The March I Remembered Myself

In collaborating with a woman I sort-of know but would like to know better to start a Ladies & Money book club, I began reading our first book. I was nervous that I was starting too soon, as I am a very fast reader, and our meeting wasn’t for another twenty-two days.

Coinciding with this was the upcoming start-date of a program I’d signed up for – unlike me, asking for so much help from so many directions; Midwest Amanda must be spinning and spinning in her grave like the star skater at roller disco.

The need for the program was cleverly woven into the hibernation-mode snoring of my psyche through the encouragement of buying oneself flowers, establishing a morning routine involving hot lemon water, and a pretty, vibrant color-palette of materials. Plus, the phrases ‘getting unstuck’ and ‘moving forward’ were peppered throughout the very sweet and endearing informational videos. I may be becoming more of a sucker in my later years, but at least my office is very pretty. Also: I have an office. Take that, scrappy Midwest Amanda!

All of that being said, things are about to get a little bit woo-woo, and I don’t even care if you judge me for it: I am feeling that enlightened on this particular day.

Upon entering into two different bodies of unfamiliar territory, i.e. money management and self-care, two things began to happen almost immediately. One: I was asked to make a list of all of my money memories; messages I’d received from parents or society as a kid, all the way up to now. The purpose of said list was to do some forgiveness work — HOLD UP NOW — in order to make space for more positive, healthy money opportunities. Two: I was given tasks and projects which involved me reflecting on myself and telling myself convincingly that I was worth really great and amazing (and even pretty basic) things.

I took a two-day sweat break, then got to work.

I won’t bore you with the details of my money memory list, but I will share the two biggest ‘what the fuck’ moments I had, (you may know these as ‘Aha Moments’, trademark Oprah).

1) As a young girl/teen, I was given multiple verbal messages from the parent-figures I lived with that the only way I could make money was by using my body.

“What?!” you may be saying, “that’s whack, no parents say stuff like that.”

Allow me to clarify:

My mother used to joke that when I got older I should “marry a man who was really really rich, and really really old, and then screw him to death!” (enter cackling delighted laughter times one). I was also told that I should write torrid sex novels – this in a household where uttering the word ‘sex’ was cause for furrow-browed shaming. This last one wasn’t necessarily solely about my body being my only money-making tool, but encouraged my writing, too! Only…not in the way I had planned for my future. No offence to the very wealthy authors of torrid sex novels – keep up the good work!

But wait, there’s more! At age 17, I had perhaps my one and only panic attack, during which I cried to my mother about how in the world I would ever make enough money to survive on my own. She patted me and probably said some reassuring things like “it’ll all work out, everything happens for a reason,” yadda yadda. After she left the room, my step-dad, having been sitting quietly in his recliner during this exchange and not even getting mad that my sobs were interrupting his viewing of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, suggested that if I was worried about money for college, perhaps I should pose for Playboy. Still wiping away my tears, I said I didn’t have big enough boobs to do that (because this was the only con I could think of?), but he assured me that plenty of people liked ‘small titties’ and to be extra nice and helpful, he would drive me down to the Playboy offices in Chicago himself if I’d like.

First of all? Ew.

Second of all? No. See what I mean? ‘What the fuck’ moments, ladies and gentlemen.

2) In my early 20’s, I was subconsciously told that I didn’t deserve having nice, new clothes. I take equal responsibility for this one – even though I didn’t know it was happening at the time and I was being gaslighted, I suppose I could have found the nerve to stand up for myself. Actually, at this time in my life, no.

It was my birthday, and my fiance and I lived together in Oakland. He’d already talked me into adding him onto my bank account back when we were early-dating, so he could help me ‘get my finances in order’…but I hadn’t learned the new unspoken rules and wasn’t quite used to not being able to spend my own money yet.

On said birthday, I took BART into the city, bought myself a new outfit – a light pink silk knit cardigan sweater set, and a black skirt – then came home, put it all on along with my birthday tiara (naturally), and walked around our neighborhood, feeling fantastic. I said hi to shop owners I knew, basked in the compliments handed my way, and basically skipped around in the sunshine like the princess I believed myself to be.

When my fiance got home, he may have said I looked nice, although the only things I remember are “is that a new outfit?” and “how much did you spend?”

