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I Said Yes to the Dress

Last weekend I said yes to a wedding dress. Not for me, but for my daughter. I drove to Salt Lake City and shared with her the experience that I never had (I got married in a dress from the Bon). We went to a bridal salon; we had an appointment and a stylist. We wandered in awe around a small store positively packed with dresses of every shade and shape--diamond, bone, ecru, blush, champagne, and cream; A-line, mermaid, ball gown, column, and trumpet. We marveled at the endless variety of fabrics, lace styles, sleeve lengths, necklines, and trains.

Slightly stunned by the diversity of variations on a single theme, I soon found myself outside of a dressing room, my girl on the other side of a heavy gold curtain. The curtain would close, giggling and chatter would float out, and then it would open again, revealing a potential version of my daughter as a bride. This process was repeated a few times, but not too many; the first dress she tried on won her heart, and it didn't take many more to cement the love affair with 3D lace and sparkling tulle.

Now the time had come to talk about prices. I'd been concerned about this moment. My daughter lives in an affluent city. She earns more at 23 than I've earned most years of my life. Her wedding budget, though not my financial responsibility, gives me heart palpitations. The night before our appointment we'd talked a bit about dress prices and agreed that neither of us had any idea what was reasonable in our current economy. She told me to spent what felt comfortable to me; if she found a dress she was dying to have and the price was higher, she'd make up the difference.

I went into the salon with a particular price point in mind, and this dress was about $1500 above my desired expenditure, before additions and alterations. The salon was flexible and we negotiated a final price $1000 beyond my budget. As we haggled, I was thinking that I would spend precisely what I'd planed and ask my daughter to pick up the extra. But when they returned with the final paperwork, my radiant girl still standing there in the dress that made her feel like a bride, I found that I wanted to cover the whole cost. The idea of blowing my budget by a full one thousand dollars filled me with joy. So I said yes to the dress.

If you're a faithful reader, you know that money and I have been changing our life-long dance patterns. For decades I've lived with choking anxiety around money, a ball of lack energy stuck firmly in my throat, closing off my authentic voice and preventing me from shouting abundance, or even whispering of its possibility. In particular I struggled with spending, the towering hurdle of what my brain labeled "luxury" spending being the greatest obstacle. The definition of luxury, as assigned by the gyri of my gray matter, baffles me to this day. It includes inexpensive items, such as underwear and paperback books. It excludes high-ticket expenses like optional tests from a naturopath--neither doctor nor tests which would be covered by insurance, if I had it. There was no discernable criteria by which the definition of luxury was written within my skull, leaving me able to conclude only that logical is a word often misapplied to the human mind.

I've moved so far from this old self that I can't honestly say whether or not a wedding dress would have been considered a luxury. What I can say, without a doubt, is that my original price would have been uncomfortable for me. To exceed it by $1000 would have brought on near-hysteria. My body would have been flooded with stress hormones, my mind racing with negative thoughts. I would have been terrified, physiologically assaulted by my own brain on a level no less than if I'd been mugged in the street to have the same amount of cash stolen from my wallet. Joy would have been the furthest thing from my mind. Had I been able to say yes, which is by no means a certainty, it would not have been a pleasant experience for me.

Saying yes to this dress meant saying yes to custom measurements, a shorter train, and a deep plunge bodice. But more significantly, it meant saying yes to the relationship I want to have with money. When I said yes to a custom veil and drop sleeves, I said yes to joyful spending, to allowing money to flow easily to and through me. When I allowed my heart to fill with joy at the prospect of blowing my budget, I allowed myself to trust that the space I've created in my bank account will be filled with the same joy and ease with which it was emptied.

As I said no to a payment plan, I also said no to lack energy, to grasping and panic, to perpetuating patterns that have been restricting my growth--personal, professional, financial, and spiritual--for decades. When I exceeded my budget, I also exceeded my own expectations. When I blew past the number in my head, I blew past my edges.

What I bought last weekend wasn't a was freedom. It was proof, incontrovertible evidence that my work is working. For my daughter, I bought a gown. For myself, I bought a certificate of completion written on yards of sparkling fabric. It reads something like this:

We, the Universe, confer upon Deborah Penner, the title of Master of Her Own Money, and with this title all of the rights and privileges thereto pertaining

One week ago I spent thousands of dollars on something that my daughter will use for half of a day, then wrap up and store like a treasure that no one searches for. And I loved every second. I will always treasure my memories of her standing on a pedestal, nearly as tall as me, surrounded by 15 pounds of fabric held tight to her lithe body with clamps that still had the price tags from the hardware store attached. I will never forget how her energy shifted in the dress she chose, how perfectly aligned the design is with her spunk and the sassy energy that makes her one of my favorite women. And, thank the gods of personal development, I will never regret what I spent on her--and on me--that day.

The ability to spend joyfully is hard won. I had to untangle lifetimes of financial trauma to release my need to hoard money. It's taken me years and the guidance of many skilled healers, myself included, to reach this point. When I bought my daughter the gift of a dress, I simultaneously purchased for myself the realization that this point exists, and that I am here. It wasn't until the moment that I realized I badly wanted to blow my budget and there was Absolutely. No. Fear. involved that I was able to see just how far I've come.

So while my girl is the fancy one, the vision to which all eyes will be turned, I feel decked out, here, too. I'm turning circles in my mind, my head thrown back and my throat vibrating with laughter, my hair spilling down my back and as I dance with joy. While she radiates the energy of a bride, young and full of possibility, I glow with the subtle gleam of the crone--wise, knowing, settled. She is robed in the dress of her dreams, facing forward to what she hopes to create; I am robed in quiet power, looking back on what I have created.

I've bought a lot of things with my money over the years--gifts, homes, dogs, books, cars, meals, a degree. But I've never purchased anything as significant as I did last weekend. What I said yes to in that little store will be written forever in the fabric of two lives--mine and my daughter's. When I said yes it changed us both, opening two sets of eyes to the power of possibility and the magic of our minds. As I look forward to the day I'll see her again in "our" dress, my heart continues to overflow with joy and gratitude. I'm so deeply thankful to have been able to offer her this gift, and to have received such a grand largesse of my own.

I don't know when I will be offered this kind of moment, this crystalline clarity, again. I've no idea the date that I'll be asked, again, to exceed my limitations, to move boldly forward as the woman I am without a single vestige of who I used to be. But I know what my answer will be when that moment comes: YES.

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