Money isn’t my issue this time around, not that it’s always been abundant. I’ve saved it, spent it, lost it, found it, stolen it (I was seven), borrowed, gambled, lent, collected, stashed, donated, and shared it. I’ve frittered it away and hoarded it close. I’ve been foolish and wise, thoughtless and smart. I’ve even dreamt about it: feeling lucky finding a small pile of change at the curb, or frustrated, a stash of coins just out of my reach at the bottom of a pool.
I’ve worked since I was 12, my first job in my Dad’s dime store on Haight Street. I’ve had jobs in two banks (the till seldom balanced) and in the men’s department at JC Penney. I’ve cleaned houses, ironed, and sold Tupperware. When first married, we had an ARCO gas station in El Monte; we sold it after being robbed three times in a month. I co-owned and operated a fresh juice company, Country Fresh, here in Sonoma; I’ve juiced more carrots than I ever care to remember. For the last 35 years I’ve been in real estate in Sonoma Valley and co-own and run a local real estate firm.
I’ve put money to good use for others and myself. I’ve been completely broke, and trusted that somehow what I needed would show up. It’s amazing; it always did, and still does. I’ve been on welfare and I’ve been in the top two percent wage earners in the United States. Both ends of that spectrum were disquieting for me; I was ashamed I had to ask for help, and then later in life guilty that I made more than my father ever possibly dreamed of. I can be annoyingly stingy in small amounts, surprisingly generous in large. I’m not attached to money, and, I appreciate having it. A friend once told me, “The only thing I know about money is that it’s better to have it than not.” I’ve given to others when it was needed, and even when it wasn’t. I’m aware how much easier it makes life, and I’m grateful for how money appears in mine.
I have an early money incident that for years clung to me like tar: my brother-in-law’s little brother stole my 1954 plain, the best coin in my penny collection (which I still have, by the way.) When I confronted him, he denied it, but I knew he wasn’t telling me the truth. I was ten years old, he, a year or so older. If his name came up in conversation when I was on the phone with my sister, I’d say, “Next time you talk to that little punk, tell I want my damn penny back!” I groused about that theft for over forty years until my friend and business partner Linda bought me one for my birthday from a client of hers who was a coin collector. A whole seventy-five cents it cost her. Man, that was a lot of time and energy for me to spend on one penny.
“When you get your limits, you get your maturity,” meaning if you haven’t experienced something, if you haven’t thoroughly gone through it and painfully come up against it, you can’t really grok it. I surmise that’s why money stuff doesn’t dog me much. I seem to have done it all, and out of that I garnered some common sense.
I have other issues to work with that keep me busy, places where I get upset or resentful, where I’m not quite so “together.” I still get caught in my “mother” stuff: my “how did I get here, I didn’t do anything wrong?” or “I’m not cared about.” Usually it happens around family, and I can gather plenty of evidence in those raw places to keep me fed for days. Then, when I step back and remember that it is just my story—which I see through my filter—I relax into it and let it go, though sometimes it takes a while.
We all have our own particular flavor of angst, the thing that trips us up in life. Over time, I’ve gained some wisdom in this arena. You can put money on it.