Money can’t make the pain go away.
So I’m back east. On the same coast, in the same city, where a few months earlier I was in a serious rut. I remember one particularly low day when I went to get my boyfriend and I breakfast from our favorite local coffee shop.
As they rang up my order, my card didn’t just get declined. It literally read on the nice iPad: $6. I thought the total had somehow been screwed up. I thought their system was wonky. And then the panic started to seep in. ‘Oh shit, this is on my end. Did someone hack my account?’ I left the food on the counter, red in the face, and walked to my bank up the street. Holy shit. I only had $6 in my checking account.
To say I felt low is an understatement. All of the verbal slander that was thrown at me growing up resurfaced. ‘This is what you deserve. People like you don’t get good things. Way to go on screwing up your life, again.’
Oh, I can be pretty harsh when I want to, hence why I’m in the personal development field. Anyway, I walked back to the coffee shop. The woman behind the counter could tell I was more than disheartened. I charged breakfast on my card anyway. Since I don’t use credit I ran back home, dumped in what extra money I would allow myself to draw from my savings into my checking, and prayed for my account not to overdraft. I saw no one had hacked me. There was a check that cleared that I forgot to account for.
So I sulked and let my avocado toast get soggy thinking, ‘You don’t even deserve to eat good food like this anymore.’ Yes, harsh. This was in July.
It’s October now. And only because I’ve started to address that part of me that wants to be heard has she subsided. That part of me programmed to tell me how worthless I am. This little girl inside of me who so badly wants to be loved up. This little girl I regress to when things get bad. Because she can’t be loved unless she’s perfect. She can’t be loved unless everything’s together. At least that’s what she believes. And over the past few months in Seattle I looked her in the mirror as often as I could and told her shakily but still:
‘Diane, you are loved. You are special. You didn’t deserve what happened to you but look where it’s brought you. It’s taught you how to love. And I’m going to start to love you like you should have been loved but never were. You deserve that and so much more than I can’t even give you but I’m going to try. All those good words people told you over the years that you couldn’t believe for yourself, cause all you saw is bad, we’re going to start believing them now. Together. I’m not leaving you my dear. You are me. I am you. We’re something pretty great.’
Okay. Maybe it didn’t go like that altogether but the sentiment was there. And it’s a conversation I’ve been having with myself over and over again since then. With different words and phrases, awkwardly, shakily, but doing it anyway. Because I am responsible at this point for teaching myself how to function in a loving environment. What it means to be loved like that and that I am deserving of that. So why did I even start this piece talking about money? Because it has everything to do with what I want to share with you today. In small ways I can comprehend, and in infinitely bigger ways that will only be explained to me as I continue living, how Seattle healed me.
In more ways than I can possibly describe. Being in an accepting, vibrant, friendly, balanced city where no one knew us was everything and more that I needed. And when I say balanced, I mean that it didn’t matter if you threw fish (in the market) for a living. As long as you were happy, that’s all that mattered. That’s the kind of spirit I’m wrapping myself in bubblewrap in as I navigate this next phase back here in Connecticut, for as long as we’re here.
Because already, writing this to you, I feel some of the old sentiments starting to creep back in. For some reason, being in a city where everyone knows you, where you went to school down the street and went to work up the street, it’s a different feeling. Before we left for Seattle I felt like there were certain expectations. I literally thought if people knew how much I was struggling earlier this year, then they’d whisper, ‘Who does she think she is? That’s what she gets after leaving a stable comfy job. Why can’t she just get by like the rest of us? Why does she have to be so different?’ Granted, it doesn’t help that we’re in a pretty corporate-centered, suburbia-like community. But if I’m honest? No one’s whispering. It’s all been in my head. Today I see that.
I haven’t gone back to the coffee shop yet. I’m still recovering from jet-lag and this sprained ankle of mine that I never let properly heal. I’m still learning about self-care obviously. But when I do, I don’t know what’ll happen. I could ask if they’re hiring for all I know. We’ll have to see. That’s the thing I’m laying in concrete in my brain. That it doesn’t matter what my life looks like or what titles I do or don’t have. I’m always going to be this person who is deserving of love in spite of her circumstances. I need to be the one to give her that love first. Foremost.
Back to the money piece. I was talking to a friend online the other day and this topic came up. I was sharing about someone I knew. Someone who’s doing extremely well in the online world now. Someone who’s making a lot of money. When our trajectories started to go in massively different directions, I admit, I was jealous. That little green monster popped up, ‘Why her, not me?’ It’s human nature. But then things kept coming up. Unspoken things. All of a sudden I felt this massive divide and my feelings of jealousy turned into something like, ‘Diane, it’s really time to check yourself.’
