Best Life: Stop Feeling Bad About Money

Any time is a good time to start changing how you THINK about money. Even around the holidays. Maybe especially around the holidays! 

If you can grasp why you feel the way you do about money, you can start laying the groundwork to change your financial stress and/or stop living paycheck to paycheck.

Too many people have an identity that is tied to how much money they have or don’t have. Stop it!   

Imagine a day where you no longer fret over making enough money. Imagine making choices not based on how much you don’t have, but instead, on what you really want to do? It’s possible. You can even learn to save money for that special trip you’ve been wanting to take or buy those fabulous Tamara Mellon shoes you’ve been craving all year long  (Yaaaaassss! You say trip, I say shoes, tomato/tomahto).  The point is, it’s all possible. 

But first, it starts with understanding it’s taken you “this” many years to develop your views about money, so it’s going to take time to work and change it.  So, start today. 

Baby steps.

Understanding your backstory when it comes to money specifically is the first step in making changes to how you feel about money.   

We all have feelings about money. Those feelings are tied into how we were raised. Our experiences watching adults deal with finances had a significant impact on how we deal with money today.  If you were raised in a well-to-do household, you may have a distorted view of what it means to “earn a living”.  Doing volunteer work because your dad wouldn’t give you access to your trust fund is not the same as growing up watching your dad work as a teacher, janitor, secretary or carpenter and never knowing what a trust fund was/is. Some people never make enough just to put food on the table, let alone “summer” in France regularly.  It just doesn’t happen, it’s not even an option for most folk. In the same respects, kids born to wealth are not inherently ungrateful, selfish or unenlightened. Being born into wealth isn’t easier.  It’s just different.  Some kids born into wealth are raised by nanny’s – children of wealth may have constant feelings of being shuffled off and may feel like a nuisance to their parents. “Rich kids” may get everything they want materially but may miss out on relationships with their parent, which, let’s face it, is what every kid really wants. 

The point is no one should feel bad about what family financial situation they were born into. 

No one has a choice how they come into this world.  But we all have a choice in becoming better, in everything we do when you have the opportunity. That includes understanding what money is, what it can be and how we can be better about our emotional attachment to it. 

To be very clear: one story isn’t better or more evolved than the other. Just because you grew up not “summering” or having private lessons, doesn’t make you a better person.  But our past, matters.  Having a real conversation about WHY you feel the way you do about money is an important first step to fixing your current financial ideas about money. 

For most people whose parents worked regular 9-5 day jobs, money may have always been a scarcity, always hard to get, felt like some sort of relief whenever they had it, and easily spent away in one “important” holiday or unexpected emergency room visit. 

For others who may have been born into wealth, money is hardly discussed but always shown. Children of wealth have similar but different problems with money. Being given a Honda instead of a BMW for a birthday gift is a real problem.  The status of driving a Honda among friends may be seen as “not good enough” when your parents could have afforded a “Beemer”.  It may feel as some sort of punishment.

