Letting Go of Numbers

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.


19 Responses to “Letting Go of Numbers”

  1. You touched my heart today. You are right when we are in the moment we think things are coming to an end and there’s no way out. Then we survive and look back and chuckle a little, knowing it wasn’t as bad as we thought. I thought that was great and then I came to the last real paragraph and it made me feel good and sad at the same time. I have “numbers” I keep too, of moments when things were ending and my heart did tear. And I survived. And I think back lovingly on the painful time, because I spent my heart and time with that person, even though it tore my heart, I wouldn’t change it for nothing.

    Thank you Lee.

    To many blessings in 2011!

    • Lee says:

      Thank you for this amazingly thoughtful comment Toni. It felt so good to write these thoughts that struck me like a ton of bricks while sitting at that shredder. I always say that I write
      when inspiration strikes. And for me, that’s what writing is for. And it feels good to know that someone relates to my words and thoughts….
      To many blessings in the New Year – yes. Have a great day.

  2. Suebob says:

    Oh, sure, lure me over here and then make me cry. I see how you are.

    Good stuff.

    • Lee says:

      Oh Suebob – that means a lot coming from the writer that you are. Thank you for reading! And hope to hang with you in 2011!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lee Vandeman, LRShredder. LRShredder said: Letting Go of Numbers | Moms Without Blogs: So tonight I grabbed the stack in an effort to chip away at the amou… http://bit.ly/hbJs7y […]

  4. Lee, I’m just so crazy in love with your heart. Thank you for speaking it. I love it when you do.

    Miss you.

    • Lee says:

      Thanks my friend. Just writing when the heart is speaking to me and I’m learning that for me that’s the best way to go. xo

  5. Shelli Kozachenko says:

    I absolutely LOVE this post! Thanks for giving us all perspective on the monthly/daily/hourly stresses that we put on ourselves when it’s so much more beautiful to bask in the love that our families shower on us each day! Love you, my sister!

    • Lee says:

      Thanks Shell for reading. And how sweet and brave of you to comment. 🙂 Happy 2011! Hope to see you more this year!!! Love you too!

  6. Karen says:

    Lee – this was so amazing – you know how I have my STACKS of crap like this as well – taunting me in the sheer volume of it all – I’m firing up the shredder next week. Thanks for the inspiration!

    And I’m VERY proud of you for getting rid of this BURDEN finally! 🙂

    And as for those numbers that really DO matter… I can’t let go of those either. My old-fashioned address books still sit in my file cabinet with the phone numbers of dearly departed friends and family…I even still have some of those important digits memorized! Thanks for also not letting your Aunt Geri’s go yet… Good to know I’m not alone in this sentiment.

    Love you!

  7. Amy Sims says:

    So good.

    As the sentiments above, WAY TO GO on shredding the past and not wasting the future on trying to reconcile. Oh how I can relate. And yes, good choice on assuming the bank is right.

    You also got me at the end too. There are some numbers that just CAN’T be deleted. I still have my grandmother’s home phone number on my speed dial. For some reason … just can’t delete it.

  8. Alexandra says:

    Exactly so.

    Write when inspiration hits, b/c then you get posts like these.


  9. Ann's Rants says:

    This is PERFECTLY timed for me Lee. Thank you.

    I gave up reconciling a year or two ago and never looked back–all part of my revaluation of the worth of MY TIME–the only real commodity I have right now that I can capitalize on.

    But the letting go of stressing about it is exactly where I need to go. Cash flow issues are NOT the same as real money problems, and here we are–clothed, fed and happy.

    Thank you so much for this reminder.


  10. Ellie says:


    Beautifully written, and such an important reminder. I feel all caught up in the Web of Dire at the moment. It’s easy to forget that this too shall pass, and that I need to embrace my gratitude for all that we DO have.

    Thank you, Leane.



  11. Seems so simple, doesn’t it? To always know what’s important and what’s not?

    Then sometimes a post like this comes along and you (I) realize it’s not so simple at all.

    Thank you for making it so simple, so clear, so beautiful for me today.


    • Lee says:

      Hey Deb –
      Thanks for reading these words I wrote. Coming from such a gorgeous writer like you means a lot. Hope all is well and hope to see you sometime soonish…

  12. This so beautifully told. Such a lesson to be learned. And man did I need to hear this right now.


    (um, the site looks FABULOUS btw. I haven’t been out of my reader in a while and I love the look!)

  13. Ash says:

    Oh my dear. It does seem when you’re deep in the mire that perspective will never be found. Don’t I know it. But your smart aunt was correct – these are the best days.

    Love, me

    P.S. might I introduce you to electronic banking?

  14. Laura Phelps says:

    I keep a phone number in my wallet.
    Scribbled on a torn envelope.
    I won’t ever call this number.
    In fact, I never did call this number,
    But I wrote it down once thinking I might.

    I plan on carrying this number with me until the day I die.

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