When you stretch and stretch and the ends don't meet
Sometimes wanting something and trying for it aren't enough. The honest truth is that, no matter how frugal you are, no matter how extensive your emergency fund, no matter how good your invetment portfolio, things can come up that ruin your financial situation. We don't like to think of these things (or, at least, I don't!), but they can happen. My family could be out on the street next month, despite our careful planning and tracking of our finances, and so could yours.
it's probably not as drastic as all that. Most people don't have catastrophes that large suddenly loom up and ruin everything at once. But sometimes things happen that sap the budget over the long-haul--things like unemployment, chronic illness, or caring for a parent or another loved one over months or years.
Telling the Truth
When these things do happen, it's important that we tell ourselves the truth. As human beings, we don't function well when we hide from what is real. It somehow rots inside of us, which makes us do all sorts of things that we don't understand. So,in situations where we've stretched our dollars as far as we can and it isn't far enough, there are several things that are real. First of all, the situation is bad. It's not going to get better on its own. Those things that we have been trying are not working, and we need to do something drastically different.
On the other hand, it's also true that we are only human. We are not supposed to foresee the future. We are not supposed to live without anything comfortable or luxurious "just in case." Most of the time, we haven't caused the problem. Many times, we are also helpless to change it.
Why Bother with the Truth?
Balancing these two pieces of knowledge can be incredibly difficult. It's hard to look at a painful situation and say, "This is bad, and I can't fix it." However, just acknowledging all of these as true has enormous power. It frees us, because it allows us to handle ourselves with dignity as we negotiate our way out of the precipice into which we have fallen. It allows us to hold on to a solid sense of self even though things are bad, because we know who we are and what we are responsible for in the mess in which we find ourselves. This self-knowledge helps us look the bankrupcy judge in the eye, or hold our children close even when we feel frantic ourselves. It permits us to talk about the situation without shame, guilt, or fear.
Telling ourselves the truth in bad situations also frees our creativity. It allows us to begin thinkng outside of our usual ruts. Because it shows us what is realistic, it inspires us to do what we CAN rather than dwell on what we can't. I may not be able to make a bad situation better, but I may be able to help my husband, or my child, or even myself deal with it better. I may not come up with a plan-to-beat-all-plans that avoids bankruptcy, but I may be able to file before my family is completely destroyed financially. I may not be able to save anything from the burning house, but I may be able to gather my family together and grow our bonds deeper even as we watch our possessions being destroyed.
Finally, telling ourselves the truth helps us refrain from making things worse. When I acknowledge the reality of my situation, I;m less likely go out and spend more money because I don't really know where I am financially. When I admit what I can and can't do in the situation, I can grieve my losses. They don't create empty spaces in me that I try to fill with unhealthy things (which usually have a finanical impact!). When I'm not making things worse, I also have that much more energy to work at making them better!
Telling ourselves the truth won't solve our problems, be they financial or otherwise, but it does help us deal with bad situations better. Sometimes, that's all we can do and many times, it makes all the difference in the world.