My friend, the well known photographer, Jennifer Esperanza, took a provocative shot of a young homeless woman a few years ago. The young woman held up in the photo read “Stranded, Due to Bad Taste in Men.” The young woman was pretty, holding a book that suggested that she was a person of both intelligence and sensitivity. And, to me, her sign showed both a self effacing sense of humor and inner resiliency.
Eight years ago, I left my second marriage in Santa Fe to a semi- well known musician. I left with $5,000 to my name at forty three years old. I left our beautiful house that I had personally renovated, off Upper Canyon Road on the East Side of Santa Fe.The house was only in his name as it had been bought with his family’s money. As a matter of fact, our entire lives were paid for by his family money as he had never really earned a living as a musician. All his money was in trust/family funds that I had no access to and he choose not to give me anything when we parted. I left with a child for whom I was solely responsible. I left, devastated that he could not remain faithful to me in the marriage. I left because he would not seek treatment for his bi-polar depression. I left because in meditation one day, a clear voice dropped into the top of my head and said “If you do not leave him, you will manifest breast cancer within the year.”
That was the day I began making arrangements to move out, across town, to a dumpy little house on Salazar Street, with Chloe, eleven years old.
I left, still loving him. Like the young woman in Jennifer’s photo, I felt stranded, due to bad taste in men.
The next three years were hard. Just plain hard. We were living month to month. I was working as hard as I could to direct shows, get new clients to build my business, pay the rent, and raise a precocious middle schooler. There was no time for self care, except for Alanon meetings. There was no money for anything except for the basics.
By the time I met the man who I would partner with for four years, Chloe and I were doing a little bit better. There was still a sense of hyper-vigilance I carried that anyone who has survived trauma would recognize in themselves. All the resiliency in the world, and creating financial resources beyond the bare necessities does not create a sense of inner peace. It still does not allow one to relax. But, three years after the divorce, I knew I had made the right choice, and that I would move forward with hopefulness.
The man I became involved with post divorce was considerably older, kind and gave me a sense of what I perceived to be, almost fatherly acceptance. I had never known that before. At the time, I needed a new car. He went with me to find one. I found a car that was o.k. I didn’t like the color (red) and the fact that it had so many miles it, but figured that it would be fine. When we went to purchase it, I found out that I had a problem. Due to paying many of my bills late, post the divorce to my ex-husband, including my car payments, my credit score had plunged by over one hundred points.
I remember the general manager of Beaver Toyota at the time. Her name was Audrey. Her pointy face scrunched up as she looked at me in an accusatory way.
“Why did you make all these car payments over a month late?”
“I got a divorce, got no financial settlement and started over just a few years ago. I paid everything as soon as I could. It was a cash flow issue.”
“Well, your interest rate will be sky high and there’s nothing I can do about it. You should have found a way to do better.”
Her tone was shaming, and I emotionally spiraled down quickly. Of course, that would have been the time for me to leave the dealership. Instead, my new, fatherly partner stepped in.
“Why don’t we put it in my name? She has the money for the down payments and I’ll make sure she makes the monthly payments ontime .” he said to Audrey.
She smiled at him. Butter could melt in her mouth.
“Well, aren’t you lucky to have a man like this to take care of you?” she said to me.
The two of them laughed together and chatted it up while I sat, alone, at another table while they did the transaction.
I felt humiliated by them both. When my partner came over beaming and handed me the keys he said
“Here you go, little girl”
Now let me pause here for a moment here and say, that I know who I am. I knew who I was when I accepted the keys from him along with that covert shame. I also know the image I project as a powerful, smart and accomplished woman. I’ve been doing my work in solo performance for over twenty years. I know I’m an expert in my field and am excellent at what I do. I also know I am a kick ass, albeit, imperfect mother. At the time of this incident, I had published a book, been featured in Oprah’s magazine, been interviewed on CBS for my work and done an Off-Broadway show.
None of that mattered in the moment. None of it mattered at all. I was the shamed, wounded child who would never be able to adequately take care of herself.
That relationship, in many ways, ended up grounding me. On a day to day basis, there was not much drama between us. But, there was an underlying judgement of my essential nature that I simply accepted as part of the price of admission. He would play the role of older guru/wiseman/father. He even referred to himself as Sadu Man, an image of himself he’d cultivated through years of Buddhist practice and extensive traveling in India and Southeast Asia. He liked to call me The Love Goddess. At first I liked it. But to remain a goddess in anyone’s eyes requires a suppression of the full self. Yes, part of me is the Love Goddess and I know I can embody her. But I am also Kali, the bringer of destruction, when it is necessary for evolution and I am Lillith, the loner, who exiles herself on the edge of the forest. I am an earthy human being, who is a fighter from the gates of hell if I feel that you have a less than pure intention toward my daughter. And I am a freedom fighter for any underdog, including the underdog in myself. I have fought like hell for my own liberation, as an artist and woman, as a lover of humanity, as a rebel and a teacher. I am one who will show you every aspect of myself and will live to see yours.