Again, to some people reading this blog, the idea that a car would be gifted to a teenager may seem unfathomable and many would dismiss the issue as the wealthy teenager being ungrateful. But you would be wrong.  For the purposes of this discussion, none of that matters.  What does matter is that the stories we personally have about what money means affects us into adulthood regardless of wealth.  It can be detrimental to who we are as adults. Our past defines how we relate to money and how we feel about it today.  In order to change our emotions about money, it’s important to acknowledge why we believe the things we do. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. When was the first time you remember learning that you were rich, poor, middle class or anywhere in-between?   On page 26 of my book CANELA I discuss opening presents one Christmas morning and realizing there was no Santa. And although I always knew we weren’t rich, being poor was solidified for me that day.  There was no Santa and when you write a letter asking for what you want and don’t get it, it’s because your mom can’t afford it. My first feelings of not having money is that being poor is bad. We must be bad people. I’m not worthy to have things I want, because we’re poor and being poor is bad. See how that works?     
  2. When you were a child and first heard adults talking about money, what were they saying? I remember mostly the bargaining and the begging from my mom needing another week to pay this or that. The negotiating. The hoping she could afford something. I remember her stress and reaction when I asked for something we couldn’t afford. I remember going without because she didn’t have enough.  So, money to me has always been a negative entity. Money has always been associated with people with power being cruel to people with no money. I grew up not liking what money did to good people. And thinking that all bad people were mostly people with money.  Now, of course today we know that power is a whole other animal and really what that was about. Nonetheless, my issues with money are associated with that experience.
  3. Was money the main topic of discussion in your house growing up? Were there arguments about money you overheard? Money was always discussed in my childhood. Money was the reason for why things did and did not happen. Dreams were based on money. I couldn’t dance because I couldn’t afford new dance shoes or afford expensive “real” classes.  Money and not having it was the reason for everything. It became the reason my mother died at 49. Not having enough money to get proper medical care and having to work while sick, is still what I maintain killed her. I absorbed that as a child. Money was cruel. Money was evil. People who had it were horrible to let my mother die. Again, none of this is really the entire truth, but at 11 years old, this is what defined my ideas about money and wealth.   
  4. When you wanted something and it cost money, were you made to work for it or was it given to you with a heavy dose of guilt attached or was it a simple transaction? I learned to stop asking for things because it was painful to watch my mother tell me we couldn’t afford it. After I lost my mother, I always felt a burden to other people, so I made-due with what I had and my only goal was to never be a problem. Wanting anything more than what I already had came with a heavy dose of guilt.  Self-esteem and self-worth always in flux during those years.
  5. Do you think you have a healthy relationship when it comes to money? Today, yes. But it’s because over the years, I’ve worked with and been around various kinds of people from so many different financial backgrounds – from extremely wealthy clients to individuals starting out with less than two rocks to rub together. I’ve learned from first hand experience how extremely similar all people are about money, regardless of their bank accounts and “net worth”. 

The one common denominator that’s changed my views about money is that most people, regardless of the amount of wealth they have, can be very unhappy and struggling. And it usually has to do with how they define money in their lives. 

It’s incredibly fascinating. Terribly sad. Totally fixable. And oh, so freeing! The best part: fixing how you feel about money, has nothing to do with how much of it you have or don’t have. Feeling good about who you are regardless, is…well, forgive the cliche, priceless.  

Once you understand why you feel the way you do about money, you can take steps to start deconstructing those ideas and get to a better place.   

Think about these truths/facts:

  • You are not defined by how much money you have in the bank.
  • When people meet you, they don’t know how much money you have or don’t have.
  • People with healthy relationships with money, don’t flaunt money or care about designer anything. Good people with healthy ideas about money value quality over quantity. Quality over cost. Quality over everything.
  • There are amazing people who have a lot of money.
  • There are horrible people who have a lot of money.
  • There are amazing people who have no money at all.
  • There are horrible people who have no money at all. 
  • People with money have just as many problems as people without money – different problems, but just as bad, just as heart-wrenching, just as stressful (I promise you, this is true).
  • Poor people’s problems are just as valid as rich people’s problems. And just as important.  
  • You are worthy regardless. Period.
  • Wanting more money is not a crime. Having money is not a crime. Not having money is also not a crime. Stop feeling bad about any of it.

Till next time. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Carmen

(Carmen Suarez is an Adviser, Business Manager and Speaker to various start-ups and individual/wealth clients. For more information visit: carmensbusiness.com)

The Argument for Homelessness

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I was on LinkedIn this morning and I saw a post / Headline:

San Francisco billionaire gives $30M to study homelessness

https://www.apnews.com/9489e7a73b62497997bc3d55cd5d7424

In my simple view:  it’s a tech company owner trying to do a good thing with his excess of money on a philanthropic level.  Good.

So, the article didn’t throw me so much – but the comments were incredible. Made me sad actually.  As you might suspect, the comments ranged from support for the Billionaire doing a study to people questioning why he just didn’t give the homeless the money directly. Some of the comments were crass and not thought-out and some were interestingly veiled swipes at how the author of the comment could “do it better if they were a billionaire.”

