The following entry is an exercise from Julia Cameron’s work The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of Enough.
It might make for uncomfortable reading.
Often what follows, as a course of the exercise, is personal – sometimes jarringly so. I prefer to aim for as much openness as possible about my past, about my family dysfunction, and about my current health and emotional challenges now. My present as I write this is quite stable, but my past is something of a lingering disease – and there is the possibility that the lingering disease may actually be literal, rather than metaphorical. Money is more taboo to discuss than even sex, sexual violence, or misogyny from populations as suppressed and oppressed as women. What is silenced most of all are the later in life protests of the targets of emotional and physical abuses – “get over it” is in fact “shut up about it,” because shutting up preserves the abuser’s power by ensuring that that person will never be held accountable – that’s what silence does. This also creates a situation where the target’s silence contributes to the abuser’s ability to persuade herself or himself that the behavior “wasn’t that bad” thus enabling that person to seek a high by abusing another day, whether that’s a person or a substance. While it is not the case for everyone, the work I do via Julia Cameron’s projects brings out these memories and maladies – and the scream breaks the spell.
There is also a very positive side to this work for me in that I am a stronger, better committed writer. I plunge into this work as one path to total healing. Most people just want to get working on their art. It works for that – just remember to forgive yourself for what you do to yourself, and stay accountable for what you do to others. That’s really the simplest way to function.
Let’s see how this exercise has changed over time for me.
2. preservation of health.
5. a discipline.
1. more choices.
2. people being jealous of me.
3. people acting out on their jealousies towards me.
4. something that can be used as an obstacle, both negatively and positively.
5. that I will be able to start traveling and doing blog conferences and the like.
My father thought money was
1. a means of controlling others.
2. something he didn’t like to deal with.
3. something he loved to count – it showed him off.
4. a way of demonstrating humility in social maneuvering with other men.
5. scarce, and constantly so.
My mother thought money was
1. what stood between her and being happy.
2. a source of pride in poverty.
3. something to pretend not to notice or appreciate in others.
4. a source of shame – especially whether people thought she was “cheap” even as she did her damnedest to skate by as cheaply as possible.
5. something to withhold from me specifically.
Are the above what I believe about money now? The top three are, although I understand that the shame is just a virus contracted from my parents. First of all, I do not use money with the expectation that another person will do as I want them to – not in a personal relationship. (Clearly, economy relies on a person doing what s/he is expected to per that contractual agreement.) Looking at the financial types, I believe now my mother especially was trying to program me to be a financial enabler – which is part but not all of why she and my sister were complete shits at both my weddings. Mike and I got nearly drained by them to help cover my father’s funeral expenses. And I did enable. As a kid, I’d sneak money into my mother’s wallet, pay for dozens of little things when I visited both my sister and my mother, and would sacrifice things I wanted for myself to get my family “perfect” birthday and Christmas gifts. I even ended up not getting the wedding dress I actually wanted because I was arranging their trip out for my wedding and the wedding clothing (as a bride is supposed to) when the only reason they were there is that my father had demanded I not defer the wedding, and make sure I included them, before he died.
On the rare occasions that I received something decent and thoughtful from my mother or sister, not long after at all it would be followed by some demand on my time, money, and even religious belief. Notably during my life crises where I wasn’t a well they could tap, both managed to disappear or hide behind drama they had created with each other. That’s just what abusive people do. It’s in everything, and money is just one facet of how that disregard for another person’s humanity comes out.
The shame is more nervousness about expressing my good fortune. There was one occasion at a gym where I actually hid my new, somewhat expensive sports shoes from another person, because she had just gone on a bit of a rant about the “sort of people” that buy expensive things. She did notice my shoes later on, and comment – I tried to tell her as little as possible about them, and while she now knows I work in fashion, we’re not going to talk about why I spend $150 on a good pair of shoes that I don’t have to replace for ten years. This is a person I like quite a bit, and since nearly every person in the world has some dysfunction with money, I can do my best to get around it especially as I work through my own issues, but it’s always going to be there. Sometimes I’m just going to have to hide my shoes.
As to the family stuff – for those that are curious, I made the final decision to cut them off after they decided to use my birthday as a day to amp up their abusive behavior. Calling a person at 7:30 am for non-emergency reasons constitutes abusive behavior, as are passive aggressive texts, IP-traceable verbally abusive Google searches, inciting a mutual acquaintance to stalk me on Facebok (it was actually on my mother’s wall, and that woman got CREEPY not to mention inappropriate use of my vacation photos) and hey, dead silence for my own expressions of grief as though my father hadn’t died, too. This is without the shit my mother encouraged her relatives to say to me at my father’s funeral including guilt tripping me for “not visiting enough” when let’s face it, the guilt trips and the abuse are WHY I DON’T VISIT.
They’re out of my life now, and it’s better because it means I can actually heal these wounds without those assholes ripping open new ones. We’ll all know I’ve made progress when I have less and less to say about them because I’m that engaged with the present.
And yes, there is an element of revenge to this. My mother told me several times that “she wishes I wouldn’t talk about her on my web pages.” That’s nice, Alice. Most abusers want their victims to be silent.