love · money · power

Head of Household.

10.18.18.pngIn the continued quest to unwrap the new question of love and power that I stumbled upon the other day — whether a person could have both — I’m remembering a moment when J and I were walking up in the suburban hills near my apartment a while back.

We’d been bandying around the idea that he take some time off, that maybe I become the breadwinner for a while, as he got a new business venture running that would only earn a stipend-like amount.  We were crossing this foot bridge overlooking a fancy suburban schoolyard, watching children play soccer on the neat, always-manicured plastic turf.  We were leaning on the concrete ledge of the bridge, and I experienced a gut-freezing moment.  A sudden pang of anxiety, as I considered what that would really mean to have to earn enough to support us both, and a family.

Some major financial things would have to change.  I would probably have to choose a different career.  I would need to work more.  I would need to count the pennies.  I would need to say no to things.  Maybe there wouldn’t be vacations for a while, or museum memberships, or dinners out.  Suddenly my brain became filled with spreadsheets and numbers and a sodden anxiety of trying to keep the whole ship afloat. …

My breath became shallow.  I saw the disparity between what I could currently afford and what I would need to afford to make a family life work for us.  It was dizzying.

I turned to him in this mild hysteria and asked: “Is this what men feel like when they feel they have to be the breadwinner??”

He wryly smiled and replied, “Yes.”

Love, and Power.

It is not merely women then, or, speaking for myself, merely me, who feels confused, torn, afraid that we cannot have both love and family and a life that feels fulfilling to our passions and goals.

I felt sudden, markedly new waves of empathy for every breadwinner.  (Including my father.)

(I also note here that single parents, gender non-conforming, non-hetero, adoptive, foster, POC, immigrant, differently-abled, parents of differently-abled have all these same financial anxieties and challenges — plus a whole additional mess of anxieties and challenges of which I cannot conceive, and I am drastically humbled and awed.)

I realized on that bridge the sweeping assumptions I’d made and held: that it was in any way “not that hard.”  That it was “easy” for the man to provide because they earned a dollar to my sixty cents (white men at least).  That they should just “suck it up” because this was their intended role, modeled since infancy. …

I suddenly saw with new eyes why J was so focused on financial success, why he struggled so hard, why he chose this business-suit life instead of the entrepreneur-t-shirt one he dreamed of.  I saw his challenge differently.

What I’d considered his deprivation addict, cookoo achievement bent, or Scrooge-like flaw I began to see as his battle toward providing.  (Whether this is the whole case, I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter to the point.)

I began to consider the weight carried by anyone who desires to be an adult in a household.  I began to consider the decisions that person would have to make over a lifetime.  The micro and minor decisions of how to spend one’s money and time.  The decision of what area to study in school.  The decision to follow a career that wasn’t altogether fulfilling but “paid the bills.”

I had new empathy.  My perspective, and my judgment, had shifted.

Suddenly all the Google buses didn’t seem crammed with idiots driven by dollar signs.  Wall Street wasn’t just a grunting pit, but a battle for a family’s stability.

I’ve had judgment (clearly!) about the choices people make when living as a means to an end, rather than “living in the journey of every moment,” etc, etc.

As I continue to probe the “Can I have Love and Power simultaneously?” question, I notice that I’m wondering if breadwinners have been asking themselves that same question for eons.

 

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balance · finance · money

Libre/Libra.

libra 8 17 17At the start of the year, I participated in a weekend-long “intention setting” meditation retreat with a few friends.  One of the major themes of the work was about sussing out our own optimal balance between our masculine and feminine aspects (according the “traditional” meanings of such, as in yin/yang, active/receptive, etc.).  Through some of this work, I got to see that my “masculine” or active-in-the-world self was much less developed than it needed to be if I were going to step into fuller power in my life.

In fact, both aspects of myself were going to have to grow precipitously to reflect who I really intend to be in the world, but as you might imagine from knowing me, my “feminine” side—my soft, emotional, reflective side—tends to take the reigns, so my masculine, active, forging side would have to be just a bit larger to keep things in the proper balance for me.  At least, at this time.

When I was talking with my mentor on Friday, regaling her with my pure and epic delight over all my new financial discoveries and activities, she said that the first “hit” she got on this change was that I was engaging my masculine side.  The “finance” side of things has historically, traditionally, stereotypically been the man’s world, and, indeed, there’s a voice within me (faint though it is) that says all this writing about finance is not what people (my readers) want to read.

That’s Class-A bullshit, but it’s there.

Whatever it is that “my readers” (all 12 of them!) want to read, they’ll vote with their clicks—toward or away from my blog, but it’s my job here, as always, to relate the truth of what’s happening in my spiritual and physical realm.

And presently, that’s the burgeoning, riveting, catalyzing world of personal finance.

