Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Big Money Lie: A follow-up

The point of my post about money was quite simply that even though I say money is important to me, my actions say otherwise. That while money is important as far as taking care of the essentials like food, housing, transportation, clothing, etc., beyond that it is simply NOT a main motivator for me. I know a few people who are totally motivated by money (and I am not talking about my children!) Folks who went to school with the sole purpose of earning a degree that would allow them to make the most money possible. Then they entered the workforce and made their career decisions based on their ability to make money.

Traditionally this has been a man's domain, supposedly. However I know plenty of women who are (or were) money motivated as well. Many of these men and women are successful. Certainly more financially successful than I. But that is exactly the point - money clearly is not that important to me. And yet, it seems like it ought to be much more important based on the percentage of time I spend thinking and complaining about it - how much I need, how little I make, how to make more, how to spend less, etc.

So, here is the conundrum of the day: If money is indeed not all that important to me then why don't I drop the charade that it is important? I think if I were able to do that I would be happier. If I was more conscious about my decisions around money and how I have made them perhaps I would feel less intense emotion about money issues. If I were able to be really, deeply satisfied with my choices and be OK with how they have affected my financial situation then would that free me at all from this feeling of lack?

Initially I dropped out of the workforce because being a new mom and working full-time proved to be too much for me to handle and it seemed as if we could manage financially. I worked part-time so we were able to avoid massive childcare costs. I worked for a while as a freelance writer and then, as that didn't pay much and I felt I needed to contribute more to the family's financial bottom line, I took another part-time job. After being there for a while I got pregnant again and when my son was born I continued to work for the same agency on a very part-time basis.

Then I decided to get my teaching credential. I believed teaching would be a family friendly profession. Frankly, I was also concerned about the stability and long-term future of my marriage and made the conscious decision to rejoin the workforce in the event that I would someday need to support myself and my children on my own. I took most of my classes on-line at night and clearly remember putting the kids to bed, dozing off with them, hearing my wristwatch alarm go off at 9, getting up to brew some coffee and then doing homework until midnight. This was a difficult time, but I believed in what I was doing and I always loved taking classes so for the most part I enjoyed it. Come to find out this was one of the most difficult times for my then husband and things that were put into motion then eventually contributed to the final demise of our marriage years later. Clearly, considering my intent when I began studying for my credential, this was not a total surprise.

Teaching was indeed a family-friendly profession. Even though I began my career in a different district with different academic schedules there was enough vacation overlap that our family functioned well. Money was decent and I was happy to be contributing to the family kitty. When the time came that my marriage did end, and I did need to support myself and my kids, the work helped. I was working only part-time at that point, so money was tight, but the schedule was ideal. By this time I was working at my kids' school and the fact that I got to be at school with them and see them even if they weren't at my house that day was invaluable. Truly priceless.

Cut to today - I have a job that I enjoy. I appreciate the potential stability it offers (once I make it off probation in a few weeks) and the opportunity to put money away and rebuild savings that have been decimated through divorce. I enjoy the people I work with, the work engages me but doesn't consume me, I don't have too much responsibility (I really hate pressure) and so far it is going well.

The money, on the other hand, is not so good. Considering my years - and level of experience - in the workforce as well as my level of education I am grossly underpaid. That said, my pay is appropriate for the position and I know several people here in this office who are in similar positions. The job market is tough, so I am thankful for what I have...most of them time. :-)

As my close friends have gently pointed out given my history of job unrest - work happiness is priceless!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Big Money Lie

Next to my unexpected, unabated mid-life weight gain the thing I stress and complain about the most is money - specifically, my lack of it. I have always had money anxiety. I suppose this comes from being the child of a young mother who supported us with food stamps when I was young. I grew up hearing “we don’t have the money” more times than I can remember. It’s not that I grew up wanting for the basics – we always had food and clothing and were well taken care of – but the answer to many of my requests was, “we can’t afford it.”

It is my understanding that the things we hear over and over as children and youngsters become ingrained in our minds and our psyches and continue to influence us throughout our lives. If a child’s parents tell them that they are worthless or stupid they will continue to hear that tape in the background of their daily lives for a very long time. Further, those critical voices can wreak havoc later in life when the child has grown – maybe the idea that they are stupid will prohibit them from having confidence in school. Constantly being told they are worthless can affect how they interact with others and what type of treatment they are willing to take in social, work, or personal interactions. Constantly telling a child there isn't enough money leaves a child feeling a sense of instability and lack. At least it did to this child.

There is a tape that is constantly looping in the back of my mind – the one about money – or lack thereof. The soundtrack that tells me I can’t afford it, that money is tight and always will be. That tape has most certainly affected me and how I have lived my life, handled money and interacted with people who I percieve "have money". It has affected my perception of what I am worth, and what I can accomplish financially. When my sweetie and I discovered a great opportunity that would allow us to move in together with our assorted children and animals I nearly shut us out of the chance before we even tried. The kids and I drove to the neighborhood to check out the house and it was a neighborhood I had never been to before. The houses looked huge and fancy and much, much nicer than anything anyone in my family had ever lived in. I began to panic – I mean I literally had an anxiety attack. I got tense, my palms got sweaty on the steering wheel, and I felt extremely anxious. “Oh,” I said to the kids, “we can’t live here. No. Nope, can’t do it. This is not our neighborhood. Sorry.”

Meanwhile my kids, bless their unjaded hearts, were like, “What are you talking about Mom? This is awesome! Look at the grass and the houses! They are great! We want to live here! This is totally where we are living.”

A couple of nights later I had a dream…it was like a dream state epiphany in which the fallacy of my belief about the neighborhood was made clear to me. It was a strange event – not really a dream, more like a revelation - where the glass ceiling, the limits that I had put upon myself for no good nor logical reason were shown to me. The absurdity became real and fully visible. It was astonishing.