That’s all I really want. I want your full blown authenticity and encourage it with every cell in my being, as it is my way of also claiming my own.
Three years ago, I choose to become a full adult. I would never play out that little girl lost again.
I hired a lawyer to help me re-build my credit. I received another level of my personal healing,through work with a shaman and family constellation work. I made peace with my biological father before he died and accepted him for who he was.
My business took off. Where I once struggled for clients, more and more arrived at my door. I focused in, on not only the creative side of my work, but the business side, in earnest. I began marketing consistently and regularly. I invested in myself and my business seriously. I began making enough to hire a personal assistant. Also, I supported my daughter as she went through a rigorous college process that landed her in her top choice school in Boston, with a large scholarship.
Sadu Man became angry, sullen, withdrawn and depressed. He choose not to get any kind of treatment for this, but blame his depression on me. He told me that was not happy because of me. He told me that had stopped making money because of me.
Maybe that was true.
But, what I knew was that I would not stay in the role of dependent child with a man ever again. I would not make myself smaller to get back into his comfort zone with me.
The container that had held in all aspects of my powerful self and creative self had exploded. And, there was simply no turning back this time.
I had lost my ability to accommodate.
Our initial roles had reversed in many ways and I had to leave. To be completely transparent, I also knew there was someone else who I wanted to be free to explore a relationship with. I needed to leave so no betrayal occurred from my side. And, so I did.
Once he realized that I was gone for good, he became privately emotionally abusive to me, letting out his shadow, that is so carefully suppressed in his image he presents to the world, as one of the legions of self appointed gurus to Santa Fe.
Yesterday, I bought a car for myself. The salesman (James at Santa Fe BMW) could not have been kinder or more gracious, a truly authentic human being. We talked about music and spirituality in a real and grounded way as I test drove some cars. He educated me on the mechanics of BMW’s, a car I was always attracted to, but never thought I could never afford on my own. I felt no pressure to buy from him. Our connection was genuine and I knew that I had been guided to him as a healing from the last experience of car buying. Due to diligent work re-building my credit over the last three years, I walked out with a great car, at a great interest rate. I did not take a man with me, as is the common wisdom when buying a car. I negotiated the deal myself and when I asked for a comp list of deals to be run on the computer, mine came out in the highest category, “Best Values.” on BMW’s nationwide.
Yes, this is a morality tale. As my dear friend, Ann Marie Houghtailing taught me, and now I teach other woman, we must make our own money and take full responsibility for our own lives to have not only our inner peace but to self actualize as human beings.
As someone who works with stories, I have heard it all. I can tell you a few things I’ve learned from myself and other woman through our stories about money:
1) Trust funds may bring privilege, but they don’t bring empowerment or creative freedom.
2) Many woman decrease their earning potential and happiness potential by suppressing part of themselves to please a male partner.
3) Female artists and creatives think they need to find a benefactor. They don’t. They need to learn about business and marketing and take responsibility for their careers, whether it feels “good” or “natural” or not.
4) Depending on a man for money creates a skewed power dynamic that will ultimately destroy any chance of creating true intimacy.
5) Beware the man who puts you on a pedestal for your beauty and talents and is willing to, in any way, to buy them.
6) You can have a thriving career as a well paid arts/creative professional. Creativity, transparency, vulnerability and storytelling can be converted into money, most especially in the new paradigm.
7) Never give your power away.
8) If you feel stuck in any kind of child like role, go to therapy or a 12 step program or a healer. Don’t get a new boyfriend.
9) Even if you feel hopeless, you can and will be able to change. All it takes is the willingness to find and ask for help. Remember, it will be outside of your comfort level.
10) Be happy. Be free. Be who you really are. That will bring both inner and outer abundance into your life. This entire lesson is all simply part of the spiritual crossword puzzle.
You will figure it out. Please share this post with other woman who may benefit.
Let us not raise our daughters to feel “Stranded due to bad taste in men.” Let us walk away from any of aspect of that in ourselves as well.
We are born to be powerful, whole, full and free. No. More. Compromises.
We deserve our complete selves and we deserve full, joyful and prosperous lives and partnerships.