I've been thinking about money. This makes me crabby. I even thought about not writing today because of my money crabbiness. Now logic wise this does not make sense, because I have money in my account right now, and I'll be paid tomorrow. I have enough to go to Safeway and buy vitamin waters and sushi for lunch.
I've been thinking about money since Ariel Gore wrote about it last night on her blog (read about it here: http://www.arielgore.com/) She decides to finally hire a life coach and see why she's so ambivalent about money. At the end of her blog she says "What do you think of money?"
Oh, Ariel. Couldn't you ask me something easy, like what do I think of JonBenet's family being cleared, or how I feel about the Obama girls being interviewed? Ask me something I can give a glib funny answer about and everyone can laugh. Not about money.
Sigh. Okay, here we go.
I grew up in the eighties, so the message was if you do not have money, sheesh, what's the matter with you? It felt like you had to have a lot of money to get ahead. My mom and I managed to get by. There was always enough money for food, rent, and a movie every weekend. However, I always wanted more. More more, more. I wanted a house, a house that was ours and we didn't have to answer to anyone about it. I wanted to have enough money so that I never had to answer to anyone and worry about it. I wanted to be like Danielle Steel. In the SF Chronicle, there were always pictures of Danielle's mansions, Danielle at the opera, Danielle with diamonds in her ears. Yeah, she was married to a millionaire, but she had money of her own. She wrote books that became TV movies starring Jane Seymour and Jaclyn Smith. I wanted to write novels, soap operas, anything to make sure that I could buy a house for my mother and that I would never had to worry about money again. I wasn't going to be one of those "welfare queens" that Mr. Reagan talked about, no ma'am.
The town where I grew up was definitely middle class. The girls all had Guess jeans and other clothes from Macy's. At first I didn't want to be like them, I was no sheep. However, there was my ego that wanted the Guess jeans, wanted the material things. Eventually when I did get a pair of Guess jeans, I felt happy, but it was a hollow happiness, that it felt extravagant.
I had a job from the time I was sixteen until I was twenty-seven. Suddenly, I was out of work. I had to go on unemployment, which was half of what I was making every month. Suddenly things started to be a big deal expense wise. BART tickets to the secretary classes I was taking would be taken from change under the couch. When people went for breaks at the snack shack I kept working on my typing so I could save money. The only luxuries I had were buying CD's from Amoeba Records, a used record store in Berkeley.
I got a job as a secretary for a while and for the first time I made serious money. I paid my bills and had enough for clothes, books, and the extras. I bought books I wanted to read in hardcover, not waiting for the library to get it or book sales. I bought a laptop. I loved money! Money loved me!
Suddenly I found myself on unemployment again, and this time it was more serious. It was right after 9/11 and I had no luck on interviews. After nine months, I decided I would go back to school. I was worried about money, but my mother paid for the tuition and I managed a deal, where I could borrow some of my books from a program sponsored by the school. Yet that year money was always on my mind. I ran out of my unemployment benefits. My mother's job was outsourced. Money was in short supply for the first time in a long time.
We coped. You really have no choice. We went without new clothes, bought day old bread, and I took cans to the recycling booth at Safeway. I did have two unpaid jobs: One as a teacher's assistant where I helped students meet goals with their classes and reviewing books on a website. All I wanted was money. I wanted money to make me feel okay again.
It didn't help matters California was in the beginning of a bad financial crisis and there was no work. When one person said something about people going on welfare still because they were lazy, I lost it. I talked about not finding a job and some person said, "You should just get a job as a waitress." I explained because of my learning difference, I wasn't sure if waitressing was for me. She responded that she was sorry about that, but it seemed like I was looking for excuses not to work. Another person couldn't believe that I looked everywhere for a job and was hitting zero. Didn't I go to my local McDonald's? Weren't they hiring?
Just when I was wondering if I would good in McDonald's green, I got a job at my community college. I'm happy to say that I've been working ever since, in a variety of jobs. I worked at two department stores during Christmas. I worked as a reader at Mills and a research assistant. These jobs pretty much paid for BART and some bills, not much else. I kept on plugging. I was in college to improve myself, to get something better.
I've been at my job for two years now. When I first started, there was a red tapey mistake with my paycheck and there was a two-week delay. I started to panic because I needed money for just basic stuff like cat food and BART. It was scary. I now understood why people went to food banks. I just wished they had cat food. We muddled through and finally I was paid.
A couple of months ago I was reading Eckhart Tolle while drinking tea. He was talking about the pain body, and that if parents worried a lot about money, it could be passed on to their children and it becomes a part of their pain body. I had to stop reading and leave the cafe. I walked around for a while, tears in my eyes. I was the girl wanting the Guess jeans again, the girl who was so proud when she got her first paycheck at sixteen and she was going places. I was the woman who went to Coinstar with baggies of change so she could buy groceries, who had to look into how to get welfare. I sat on a bench and closed my eyes. I remembered what a friend once told me once about money. It's just some silver really, copper for pennies. Pieces of paper. You have to decide what to do with it is what matters. Money doesn't give you power, you already have power. On the other hand, as Jock Ewing says: "Real power is something you take." What you do with that power is what matters.
So Ariel, I don't know if this answers your question or not. All I can say is that I'm trying to make friends with money like you are. I'm trying to picture myself holding hands with Benjamin Franklin (who is on the hundred dollar bill) skipping along, and he's saying "Jennifer! There's plenty of me out there for you! Trust me!" Okay Benny boy, I'll take your word for it.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries