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I’ve heard it said, “Some people are so poor. All they have is money.” At my studio this week, as part of a six-week challenge, we’re examining our finances. This morning, I explained, “I’m 29, and Suze Orman would scoff at my financial situation.” As a society, the topic of money makes us uncomfortable, yet we cling to our stories about our finances. I can barely run into someone at the grocery store without hearing a story about money — about what they can’t afford or how the economy has hurt them.
Growing up, I understood money as the currency of control. Unsurprisingly, I married a man whose financial ethics mirrored mine. When we divorced, I left with half the debt and few assets. I remember my attorney saying from across the table, “So it looks like you’re taking nothing and he’s taking ... well, everything.” And I was so angry. At her. Why hadn’t she helped me? At him. How could he be so ruthless? At myself. Why couldn’t I stay and be happy with him? For years, as I paid my credit card debt down, I seethed inside. Energetically, I wore the weight of that debt on my shoulders like an X-ray apron.
As a middle school teacher who coached, worked on multiple committees, and photographed weddings on the weekends, I paid the debt off. But when the balance eventually read zero, I viewed the statement with a sense of indifference. I hadn’t dropped the emotional baggage that accompanied that debt. And karmic debt weighs much more than currency. I was so tired and busy, and I struggled in many areas of my life during that time.
Fast forward several years. I have a Masters degree. I am a yoga instructor, photographer and writer. My passion is my work; my work is my passion. I carry some financial debt, but the weight of my energetic and karmic debt is so much lighter. I have most afternoons and evenings off to write or garden or nap. I travel to lavish places for both business and pleasure. I believe in the abundant nature of the universe. I trust that I'll always have enough.
At the grocery store yesterday, I looked up to find one of my former middle school students sacking my groceries. His face was many years older and less bright with possibility, he smiled, but his eyes drooped as if they hadn’t got the memo that his mouth was smiling. Grateful that he wore a nametag, I asked him, “Remind me, are you a senior or have you graduated?”
“I’ve graduated,” he said. I remembered that I had attended his graduation. Several of the girls in his class whom I had once coached invited me. I could feel his shame as he said, “I’m just going to TCC” (the local community college).
“Don’t say ‘just’,” I cautioned. People use "just" all the time to hold back their excitement and act as though who they are and what they do in this world doesn’t matter. “You’re in school. That’s great!”
“Well, I was at Ole Miss last semester.”
“Oh, you were?” and as I started to wonder what might have happened — Did he get homesick for family? Did he flunk out? — he answered the stream of questions streaming across my face.
“It was just so expensive.”
I commiserated with him a bit, encouraged him a little. And I said goodbye with a heavy heart.
As I walked to my aging car and strapped my overpriced organic vegetables in the seat, I felt a pang of sadness for him. I thought about going back inside and explaining that interest rates on student loans are low and that he needed to invest in himself and his education, that he need not sack groceries for the rest of his life (unless that was what he wanted). But far be it for me to impress my beliefs upon him.
We all have the freedom to identify what pure positivity with our finances looks like.
For me, pure positivity is knowing that money ebbs and flows. As long as I remember this, as long as I resist the temptation to attach my self-worth to the wealth or the debt, I will continue to thrive. A couple years ago, when I put a yoga teacher training on the same credit card I had worked so diligently to pay off, I didn’t know if my passion would support my life. But it has, and I believe it will continue to do so. My path as an entrepreneur feeds me, both literally and figuratively.
“What if it doesn’t work out?” concerned people sometimes ask, and my smile meets my eyes. I’m not going to prepare for failure. I’m busy attracting prosperity. I have so much more than money. Joy, health, and vitality infuse every part of my life. I am wealthy beyond measure.