‘I kept thinking, ‘If I make more money than my husband, he won’t want me anymore.’ Why was I so afraid? I thought it was normal to fight about money.’

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“Barbies in hand, alone in my room, while my parents are screaming profanities at each other about money. That was just normal, I thought. To fight about money.

Mom was saying, ‘Where is all the money? How could you have spent it all? We never even see you and then we don’t get to see your money either!’ My mom was naive, my dad was spending it on an expensive drug habit. In the meanwhile, in my room… this barbie would wear the most beautiful gown to the ball. She would tell all her friends how great she really is. She was the most beautiful and amazing in her dream house with her fancy barbie car. My 5-year-old imagination saved me from the feeling of fear and invisibility…

We had built a house, got new cars, a boat, a camper.. Daddy’s business was booming… and he was never home. He ran himself ragged… working 48 hours at a time. He literally broke his back in pursuit of success. Even choosing drugs to keep him awake so that he could work.

About a year later, he lost everything. He filed bankruptcy and disability and my parents got divorced. I’ll never forget the day my mom was leaving for her own rehabilitation stay. She was crying so hard and it was scary. So, I patted her on the back and said, ‘It will all be okay Mommy.’ And she said, ‘I don’t think it will, Melisa.’

Courtesy Melisa Keenan Reno

But all of this actually was a little girl’s dream. With mommy and her nagging gone and daddy not being able to work anymore, he had nothing but time for me now. An only child. Daddy’s little princess. He called me, ‘My Melisa.’ Just typing those words bring tears to my eyes.

He picked me up every day from school. He listened to me, taught me things. He went to his own rehab and we went to church together, got baptized together. He became my best friend. He saw me, and loved me, and heard me. He would talk to me about thing. I felt that he trusted me and believed in me. I didn’t realize it then, but I was the ONLY good thing still left in his life. And he wanted me to be able to be freer than he was, happier than he was, wiser than he was. At night, he would tuck me into bed and read to me from the bible while we ate peanut m&m’s and drank coke until we fell asleep. It was a kid’s dream.

As a child, I learned that money meant I was invisible. I learned that everything was superficial. I learned fear. To trade off relationships. I learned suffering and disconnection.

I also learned that poverty meant connection, spirituality, presence, love, fulfillment, quality time.. I remember one day driving to the grocery store in our beater car that grandpa bought us, using food stamps. He bought me breaded shrimp in the frozen food section. He said we deserved a little treat together. Finally, I got my daddy all to myself.

No wonder I have always kept myself poor! Having money is scary!

My daddy died of cancer when I was 12. He had just won custody of me. So, I was shipped off to live with my aunt and uncle in a neighboring town.

I think I carried this belief of money with me subconsciously. I grieved my father’s death for years and years in silence. My aunt and uncle’s house was a safe place to grow up but they never wanted to be my parents. I missed the connection that poverty with my dad had brought me. I cried myself to sleep for years. I couldn’t share my feelings with those around me. I would go to church on Sundays and go up to the ‘altar’ to kneel and cry and pray to God. He was the only one who didn’t meet my feelings with judgement.

Fast forward to about a year ago. I am 30 years old. I have a degree from a local University. I am married with 4 children. I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 10 years. I am very spiritual. I have used all of my past experiences to discover who I am, what my purpose is in this life, and I feel called to become a life coach. I can relate with SO many different walks of life. And we have been below poverty line the entire time. My husband is a high school teacher. I am working my business and doing decently. I got to the point where my income was about to exceed that of my husbands.

You would think that meant we were all celebrating. But I wasn’t. I was paralyzed in fear. And you know what the fear was about? I kept thinking, ‘If I make more money than my husband, maybe he won’t want me anymore.’ This belief had NOTHING to do with my husband, he is the sweetest most kind and caring man. A devoted father. AND we have been through our own kind of hell together and made it out the other side. He is my absolute best friend and soulmate.

Courtesy Melisa Keenan Reno

So, why was I so afraid? Because in my childhood, poverty meant connection. It meant I was adored and admired and worth spending time with. All of it.

I can’t say for sure how many of my life’s choices perpetuated this belief while also perpetuating our poverty. But I finally connected with this part of me and released this belief. Having money, or not having money, does not affect our ability to find love and connection.

Can you imagine if I would have let this belief stop me in my tracks as a life coach? I am out sharing my passion and expertise with the world. But because of a very old decision I made as a child, I could have just stopped. And let go of what I believe is a major part of my life’s purpose.

But instead, now I am free. Free to help people as a life coach. Free to make as much or as little money as I want while also making as much or as little connection in my life as I want.”

Courtesy Melisa Keenan Reno

This story was written by Melisa Keenan Reno. Follow her journey on Facebook here.  Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free newsletter for our best stories.

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