deprivation · finance · progress

Two Nickels.

8.27.18.pngWhen, 7 years ago August, I sat across from two folks who volunteered to help me look at my finances, I went as a ball of anxiety, misery, and defensiveness.  (I’m sure that was great for them!)

But, in truth, every one of us pairs that sits with another person to help organize and plan their spending knows that we’re stepping into a very sensitive place for that person.  If they’ve ended up on the other side of this table, they’re not flying in on the wings of victory, and it’s natural that they may feel all sorts of uncomfortable.

As time has gone on, I have met again with several different pairs of folks to look at my spending and saving, to parse out my goals, to find where there is pressure and help make a plan to relieve that pressure (the groups are called “Pressure Relief Groups,” PRGs, anyway!). And even with all the years of doing this work, I can still feel anxious and defensive, particularly in places I don’t understand that well or feel particularly hopeless about.

As I stall on uploading my numbers spreadsheet to my new financial planner, I notice similar feelings bubbling up.  Thankfully, not the hopeless bit, but the anxiety and defensiveness are up.  It reminds me of those hoarders tv shows where people may have collected a whole bunch of stuff, but the particulars make no difference: it’s the feelings, and fears, that matter.

I feel fear that she won’t understand the spreadsheet I keep for my numbers, so I’ve been stalling uploading it.  I fear that she’ll judge me because it may look like chaos to her, when it looks like order to me (hard-won order, at that).  I also fear she’ll tell me I have to spend less money, to live smaller, which was my overarching fear at that meeting 7 summers ago.

But, frankly, I’m not the worst ever seen, and even if I was, it’s her job to help me sort it out!  My way is not the only way.  And I don’t have to live smaller, ever.

The ultimate message I received at that first PRG was that I was “underspending” in all sorts of categories.  That “underspending” was even a concept was foreign to me!  I’d imagined that because I could not make ends meet on my meager income, it meant these two folks would tell me to spend less, to somehow—even though I was living so close to the bone I was perpetually leaking blood—they would say: less, smaller, tiny, infinitesimal you.

Of course, you may have guessed, they did not say anything of the sort.  In fact, they said I needed to double what I was spending in categories like food, entertainment, clothing.  (Apparently $40 a week on food was cruel, not prudent!)

Deprivation is a place I’ve been uncovering for several years.  Being smaller, hiding who I am, fearing judgment, reprisal, and shame.  Naturally, the path to the origin of these beliefs is clear as hell, but that hasn’t erased their existence and it also doesn’t particularly help me in forging a new path.

My PRG said I needed to spend more.  And I replied, “yeah great, how [a**holes].”  At the time, they didn’t say anything.  That wasn’t the point right then (though ultimately it was to earn more, which I have).  They just said, continue keeping track of your numbers and we’ll meet next month.

And so we did.  Again and again, with different pairs until present day when one of my PRG folks said, Hey, here’s a financial advisor’s number.

The road to today is paved with stepping stones that were impossible and invisible until each one was laid down.  The path 5 years hence will look the same to future me — and as impossible and invisible to today me.

As I dicker around on sending my spreadsheet to my advisor, I have to hold myself with compassion, not judgment, for “not knowing how.”  And I also have to consider myself with buckets of pride over how far I’ve come.  Every step, no matter how sporadic, has led me here, and I have to trust that this woman has seen far worse and can help me to far better.

Here goes nothing.

 

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deprivation · level up · music

“Do you hear the people sing?”

8-24-18.jpgOver the summer, while in muggy Massachusetts dorm-living for the month, I began to listen to music again.  There’s a piece of deprivation that can be about things you may not ordinarily peg, like sensations: scent, touch, sound.

When I drove to work last year, during my hour+/- commute I would generally listen to talk radio, getting some “grown-up” ideas into my head especially at the end of a day of disseminating information.   Yet, I’ve noticed, I’ve been putting the music on as I drive this week instead.

In the dorm, I played the soundtrack to RENT on full blast (just like in my true college days!), “The Song of Angry Men” from Les Mis (over and over), and Norah Jones for a mellow roll.  It was surprising to me that I was craving music.  And yet whenever I begin to listen to music again (as this is a common, long-horizon pattern), I feel like the lake diver coming up for air—sucking oxygen into my chest with relief and exhilaration and something like surprise.

I chatted with my friend the piano player the other day and, when he returns from a trip, we’re going to get together and start planning the set list for our duo for the artists’ salon on October 7th (did I mention that’s my birthday?  I did, I’m just stoked).;)

I think it’s two 15-minute sets, so that’ll be about 4 songs each set, and he’s totally down to do whatever feels good.  I’m thinking Norah Jones/Alicia Keys inspired works.  Something languid and liquid and feminine.