Long story short, we live in that house now. It is a wonderful house with plenty of room for all of us to be together – and apart as well – but I have come to realize it is just a house like any other. And frankly, we don’t use all the space we have. But it was an important step for me to live in a house like this and come to that realization for myself because I had always assumed, for whatever reason, that people who lived in houses like that were not like me and that I would never live like that. I believed that it was beyond me. That I could never afford it.

The other thing I have come to realize in the past year since we have lived in the house is that I say money is important to me - in particular making more money. Now that is true, to an extent. I have recently had to make changes in my work life to adjust to changes in my personal life and I do want/need/plan to become 100% financially self-sufficient in the next few years. It’s extra challenging living here, in expensive Santa Cruz where most families require two good incomes to live comfortably. The price we pay to live here is high.

And yet, no matter how much I complain and worry about not having enough money (and complain and worry I do – just ask my friends and sweetie) the bottom line is this: as long as I have my family’s basic needs covered I am not willing to sacrifice time nor sanity for more money. I have realized that for all the time I spend ranting and raving about being broke, or near to it (is that reality? Or is it an old tape playing? Perhaps a little of both. The soundtrack always makes the monster seem bigger.) I am very clear on what I will and will not do for more income.

I made the switch from part-time outdoor work to full-time, indoor, cubicle style 8-5 highly secure work, but the secret is this: I really like the new job. Even though I bring home about the same as I did working part-time, I have to acknowledge that I am also contributing to the security I so desperately desire: a retirement account, pre-tax dependent care, accurate tax withholdings, good health insurance.

Would I leave this job that I like (which is HUGE for me) for more money elsewhere? Perhaps, but it would have to be the right job. I would not drive further than I have to drive now – too much time on the road, too much distance between me and home and my sweetie and my babies. I don’t want to take on a position that has a lot of responsibility because I am enjoying the rest from having a job that did (teaching is a big responsibility – even though it seems like fun, it is a very serious undertaking to hold the little one’s lives and psyches in your hands and learn about their fears and scars and homelives.) I enjoy having the freedom that comes from a job where you don’t arrive before 8; you take your breaks, don’t skip your lunch hour and leave your desk – no matter what – at 5:00. There is some very real freedom in that. The mental space I have now gives me time to think. I have even begun to hear something I haven’t heard in a while…the whisper of the Muse. And that, as you well know, is worth a lot!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A life saving realization

There is so much god damn great poetry in the world, it's mind-boggling and overwhelming.

Know that just the right poem exists for you, right now. In fact, there is probably one from each century since 900AD if you know where to look.

Here are a couple I've come across tonight that save me. Tell me I am not alone. Tell me I will come through this, as I have before. As you have before. As the author has too. There is power in that knowing.

I have had a rough patch recently, but I feel like I am, perhaps, under the lit sign at the corner, letting it all go and pausing to watch for a moment...

Antilamentation

by Dorianne Laux

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punch line, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don't regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the living room couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You've walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You've traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don't bother remembering any of it. Let's stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.


Then there is this one. Just try to stay unhappy. Just try to. Good luck.


Gnostics on Trial

by Linda Gregg

Let us make the test. Say God wants you
to be unhappy. That there is no good.
That there are horrors in store for us
if we do manage to move toward Him.
Say you keep Art in its place, not too high.
And that everything, even eternity, is measurable.
Look at the photographs of the dead,
both natural (one by one) and unnatural
in masses. All tangled. You know about that.
And can put Beauty in its place. Not too high,
and passing. Make love our search for unhappiness,
which is His plan to help us.
Disregard that afternoon breeze from the Aegean
on a body almost asleep in the shuttered room.
Ignore melons, and talking with friends.
Try to keep from rejoicing. Try
to keep from happiness. Just try.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Springtime Poem aka A Prayer for Renewal





Everything is Glad of Me


The quails I disrupt
on their morning walk
scatter in flight,
their wings purring around me.

The ice floe of clouds
slowly shifts
to allow
a glimpse of the sea.

The 100 bees
I hear
buzzing in the tree
land, but do not sting.

The daffodils turn
their bonnet heads
to watch me
as I write.

The wind,
so strong a few days ago,
now sweetly blows
the hair from my eyes.

My shadow lengthens
as I grow
tall enough to touch
the rising moon.

The red bench
stays warm,
welcomes me with
my lover's arms.




~jessica johnson 2013

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mother's Day

I remembered this poem on Mother's Day.

The thought of it has lingered for days now. This morning I opened my laptop before work to dig it out. I changed a couple of small things in it, made a few small adjustments.

Let me know what you think.

I think about my mom so often, probably more than I did when she was alive and healthy to be honest. I am not sure what that says about me, her, or our relationship. I'm not sure it matters.

In any event, here is this - one slice of the pie that was our relationship.



Motherhood

After I pushed my marriage over the cliff
I came to your house
looking for comfort and support

it was dinnertime.

Dad was pissed that you
turned off the TV to
sit with me
on the couch your arms

around me like a mother.

In an effort to stay connected
we met for brunch
French restaurant

cherries on the tablecloth.

As we each looked out the window
you told me secrets I had suspected
things we knew made us

more alike than we wanted to admit.

Another time, dinner
Chinese
a small dish of green beans
on the table between us
we ate them

with our fingers.

Over Kung Pao I asked you serious questions
What about motherhood?
You started so young, was it worth it?
You said: it will change your life.

What kind of daughters had you wanted?
You wanted to raise independent women, you said.
Smart women who could take care of themselves
we agreed you were successful

if that was your goal.