Money Craves my Attention

My relationship with money has been troubled for a while. The problem isn’t money, it’s me. I’ve been neglectful. Sure, I appreciate what money does for me. It keeps my car running, it feeds me, it even buys me coffee every Friday. But my appreciation is hypothetical, unexpressed. Instead of tending to my relationship with money, I mostly just try to avoid it. I just keep spending what I spend, charging groceries on my debit card, buying new tires on credit, and then hoping that when I finally get around to checking my balances, I don’t discover that my account balance is zero, or that I’ve surpassed my credit limit.

But lately, some things have been reminding me that money would appreciate my attention. First, a friend of mine left this on my doorstep.

 OWL

It’s a owl piggybank, an owl-pig. My friend has been buying piggy banks at Goodwill and then painting them, transforming them into talismans for prosperity. The owl-pig came with instructions. We must feed her coins and notes. We must talk to her about our dreams.

A few days after pig-owl arrived, I read a chapter from Michelle Tea’s How to Grow Up that describes the author’s efforts to change her relationship to money. The simplest take-away from this chapter is the Money Magnet chant:

I am a Money Magnet

Money comes to me

Money loves me

Money is sexually attracted to me

Money wants to be near me

I love money

I am money

According to Michelle Tea, the idea isn’t necessarily to seek magic or divine intervention (though we welcome those things too!), but to remind ourselves that we don’t need to live in an antagonistic relationship with money. Tea describes how she spent much of her youth avoiding money, and how this avoidance meant that she often found herself working for free while someone else was turning a profit. She writes, “I knew that in order to heal my abusive relationship with prosperity, I was going to have to start approaching this part of my life not with anger or hurt, but with love.” The chant simply helps remind the chanter that money is our friend. It wants to serve us.

With this in mind, I started to feed our owl-pig, and talk to our owl-pig, and also I said the Money Magnet chant a few times. Each time I said it I allowed myself to dream big, and over the course of ten days the following things happened.

  1. I placed one essay in the New York Times Motherlode and another in The Washington Post. Breaking into one of these markets was my big personal goal for the year. Now…DONE! (I think I might take a nap.)
  1. Kellie got an unexpected bonus at work.
  1. I got a letter in the mail saying that I’d already been billed four times for a co-pay of $10.36, and if I didn’t settle up within the week, the bill was going to a collection agency.

Of course I was ecstatic about items 1 and 2, but number 3 was in its own way a gift, a wake-up call, a reminder of exactly how careless I’ve been. Bills arrive in the mail and they migrate to the edge of our kitchen table where they gather crumbs and stains. I put off dealing with them for weeks, and when I finally open the envelope, I think: Huh, this medical co-pay invoice for $3.27 is dated April 3. I swear I already paid this. I think they might have sent the bill on the same day that I put payment in the mail. Then I put it aside and intend to call the office on a Monday, but then I never do because who cares? It’s $3.27.

Every time this happens, I think about my mother and how throughout my childhood she sat at the dining room table and paid bills every Saturday morning. (She probably still does.) She balanced her checkbook as she went. Paying attention to money was a part of her weekly routine. Every month or so I ask myself why can’t I do that? By the time I get around to paying the bills it takes hours and it looks like this:

Bills1

But afterwards, when the waste has been recycled, and the bills have been paid, and I see that there’s still some money left in checking, or I at least understand that we need a couple of months to pay the credit card back down, my world feels a whole lot cleaner. It’s not so much about having a lot, it’s about knowing what I have. I can breathe. I can make informed choices.

Bills2And so, I’m trying my best to remember that money is my friend, that the more I attend to money, the more money will attend to me.

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18 comments

  1. I totally relate to this, Jen! I have also been attempting to change my relationship with money. I like the idea of not letting money be in control and me be out of control. Meaning, I don’t know what I have but just hope…. Instead I know exactly what I have, what I can spend, when I’m spending o etc. I’m working on it. I love the chant and the owl-pig. I want to invite prosperity and money to come here more often too. And having intention around it is key. Well done! Xo

  2. Jenn: I may have sat there paying bills every Saturday, but once I had so much financial planning, budgeting, etc. in my job, your father took over and still writes all the checks out. The problem for me then becomes I’m not sure how much money is going out, but he keeps close tabs on that.

  3. I can fully relate to this. Growing up I had no example of money as something that was handled, but rather a huge sorce of anxiety when the mortgage, and later the rent, came due, or when the car needed work, or when anything unexpected needed to be handled. I remember at age 6 having Mom hustle me on foot the mile downtown to the local bank and arriving just minutes after the bank had closed. Mom banged frantically on the doors until a reluctant bank worker carefully opened up a two inch gap between the door and my overwhelmed mother. He told her firmly the bank had closed. My mother begged to be allowed in to do her business, i.e. pay the mortgage on the home I still, thank heavens, lived in. (Within 3 years my home would slip away without an adult willing to step in on behalf of my siblings and me, leaving us to gaze upon our former home from the wrong side of Madbury Rd., standing on land attached to the dingy apartment building where we now resided; our co-renters consisting of horny, partying college students, [some of whom would take an unwholesome interest in me when I hit my mid-teens], and my brother and sister and I wondering why no one advised my mother that it was not a good idea to trade a house for a crappy apartment.) At the bank, Mom gestured to me as pathetic prop and said we had run all the way there, which in my case was true. Only after tearful pleading were we allowed in. I learned that money was a source of intense stress and probable humiliation. That was the only example offered to me. I feel as though my relationship with money has been, due to lack of any example
    to the contrary, immature and riddled with anxiety. When it comes to finances, I am still that mortified, powerless little girl at the mercy of the man peering safely out of two inches of space behind the bank’s door.

  4. Ah, parallel lives… At least as far as that messy pile of bills and the inexplicable desire to put off paying them even though we have the money in our flex account.
    As for the writing prosperity… Not so parallel yet (do you think the chant would work for getting published? I wonder…)
    Kathy Berney’s moving comment above is a beautiful piece of writing unto itself. How do we become who we are? Whether around success or money or parenting, how do we get here?
    Off to Motherlode!

    1. A word of thanks. I had a dream last night that countless commenters thought I was self-centered and inappropriate in my response to Jenn’s amazing and evocative piece.

      1. Kath: Your dream has it all wrong! What a sad commentary, and well written. You could do a blog too, my dear!

  5. I Definitely can relate…especially with the not checking the bank account to see what damage i’ve done bit…lol…Consciously working on this aspect of my life and am now looking at money differently. Thanks and #HappyBlogging

  6. Wow… NYT and the Washington Post- congrats! Not surprised at all, Jenn. Lucky me I got you to write on my blog before you’ve started to blow up in the best ways possible. I too have been re-aligning my relationship to the sacred mula. I see this as a recalibration of my own power since money is energy and energy is power and all and rewiring that dynamic so that it feels me to overflow rather than drains. Congrats again.

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