When I begin to sing again, it’s the awakening of a facet of my soul that in its drowsing I forget contains everything about love, aliveness, and power.  When I begin to sing again, it’s like falling back in love with myself:  “Oh, there you are.  I had kinda forgotten you were made of glitter magic.”

The arrival back at self reinforces these pieces are here all the time, but I guess a question (fear) becomes, if I see this all the time, will it become too familiar?  Will my continued engaging in something that brings me to life eventually become something that is dull?

Fortunately, not even I believe that bullsh*t.

Sing on, singer.

abundance · authenticity · deprivation

The Junk Man Cometh

6.17.18

When I moved into this apartment, I was a 28-year old, about-to-be-graduate student.  I came with a free-to-me mattress and boxspring that lived on the floor, and “night tables” that were actually cardboard boxes draped in colorful scarves.

The coffee table (dubbed the “Earthquake Table” for its seismic gyrations everytime you knock into it), the pull-out sofa (from craigslist with cat scratches down to the wood), and the kitchen table (with one sloping leaf) came with me.  Each piece was free.  They were “from the Universe,” they were “manifested”!  And they were junk.

Over the 8 years I’ve lived here, I’ve traded up a bit, but on the whole, much of the broken and battered that came with me is still here.

At one point while still in my SF apartment, a man/boy/living-on-the-floor-in-a-basement-literal-dumpster-diver (don’t ask) reflected as we ate dinner off my curb-find, chipped dishes: “I love how everything you own is in a state of decay.”

Good lord.  What am I doing with my life!?

The man/boy and the dishes had to go.

For a very long time, I’d identified with “Second-Hand Rose.”  I thrived on and cherished the idea that I was “getting away” with not spending money on what I could get for free!  (“The Universe is totally listening!”)  Or extremely cheap at a thrift store.  My thrift store plunges were always post-scripted with a breakdown to friends about how many pieces I got for such little cost!  I even made specific trips into San Francisco just to go to my favorite Good Will.

Now, believe me when I say that I still find nothing wrong with thrift, as an adjective or noun.  However, when a few years ago I was at my women’s new year’s retreat sharing about what my just-glued vision board meant to me, I began to well up at describing how I didn’t want to be Second-Hand Rose in Second-Hand Clothes anymore.  That yes, a core value of mine is still not to add more consumption to the machine, but did everything I own have to be in a state of decay??

It didn’t make me feel powerful or high on thrift anymore.  It made me feel less-than.  It made me feel like I didn’t value myself.  I wasn’t taking pride in the 5 dollar shirt anymore (with just one hole that no one could see).  I was feeling shame.  I was feeling like hiding.

While I am absolutely still a reusable item junkie (I just purchased organic cotton coffee filters that I can rinse & reuse when I’m in Amherst … as there will be NO COFFEE MAKER!  Cue song from How to Succeed.), I do not have to make a sacrifice for everything that I own, consume, or purchase.

Self-deprivation isn’t hot.  And I’m allowing the pendulum to swing a little closer to center, a little closer to balanced.  I can buy something that I’ll use for a long time.  I can buy at the trendier consignment (not thrift) shop.  I can sleep on a bed frame.  I can even continue to grab up street finds, though I am much more judicious in what comes into my home.

Every day I choose to make a purchase that aligns with my values — about the earth and about myself — I feel closer to who I truly am:  Not. A. Hider.

 

deprivation · fulfillment · truth

What are you hungry for?

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This month marks 5 years from my final chemo treatment for Leukemia, meaning this month also marks the 1st month when I can stop counting months!  To explain, the general thinking around cancer survivorship is that if you last for 5 years after treatment without a recurrence, then you become as healthy as the next person (assuming that person is healthy).  The Sword of Damacles that hangs above the survivor’s head begins to fade and vanish (assuming you let it).

But what strikes me today is the following question: What am I doing with the life that I fought so incredibly hard to keep living?

A brush with death (or a defensive line-backer’s full-frontal gory smash-up with death) will bring anyone to question what it is they want out of life.  And so, when I am now listening to Oprah and Deepak’s new 21-day meditation challenge about “Hunger,” and they ask me what am I truly hungering for … well, I better have a good answer!

While I am extremely lucky enough to not have a (permanently) unbalanced relationship with overeating (or undereating), I do have an unhealthy relationship with my couch.  It’s the lover I can’t leave, the fuzziest, comfiest and thread-bariest socks I still wear, it’s the oblivion I crave.  I love my couch.  I love the sunshine streaming over it in the afternoons after work, I love the smooshy feeling of cuddling beneath the blankets, and especially the rich middle of a book I like.  (I like the middle best.)

But.  I’ve fought the demons of Hell and my own blood cells to earn the right to lay on that couch — is this truly what I fought for?  Well, no.  Somewhat, but not entirely.

Oprah asks, What am I really hungry for?  What is it that I’m trying to attain by saturating myself with words?  What comfort or distraction?

Several years ago, near about the time I moved to San Francisco from New Jersey, I was laboring on some inner work that was raising extreme discomfort within me.  I was renting a room in a house owned by a lady who worked for a hotel chain, and she would bring home any leftovers from the “continental breakfast” they served there.  This included fruit, yogurt… and muffins.  Hordes of muffins.

I would huddle in my room, writing for 20 minutes, then step out into the hallway, pad down to the fridge, and grab a muffin.  Just one.  I’d pad back to my room and keep writing.  20 minutes later, I’d open my bedroom door again.  The fridge door again.  And on, until all the muffins were gone.  Just one more.

I was so uncomfortable.  When I recounted this discomfiting activity to my therapist at the time, she wisely asked, “If you weren’t eating, what would you be doing?”  I immediately replied, “Crying,” and thusly broke down into wracking sobs.

The writing piece ended soon enough, and so did the compulsive muffin-eating, but the question remains here:  If I weren’t reading, what would I be doing? 

Adventuring.

 

deprivation · meditation · worthiness

Worthiness

not-worthy

For the past year, I’ve been adding dimension and characters to a story entitled, The Town of Obligation.  This began as a piece of inner work to explore in a very different manner my relationship to Responsibility — and as “responsibility” came to me with a capital letter, I began to imagine her as a person … in a town … called Obligation.

At some point, I discovered that the town was under an illusion and delusion about “Worthiness.”  It was clear that worthiness was not a character, a person, in this play, but rather a stream running through the town, a source from which anyone could drink.  But at some point in their history, the inhabitants began to solidify and pass down the misinformation that only certain people could drink from this wellspring.

Worthiness was only for some.

Well, now.  I knew this to be bullshit, so I sent my meditating, imagined self over to that wellspring — by now in a different land than Obligation, a forest of different imagination.  I arrived at this pool of Worthiness, this golden viscous fluid, shining and beckoning, Midas’s own pond.  I knelt to drink.

But I could not.  I attempted to drink it through cupped hands, but that didn’t feel right.  It wouldn’t cross my lips. … Okay, how about a wooden scoop?  No, still it won’t cross my lips, fill my mouth, warm the insides of my chest.  Uh, okay.  Maybe I’m supposed to swim in it?  I dive in.  Splashing around in the golden water, it still doesn’t feel right.  What the F?

I come out of the meditation, nonplussed.  I talk to my mentor.  I go back to the pond later, and try again.  What’s the matter?  Do I not feel worthy?  Have I become so deluded by living in Obligation that I, too, have come to think only certain people are allowed to have it?

And so I try again.  I ask: How, Worthiness, am I to receive you?

The pond spills forth a rivulet.  The liquid flows into a pool within which a tree begins to sprout.  It’s a redwood, growing rapidly up and up.  … The tree is pulling the flaxen liquid up through its center, its bark glistening with succor, pregnant and laden with the stuff.

Up the massive, newly-grown pine, Worthiness glides, and then down across the boughs into waving branches and flickering leaves themselves.  Til Worthiness pulses out the stems, out the infinite pine needles, and begins to rain.

Standing, in my mind’s eye, beneath the canopy, I begin to be showered, lathed, bathed with the honeyed gold.  I begin to laugh, like a child caught in a sunshower — that sudden and miraculous moment of sun-warmth and chaotic drenching.

Under and inside the falling droplets of Worthiness, I laugh and dance and stomp.  I begin to feel filled and owned and embodied by the sense.  This storm of esteem inhabits me, fosters me, seems never to end its reign.

And –as yet– it hasn’t.

 

 

abundance · denial · deprivation · money

Use Water, Not Tears.

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I’ve been very specific about tracking my money for a few years.  Specifically putting a large portion each month into various savings buckets: Prudent Reserve, Vacation, Dental, Retirement.

Every month, I’ve poured some of my abundance into a bucket, but today I come to find that I have been hoarding it.  Like an off-the-grid nut job, I’ve surround myself with “In Case of Emergency” water buckets while my crops wither and die of emergency thirst.

Because of my summer of switching jobs, I only earned half-pay for August.  Instead of using my already-filled buckets of money (e.g. my savings) to make up for that gap, I winnowed every spending category down:

Food? Spend Less!

Home supplies? Spend Less!