J. joked that my bookshelf walls will be one self-help and the other personal finance.  Because, yes, much of the non-fiction I’ve read in the last few years is women-authored “get bigger” books.  Well, isn’t part of that bigger world one that includes shares and percentages?  It is.  And it feels perfectly aligned with the trajectory of my books, thoughts, progress to be stepping into this new realm of money.

No, it doesn’t feel “feminine” — but maybe part of my growth is to show that a lady can play, too.

awareness · finance · money

Cashing In.

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In a series of exceedingly sexy tasks during my Spring Break last week, I took my car in for its 100K service, went to the dentist, and, later in the week, went to the periodontist (gum guy).  (I also got a hair cut, a wax, and a pedicure, so, you know, sexy.)

At the visit with the periodontist, I told him that my last dentist referred me to one, whom I’d seen about 2 years ago, and he was extremely intent that I needed near-immediate gum surgery to restore/delay (slight) gum recession on my two lower teeth.

Well, gum guy, how much will this run me?  Well, with your dental insurance, it will cost about $2,400.  Ah huh.  Okay, well, thanks for the intel, I’ll start saving up and when I have that amount, I’ll come on back.

And so it’s been.  I began saving a little a month toward that surgery in a Capital One savings account until I paused last Fall when I changed jobs.  I didn’t know what my new benefits would cover, and now I had an FSA account through work, so let’s just keep that $1,100 in savings and wait til I’m ready.

In December, I figured I was, called up that periodontist to schedule the surgery… and then had one of my financial ladies monthly meetings.  I told them about the upcoming surgery and how I was going to split the 2 teeth over the change of the calendar year so that my dental benefits would cover more.

No! one declared, eyes wide.  She’d had that surgery and it was an incredible amount of recovery time, there’s no way I could do it on a Friday and go up to the mountains on Saturday for New Year’s.

Ugh, really?  Yeah, it’s best to do them both at once.

Okay, so I cancelled that appointment (had a great time in Tahoe), and considered that I would do the surgery over my summer break.

Well, I switched dentists and saw this one for the first time last week.  With her fingers in my mouth, she was saying that their periodontist was great and that the gum surgery wasn’t traumatic.

Not traumatic? I replied, aghast. They tear a chunk out of the roof of your mouth and staple it to your gums!

No, no, she said.  We don’t really do that anymore.  Our guy has different techniques now.  You should see him.  And so I did, last Friday.

This guy agreed that the old way was barbaric and awful to heal, so they have a new procedure (using cadaver tissue…) that is much less invasive and much easier to heal.  He also said that, yeah, I could do the surgery, but it certainly wasn’t imminent and we will do a “watch and wait” and I’ll come back in the Fall.

Hm… okay, well, how much would this one cost anyway?  About the same.

Okay, so my FSA this school-calendar year all went to therapy (oy), so I’ll have to wait for it to re-up in August, so it won’t be until next summer when I do the surgery if I do it at all.

So… what do I do with this $1,100 that’s been sitting in savings?

WELL (and here’s my whole point!), in a blog post or many to come, I will describe to you the mind-altering/shattering revelation of J’s explaining “inflation” to me last Saturday.  It has exPLOded my brain to realize that the happy-joy-joy I receive from adding $.07 to my Dental Savings each month is a growth-rate that is FAR BELOW INFLATION, so that what looks like $1100 today will go way less far next Summer.

HOLY. SHIT.

So, in an effort to end this blog quickly and get off to work, I will say this summary:

I did a BLIZZARD of research in the last 4 days, discovered what a CD is, and have moved that dental money into a 12-month CD.  This means that I can’t touch it for a year, but I don’t want or need to, and that my money will make a LEEETLE bit more in interest than in the Capital One account, though it still won’t match inflation.

There’s a lot to come here about all the mind-blowing info I feel like I’m just opening up, but the general idea is this:

I have been saving $$ diligently for years.  I have been so STOKED about those seven cent increases each month.  I have felt adult and pleased and competent.  AND I HAVE BEEN MISSING OUT.

I’m so f’ing excited by this, I have to tell you.  I have opened more accounts in the last 4 days than I have in the last 10 years, and there is more (way more) to come.

Money, work for me better while I sleep, while I drive to work, while I dig plaque from receding gums.

I am f’ing psyched.

 

abundance · denial · deprivation · money

Use Water, Not Tears.

buckets_2 8 18 17

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.

 

balance · money · relationships · writing

Early Bird and the Gimme Gimmes

libra 8 17 17

Today, I write you from the lounge in the building at my new school.  I wanted to see what traffic would be like if I tried to arrive on time for teaching, rather than on time for our faculty work day.

I wasn’t on time.

Even leaving before blogging, an hour in advance, I wasn’t on time for what will need to be my settling in and minor morning prep, particularly as Monday mornings will find me teaching from 8:02am to 12:20pm, with one 15-minute break.

