Too many of us have an unhealthy relationship with money, and that misalignment with our heart and soul can have serious consequences.
This is the fourth in the 4-part series. The other parts are here:
Toxic Money Myth #3: That’s Just the Way It Is
There is a natural law of abundance which pervades the entire universe, but it will not flow through a doorway of belief in lack and limitation. ~ Paul Zaiter
“This is the life we’ve chosen.” the tired woman said. Her eyes were ringed with dark circles from lack of sleep. Her body soft from lack of movement. She ate from a fast food container, scarfing down her lunch on a short break between meetings. “When we chose a life in education, we accepted the fact that there would always be too much work and too little pay. We do it for the students.” She nodded in my direction, offering approval for her words on my behalf. I gave no indication of agreement, but it seemed to be implied.
I was a new employee, my first job in student services administration. I wanted to meet key people on campus, directors and administrators. This woman had worked at the college for decades; she was a cultural institution. Her office was in the basement of the student union, her job student advisement. She spoke about the enormous sacrifices she’s made, both financially and personally in service to her career. Her words made me want to run out of the room, to flee. The picture she painted of how my life might be if I also stayed for 30 years depressed me.
“That’s just the way it is,” she said. “It’s what we signed up for.” She finished her greasy hamburger, wadding up the paper and aiming for the overflowing trash can. Lunch over, I couldn’t get out of her office fast enough.
Do have to be be resigned to this?
I’ve made my professional life in two shamefully underfunded and undervalued professions: counseling and education. For 20 years, I’ve listened to the resignation of my colleagues when we discuss salaries, budget cuts, and pay raises. “It’s just the way it is,” I’ve heard over and over. “We work out of hide. Besides, we don’t do it for the money. We’re in it for nobler purposes.” These kinds of statements always chafe me. Like that iconic image of a dog hearing a phonograph for the first time, I cock my head at such statements, confused.
I don’t write these words to criticize anyone. I have, to varying degrees, bought into the message “That’s just the way it is” on more than one occasion. It’s a survival mechanism, a way of playing possum in order to face the unsavory truth that we’ve been sold a false bill of goods in a culture that can find money to fund nearly everything except education.
In many ways, “That’s just the way it is” has served as our cultural hypnosis, numbing us to many social issues that violate the very integrity of our friends, neighbors, and ourselves: racism, sexism, homophobia, child abuse, rape, assault, murder, poverty, inaccessible health care. When we believe that things have always been as they are in instances of injustice and inequity, it’s easy to give up on changing them. If things have always been this way, then they must be this way because they’re right, right?
Don’t relinquish your power
When we accept that things just are as they are, and thus unchangeable, we relinquish our power to create new dreams, new visions of reality. More importantly, we relinquish our personal responsibility to do so. The truth is, we create our reality, individually and collectively. Every day, we create the community networks in which we live. We facilitate the creation of laws, policies, customs, and traditions. Whether we consider our reality a dream or a nightmare, we are the ones creating it.
How’s that for an icy bucket of reality?
Here’s the good news
Just as we’ve created our current reality, we might also create a new one. This level of change is not easy, I know from personal experience. Waking up to our entrenched and stubborn beliefs provokes shame and regret on the deepest level. It involves personal examination, raw courage, and deep commitment to awareness and understanding. It’s equivalent to a salmon swimming upstream, and takes similar expenditures of energy to move against the cultural flow.
But it can be done.
We can rewrite our beliefs about money, wealth, poverty, sufficiency, meaning, and worth. We can create a new paradigm for relating to money. We can let go of poverty and scarcity thinking. We can free ourselves from the prisons of the toxic myths:
- There’s Not Enough
- More is Better, and
- That’s Just the Way It is.
We can let go of these ideas and invent new ones that serve and support us as individuals and communities.
This is what I believe: we are a great, mighty, and brilliant species. We have the infinite potential to be truly awesome. These myths are not our endgame. They are the jumping off point from which we might create something magnificent.
Are you with me?
Let’s get to work.
PS ” It’s probably important to remind you that I am NOT a financial expert, financial planner, or certified financial person of any kind. I’m just a gal who earns money and spends it and wants to do better with her resources. That is all. So please consult a financial expert about questions regarding investing, saving, or paying off debt.
Teacher, writer, documentarian
Cyndi is the primary coordinator of a veterans’ oral history project in conjunction with the New Winston Museum of Winston-Salem, NC, Hospice and Palliative Care, Wake Forest University, and area retirement communities. From these interviews, she has created a podcast called “Soldiers Heart.”
[*Elizabeth’s Affiliate Disclosure: When you make a purchase using my Amazon affiliate links, you will pay the same price as if you’d gone directly to Amazon, but I will receive a small affiliate fee that helps defray the cost of this blog. Thank you for using my links to make your Amazon purchases.]