I was doing such a mundane thing. I grabbed a stack of envelopes that contained bank statements spanning the last three years. It was a stack discovered recently by my man and they sat on our dining room table taunting me with their neglect.
I’ve never been so lame about being organized. Becoming a mama has definitely messed with my inner drive to keep my life in order. I guess with the first kid I tried to hang on but three kids later, I’m just a shell of my former to-do-list-self. I mean, I always have a to-do list in my mind – it’s just that it’s more haphazard than ever before and I’ve slowly grown to accept that the same list may linger inside my brain for waaaayyy longer than would have ever been acceptable before.
I used to never ever pay a bill late. And although I still rarely do, it has happened on more than one occasion since becoming a mom. And our checking account balance? It used to be accurate and identical in all the three most important places – Quicken, my brain, and at the bank. Now each of these areas holds a completely different story and I’ve grown to accept that the balance that the bank has? Is usually the correct amount.
So I had started over a year ago to start reconciling our checking account with this stack of papers. I guess I felt the need to track every single purchase that had come out of our checking account over the last three years – in the hopes of coming up with the same number as the bank in the end. Does this sound ludicrous to anyone? It kinda does to me. But only as I’m typing this right now. It never really seemed insane before….
So on our vacation to Lake Arrowhead in August 2009, I started the reconciliation process with our checking account. I sat overlooking the lake and started to dig in. I didn’t last long. I gave up after probably two months which got me up to like August 2007. Yippee. So I had crammed this stack of statements into a computer bag - one that my husband just discovered in our front closet Hence this diatribe on bank statements…..
Well, a few months ago, before my husband found the stack, I had, in my mind, accepted that I would never return to this stack of statements. Instead, I would let it go. Which was kinda monumental for me. Taking over two years of purchases and just tossing them aside, trusting that the bank did indeed track our purchases correctly and did not, in fact, owe us any money. I was letting it go. And pretty adamant that I would not turn back.
But then this stack showed up a few days ago and it sat there taunting me. Should I change my mind? Should I obsessively go through each one to make sure everything was tracked properly? I let the stack sit there but I think I knew I would stick to my original decision – let it go.
So tonight I grabbed the stack in an effort to chip away at the amount of stuff that has somehow found it’s way (again) to our dining room table and I headed over to our paper shredder. I rolled up our pink kid-sized IKEA office chair to the shredder and settled in to, once and for all, rid myself of this stack of financial memories.
As I shredded, month after month, I glanced at the balances and I noticed how they rose and fell depending on the time of our lives. I thought about the life events attached to these fluctuating balances – the birth of Tommy; our house remodel; the beginning of elementary school tuition; increasing health insurance; vacations; birthday parties; etc. And I realized that there were times over these bank statements that I stressed hard about money. That I suffered a silent panic attack inside about whether or not we would pull this whole raising a family thing off. That I got angry, literally, during my “bill paying sessions” when I transferred money around to try and make it all work.
But you know what? As the shredder whirred away erasing the details of our financial history, I realized that even though at times it all seemed so dire, now, in retrospect, it wasn’t dire at all. It was just another day of life being lived. And the balances rise and fall. Depending on our life events. And that our life events were actually infinitely more important. And why did I even allow myself to get so wrapped up in something as trivial as the balance of our bank accounts?
And then as these thoughts went bouncing through my brain, I came across the bank statement that ended in November 2008. And on the outside of that statement’s envelope, I saw in my hand writing my cousin’s phone number in Phoenix and right below that, the number, in my husband’s writing, to the hospital room where my Auntie Geri spent the last days of her life. And I flashed to the last time I spoke to her, when I dialed that number and I got to hear her voice for the very last time. When she still had enough life in her to hold a phone and whisper her trademark words of selflessness and love. When she asked only about me, my husband and my kids and reminded me that “these are the best days of your life, Leane.”
And I sat at the shredder and even though I knew it didn’t really matter, I couldn’t bring myself to shred those numbers.