… Oy.

In a continuation of the Efficiency and Effectiveness in the World theme, it is likely that I will change this from a daily blog to a weekly blog starting Sunday.  I don’t want to do this. I like the process of writing you everyday, but to touch on the relationship theme I’ve also been jamming on, it’s also got to work for me.

Part of the reason I want to continue writing daily is a grasping one: I want to make money.

What??

Stick with me here:  There are several people in the world who have established a name and a voice for themselves via their blog, and then published a successful (even moderately so) book in the world.  I’d like to be one of them.

I want to publish a book because, a) I feel like a book is supposed to happen (likely several, of different genres), and b) I want to make money.

Ha!  Oh, Molly, your grand schemes and designs.

There’s nothing at all wrong with wanting to make more money, but if I think that my creativity is obliged to bring that to me, I’m sorely mistaken.  If as a natural, ancillary byproduct of Reason A (to write because I need and want to write), I arrive at Reason B, grand.  But I cannot make them the other way around.

Which is sort of what my attachment to writing this daily would be (to court, sustain, and curry your devotion), particularly if that was to mean waking up at 4:30am, instead of the current 5:30am.  (Did I mention I already have sleep problems??!)

I want your eyes; I hunger for your revelations and communion.  And because of that desperation, I will lose myself and you, not necessarily in that order.

So, lovely readers, our relationship will have to morph and evolve as both our needs evolve. We’ll have to support each other as best as we can as we work to support our selves. Sounds healthy, no?

art · fulfillment · money · self-esteem · trying

The Writing on the Walls.

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After yesterday’s heaviness, let’s talk about something
lighter: gratitude.
You know, there are a lot of things as I look around that I
have to be grateful for. It is always easiest for me to start with my
apartment, because, small though it is, and however much I’d love for my bed to
not be the main prominence of my studio apartment, I love it here. “Warm” is
consistently the response I get from friends and visitors who come in. It feels
warm here.
Someone just said it recently, and it’s precisely the phrase
I heard from a friend when he left one of my parties in my San Francisco
apartment: I felt warm when I left. How many parties does one leave feeling
that way? It was a thrill, and what I love to hear. Inviting, warm, cozy,
artful.
The art has been culled over a few years, and recently, in
the re-organization of my closet, I pulled out the enormous oil pastel lips
with flower, created for one of my Pre-Val Hearts & Stars parties in SF. I
think I’ll put it up again, but even if I don’t, it reminds me of what I can
accomplish when I set my mind to it.
I’d started with an idea. I made some sample studies, small
two-inch colored pencil drawings, and then I asked my artist friend if she had
any super large butcher-size paper. In fact, she did. And I stood with a pencil hovering over this
expanse of 5 foot wide and 4 feet tall paper laid on the floor of my apartment,
white, untouched, and daunting.

How do you start, where do you make a first mark? What if
it’s wrong, and you’ve ruined this enormous (and only) page you have?
I remember that moment, the taking of a deep
breath, and the creation of the first mark. And wherever it was on the page is now well-blended into the rest of the drawing, and you’d never know where
it began with a brave and tentative mark.
You drew that? Yep.
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid. I’ve stopped often. I thought I couldn’t
anymore, as a 40 oz went hand-in-hand with my art for a while. I
also tried again and so out of practice, was not so great, and put it away,
saying this wasn’t for me anymore.
Then, the parties began, and they were the impetus to draw
again, to paint, and make art again. With an aim and purpose, with people to
create an environment for, it was simple. It was enlivening, and it wasn’t
perfect. Yet it was fun.

I spoke the other week to my property manager about the
upstairs abandoned 4th floor room with the two work sinks, northern light, and
great ventilation. They’re happy to rent that space out to me for 25 bucks a
month. … Once I settle my account.
When I was sick, my landlord said about my rent, “Don’t
worry about it.” Which I thought meant, We’ll waive it. I found out later,
several months of not paying rent later, that in fact, what he meant was, “Pay
it when you can, and we’ll be counting every cent.”
So, I became over $4,000 in debt to my landlord, and even
though it was great that they held my rent for a while, it sucks that it wasn’t
clear that’s what was happening, as maybe I’d have begun paying sooner. But, it
wasn’t. I didn’t. And I’ve been paying $50 over my rent each month for over a
year now to help pay down the debt, because that’s truly what I can afford.
I have more than $3,000 left to pay back. Before I can
rent that art space. FOR TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS!! God, I want that space! But, first things first, I suppose.
In the meantime, maybe I do unroll those lips and put them
up, proof and inspiration once again that I can do what I fear, that I don’t
have to be perfect, that I love producing things, and that I have talent when I
focus.
Who doesn’t need a reminder like that?

acting · adulthood · crazy · family · forgiveness · humilty · love · money · persistence · receiving · self-support · the middle way · work

Day Jobs.

