Oh my god, I just lost $350.
I was feeling panicked, my breathing labored. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
Particularly not right now, when I’d just quit my business to become a full-time travel writer and just applied for a Swiss long-stay visa, which required me to have a certain amount of money in the bank. When I needed that money more than ever. When every little dollar had started to count more and mean more.
The whole thing should have never happened in the first place. I’d sold an expensive camera lens on Amazon.com. The buyer claimed there was a problem and wanted a refund. I followed procedure, entered my return address into the Amazon system (and sent it directly to the buyer) and told him I’d be happy to refund his moolah.
Then Amazon refunded his money. Before he sent back the lens.
This made me nervous, but I guessed Amazon had it covered.
Weeks passed. No lens. A month passed. Still no lens.
I finally contacted Amazon and told them I was concerned, that perhaps the buyer was scamming us, trying to keep the goods and the refund.
Amazon responded to tell me there was nothing they could do because they had (apparently) sent me an email I hadn’t responded to.
An email I never got.
Amazon was going to let this man take my money and my lens because of a lost email.
I couldn’t believe it.
I felt sick and furious the morning I heard back from Amazon and I knew there was no way I would get any writing done in that state, so I laced up my trail running shoes, buckled Luna’s harness, and took off up the mountain. I hiked one of the short, steep trails, moving fast. Putting distance between myself and my problem.
But all the while I was mulling it over in my mind, trying to come up with a solution.
Instead, I kept thinking I just can’t get ahead. I work hard, take on more clients, increase my prices so that I can take a vacation and relax, but then something always comes up. Suddenly there’s a medical bill or an unexpected plane ticket or someone steals my camera lens. I just can’t get ahead.
My frustration was palpable. Tears pricked at the back of my eyes. I kept pushing myself up the mountain.
Then, slowly, as I breathed the mountain air and felt the muscles in my legs stretching and straining, I began to calm. And I realized that the conversation I was having with myself was completely unhelpful. It only made me the victim. It only made me more angry and upset.
So I asked myself if there was a different way to look at things.
I knew that a different perspective wouldn’t change my situation. I might still be out $350. I might still have to be very cautious about selling with or using Amazon again. But having a negative outlook wasn’t going to change my situation either.
And so I looked at my financial life from another angle.
Yes, it often happened that I would take an extra client, make some extra money, be particularly frugal for a few months, and then something would come up and I’d need to use that money I’d been stockpiling. And, yes, perhaps I wasn’t getting ahead. But wasn’t it also true that because of all those decisions, I also wasn’t falling behind? That I’ve always been perfectly provided for? Always had precisely what I needed?
Instead of “I can’t get ahead,” I started to remind myself that I’ve always been perfectly provided for.
Suddenly, I felt a rush of unexpected gratitude.
I’ve always had just what I needed.
Suddenly, I remembered something my therapist said when we were talking about money last winter: “The universe is incredibly efficient. Sometimes you only get exactly what you need, nothing more, nothing less.”
I reached the top of the trail and looked out over the valley, calmer, centered again, trusting that everything would work itself out in one way or another. That I’d continue to have just what I need.
And I remembered what’s important to me: namely, being the kind of person who sees the good, who lives a life drenched in gratitude, who loves and trusts herself fiercely.
Suddenly, the whole thing felt much less important.
I climbed back down the mountain and spent the next several days not worrying about my $350. Then, early in the week, I sent one final email to the buyer. I told him I hoped he was well and having a lovely week and that I hadn’t heard back from him or received the lens and was feeling worried. If he’d already sent it, would he mind sending me the tracking number so that I could check with the post office? If he hadn’t sent it, would he mind sending it right away?
Then, I let it go. Sent the email out into the world and let my worries leave with it.
A couple days later, he responded, apologized for not sending it sooner, and sent me a tracking number for the package, which he’d mailed that morning.
So, I didn’t lose my $350.
But, more importantly, I didn’t lose anything else—my sleep, my health, my gratitude, my outlook, or my self trust.