Philanthropy, clothing, entertainment? Spend Less! Need Nothing! Go hungry!

I have a pattern for this.  No matter how much I earn, I live like a pauper.

And this morning, I realized what the hell is the point in having a reservoir if you refuse to use it during a drought?

Instead of using the gifts I’ve already been given to support me during a time of need, I tell myself to have fewer needs?

That’s what got me on the “very strict about money” train in the first place: Not acknowledging, honoring, and supporting my own needs, but denying them.  (You may by now realize that money is just one symptom of a pattern exists in the rest of my emotional life…)

Need less, be less, have less, do less, share less, laugh less, enjoy less.

And, indeed, joyless is how I’ve felt this month as I watched my field dry and crack while stubbornly refusing to look at the bountiful well that I’ve already filled.

I’m stubborn about that well.  I’m stubborn because I fear if I take anything from it, there won’t be more.  Ever.  If I use the abundance I’ve been given, there may come a day when it ends.  But, dude, that’s the fucking point!  Today, this month, is a month when the money stream dried up — so USE WHAT YOU HAVE SAVED!!!

It all seems so simple when you type it in capital letters… but this lesson, the lesson that says, “Feed and water your-fucking-self, Molly!” is one that I am still very slowly (and even painfully) learning.

 

deprivation · fear · joy · recovery · self-love · truth

Getting the F*ck off my Knees.

On Friday night at 10 minutes to midnight sitting in my parked car outside my apartment building, I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone.  I usually do this as a ‘before getting out of my car at the end of the night’ ritual.  I don’t know why.  Like I’m getting a few minutes’ alone time before I go into the house… but I live alone… with a cat. … so…  In any case, I came across a post about that evening’s blue moon, looked quickly at the clock and exclaimed, “Shit!”

I shut off my phone, dashed out of the car up to my apartment.  I took off my heels, slipped on flats, grabbed my loaner tambourine and climbed excitedly and nervously up the stairs to the rooftop of my building.

Pushing open the door, I saw before me a whitewashed roof with long pipes and what look like abandoned solar panels.  Dropping my keys by the door, I carried my tambourine to the center of the rooftop, shielding myself slightly from the view of neighboring buildings, and turned around to see the full, audacious moon before me. Then, I began to jangle the tambourine, and finally I began to sing.

…uh, what?

As I’ve come to the part of my recovery/internal work where we are instructed to “Humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings,” my mentor asked me how I’d done this step in the past. I told her I usually get on my knees and say some kind of prayer.

“Get the fuck off your knees!” she replied emphatically.

You see, I have a habit of being small.  Of minimizing myself, diminishing myself, down playing and ignoring my own needs out of fear and, mostly now, out of long-grooved practice.  This habit of deprivation and hiding causes many problems in my life, mostly because I am surely aware that I am not “meant” to be a mouse.

Being a mouse, though, often looks like me withholding my truths, not admitting what I really want from others and from myself and from life.  Things like. … I want to get married.  *gasp!*  It was near torture to say this aloud to her when we were discussing truths I never tell anyone.  It feels embarrassing to say it.  To feel it.  To want it. “I’m a modern woman, proud brave able! What a simpering, waif-like desire to have!,” goes my internal monologue.  And I wither to admit it to anyone else.

My mentor and I spoke at length that day, and she finally suggest-/insist-ed that I get a tambourine, dress up in something exciting and shout this truth, and all my others, to the heavens.

*Gulp*

So on Friday morning, two weeks after this suggestion, I finally obtained a borrowed tambourine (you’d be surprised how few there are around!).  I texted my mentor that tonight was the night!  And then I read online that it was also going to be a full moon, a blue moon in fact. This seemed most auspicious.  (For a woo-woo hippie shit chick like myself!)

The evening found me on the roof of my apartment building, fresh from a salsa lesson/live music dance in the city, in a hot dress and pulsing with feminine wiles, furtively tapping this noisemaker in my hand, trying not to feel embarrassed.

And then I began to sing.

I started softly and whirled myself into a crescendo, abandoning decorum, delighting in the jangle and thrill of the truth.  Gyrating, gesticulating, twirling around the rooftop, I sang loudly all the secret desires of my soul and my heart, echoing a refrain of, “I let go of being small!” and hammering wildly on the tambourine, an elegant, alight grin streaked across my face as I hopped lightly over the pipes, spinning around the roof until all my heart’s desires, all my tiny wishes I’m too ashamed to speak, had poured out of my throat and into the moonlit darkness.

Laughing, giddy, adrenalized, I headed back to the entrance door, calling brazenly to the bulbous moon: “Peace out, Blue Moon.”