Last Spring I had an epic meltdown over $15. That's right, FIFTEEN measly bucks. I was in between freelancing paychecks and my bank account got low, like close-to-looking-like-a-goose-egg low. Even still, I wasn't particularly worried. I'd been on the freelance roller coaster many years and had learned that money always comes. Sometimes late. Sometimes not enough. But it always comes.
On this particular Friday night one of my favorite musicians, Jonathan Richman, was playing a local club and I really, really wanted to go. Only I didn't have $15 to get in the door. I refused to take money from my boyfriend (who had already fronted me a couple hundred bucks for rent while I waited for the next check to come in) and I refused to use a credit card ('cause I learned THAT lesson long ago.) Realizing I would miss the show over something as silly as fifteen bucks, I stomped around the apartment and let my mood sink into a foul, irritable place. An incident from twelve years earlier popped into my head, a falling out with someone over the same amount of money. (Long story short: They owed me. I needed it. They didn't pay me back.)
As I banged around the kitchen that Friday night, putting away dishes and not seeing Jonathan Richman, the idea that perhaps nothing had changed in my financial life over the past dozen years hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks.
I went to bed early, unleashing all the horrible thoughts I'd been keeping at bay, starting with "You're forty years old and can't even come up with fifteen dollars. You clearly have no idea how to take care of yourself," and ending with the worst kinds of dark, unspeakable thoughts such as, "You are useless. Nothing ever changes. You might as well not even be here."
If that sounds dramatic, well, it was. I sobbed, and I sobbed. I cursed the universe. I cursed myself. I scribbled every negative thought into my journal with such ferocity that it indented several blank pages behind it. I spiraled down, down, down until finally I beseeched the universe, "Help me! Help me, for f*ck's sake! Can you hear me?? I need HELP." At which point these words popped into my head: "Go back to bed, Liz." Which is a very funny joke if you've ever read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. (Duh. Of course you have.) Bless it. That kernel of humor broke through my despair and enabled me to fall asleep.
In the morning I felt different. Better. Sure it's a cliché, but I DID feel lighter, like I'd suddenly looked down to see I'd been carrying around a heavy bag of garbage for no good reason, and the mere recognition of its existence allowed me to drop it. In the light of day I knew I wasn't in the same place as twelve years before. I was much more empowered around money, more refined in my skills, more aware of my confidence. The foolish cry for $15 was symbolic more than it was literal. It was the place where the end of a line touches the other end of itself to complete a circle. The meltdown was a strange kind of closure, the end of a Super Sucky Cycle.
Later that day I burned those journal pages and had a christening ceremony in the bathtub. I gave myself permission to let go of the past and step into a new chapter. Then, I got back to work. And soon after things started to look up financially. I became more and more aware of how I'd been sabotaging myself over the years, how I'd been settling for less, how I had allowed myself to ignore money in the hopes of it just miraculously working itself out.
With determination and patience I peeled off my financial onion layers, one tear-jerker at a time, until I got my mojo back.
For those of you who might be circling the drain as I was on that Spring night, I'll share a few insights from the journey, some steps that got me from Point A: Meltdown to Point B: Mojo.
1. Give up. That's right. GIVE UP. Decide you can't do it anymore, whatever IT is. (Hint: "It" is a drama of some kind.) Because if you're stubborn like I am, it takes a Grand Epic Meltdown such as the aforementioned to admit things aren't working for you. And that's at the heart of giving up - being honest that something isn't working and admitting that you have no bloody clue how to fix it. (Note: Giving up is not actually necessary, because it turns out you don't have to suffer in order to receive. If you're smarter and savvier than I, you could also just skip the drama and decide to change.)
2. Beseech the heavens. I understand this may be a challenge if you are not prone to believe in a higher power. As a former atheist, I feel ya. That said, a little cursing - followed up with a lot of humility - directed at the Invisible Powers That Be is a good release. And, if nothing else, you've put yourself, emotionally and energetically, in a position to receive.
3. Make like a hawk. Anyone who's into animal totems will tell you that the hawk is a bird with a powerful message. This sexy raptor is all about focusing on your goals and desires within the big picture. The idea here is two-fold: first you have to figure out exactly what it is you want, then you determine how that fits into the larger scheme of your life. In essence, craft yourself a big ol' plan, then break it down into small steps that you can focus on.
4. Loosen the reigns. Once your hawk-like skills are in place, loosen the reigns. Know that you are but a cog in a much larger machine. All you can do is what you can do. There is such a thing as working TOO hard. Remember, you aren't just creating, you're co-creating with the Invisible Powers That Be. They want to help you. In fact, it's their mission to do so. Be active, but not willful. Do what you can do, then step aside and allow those Invisible Superstars to do their job too.
5. Behold the mojo. There's a saying that goes something like, "What you put your attention on grows." Start to notice what's working - financially and otherwise - in your life. Some folks do a daily gratitude list, some keep a success journal, some have a friend they can speak to or even a prosperity partner. If you get in the habit of writing down, thinking about and speaking of the things that ARE working in your life, you will bring more of them to you. (Law of Attraction, yo!)
Remember, if you have an Epic Money Meltdown, know that it - as with everything in life - will inevitably shift and change. Know too that making money is not what you were lead to believe it was, a fixed and rigid process with a known set of variables. Finally, know that you have choices on this journey. I made one that Friday night. My boyfriend offered me the money, and I could've easily paid him back later, but I wanted things to be different. Though I didn't know it at the time, drawing that line in the sand and giving in to the meltdown, lead me to greater understanding and a transformative shift that was truly priceless.
And, man, next time Mr. Richman comes to town, you can bet I'll be front and flippin' center.
(J. Richman photo by Michael Gallacher)