The last time someone got under my skin like this it’d been my stepmother. The one woman in this world that I could never bring myself to have a relationship with. The hurt woman who couldn’t help herself from hurting me with her words. Because the people who affect us the most are actually meant to be our greatest teachers in this lifetime. Go figure. I don’t have a relationship with this woman today and I doubt I ever will. We never did and I’m fine with that. But here’s the thing. I actually started to see how my hatred of her started to affect my life a few years ago during my first serious relationship after I moved away from home. Even though that relationship wasn’t healthy in the slightest, I do take responsibility for what I did wrong. What I did was sometimes have hurtful words come out of my own mouth. One time, he told me I was turning into my stepmother and I lost my shit.
Because when we try to run away from the real issue and heart of the matter, we lose ourselves. I don’t have to have a relationship with this woman to learn the lesson. So when I started to get into coaching, I started to take a serious look at my life. I started simple, through my writing.
Even though it took a lot of time, I started to see and realize that this wasn’t an adult who verbally abused me over the years. This was simply a hurt little girl who never truly learned how to love because every love she knew was taken away from her. No wonder she saw me as a threat to her relationship with my father. I was the potential catalyst who could take him, love, away from her. And so she would react like a hurt little girl all the time bullying me into submission under her control.
Point is? I started to feel really bad for her. Although, I know, if I came face-to-face with her in person today she would just blame me some more. The pain goes too deep and I don’t believe she’s brave enough to take a good hard look at it. And that’s okay. That’s her stuff. It’s not mine anymore.
When I started to realize that and look at the lesson she was meant to teach me in my life, I’m kind of glad she was there. No, it’s not okay what happened to me and it wasn’t a life I would wish on anyone, but I wouldn’t be who I am otherwise. I wouldn’t have seen firsthand what can happen to you if you don’t learn to love yourself. I wouldn’t have experienced what it’s like to be hurt and to hurt others. If I hadn’t had the self-esteem knocked out of me, growing up, I probably wouldn’t give two shits about anyone today. I think I possibly could’ve turned into a superficial, shallow bitch.
I learned the lesson there. But it took time. And now there’s someone else. I don’t want to go into all of the details because it’s not about them, but what they’re bringing up in me to feel all of these things. So after a while it was about more than the money that was bothering me. It was about the fact that I knew her when we first started out together. And I don’t recognize who she is today. She started making money as this version of herself she told me she would never become. All of a sudden I wasn’t jealous anymore. It was deeper. I was becoming sad and heartbroken and wanting to distance myself from that kind of life completely. But then there’s that thing that says the people who affect us most are actually meant to be our greatest teachers. I’m still learning the full lesson here but I’ve got some of the pieces in place.
She is my mirror these days. And what I want to separate myself from that I see in her is actually something I need to address. Because she’s unconsciously holding up a mirror to me. Maybe there’s always been a part of me that’s scared of temptation, selling out, and becoming something I’m not for the sake of security, acceptance, peace of mind.
And looking back at my entrepreneurial life, and before that, it makes perfect sense. I’m used to things not coming easy for me. Sometimes I think of those good versus evil movies and I’m like, ‘That’s me. The underdog. The person who does the right thing but has to struggle all the freaking time.’ Well, maybe it’s time to write myself a new story. One where I can do the right thing and not have to struggle through it. Funny side-note, but as I was finishing up this piece there was a background song playing on my laptop called ‘Millionaires.’ Coincidence? I don’t think so. Anyway, back on topic.
When I moved away from the toxicity of home when I was finishing up college, I didn’t have a lot of money. And I had to afford rent and the rest of my tuition. I couldn’t afford to take out loans because I didn’t have anyone to lean on to co-sign nor would I want to put anyone in that position if I happened to default. So I got three part-time jobs and I paid for school out-of-pocket. That also meant I lived in the ghetto. Not kidding. I stayed there for four years. Even when I had a full-time job and could afford something nicer. I thought I didn’t deserve it or I’d have to work harder or I was just so used to the struggle at that point. I didn’t know that things could be easy.
After I quit my job, I was able to afford good health insurance out-of-pocket for a while but when Obamacare became available, I had to weigh my options. I wasn’t making enough to afford out-of-pocket long-term and I had to admit I needed help. So I got on state insurance. Even the church I was going to at the time was used to ‘the struggle.’ Everyone I knew there had a few jobs to get by, and even though I agreed with them when it came to the fact that there was something bigger looking out for us, it didn’t mean that we had to stay stuck in a poverty mentality. But no one could see that.