I read all of the comments.  And what I learned is that most people sharing their views on the subject had an arms-length understanding of the issue.  They’ve probably never experienced being homeless. Never had a family member or known of someone out on the streets.  If they did, just like anything else we’re familiar with, our experience with this tragedy would show in some form of compassion and empathy.  There were none in most of these viewpoints.

As most people who know me and as I detail in my first book, I was homeless as a child. I like to say I was “homeless by choice” because unlike a lot of people who find themselves out on the streets, I had an enormous group of people who cared for me to a certain extent and I knew I could go somewhere if I wanted too. That’s a different kind of homelessness. I just didn’t want to a burden to anyone. I was alone, and scared and in danger.  Always in danger.

I met a lot of people who were homeless in my time.  I think what I understood most about people was exactly that – they were people. They were human beings with these incredible stories of a life once lived until something happened unimaginable that brought them to the streets.  Some of the people I met were funny. Some were quiet and others loud.  Some angry and rightfully so.  All of them scared.  And if they weren’t THAT, then they had lost their mental faculties long ago. Also, completely understandable…

You know how you come home from a long day at work where your boss just didn’t give you a break during a meeting and your co-workers threw you under the bus and you just couldn’t wait to get home to sit, on your couch and have a glass of wine just to relax?  Maybe it’s not just one day at work that was bad – but let’s say you missed a deadline or you lost a client or you messed up really badly and it’s just been a long hard couple of weeks.  We’ve all experienced that, right?  Maybe you have a drink or two –  more than a couple of times that week – just to relax. To forget about all of it.  It deadens the pain a bit – you just want to shake it off – whatever happened –  and finally get some sleep.

Imagine it never getting better. Not next week, or the week after. Or the month after…

It’s not that difficult to see how easily you can become an alcoholic or depressed – especially when you get fired, lose that job and can’t get another.  Your unemployment, your savings, all gone.  In this example, let’s just keep this fictitious person as a single man with no children.  His social life revolved around his career and so his friends/co-workers are afraid to talk to him because they don’t want the same thing to happen to them.  He loses his apartment because he can’t make the rent.  He already gave back his car.  He’s called in a few favors, but he’s already slept on friends’ couches who are clearly ready to have him leave.  He doesn’t want to be a bother – especially since he got real sick in the interim, had no health insurance and they helped him get better, bought his prescriptions, had been feeding him, providing shelter. He feels like a loser – he can’t get it together.  He’s sold everything. He’s depressed, but he tries to stay strong.  And yeah, he’s been drinking his friends wine – and now he knows it’s time he moves on so he tells them he’s grateful for the help but he decides to just find a bench to sit on at the beach somewhere and figure out what’s next.

All this time in his head he’s rethinking how he got here. What did he do to deserve this?  He goes to a local church to pray – he’s never been religious, but he tries anyways.  He has no money, a priest tells him where he can find a shelter…  and when he gets there, he eats and he cries because being in the shelter confirms he’s nothing. He was never supposed to be here. He was a Marine for goodness sake.

He stays in the shelter for as long as he can.  But it smells, it’s crowded and he’s not like these other guys.  He can’t take all the crazy people there.  So, he goes back to a bench. Near the beach.

When you walk on by, you see this guy talking to himself.  When I walk on by, I see a guy asking, praying, begging to understand why this happened and trying to figure things out.

This has been all of three weeks. His newfound homelessness.  Imagine, a year?

My argument for homelessness is that WE, those of us not currently homeless, dig deep and find empathy.  It’s the least we can do.  The way to start solving the problem of homelessness is to first STOP thinking it’s NOT OUR PROBLEM.

I was on the streets because I never knew my father and my mother died of a cardiac arrest due to asthma when I was 11 ½ years old.  My mother was a housekeeper, a teacher’s aide, living barely paycheck to paycheck with no real idea that she wouldn’t live long enough to see me turn 12.

Now some would argue that I was just a kid, it wasn’t my fault – and I would say, that makes it quite comfortable for you doesn’t it?  That makes you feel better, right?  We were all kids once.  I should have fallen through the cracks.  Statistics say I should have become a drug addict and pregnant and become nothing more than what statistics say – but can you guess WHY none of that happened? Why I never became a statistic?

