"I have learned about the survival mentality and how, when you feel that you have no choice, you make desperate decisions – like selling my home. I was so desperate to find a solution to my financial mess that I couldn’t see any other way out than selling the mess."
There have been times in my life when we have lived on pasta and two minute noodles for up to a week. There have been times when my children have missed out on basic supplies for school and they miss out on so much more that other children have. Yet, we are not and have not been in poverty, it’s all relative. We just have enough to pay for the basics, we have no disposable income.
I have never known anything else other than this financial struggle, yet I work my ass off, just like my parents did. I work so hard. At times I work multiple jobs in order just to keep my family afloat and the older they get, the more expensive they get. The other thing about this whole experience is that of poverty consciousness and surviving from pay cycle to pay cycle has been that it has been an incredible gift; for both myself and my daughters.
In 2008 I brought my lifetime home, a beautiful little cottage perched atop of a hill in Tasmania; it was minutes from my mum and sister and around the corner from one of my dearest girlfriends and her kids. It was the home that I saw our future in, the house I saw my retirement and grandchildren in and the house that my kids would always call home.
Then in 2010, I felt the urge to travel, so I set my home up with some wonderful tenants, packed our belongings into a four-wheel drive and camper trailer and took the girls around Australia. We survived on a meagre savings and work that I could exchange on organic farms for free board (and sometimes food) and a minimal government family payment.
Eventually I realised I had to work to give us the lifestyle that we wanted. Meanwhile in my house, the tenants had moved out and new ones moved into our home. Thus started a downhill spiral of no longer having our financial future set with a solid investment and a home to return to when our travels finished. The next two lots of tenants were so bad that they caused incredible damage to our home that we had them evicted. The cleaner said it was the worst case that she had ever seen.
You can see the article and photos here. The second lot of tenants refused to pay rent and had one excuse after another. The combination of both of those tenants put me further and further in debt and I was basically working just to service the debt – yet, on the best income I ever had, we still had no disposable income.
Given no choice, I had to put the house on the market; our home, the place that still holds a place in my heart. The new owners created a wonderful renovation, but in my mind, I can still see all the things that I wanted to do to it, yet keep that beautiful cottage charm. But I was still servicing these debts that the tenants put me in, we just couldn’t survive. Without any options forthcoming, I entered into bankruptcy.
That was two years ago. I still have one year to go until I’m discharged from it. But it’s only now that I’m starting to feel like I’m getting on my feet. I still have to say no to my kids for their requests for money, not because they are being unreasonable, but because I can’t afford it.
Yet, there is light. There is goodness in this whole sorry mess. I have learned about the survival mentality and how, when you feel that you have no choice, you make desperate decisions – like selling my home. I was so desperate to find a solution to my financial mess that I couldn’t see any other way out than selling the mess.
Unfortunately that means I’m starting again financially.
But my children have learned so much more. I see that in their actions they do not want to have a future where they can’t provide for their own children, so I see them making decisions that help them to create their own independent financial futures.
I see them learning how to be frugal and how to save and when a purchase is an unnecessary expense. I can see them thinking about how they spend their money and I see them being grateful when I do have the funds to help them out. I see them learning from their experience of relative poverty.
I am so very grateful that my children know humility, they aren’t excessive consumers – in-fact they are extraordinarily talented op-shoppers. I am so very grateful that they know that I don’t need to show them I love them through money, but with love and attention and life experiences.
Even though we are still in relative poverty I no longer feel like I’m being punished for it, I feel
empowered by it. I feel empowered that I know the value of money and that I have taught my daughters the same.
May you find the good in whatever it is you are battling today.
©Alyssa Curtayne, 2017
"Even the act of placing my hands in the Anjali mudra at the end of a yoga session makes me cringe, it’s someone else’s truth. It’s someone else’s practice of bringing a yoga or meditation practice to a close. It’s a beautiful practice, but now it feels false. I feel like an imposter."
I have been practicing yoga on and off for about 20 years. As a teacher already, I always wanted to complete my yoga qualification and make the transition into a giver of yoga rather than being a recipient. In 2016, I enrolled in a course and within the first few workshops, I knew that something was not right.
It started when I wore my beautiful necklace with an OM pendant into the petrol station and the Indian attendant looked at me strangely and asked what it meant to me. He looked uncomfortable and moderately offended, I felt like I had violated something sacred by wearing it. Shocked and surprised by his response, I failed to capture how I felt about the symbol in any recognisable word form, it was a feeling I had about Om, not a thought. He nodded. I left, feeling like I had taken something that didn’t belong to me and started questioning our appropriation of Hindu culture, particularly in the yoga and western spiritual community. They wanted their teachers to be of a particular style and I didn't fit it.
It wasn’t overt. It wasn’t intentional. All of the people in my training were very well meaning and loving, but the culture that was created was an extension of the bigger issue and that is, everything we think that we know, we learned from someone else. The culture of yoga is something that is constantly evolving, but for me this is more than having a serious look at yoga culture and our appropriation of something that isn’t embedded in our modern society.
Increasingly I started questioning all of these things in my life. Everything I thought that I believed in, were being stripped away. I felt like a caterpillar emerging from a long metamorphosis, where I was shedding everything that I thought that I was. I was questioning my spirituality and the “spiritual” community with their loving intentions but behaviours that they have learned from others and how, in the way you react to someone, tells them whether their behaviour fits the culture or not.
What I’m feeling now, is that everything I know, I have learned from others; from people, books, media, culture, socialisation but what about what I KNOW? Where is honouring who I am deep within and the resonating truth that exists in me? Even the act of placing my hands in the Anjali mudra at the end of a yoga session makes me cringe, it’s someone else’s truth. It’s someone else’s practice of bringing a yoga or meditation practice to a close. It’s a beautiful practice, but now it feels false. I feel like an imposter.
And if it doesn't feel authentic to me to copy the rest of the class, where does that leave me? How do we, with our reaction to their behaviour, suppress who others are, their infinite beauty as an individual? And if people don’t comply to a set of behaviours, how do we exclude them from the social group?
I didn’t fit in the yoga culture of that studio and unfortunately I may never finish my qualification, but I have gained something infinitely more valuable, myself. My sense of self and knowing who I am and what I stand for. But this is bigger than the yoga or spirituality, it’s about acceptance of everyone on Earth, who they are and where they are on their human experience journey. I am so tired of so-called “spiritual” leaders telling people to “find their passion,” or “wait for the right one” or any of the other seeking-type behaviour. As the wise Alan Watts says, the only purpose of life is just to BE and every time we tell or show someone that they don’t comply with a social construct, we are asking them to put a mask on, to play the game how someone else wrote it.
It’s time that we took charge of who we are and really OWN who we are and share our gifts and not continually look to others to try and give us the answers. We need to stop looking to others to tell us how to be and trust the innate knowledge that we have within. And for me, learning yoga through teacher training, doesn’t honour who I am, and I’m okay with that.
©Alyssa Curtayne 2017