Hence my first business model was born. About being unlimited in spite of having limited resources. But the struggle was still in the message with the phrase ‘limited resources.’ And then my business morphed itself again. This time to help ‘starving artists’ thrive online. To help them ‘no longer starve.’ There was always this ‘we’re good but we have to struggle to make it’ mentality that was subliminally running rampant throughout all of my marketing, not even to my own knowledge.
And then 2015 came. I had moved out of the slums and into a nicer-than-I-was-used-to apartment with my boyfriend. I had nice things when I lived with my father and stepmother but that was a pretty household void of all emotional connection and held together on conditional love. Looking back, I think I subconsciously associated ‘nice things’ with not representing the truth. The whole picture. Like something has to be wrong with this. It was no wonder I had a hard time adjusting to living with my boyfriend in our unconditionally loving relationship in our ‘nice home.’ It wasn’t my normal.
I honestly believe that if we just learned how to be loved fully as children we wouldn’t have all of these emotional dilemmas we have today. Where we have to consistently reprogram the way we operate and learn that we are allowed to have good and ‘nice things.’ Allowed to have permission to be.
For a while, I actually remember walking by our apartment. My legs would carry me back to the ghetto. I didn’t believe I was worthy of living someplace nice. Especially if I was making less money in a non-traditional job. But it was 2015. And my business had changed again.
Money was on my mind. ‘I have to earn my keep.’ He wasn’t telling me this. It was literally all in my head. So I started copywriting and by the end of the year I had nearly matched my old corporate salary. I should’ve been happy but then again I’m not normal, so I wasn’t. I wasn’t used to it being so easy, but then again, I also didn’t feel connected to what I was doing. I mean, this year, I could have slowly transitioned out of copywriting to keep some of money going. But nope. I retired it completely and started at zero again.
The struggle is real, I tell you. At least in our mind’s eye it is. So I’m really grateful this someone has been bothering me a lot, little does she know it. She’s teaching me something that I didn’t know I needed to learn. Which came up in a conversation the other day. I’m coming back full circle here.
So we were talking about money. We were talking about the lesson I’m meant to learn from this someone. That there doesn’t have to be a struggle. That things can come easy, especially if you’re coming from the right place. That if you know who you are the money is just energy. It will not change the person you are. In fact, money deserves to be in the hands of the heart and soul centered entrepreneurs in the world.
I started to have so many lightbulbs go off during this conversation. I started to see not only my ‘struggle pattern’ but the fact that I would consciously do things to keep myself there. For instance, when it came to my pricing over the years, I noticed myself get bold when it came to what I would charge for a guaranteed skill-set, like copywriting, but how I would shrink back when it came to my ‘this is just who I am’ services. I didn’t know how I was supposed to recognize my worth for that. I was never taught how to in the first place.
As I worked for a non-profit part-time over the past few months, I learned a lot. There we go again, not-for-profit. Anyway. I’m learning. And what I’m learning about this someone is good for me, like it was from what I learned from my stepmother. If I keep ignoring it, I’m never going to move forward. I mentioned that if you know who you are then money can’t change you. I also mentioned that I recognized a part of me that’s scared of temptation, selling out and becoming something I’m not for security, acceptance, peace of mind. It’s why I have and am now making the decision to not put the pressure solely on my business to make an income since my business is based on human-to-human relationships. Which I don’t want to jeaporadize.
This someone I knew started making money from her business as this version of herself she said she wouldn’t become. This version of herself I didn’t recognize. I saw part of my friend go away. And it scared me more than anything else. That was what was lying underneath the jealousy that I was too afraid to admit to myself. I remember that she was the phone call I made when I had no one else to turn to when I had invested in my business and didn’t know how I would make it back. And now we don’t talk anymore. That’s what happens sometimes. And I think, more than anything else, there were hurt feelings on my part that I never fully recognized until now.
Just like my stepmother, we don’t need to have a relationship, this someone and I, but it doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for having had this experience to learn this lesson I needed to learn. It doesn’t mean that the situation doesn’t hurt or that I don’t wish things had turned out differently, because I do, but you can’t change what you can’t change. We’re Facebook friends but nothing more and that’s okay. Do I agree with her perspective and what she has to say all of the time? No. I come from a very different mindset and that’s okay too. I’m happy to report though that I’ve seen some old pieces of her I recognize coming up now + again when she posts. Maybe she needed to get that security, acceptance, peace of mind first before she could accept all of who she is. Now I just know that that’s not something I’m willing to do.
Like my stepmother taught me self-love, this someone has taught me self-acceptance. I saw her opt-into philosophies that were not her own, when I knew her, in order to feel accepted. A natural feeling humans crave. It’s understandable, I’m not arguing that. But when I saw it happen, I didn’t get it. And to see the money that followed confused the hell out of me. I’m happy she’s starting to be more of her own person again these days. She needed to go down a different route than me to get there. We’re two different people with two different teachings and mindsets now. If she’s my mirror, maybe things don’t have to be so hard. Maybe my route was learning the self-acceptance piece first so I can know and believe that money isn’t something that can change me.