Because of empathy. 

Empathy means:  The ability to understand and share the feeling of another. 

People saw a child in pain and instead of complaining about the problem at hand: Who left this child alone? Who’s going to pay for this kids welfare? What is wrong with this kid?  Why do I have to deal with this? Why is this kid homeless? What did she do? Instead of judging me, instead of being angry at the inconvenience, instead of beating me down when I was already low, instead of considering me an annoyance and a problem – people, blue-collar, hard working people with nothing themselves, all took turns doing what they could to walk me through a possibly terrible time in my life.  That’s what my book CANELA is about.  It’s about ALL OF THEM and what they did to make sure I “made it out”.  And there were so many others who didn’t make it IN the book. This wasn’t some coordinated effort by a neighborhood, most of these people never even knew each other – but they had empathy for a kid. I mattered.  I was never a foster child legally but to this day, I have many families and people that I consider mi familia because of their empathy. Support. Kindness.

The first thing to do in order to help the homeless is to stop thinking they are people beneath you and unworthy of your attention.  You do NOT need to give a homeless person any money when they are begging on the street – I’d actually suggest that you don’t do that because if you live in any city like I do, you’ll be giving money away all day long because the homeless situation IS that big.  But you can start to look at them with dignity.  You can start to send them a loving kindness in your thought instead of your typical annoyance and hatred as if they need that burden on them as well. You can start helping the homeless by stopping that ever important need to make it about YOU –  how it bothers YOU, makes YOU feel sad, blah, blah, blah.

SEE THEM. Imagine the beautiful people they were and how they can be again.  In order to help the homeless we can start by just thinking of them with kindness.  Change our perception and our attitudes of what homelessness is and realize that these are actually beautiful people and YES, you can SEE them and you CAN understand HOW they got here. If someone asks me for money, I always say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash.” And it’s from a place of true genuine kindness and respect. Not hatefulness. Not once have I been treated badly for treating someone with respect.  If anything, they thank me kindly and return a smile.  Even still, I’m not saying you need to talk to anyone at all or respond, but if you have hatred and anger in your soul about someone, they can feel it.  And it matters.  You know how you feel when your boss is pissed at you even if he hasn’t said a word about it?   That’s what these people feel too.

I pride myself on the life I came from and person I am today. No matter who I’m dealing with I am graced with the fact that I treat everyone with dignity and respect at least until they don’t deserve it any longer.  The homeless do get a bit more leeway and understanding from me for sure.  But only because I know that most every day a homeless person encounters another human being who isn’t homeless, they’ve probably been treated horribly, looked down upon and maybe even cursed at for merely existing the best way they can. I never want to treat any human being like that. I just can’t.

Empathy. It’ll cost you nothing at all. But can be the beginning of something big. And if you really want to do something about the homeless problem, then start with being a better human being yourself.

Carmen

A Million Dollar “Gift”

I was just on the phone with my good friend “John” (we’ll just call him that for this post). I was complaining, venting about how hard life can be at times and he asked me simply, without hesitation:  “If a million dollars landed on your doorstep, what would you do?”

We’ve all had this dream at one point or another, right?  The conversation is usually with one of my girlfriends as we finish off our typical weekly catch up call where they’ve complained about their husband or kids (or both) and I’ve complained about work, a date or my latest frustration, my neighbors. And as we finish off our chit-chat we remind each other to get our lotto tickets because “…you never know…” and “…hey, you can’t win if you don’t play.”  (That last one is my favorite).  But yeah, we’ve all had that dream, Am’I’Right?

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But today was a different.  This friend of mine is actually wealthy.  He’s in a position to drop bank and not think twice about it. I’m not sure if he’s the “million dollar” kind of bank or not, but he has “bank dropping” abilities nonetheless.  So interestingly the question sounded different coming from him.  It felt like a real question. I hesitated. I had no quick witted funny-isms, no:  “Gurl, we’d be killing it on a sandy beach somewhere watching some half – naked man serving us drinks” – no:  “Gurl first stop, Rodeo!” (It’s a Pretty Women thing).  I had nothing. I was stunned. Into silence. Rare.

