll start getting ready to go and spend time with family for my nephew’s birthday; I’ll likely return around 3 p.m. and get another hour’s work done and then relax with a book for the afternoon, perhaps doing a little more work in the evening (in addition to scheduling my week) if I feel the need to.

I spent 3 hours in the office yesterday morning, because I was meeting a client nearby at 10 a.m. instead of the Monday morning meeting we had scheduled which he could no longer make. The work I did means if I don’t feel up to it, I won’t need to go into the office on Monday morning – in fact, the hour or thereabouts I’d spend commuting, I’ll instead be able to spend on computer tasks, which frees up additional time for making phone calls later in the morning. It’s too early to make calls during my usual commute time, so I essentially gain an extra hour.

How good it feels to start my Sunday morning with a clear mind, little tasks out of the way, with nothing but a cheerful day to look forward to.

“When I’m better”

Compared to this time last week, I’m feeling better. Not “better” better, but better than I was feeling then.

I spent all of last year saying “when I’m better I’m going to do this”, “when I’m better I’m going to do that” and wiled away far too many days waiting for better ones.

I think when you’re sick, you do need to take a certain amount of time to throw yourself a pity party – not necessarily a long, continuous one, but sporadic allowances to just let yourself feel crap; to feel your emotions arising from the current situation, maybe even show them instead of bottling them up.

When you’re living off pharmaceuticals and symptomatic such that physical activity is impossibly uncomfortable or dangerous, it’s OK to say “when I’m better I’m going to do this” and “when I’m better I’m going to do that”. The physical limitations scrape in as justification.

This past week or so, that no longer is acceptable to me. The rejection of that phrase “when I’m better” has been creeping up on me for some time now, and even though there have been times this year when I’ve in some ways been sicker than ever, too much time has passed for my life to be on hold.

There are certain aspects of my life that do and will remain very much on hold for the time being – I’m not exactly running 8km in the morning or spending an hour lifting weights. And there’s the “physical step back” from work that I’ve taken as of 3 weeks ago, which I am learning to do, and has made me even more productive. But I am slowly making adjustments to my mindset, made possible by my improved physical state, and avoiding use of that phrase, which only places negative connotations on the present moment.

It is something I’ve never had to do in the past, being an eternal optimist with a dash of realism. I’m a little bit embarrassed that I have felt so “down” at times, and I’ve tried not to appear that way as much as possible, for the sake of others around me, as well as my own good. In fact I credit my insistence in doing that, as well as my generally sunny disposition, as contributing towards my resilience throughout this saga.

So from now (or more accurately, from sometime in the past few weeks) I have banned “when I’m better” from departing my lips. In some circumstances, I may say “when I am feeling well enough”, exercising the full spectrum of wellness rather than the finite “better”, and I think that’s OK. More acceptable, anyway. “When I am at my best” is what I will allow myself to hear in my mind, whenever I feel the thought of “when I’m better” pushing its way in. It simultaneously reduces present negative connotations and stimulates positive imagery for the future.

I most certainly don’t resent any time I’ve wiled away because I know I’m getting that back tenfold, due to the personal growth and extra zest for life this experience has afforded me, and what that will allow me to achieve. That’s not even resentment masked with denial. I truly hold no resentment for the time that has passed.

Whilst I need to continue listening carefully to my body and be mindful of the need for self care, I hereby declare that I will do my absolute best, between now until I reach the day I can say to myself “I am at my best”, and beyond.