Yikes. Unintendedly, I apparently freaked my mom out. I
guess “What goes around comes around” is a less than spiritual comment here.
When I was camping this weekend, one of the women said she’d
used this 23andme site that did genetic mapping and testing. She said she found
it to accurately confirm things she knew she had and “labeled” her cousin as
her own on the site, so she felt it was reliable when it came to the things she wanted
clarity on or might not know. So, on a whim, I looked it up yesterday. Part of
it is my own rampant curiosity about my dad’s father’s side of the family, about whom
we know nothing (very hush hush, gramma got pregnant at 15 in an Irish Catholic
family under-the-rug), so I’d like to know about that fourth of who I am.
Secondly, and importantly for me, my mom’s mother died from
Alzheimer’s and I want to know if I have the gene or not. You can get it
without the gene, and you can not get it
with the gene. But, I’m curious. And a little excited. If I don’t have the
gene, I can (and would) worry less; and if I do have the gene, they’re coming
up with all kinds of new things people can do these days to stave it off or
minimize the effects – and I’d look for more information on stuff like that.
So, in an effort to “share the good news,” I emailed my mom
and brother yesterday to let them know about it (though women are more likely
than men to get Alz). I got an email back this morning from my mom saying that
no matter what to never [BOLD FACE] EVER tell her the results of it.
Yikes. Granted, my mom is a class-A worrier,
anxiety-disordered woman on medication, but… yeesh. That obviously wasn’t my
intention, to freak her out – I guess I imagined she’d react as I did – “Cool,
what can I learn, so that information can be useful in how I lead my life?” …
Best laid plans, I suppose.
It’s Friday, so it’s a little rough to go into what I
remember of my mom’s parents’ deaths, and what I consider to be and have been
“wrong” ways of grieving. And so I won’t do that today. It’s NOMB – None Of My
Business.
So, I’ll undeftly switch topics, as I’m uncomfortable. 😉
Yesterday, in reading Tina Fey’s book, I had a sort of
realization about “day jobs.” Fey worked at a YMCA for $5/hr in Chicago when
she left undergrad. She wanted to take improv classes, so she angled for a job
“upstairs” in the office of the YMCA. When she was asked on the interview why
she wanted the job, she replied unabashedly, So I can afford improv classes.
She got the job, took improv classes, and quit the job less than a year later
when she got work with the improv group.
I had my informational interview with my former acting
teacher last Friday, and she said nice things like I have “great instincts,”
and that “it’s obvious [I] really enjoy it.” She didn’t really give me the
“constructive criticism” I was looking to get – areas that I could improve in,
and as I was recounting this to my friend last weekend, she said it sounded
like I wanted to hear places I could just do X, Y, and Z, so that I could “fix”
it, and suddenly everything would fall into place. Yes, give me a set of
movable problems, let me fix them, and then let me be free of problems forever.
That sounds about right.
So, I didn’t get that. I got what felt like nearly reluctant
suggestions. Again, I guess I had expectations. But, I heard that acting
classes would be a good idea to continue with. So, yesterday, I looked up the
classes at A.C.T. Studio, and their summer program. It’s not very expensive,
but surely more than I have now.
And I remembered what Tina Fey had said: she took a job so
she could afford to do what she really wanted to do. For SO long I’ve been
agonizing over what is my “ideal” job, or what will feed me spiritually,
intellectually, and creatively – what one
thing would fit all my needs. I don’t feel this way about people, why would I
feel this way about work? I don’t expect one person to fulfill all my needs –
that’s ridiculous, unfair, and leads to disappointment. So, why should I feel that a job
would or ought to do the same.
There’s something in this. It takes a shit ton of the
pressure out of whatever job comes to me next. That it is a means to an end. And further, I’m honing in more
closely on what I’d want those “ends” to be – what I want my job to afford me
to be able to do. Lessons, classes, (acting & music, for now). I’m not sure what
this realization will bring me – except that I already feel less internal
pressure about “What I’m going to do next.” Chances are (G-d willing!!!!!!)
that the job that I get next
can
afford me the disposable income to take classes like that. Or, rather, the
chances don’t have to be there, I can just start angling the satellite dish of
my focus in a slightly different direction, picking up on things that I’d
dismissed, as they wouldn’t “fill me spiritually.”
Like a person, it’s not a job’s … job to fill me spiritually. That’s up to me. That’s up
to me to take the kinds of actions that will allow me the freedom from financial
worry to do things that
do feed
me spiritually and creatively. I have a phone call date with another acting
friend next week, having been inspired by the new angle of my satellite to be
able to continue having these conversations with people.
What comes of it? Who knows. But I feel more open to things,
and I’ve noticed that makes a world of difference.
(Sorry, Mom – didn’t mean to freak you out. LU, m.)