Truth is, no one “needs” a million dollars especially if they didn’t earn it.  I calculated that if I could make $200K a year for the next 50 years, I’d be tre cool with that “tiny” amount (she said sarcastically)!  Interestingly enough $200K for 50 years is only $10 Million dollars. I say “only” because those lottery grabs are always so much more than that.  Truly, no one needs that much unearned money EVER!  Even the ultra-wealthy like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates give their excess money away because at some point it just makes sense to share it.  Seriously, how many homes, cars and shoes does one person need?  No, for real?

I honestly don’t need a million dollars dropped on my doorstep. But when I heard Donald Trump say:

“…it has not been easy for me and you know I started off in Brooklyn. My father gave me a small loan of a million dollars. I came into Manhattan and I had to pay him back, I had to pay him back with interest…”.  

I lost my dang-on mind! Even as I write that quote I cringe. There’s an actual sensation in my chest that feels like somethings burrowing deep into my being as I hear it, read it, write it. It bothers me so much.  I know I’m not alone in this.  But, I have finally figured out why.

People think they want loads of money.  People think they need lots of money.  A lot of dumb people think money can buy them happiness (yeah, my apologies for using the word “dumb” here but it really is dumb to think money can buy you happiness).  Money can provide choices. But choices are abundant even when you’re poor.  So, having money can sometimes give you too many choices and become a burden and lead you down the wrong path (Uhem, “Elephant” man bones, Michael Jackson…Google it. An extreme example, but you get the point).

What people actually want in life is security.  That’s a very different thing than loads of money but people confuse it all the time. It’s why I hate that quote from Donald Trump so much.  He doesn’t understand the security he has….

Let me explain.

Money is a vehicle that allows for security, but make no mistake about it – security is a thing, and it hasn’t always been about about money for most of us.

I’ve wanted security my entire life.  And security comes in different forms throughout our lives.  You can see the joy in children who have parents – they may have very little money-wise or a lot of money, but if a young child has love, money is generally not even a thing.  It’s not even part of the conversation.  Think about it this way:  do you remember the first time when you realized you were poor?  Or, do you remember the first time you noticed you were rich? Do you remember whenever you found out that there was a status associated with how much money your family had or didn’t have?  Before that time, all you knew was (hopefully) the joy and happiness of being a child.

I remembered when I fully understood we didn’t have money. It was when my mama bought me boots.  I wanted to march in parades. I was part of an organization that marched in a lot of local events and I didn’t have the right real boots to wear. And one day she used the money that should have been used to pay for heat to buy me the boots I had wanted so badly and for so long.  She traded a utility bill payment to give her little girl a Christmas gift Santa had forgotten to give her.  We went without heat in the middle of winter.  And yet, despite our actual poverty, I always felt secure as a little kid. I knew even then, mama would take care of me, would take care of everything. But seeing her trade heat for a gift, was a realization I hadn’t comprehended fully till that moment. Yeah, we were poor.

As we get older that sense of security becomes our own responsibility. If you’re lucky, you’ve made some choices that maybe provided for some shared responsibility with a husband or wife – or maybe you’ve been able to get a great job with a 401K and good benefits. Maybe you’ve saved a bit, made good investments, and have a cushion of some sort. But see, security now becomes about how much money you have in the bank – and less about your mom or your dad providing that basic sense of safety.  But that oblivious sense of security – that blanket kind of comfort, that sense of well-being you had as a child that was all encompassing and about your safety, security and nurturing, is now all on you. And a lot of it is about how much money you have.  If you don’t have tons of money, then you do what you can to give your family and friends that sense of security and safety anyways.  And even if everyone else believes you’re doing okay, maybe the fact is, you live in that place where fulfilling your personal dreams and ambitions take a back seat to making money every day for your family or just to make ends meet. Taking care of your basic needs is priority numero uno.