Because we were still a fairly new couple, we didn’t have an argument about it, but I felt his energy for the rest of the night. At our favorite bar, after the check for my birthday cocktails arrived, he didn’t move to pay. I pulled out my purse, figuring the money came out of the same account, anyway, and placed my debit card on the bar – but the two women a few bar stools down were not having this. Having gotten wind that it was my birthday (maybe it was the tiara?), they called to the bartender that they would be buying my drink, and that no woman should have to pay for her own drinks on her birthday.

So many feelings! I was grateful to them for acknowledging my clear princess status. I was embarrassed that the man I was with was punishing me for doing something nice for myself. I was worried about how he was going to react when we got home, having been publicly shamed. And, probably needless to say: that is the last time I ever remember enjoying shopping.

I’d forgotten all about that, until the exercise in this book. I realized that I’d spent the last 15 years braying “I hate shopping”, dreading going shopping at even the cheapest stores, always checking the price tag before even considering trying something on, but overall getting 98% of my clothing from clothing swaps and hand-me-downs, therefore having a wardrobe full of ill-fitting, ‘this’ll do’ clothes.

All of this self-work coincided with my upcoming birthday and, after some reflection on the above birthday memory, and the new self-care and self-worth I was gaining from my reading and program exercises, I decided to call it Operation: Take Back My Birthday. And I did take it back. And it was the best birthday I’d ever had in my life.

One: I went to the Chiropractor (hang with me here). I’d been coming down with a cold, and my friend made me an appointment to go to her ‘miracle worker’ chiropractor, claiming my cold would be gone in a matter of hours afterward. I fought my usual ‘psh I’ll just suffer through’ knee-jerk reaction and went. She was basically right; I felt better, and learned that one’s feet can be cracked and cause a tingling sensation in one’s head. Fun!

Two: I got a massage. Longer story: I finally redeemed a gift certificate for a massage my sister had given me over a year prior. If, you know, that’s any indication of my relationship with self-care up to this point.

Three: The same friend who hooked me up with her Chiro took me to lunch, at which we talked about All Things Good and Amazing. Then she treated me to a manicure. BECAUSE PRINCESS.

Four: A friend who I really like but mostly hang out with at book club agreed to go shopping with me. I’d told the above ‘this is why I hate shopping’ story the night before at our meeting, and declared that I felt the need to go shopping on my birthday, to buy one outfit, and therefore regain control of my genuine feelings around shopping. So, she met me, was very patient considering this is not something we’d ever even come close to doing together before and had not had a drop of alcohol to take the edge off, and while I didn’t get a new outfit, I did get two pairs of jeans. That works.

Five: Long story short, my sweetheart and I headed to a fancy hotel in Healdsburg. [Longer story: I’d been boo-hooing to my lover about not wanting to have to make decisions or clean my house or have any goddam stove to clean just to relax on my own goddam birthday, which he translated as: I want to stay in a hotel. We’d looked around and semi-planned fun one-day staycations, but everything that looked good was sold out. Fast forward: my boss at work had a gift certificate for one night at Hotel Healdsburg, plus a voucher toward dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen, which she gifted to me after hearing this story. I AM STILL THANKING HER!]

Six: After our fun night out in my old wine-country stomping grounds, Paulie had to go to work, and so I took the several hours I had before I, too, had to be at work to walk around the plaza, try on clothes I couldn’t afford but allowed myself to look at anyway, eat lunch in the sunshine while reading a book, and overall chillaxing like a fancy casual rich person in the most serious way.

Seven: When I arrived home to change before work…my house was clean. YOU GUYS! MY HOUSE WAS CLEAN!! Paul had arranged for a cleaner to come in while we were gone. Jesus H., I love that guy.

After all of this, I felt a sense of both physical and emotional rejuvenation and downright *joy* unlike any I’d ever experienced in My Whole. Damn. Life. Operation: Take Back My Birthday was a huge success. Perhaps you don’t have my birthday written on your calendar, for which I forgive you, but I’ll tell you that it’s March 21st. It’s basically mid-May now, and I’m still riding that high.

This seemingly one-off day of self-love and care has spilled over into my everyday life in unexpected ways. I wake up feeling optimistic. I appreciate myself and am not shy with the high-fives-for-one. Solo impromptu dance parties, cheater yoga in the kitchen while my hot lemon water cools a bit, a general understanding and belief that things are going to go my way…this is my new norm. I celebrate finding pennies on the street. I text anyone who shows the slightest interest in my new woo when something exciting happens, just to share the good news.

I’m remembering myself. I’m taking myself back. And myself is worth all of the above, and more.

*Feel free to send congratulatory flowers*

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