The money didn’t change this someone either, it was the path to getting there that did. Now that I know who I am and am more comfortable in that, I’m more open to receive. At least, it’s what I’ve been working on these last few months. Seeing it doesn’t have to be so hard. That women who wanted to invest in me showed up this year when I let my facade totally fall away.
When I let the honest-messy-still-figuring-it-out version of me who-needs-to-get-a-part-time-job-to-not-put-so-much-pressure-on-her-business-as-it-develops-into-something-more come out. And they loved her. They were receptive to her. Because she is all of me. Broken bits and all. That’s a beautiful thing.
And it’s even more beautiful now that I can recognize part of the lesson in all of this. That being ‘good’ doesn’t mean you have to struggle. That not struggling doesn’t mean you’re ‘bad.’ That there’s no competition unless you make it about that and that there’s actually plenty of work to be done in this world and plenty of money and clients to go around.
When we can see that and turn the reflection back at us and love it up a little more than we’re comfortable with, a little more than we’re used to, we end up creating unity. Camaraderie. Sisterhood. Brotherhood. Humanity.
Some days I walk around and think to myself we may all be in adult bodies, but we’re just living in a world filled with hurt little girls and boys on the inside. And if we took a few seconds to love up that little version of us and recognize the lessons we’re meant to learn, we would have a lot more patience, understanding, empathy. And just a lot of real love to give.
I’m happy that I’ve chosen to take off my mask. The mask I was wearing that hid my messy pieces from the world. The adult mask that said I was alright and ‘everything is fine.’ Because underneath that false mask was a hurt little girl who needed to be loved up. Who needs to know every single day that it’s okay to be a mess and that she is loved in spite of it all and that she has always been worthy. Whether she has $6 in her bank account or thousands.
In July I got down on myself for being so used to equating my self-worth to the amount of money I was making. In July I couldn’t bring myself to eat my avocado toast. It’s October now. And right before I left Seattle and the non-profit job I fell in love with, I bought myself a gift. From the store. That a local entrepreneur made. A beautiful quartz crystal necklace that caught my eye. It was so simple. It was so me. But I don’t wear jewelry and a part of me said, ‘You don’t need this.’ Well thank God for the women I was working with. They reminded me that I deserve to invest in me. They were my intuition manifested. They said what I needed to hear, ‘Sometimes what you need isn’t practical. It’s just for you.’ So I bought the necklace and wrote myself a note. ‘Love you.’
I’m learning every day how to grow myself back up this way. And I hope one day soon, when I’m emotionally sound, I will be able to bridge a bond with my father again. Possibly forge a new relationship with my half-brother who was in the midst of all the drama we endured growing up. Right now, I know I can’t. There’s still a little girl inside me who needs a lot more loving before she can see those people who hurt her most so she doesn’t react.
And take on their stuff. But one day she’ll be fully ready to see them face-to-face and acknowledge them for who they are. Not-altogether-pieces who don’t quite realize it. That’s okay. My stuff is mine. Your stuff is yours. Their stuff is theirs. And if we can pick up the pieces even just a little bit and make something good out of the bad, then we’ve done something to be proud of.
Because our lives and what we create with our lives are always going to be intertwined. We are the common denominator in the midst of it all. And just like ‘money can’t buy us happiness,’ money can’t make the pain we have inside go away either. It might give us some sense of security and a peace of mind, but it won’t keep our demons at bay forever. We’re always going to be part of the equation and that’s something we should look at first. Something I’‘ve learned from this someone and all the other ‘success’ stories out there.
And once you accept all the messy bits about yourself and come to love the real reflection of you that you’ve always been, you’ll find that that kind of worthiness can set you free. When you choose to love you first. You see that life isn’t so much about ‘good or bad’ or ‘black and white’ anymore. That being ‘good’ means you have to struggle. That not struggling means you’re ‘bad.’ When you see that nothing outside of you can change who you are, unless you allow it to, things can more easily come your way. You are more open to receiving. You end up opening up this space around you to let others in. Taking care of you first is the best way to love this world. It comes from an honest place.
And when we start to do more of that? ‘I made x amount of money in this many days and now my life is perfect’ won’t be everyone’s online catchphrase anymore. Because, by then, the truth will finally start to spill out: ‘My life isn’t perfect but I’m working on it + open to all good opportunities that come my way.’ That will one day be the new key-phrase. Or something like that.