Truth is, most people live paycheck to paycheck. There’s not a lot of time for being “creative” or “starting a business” when the fundamentals of living haven’t been met.  A lot of real honest hard-working people, who have done everything right don’t have much more than a couple of months or so savings to make it through if they lose their job (or, if they work for the government and there’s a shutdown – uhem).  It’s been estimated that 40% of people don’t have enough for a $400 emergency.  Rack it up to a $500 emergency and I bet it’s even more people! Fact is, you can make all the right choices in life and still lose everything because financial security is elusive to most regular folk.  It’s hard to dig yourself out of whatever hole you may be in trying to make a better life for yourself , your family (school loans, medical debt, etc.) and still save such an abundance of money (or credit) that you can live through any other financial emergency crisis that may occur AND fulfill some life long dream. I love that line about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”. I always counter with, “It’s much easier when you’re born with boots that have them bootstraps to pull on. I’m still walking around barefoot trying to find my way into the damn boot store.”

When someone like Donald Trump talks about it being so hard for him – maybe it was. I mean, everything is relative I do suppose so maybe for HIM it was difficult.  His world is so different from mine, so maybe it was hard for him to deal with receiving such a gift from his father. What angers me about the statement is his inability to understand how insulting it is to those of us who would give anything to have half the advantages he’s had in his life AND get an offer of any kind of loan or gift to make our dreams come true.

The security aspect is so important.  It’s the part that people of such wealth and privilege like Donald Trump don’t understand.  If I had the security of knowing my rent would be paid, my student loans would be paid, my taxes would be paid, my gas bill would be paid, my electricity bill would be paid, my health insurance would be paid, my car payment would be paid, my auto insurance would be paid, my phone bill would be paid, my AAA membership would be paid, my gym membership would be paid, my groceries would be paid, my dental bill – paid, my eye doctor – paid, contributions to a retirement plan or knowing that I would be taken care of in my old age… If I knew all those things – that all those basic necessities would be paid regularly and on time and I didn’t have to ever worry about them, then yes, I could see how being laden with a million-dollar loan might feel a little difficult.

You see, because if all those basic necessities were paid and I was given a ton of money on top of all of that, I’d actually have to use that money to do something amazing and brilliant and I’d have an enormous amount of pressure to succeed.  Maybe that’d be scary.  To have no excuses? To have no worries of how to pay the rent?  To not be able to bitch and moan about how hard life is to make ends meet?  Maybe, that’d be scary.   But hell, I’d take that challenge every day of the week and twice on Sundays. I’m pretty sure most of my friends reading this post, would too. Wow, how to succeed when all you have is a million dollars and your dream.  Talk about First World Problems.  It took me ten years to complete and publish my first book. You know why? It wasn’t because I write slow.  It wasn’t because it was a complicated idea or I didn’t have a plan – NO. I wrote the book fairly quickly.  But I had to worry about all the other priorities that came first. And no, I didn’t have extra money readily available for an editor, for a book cover “designer” and blah, blah, blah. Basically, it took me ten years to write my first book because I had to do things like pay the rent.

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I’m not saying it’d be easy, but yeah, go ahead Universe, bring it! I dare you.

I don’t “need” a million dollars to fall into my lap. But if it did, I’d pay all my bills for a year, and then go from there fulfilling the next steps of my dream. Because what I really want in life, what we all need in life, is a sense of security. A solid foundation to start from.  Then, on top of that, I’d take the opportunity to soar. That wouldn’t scare me at all. And I promise, at the very least, I’d  pay it back…with interest.

 

xo,

Carmen

 

Somewhere Between Rich and Poor

It’s raining.  It’s been raining for a while actually.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful, but sad bitmoji1646363289nonetheless. There’s a grey-ness to it all, a coldness. And yet, I welcome it. Somehow I see it as tears from heaven, if you believe in that kind of thing…

I work for this organization that does amazing things in the world. And it has the potential to do so much more. I’ve known this organization for years and although it never has paid very much, I’ve always loved the work.  My feeling is, if at the end of the day, you’re going to have to do something for a living, especially if it’s not your innate passion – like being a dancer, actor, writer or a painter — then you want to work with people who are at least doing some good in the world, right?  That should be an easy compromise.   And for me, if I’m not working as an artist on a given day and being paid for it, then being part of this organization is the blessing – to do work that helps someone else…to make a real difference in the world. Easy choice.

