The ritual began under a full moon. We dressed in our finest evening clothes. I wore a white brocade evening gown with rhinestone straps, silver strappy heels, and vintage earrings. He wore a suit and tie. We walked out onto the back lawn, feeling the tingle of anticipation. The glow of city lights shone far in the distance, nothing but evergreen treetops filling the valley in between. We took deep breaths and began to shout. “COME ON, MONEY!” We jumped up and down. We waved our arms, as if beckoning a child to jump into a swimming pool. “MONEY! HERE I AM! I’M READY!” When we felt we had made our point, we went back inside and drank some champagne.
There were two realities that night. One was the surface reality, in which two elegantly dressed people enjoyed a million-dollar view from a 3800-square-foot house while drinking glasses of bubbly. The other was the secret reality, in which both parties were drowning in debt and no income was coming in. The evening gown and the earrings came from Goodwill, and the “Champagne” was really sparkling wine from Costco. A decade later, one party is doing quite well and the other, probably not quite so well. This is a story about scarcity and abundance, fantasy and reality.
Mine is a Cinderella story. I was a poor kid. I didn’t get to college until my late 20s, and I cleaned a lot of houses to work my way through. When I met my current husband, I was wearing thrift store clothes and sleeping on a patched air mattress in a rented room. He fell for me the day I threw a shoe at him, hitting him in the sternum quite soundly. He carried me away to live comfortably in the suburbs. I’ve gone to bed hungry plenty of times, cried myself to sleep over bills I couldn’t pay, and walked several miles at a stretch when I couldn’t swing a $1.50 bus ticket. I’ve also slept in five-star hotels, dined in Zagat-rated restaurants, and flown business class. (Not first class, not yet anyway). I’ve seen enough of the world to know that the sense of scarcity or abundance, fear or magnanimity, has little to do with actual material resources. Plenty of rich people are freaked about money all the time, and plenty of happy people have little or no money to speak of.
Money is awesome, though, I can tell you that. I freaking love money and I can’t wait to get more of it. It is SO USEFUL. I want lots of it and I hope you get a lot, too. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Why is that? They say love of money is the root of all evil. I disagree. I think selfishness is the root of most evil. Money can make people act weird, but when there’s plenty to go around, well, it’s relaxing. My dog and my parrot are good friends because they both have always had plenty to eat. A couple of days of empty bowls and it would all be over. That will never be a problem, though. They don’t have to worry about having enough to eat because I don’t have to worry about the price of pet food. That’s because when it comes down to it, they really need very little to keep going. At our house, the priority is on being together. Pet food is an incidental and relatively trivial line item.
Scarcity is constant fear and anxiety. I used to dream about plates of steaming hot food when I was a little girl. Usually it was breakfast: scrambled eggs, toast with jam, sausage, and hash browns, with a glass of orange juice on the side. The dream would be so vivid I could smell it. I would startle awake, terrified I was going to jostle the plate and spill everything. No such plate ever appeared. Hunger gnaws at the mind at least as much as the belly. It took me decades to start shaking loose that fear of missing meals or not getting enough to eat. It also took me years to be able to swipe my debit card at the grocery store without cringing, thinking the payment would not be approved, even when I knew full well that I had plenty of money in the bank. I still hide cash in various places, for what reason I’m not sure. I was afraid to sign the lease on my first apartment, fearing I would get laid off and be stuck for months with no income. I was just as afraid when I signed the lease on my first house, for the same reason. It never happened. That sense of dread about bad financial outcomes has never helped me to get better jobs, earn more money, or enjoy life.
It is far easier to earn more than it is to save more. There is no upper income limit, but even the most frugal person can only cut back to zero dollars. I know how it’s done; I could start living on the barter system tomorrow, if I liked. There are a lot of people who would be delighted to trade me room and board for my housekeeping services alone; that was true even before I learned to cook. Why stop there, though? I have a lot more to offer than my ability to sew buttons, scrub bathtubs, and entertain young children. These are not negligible offerings to the world; the trouble comes when poverty makes them feel like a burden instead of a love gift. Poverty destroys focus. Scarcity generates more scarcity; it spreads like mold. Abundance spreads like light, from the first flickering candle to the bright glare of full sun.
The best things in life are free. It’s a cliché because it’s 100% true. Hugs, laughter, nature, creating artwork, conversation, being with friends and loved ones, dancing, singing – none of that stuff costs a nickel. Whether we allow ourselves to enjoy any of it depends entirely on attitude.
Abundance is the secure knowledge that there is plenty and more on its way. The abundance mentality focuses on getting maximum value out of experiences and things. This by no means requires diamonds or grand pianos or yachts. It just requires appreciation and gratitude. The other things are available, though, and they are legitimate. Grand pianos are made to be played. Yachts create a lot of jobs. Diamonds? Okay, there are a lot of political ramifications around diamonds (and I don’t own any, and never have). But it doesn’t have to be that way; there is no practical reason why diamonds can’t be gotten ethically through fair trade. True abundance includes the ready sense that everyone in the world could indeed have access to food, education, sanitation, and basic human rights. As a starting point.
The point of the “COME ON, MONEY!” ritual was to embrace a sense of possibility. Money is simply energy. It’s a symbol. It’s a convenient way to transfer value. It is inherently neutral. I’m ready to be a billionaire; I’d be darned good at it. I would get rolling on philanthropic projects the very second day, after I filled a claw-foot bathtub with $100 bills and had my picture taken in it. I’d start with homelessness in my region and move on to literacy programs after that. Come to think of it, I don’t need a billion dollars to do those things, but you already knew that, right? Abundance is about knowing what to do with prosperity when it shows up. Outrageous dreams – do you have them? What are they? Do they indeed cost actual cash dollars, or could they come true the moment the wish was formed?
Money is a shortcut. It solves problems quickly that can also be solved slowly through other means. Money is a tool. It gets things done. Money is leverage. It creates scenarios that enable the creation of other scenarios. We don’t need money to make great things happen. It really helps, though, to change our perceptions of what money is and what it does. It helps us learn possibility thinking, even when all we have previously known was naysaying and scarcity. This world was made for us to use and enjoy, and we were made for this world to use and enjoy as well. We are here for our own specific purposes, none of which can be fulfilled when we remain stuck in anxiety and blocked energy.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.