One time I was on a particularly bad date, and for some reason the guy carried a briefcase the entire evening. These days I would have said goodbye at hello, if not because of the Mickey Mouse sweatshirt and the suspenders, but because my guts said “no” as soon as we hugged hello (as in: hello, internet dating hell) but these were the days before I knew I had a right to exist, and so I started to fantasize the reason he was carrying the briefcase to dinner, to the movie, to drinks afterwards, was because the briefcase was full of money and that, as we said goodnight, he was going to hand it over to me.
Yeah. That did not happen.
In some ways it was a valid fantasy. He’d told me he was a tech guy, but that he barely had to work because once a month or so he’d go to Vegas and play blackjack. Apparently he had some method and brought in lots of cash. Enough to let him drive a fancy white convertible and enough to make him a special member of the Bangles’s fan club. You know: Walk Like an Egyptian. Just Another Manic Monday.
As I write this I am so grateful for growth and new behaviors.
Anyway. I was sitting at the movies with someone staring at me because he said I was prettier than the movie, but I endured it because maybe the briefcase would save my life.
There are words for this type of behavior. If I wanted to dig for gold, I should have just got a shovel and gone into my backyard. I’d have had the same amount of luck and I would at least just gotten dirty instead of feeling dirty.
At the time, aside from my relationship with myself, my worst relationship was with money. I loved it and hated it and the thought of it could make me elated or depressed in a heartbeat depending on the plus or minus sign attached to the numbers.
The universe must have had no idea what to do with me because it wasn’t clear from my behaviors if I wanted to make money or lose it, so the universe did what it does best: it followed my lead and helped me do both. I read somewhere that we all have a set-point for how little money we can tolerate having. This is why junkies living on the streets, for example, can make just enough money for their drugs but not enough to pay for housing. If you can make enough money to pay for drugs, surely you could make enough to pay for shelter. Clearly, there are many exceptions to this, but the basic idea seems solid to me.
Part of my brain, the traumatized, relinquished by my first mother part, had a fairly low set point. It also had a fairly low ceiling, so if I had “too much” money, I’d find a way to lose it or spend it so I could get back to living in my “comfortable” anxious state. The other day I was talking to a woman and it quickly because apparent to me that she lived in victim mode. She listed all the injuries that her body had sustained at the hands of other people. She told me how she never got exactly what she wanted because of other people’s failings. Then she told me how she’d recently inherited over half a million dollars, but that someone stole it from her in a bad investment.
Of course they had. There was no way this woman was going to be able to keep her hands on that much money. It would have disrupted her whole sense of victimhood.
I’ve been there. I get it.
When Pam Cordano had me put a piggy bank in my abdomen (read Day 19 if you have no idea what I am talking about), everything changed for me. Money and I were no longer completely oppositional magnets. We were beginning to be attracted to one another, and it felt really, really good. You know how when you get kicked in the stomach and you are bent over, wondering if you are ever going to be able to inhale again, and suddenly your diaphragm lets go and you take in a sweet gasp of air? That’s how I felt when I began to connect with money. Like I could take in some air. But I still have so much debt, so much to learn.
The universe, I don’t know how else to say this, has its finger on my pulse. My friend Lesli Johnson called me the other night and asked if I would read a book with her so we could talk about it over the phone a chapter at a time. “It’s called The Art of Money,” she said. I’m a big fan of Lesli’s. Before I knew her, I quoted from an article she wrote for the Huffington Post (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lesli-johnson/adoption_b_2161590.html) in my book. The writer Lori Holden later connected us on Facebook. And now here I am, dear friends with Lesli.
(When they teach you in school about writing, they never tell you about all the friends you will make. That may be the best part.)
Since I am her fan, whatever Lesli suggests, I say yes to because I know it will be something good. So, obviously, I said yes to the read and talk about the book idea. “Good,” she said. “Because I already ordered it for you.”
I got the book last night. The cover looks like the cover to a cookbook or to a book on self-love. I want to snuggle up to the author Bari Tessler with her multi-colored fingernails and her sweet mug of coffee or tea or kombucha or, jeez, I don’t know, maybe it’s tequila. Whatever she’s drinking. It doesn’t matter. She looks warm and inviting and like she would love me even if I turned my pockets inside out in front of her and showed her they were empty.
She looks like she believes in me. She looks like if anyone can get me to have a successful financial life, she can.
Totally judge a book by its cover. It’s so fun.
Lesli and I will have our first book call in a few days. Chapter one is Healing Money Shame. This is going to be so awesome. I am going to stare this money dragon in its toothy mouth. I’m going into its rank cave, and I’m not coming out until I love money and my history with it the way I love walking. I believe I can see my relationship with money as something that feeds my life and my sense of self-worth. I believe this because I already feel empowered, as though anything is possible.
What if we all did this? What if we all paired up, got The Art of Money, and had weekly friend calls where we talk about each chapter? There are 16 chapters—a call a week would be four months. If you wanted to finish by the end of the 93 days, you could step it up a bit. That’s my plan: two chapters a week and Lesli and I will be done in late July.
See you tomorrow.