I think that’s why I ultimately left my job at a once cool start-up company many years ago. I loved the people, but at the end of the day – I hated that I was pouring my heart and soul into what was basically selling products.  Don’t get me wrong, there was much artistry to what these creative people were doing, but for me, it didn’t make sense.  Especially when things started going south with the partners – the owners — why would I ever want to dedicate my talent, sweat and tears to selling products?  When the time came for me to walk away – it actually wasn’t that hard to do.  Financially it killed me, but I just quit.  And it was the right thing to do. No regrets.

This time, things are so different.  This organization that I have the privilege of working for now is actually changing people’s lives. It makes a difference in the world.  And even though there are a lot of the problems happening, again, with the “owners”, it seems to still be worthy of all my efforts – my sweat and my tears – maybe even more so. Every time a delicate painful issue arises, I feel even more compelled to do the very best I can to make sure we continue to do the good work.  It seems odd to me, because you’d think I’d just want to quit and move on… but no. It makes me even more committed to stay, to figure it out, to help in any way I can.  It’s odd, and I guess I’m just trying to understand why…

I’ve worked for so many people – so many wealthy individuals – and for the most part, wealthy people are not any different from poor people.  They’ve all got problems.  I’m 100% positive I would never trade my life for any of the wealthy people I’ve ever known.  Not one.

See, the problems of rich people are just as real.  Surely, poor people – in this generalized example – tend to have an over-arching problem of never having enough money to do anything. And everything they try to do is usually about trying to pay a bill. It’s a horrible cycle. Living paycheck to paycheck.  Rich people don’t get that. Even poor people that become rich, forget that – because it’s an easy thing to forget. And the thing about poor people is, when you get that extra money from a bonus, or an unexpected financial gift that lets you pay up your bills on-time or ahead of schedule, ohhhhhhh, that feeling is priceless, right?  I mean, there is a cleanliness to it that is hard to explain.  A burden jumps off your shoulders that you didn’t even realize was sitting there.  Rich people don’t get that because the sheer aspect of financial security makes it difficult to comprehend.  If you hadn’t had to think about how your rent or mortgage is going to be paid, then you can’t feel that burden. If you don’t have to save money to buy a pair of jeans, then you don’t know the inner negotiating and anxiety that comes with having to choose between paying your gas bill or fudging it for the month and spending that money at Target instead simply because you’ve worn your one pair of jeans so much that they’re falling apart in the crotch.

But the rich – their burden seems worse to me.   Again, I’m totally generalizing here  –  but the rich walk around in constant thought that someone is trying to screw them over.  Rich people never seem to feel completely settled.  Trust is a coveted process and never fully practiced or embraced because they believe everyone has to prove themselves first – over and over again. Everything is about THEM. Their vulnerability, their money, their lives, their self-preservation. They are always the first to scream that they are NOT about their money at all. And they always claim NOT to be THAT rich.  Cracks me up.  But sadly they always think  someone wants something from them.  There’s a fear of some entity that’s going to try and steal from them.  It’s sad.  They’re not positive of who their friends are. They think its other rich people who “understand” them – but nine times out of ten, their friends are just as skittish about trust and friendship as they are.  So the rich pay therapists, and massage therapists, and psychics, and go on ridiculous shopping sprees and visit all sorts of doctors, spas, etc., — all because of feeling unsettled. It’s a different kind of anxiety than the poor feel, but anxiety nonetheless.  The rich, in my experience,  try to feel better by hiring lawyers and doctors who will tell them that they are fine – and the more they cost, the better because, well, if the “BEST” are telling you what you need to hear, then it must be right.   And look, I’m not even saying that all these doctors and lawyers are being abusive and sucking money from these people – truth is, a lot of these people are so fragile, they need to hear some sort of comfort, some information from somewhere…  And this tends to be one place where rich people get that from. It’s a vicious circle.

