From 2000-2010 my husband and I were one of those couples -- you know, labeled "spouses selling houses." You see, we both came from modest, middle-class families. And for awhile we were living the American dream with our ascent toward financial security being one of the smoothest of paths until late 2007. Yes, a true rags to riches story, until the housing market crashed. It wasn't long after that bubble burst that we were forced -- as well as third of the country -- to short sell our family's home.
This was the very point that our finances flipped from riches to rags. Our vehicles were repossessed, the commercial building we built had to be handed back to the bank, and we were forced to permanently close the doors to our independent real estate company. Sure, we griped and griped, as we headed toward bankruptcy. Gone in an instant was all the prosperity we had worked so hard to accumulate.
But not all had been lost, and I was about to learn there are greater losses on this earth than monetary ones. It only took a couple of years for us to be hit with a double whammy: the loss of our income from housing industry collapsing and the unexpected news I had stage III colon cancer. Unable to carry my weight, my husband of almost ten years felt I was nothing but a burdensome wife. Thus within months, I was left penniless and alone to raise my three children.
There's a proverb that says that the real measure of your wealth is how much you'd be worth if you lost all your money. And for me, no truer words have ever been spoken! To tell the truth, one horrific event caused another, and yet another. As with all traumatic events, you can't see the sun when you're crying. And I was crying 24-7, no good to anyone, let alone myself. On top of my crying spells, I was filled with anxiety, desperation, and hopelessness.
All I can say is that at that moment, my reality was distorted. The sense of betrayal was so huge that it led me to believe that my life wasn't worth living. It took time, lots of time but I discovered that despite hardship, it is possible to remove negative thoughts to attract success, and rebuild my life. What I needed to do was redefine what success meant to me. My circumstances only helped to reveal my true self. You see poverty influences you and forces you to drop all and any pretenses. When you're rich, you think you're invincible but when you're poor you realize that's where you really find your strength.
I'll tell you what: Mark Twain knew his stuff when he said, "What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is a win without a loss? What is health without illness?" You have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other. There is always going to be suffering. It's all about perspective -- how you look at your own suffering or how you deal with it that defines you. Trust me, money doesn't define you. Money doesn't make you. You make money.
Do you realize that almost half the world's population lives on less than a few dollars per day? Yet, those people still find happiness and value in their lives. Sure, it's easy to get absorbed in making money, and owning the next best expensive thing in your life. But money doesn't define us, any of us -- from the richest person to the poorest person on this planet. So stop giving in to those our nagging negative thoughts holding you back from the life you desire. Sure, our society is enmeshed in a material culture, but we are still capable of redefining our priorities and avoiding materialism.
Honest to God, your net worth and self-worth are not related. You are worth more than your bottom line. I'm not sure where my story will take me, at this point its run from rags to riches, and riches to rags, and now rags to...? But no matter where my finances lead I know my true value won't be measured by dollars and cents. Truly, I was only able to discover my own personal worth, and value only after I lost every last penny. Poverty to me has become a blessing in disguise.
That being said, I decided to share all of these experiences in two books. A spiritual book talking me through the pains of losing money titled Pennies from Heaven: You Make Money. Money Doesn't Make You. And my brutal memoir titled Raw: One Woman's Journey through Love, Loss and Cancer. Each book took years to write, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to share my ups and downs, in order to face my past. Today, I've come to realize that money doesn't make you richer because real wealth comes from valuing yourself!
Fiona Finn is the author of RAW: One Woman's Journey through Love, Loss, and Cancer Or follow me on Twitter or follow me not...@fionaburkefinn.