I am in Boston having post-traumatic stress syndrome from being too close to the town where I went to college. The kids are doing a music workshop and it’s in Newton, which is very close to Waltham, which is where I went to college. So I thought travel planning would be easy since I know my way around. But the cab pulled up to the hotel and I realized it was the hotel where I lost my virginity.

It was not a good scene. Well, the first time I was there was definitely not a good scene, but this time was not either.

“Mom! I don’t want to leave the hotel!”

“Mom! I like this hotel! I want to lay in bed and watch TV!”

I took half a Xanax and we changed hotels.

My son, it turns out, is allergic to gluten. I don’t know how I missed this. The pediatrician thought he was allergic when I was breastfeeding so I was off bread for two years and I lost so much weight. So you’d think I’d have just kept everyone off bread. But no. Because bread is addictive and I’m an addict and how can I raise two kids without PowerBars? They count as bread in the gluten-free world, you know.

So we went back to eating bread and my son had diarrhea for five years. I don’t know how he had it for five years before I put the puzzle pieces together.

I think it’s because I have been insane with financial worry for most of the time I have been parenting him. I mean, there was the year where I was the incapacitated breadwinner coping with his face being totally deformed at birth. Then there was the year of me trying to make ends meet as a journalist/author. Then there was the year of me blowing out my 401K to pay for unproven therapies for my son who was diagnosed with Aspergers. Then there was the year of me starting a company and traveling every week. Then I uprooted our whole city existence and moved to the farm.

So, okay, it’s looking reasonable that I could miss the allergy. Right?

In the lobby of my hotel where I am screaming at the kids that they cannot eat the cookies, I actually hear someone say, “Oh, she’s a Brandeis girl.” It sends chills down my spine. It’s an East-coast thing to say, I think. I mean, who has heard of Brandeis besides East-coast Jews anyway?

I was a big outsider at Brandeis. Probably because I spent a lot of my time either getting ready to go to the mental ward or recuperating from my stay at the mental ward. But also, you might think  that as I am older and wiser I have figured out how to have friends from college. But in fact, I think I alienated everyone who ever knew me by writing what I thought was an olive-branch of a column in order to reintroduce myself.

I should have known that there is a rule that you cannot call out your college roommate for having Aspergers in the college’s alumni magazine.

While the kids and I were on our way to Newton, somewhere in Illinois, I lost my credit card. Actually, I didn’t lose it. It turns out that it was in my wallet the whole time. And why would anyone manufacture a wallet that has a slot that is just long enough to lose sight of a credit card?

So I tell the kids, “We’re at the bank. Get out of the car.”

They want to stay.

I say, “Kids die in parked cars all the time.”

They say, ‘But you leave us in the barn alone all the time.”

Do kids die in barns? I’m not sure. Probably more often than in cars.

So I go by myself to report my lost card. And to withdraw a ton of cash since you can’t get a replacement ATM card if you are out of state. (little-known bank fact, eh? Also, here’s another: Bank robbers who work alone make more money than working in a group.)

I’m with the banker, with my kids in the car, and my cash in my hand, and I watch the guy typing away at his screen and I see there is a label next to my name “HIGH POTENTIAL”.

When someone I know says that about me, I think, “Whatever—they are just trying to make up for all the classes at Brandeis that I failed due to emerging agoraphobia.” But when the bank says that about me, that’s a head turner.

I’ve been thinking about that.

It is incredibly difficult to work for yourself. I think it doesn’t matter how much money you have, you still feel like you might not have enough.

At my twentieth college reunion, I was thinking of going because I was looking for a husband, and also because I know reunions are about showing everyone that you turned out to be better looking and more successful than they are, and I was thinking that I am doing okay in that regard. And anyway, the two are related because I can just spend a lot of money to look good.

But I go through waves of confidence and no confidence and I never feel safely in the confident realm. So I didn’t go. And anyway, I am terrible at small talk and everyone likes me better just reading my blog and not talking to me. So probably it was right to not go.

The thing is that I’m HIGH POTENTIAL. But I don’t feel that way. I feel like my head is always four months into the future, where I am unsure where my revenue will come from, and I’m nervous.

That photo of the barn, above, is my favorite place to be on the farm. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter and the acoustics are soft and the hay is firm enough for building forts. But I look at the picture and notice that you could see it like a prison. Like you’re a baby calf and you can’t get out. That’s what I feel like about working for myself. Sometimes it’s heavenly and sometimes it’s a prison.

That’s the life of someone who works for themselves. You can’t be happy with the money you have this month or else you’ll starve next month. I’ve been doing this so long that I can trust that I won’t starve, but also, I don’t have a lot of savings. Well, actually, I have no savings.

Someone once wrote that one way of looking at savings is that it’s an ability to drum-up money in an emergency. I have that. I can get $10,000 in a month if I need to.

But I have done that so many times that I’m sick of it. I think of the person I was in college. I was nutty and unstable and a sitting duck for the most physically aggressive men and the most intellectually needy professors. But I’m not that now. I want to have the confidence that I am pulled together and stable and self-sufficient.

A therapist once told me that I am stuck because I think that the reason that I am able to support myself so well is that I worry incessantly about supporting myself so well.

That’s true.

I don’t think I realized how much I want to be done with that until I went back to the hotel where I lost my virginity. I am not that girl now. Now I know I’m HIGH POTENTIAL. I can earn money because I’m confident and capable and not because I’m worried and anxious.

I want to do that. Right now. I used to think if I could just earn a little more money then I’d stop worrying about money. But no amount of money feels safe. And I know I’m not alone in this feeling. Daniel Gilbert shows, in his book Stumbling on Happiness, that we are hard-wired to not feel safe with the amount of money we have.

So I have to make a mental shift instead: Focusing on action instead of worrying.

I’m going to make a list of the things I’ll do this month that could earn money. And I’ll do those things. And I’ll trust that one will work well enough that I’ll be fine financially.

Do lists calm you down? Lists calm me down. And I’m going to go make one right now.



72 replies
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  1. charlene
    charlene says:

    I always enjoy getting a new article on your blog. I think your thinking is very original and funny. I definetly agree that you have very high potential and I think you just worry because women tend to do that alot. So nothing wrong with it. It does assist when you do make the month payments and you feel like another challenge has been conquered.

  2. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    When I feel anxious about (fill in the blank), I do my death bed exercise.

    That is, on my death bed is this something I want to be thinking about? The answer, so far, has always been, no. It helps me keep things in perspective and brings me back to what is really important.

    Not to minimize your financial insecurity though. Just saying.

  3. Ebriel
    Ebriel says:

    “And anyway, I am terrible at small talk and everyone likes me better just reading my blog and not talking to me.”

    An editor told me something that once: “You’re a lot better online than in person.”

    While she was equally unpleasant online and off, she had a point. With reflection and filtering, discomfiting personal traits are muted, easier to tolerate.

  4. Carl
    Carl says:

    Interesting post. I have to say, P, that I greatly enjoy your blog. There are so many good nuggets of information here.

    I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts are on investing, passive income, Rich Dad Poor Dad, and wealth.

    Admittedly, I’m working on a MBA (yes, it’s free), so eventually, I should do OK in the scheme of things.

  5. Simone
    Simone says:

    “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.”
    Helen Keller

  6. Simone
    Simone says:

    “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.” Helen Keller

  7. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    I found your blog searching in Google and I’m glad I did, I really enjoyed this post! I have also been struggling with gluten intolerance, and it is not easy at all. I have really bad stomach pain at least 4-5 days out of the week. And for the record, lists calm me down too! :)

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