Poor people don’t have that luxury – to go find some professional to walk them through something.  Poor people can’t go to a doctor on a whim because they’re feeling bad and need someone to talk too, because the co-payment alone may be $90 and not in their budget for the month. That’s grocery money. So, poor people have to trust their friends, their family,  their co-workers,  right off the bat.  And in order to trust people, you have to get good at reading people, at intuition. At understanding who is screwing you over for money, and who is actually doing the work and deserving of your hard-earned pennies.  You don’t have money to waste, so the minute you realize you are being snowed, you walk away and find someone else.

Surely money gives you choices – but from my experience, sometimes having all that choice, leaves you less inclined to be wise.  It reminds me of going to a restaurant like the Cheesecake Factory whose menu is so large that it’s just too much to deal with. Most times I hate going there, unless I’m going just for some actual cheesecake.  But sometimes, when you have all that choice, it’s hard to be wise and choose accordingly.  I think of Michael Jackson too – he had so much money, so many choices – – and with all those choices he became unwise. Purchasing items that seemed ridiculous, just because he could.  I loved Michael Jackson’s music and performance – don’t get me wrong.  He was brilliant. But, clearly he chose badly. And in a lot of ways, I get it. It makes complete sense to me.

Please know, I’m not saying it’s better to be poor.  But what I am saying is that it’s not better to be rich either.  Now, I can’t claim to have ever been rich. But, I’ve had more money than I’ve ever needed at one point in my life – and I tell people all the time, it was the worst time in my life. Not because I had so much money, but because I was so unhappy. I was living a life that wasn’t authentically me.  Now, it wouldn’t have mattered if I was making $10 an hour or $1M a year, it was clearly the wrong job, the wrong place and the wrong time – and had little to do with money. But, for the purposes of this discussion, I remember what it was like not to have to question buying a new pair of jeans that cost $400. Yes, I said, $400.  I still own the Jimmy Choo shoes I bought back then – my Jimmy Choo boots cost $1000 and were fitted precisely to fit me and only me.  There was a freedom in having the bills paid and never having to worry about how the mortgage was going to be paid that month and every month after that. But with that kind of money also came something I never expected:  the insecurity of why people were being nice to me, or questioning why I was getting such incredible service… I specifically remember getting on a plane and being treated like I was a Queen.  The overwhelming kindness and people willing to jump at anything I may have said… of course, I was flying First Class.  The comfort was one thing – you paid for that, but the way people treated you just because you had money… that’s why rich folk get confused.  Truth is, people – good decent people, especially flight attendants – will treat everyone that way.  With Kindness.  And in coach you do get that sometimes…. Not the comfort, but yes, the best flight attendants are the best for a reason. But imagine, being treated that way ALL. THE. TIME. Every day.  It no longer is special, it becomes your new normal.  And “normal” gets old real fast. Basically, you realize people are kissing your ass, not because they are kind good people, but only because you have money and they HAVE to be nice to you. Yeah, it’s like that…and you can easily see why you’d start questioning everyone’s motives, right?

But rich people get that treatment – all the time.  Even when they don’t deserve it. They can bitch and moan and people servicing them will still treat them like the kings and queens they believe themselves to be.  Again, poor people don’t get that privilege. We are grateful when we meet other kind souls who work for a living and treat us like kings and queens, but we also understand when that same flight attendant is having a bad day and is just going through the motions – because we get that they’re working just trying to make a living too… and yet, at some point, no matter how bad their day is, they still have to go up to first class and keep on shining.

I guess all this to say, I’m grateful.  My dream of course, is to make enough money as an artist/creative entity every day and be able to live a comfortable and fulfilling life by telling stories, sharing Carmenisms and changing the world all on my own. But, in the meantime, I’m okay. Happy really. I would never want to have so much money again at the expense of my sanity, and I certainly never want to hate what I do for a living.  So, all and all, I’m okay. Maybe more than okay. This too shall pass…

It stopped raining.  But there’s a heavy tint of lingering grey – it may rain again.  I hope so. For now, everything is so quiet, so still. I have to admit, I love it.

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*The term “poor” here is simply defined as those living paycheck to paycheck. There is no doubt that “poor” in relative terms can and does mean something quite different in our world and this author knows the difference.

*Image used/created on App Bitmoji