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Where Money and Emotion Tango


So many of our human issues are tied up in money. Both on a global scale and on a deeply personal one. Money in and of itself is a neutral force. But money easily absorbs whatever emotions we want to plaster on top of it. Money represents so much to us - love, power, success, freedom. Any one of us can have any one of these things without money, but we throw money up as a barrier to what we want. I know I sure do.

My tendency to under earn throughout my adult life has affected my self-esteem and my belief in my talent and my success. At times, to an unreasonable degree. Lots of people slam face first into this particular brick wall - especially artists.

When tying my self-worth up in my belief that lack of money equals lack of talent, I also had to admit that I never really invested in myself or in the kind of writing I truly want to do. Sure, you don't necessarily need money to do this, but you do need energy. To be fair, much of my work over the past five years was to get me to the point where I felt like I could invest in myself this way. I've been blogging for almost ten years. I wrote stories I cared about. I used words to preserve pieces of myself and my history. I did my best to adjust my lifestyle so that my energy was solid and my sensitivities managed. When I hit rock bottom, I did what I could to lurch upward. When I hit rock bottom again, I flailed and then I found help in the upward lurch. Some writers need writing to find themselves, some writers need to find themselves before they can truly write. I needed both. Not that we are ever found, of course, that's kind of a dumb phrase. We're always here, but maybe we're buried. Or we've slipped away from ourselves, our intuition, our deep knowing of who we are and what we're here to do.

I spent a lot of my thirties hunting for myself, digging through the layers until I found my center. Then I lost my center, found it,  lost it, then I found it again. So it goes with center-finding. Balance is never rock solid, it's always at the mercy of the wind. Until you realize that the wind can't blow you any farther than you choose to go.

But one of the things I still struggle with is money. Lucky for me, now I can struggle with money while actually having some. When my dad died, he left $40,000 buried in the woods (true story) and a piece of property that we decided to sell. Buried treasure doesn't last long when you have hospital bills and mortuaries to pay, but the property sale helped me get to the place where I always believed I should be at this age. Namely, solvent.

Some of me felt guilty that it took a parent dying to get me there. Sometimes it felt like blood money, but most of me didn't feel that bad about that. I was perfectly willing to look at it as a paycheck for dealing with the pain, anguish, stress, grief, and crazy details of death more or less gracefully. (Mostly less.) What I felt guilty about was that the money made so much of a difference to me. Shouldn't I have gotten there on my own? Shouldn't I have figured out money by my mid-30s? Shouldn't I have been more frugal? A parent's death shouldn't be a get-out-of-debt-free card. Maybe yes, maybe no. But spiritual counter-arguments of the "we all have our own paths and timelines" persuasion fall on deaf ears when you're eager to feel terrible about yourself.

Money guilt, even though I'm not in the same dire $257-away-from-being-flat-broke straits as I once was, still rears its goblin head to stick out its tongue at me. Especially when I choose not to earn it.

A few months ago, I did a scary thing. When my last two big freelance contracts ended at almost precisely the same time, rather than engage in my usual six stages of coping - panic, worry, panic again, get over it, write things that excite me for awhile, hunt for a new client, find a new client - I opted to skip the panic part.

Instead, I decided to buy myself two months to write what I wanted to write, to work on projects that fed me rather than drained me, to both invest deeply in work I want to do and take the adult's version of summer vacation. Three days after I made the decision, I finished my book of animal stories. Vindication! My choice was the right one! Tainted by only the smallest amount of guilt. Yes, part of the deal of buying myself two months of writing was that I wasn't allowed to feel bad about it, but the gremlins devour good intentions like candy corn. Then a few weeks later, my channeled blog was born. Now I'm creating some stuff for writers who want to learn how to use their intuition to make the whole process of writing easier and more fun and hopefully more likely to wow the world with their mad genius. (Do you know any writers who'd be into this? Send 'em my way! Are you a writer who'd be into this?) It's fun and I love it and now I get to love rather than dread sitting down to work.

But now I'm at the end of my two months. I deeply want to keep investing in my own work and I do have the means to do it, but the Real Adults Make Money (Preferably Lots of Money) belief is tough to elude. So are the gremlins of "this is self-indulgent" and "who are you to think you can make money doing what you actually want to do?" and the "lucky you, you certainly couldn't do this if you had a family to take care of!" All I can do is confront them head on and decide what's truly important to me. While doing my best to untangle my own issues around money and trust in myself and my abilities.

My issues with money are mostly just my issues with myself - where I don't trust myself, where I don't trust my work, where I don't trust the world. But trust is a muscle. All you can do is lean on it and hope it grows stronger.