Filthy Rich

One of the things I’ve learned (or at least read innumerable times) while working on goals and resolutions is that your goals need to be aligned with your core values. If your goal involves something that you don’t truly believe in on some level, you feel stress, tension or pain and you’re destined to fail.

I’ve encountered this most frequently when dealing with goals that involve money, or perhaps I should say Money (with a capital M). Despite my occasional fond dreams of having lots of Money (usually manifested as a wonderful house on a hundred or so acres with beautiful gardens, amazing bathrooms and a spectacular kitchen I’d want to leave only to go to the even more spectacular barn); I run up against a roadblock (or mental block) because deep down inside, I think being rich is a bad thing.

My child-psyche believes that People with Money (PwM) are snooty, snotty people whose chief activity is conspicuous consumption. I see a Hummer on the road and my lip goes into an automatic sneer. I look down on McMansions, all seemingly designed with the sole purpose of seeing how many shapes and sizes of Anderson Windows can be accommodated in one structure. I shake my head and roll my eyes at the tasteless parade of useless trappings of being rich – I am, in fact, a reverse-snob.

I grew up with an “us and them” mentality about PwM. Nothing overt or direct, but just the recognition that there was a divide and we were on the side of the angels. Rich-person bashing is also very much a part of our society. We (consumers of TV and other media) seem to delight in the display of all of the nasty traits, habits and behaviors of PwM. Whether on a soap opera (sorry, Daytime Drama) or a “reality” show, the rich are often portrayed as shallow, greedy, selfish, and generally-not-very-nice people.

When I was an Amway distributor many years ago, displays of the wealth of the upper level distributors were designed to inspire us to keep our businesses growing, so we too could drive a Cadillac and have a huge home. Although I found many of their stories inspiring, I was often uncomfortable with the emphasis on the material – it just didn’t seem very nice somehow.

Over the past several years, I’ve examined and re-examined my attitude toward wealth. I’ve read about philanthropists doing amazing work by funding medical research, providing grants for the arts, sending food and other relief supplies around the country and the world. I’ve met (and liked) many PwM – and I’ve also met plenty of people without money whose company I didn’t care for much at all. I remind myself that my dream of funding a program in my county which would stop the euthanasia of hundreds of cats a year can’t be done without funding. My contributions to Heifer Project, the ASPCA and my local public radio station could be increased ten fold (or more) if I was a person with Money.

Recently, I caught part of an interview Oprah did with J.K. Rowling – the first billionaire author ever. They were discussing money – these two very wealthy (and therefore very powerful) women. When Oprah asked Ms. Rowling what being that wealthy meant to her, Rowling’s first answer was that she could buy better clothes. (She then noted that there are plenty of rich people who dress awfully). She said that sometimes when she’s trying to make a choice between two possible purchases, she will stop short when she realizes that she can buy both. It fascinated me that Ms. Rowling said she still hasn’t developed a comfortable confidence that she will always be wealthy. She commented that she’d never been a fool with money before, and would have to be an absolute fool to lose her current fortune, but she still feels that it is possible. Somehow that vulnerability made her seem very human – it made her someone who, on some level, is not unlike me.

I find myself revisiting this snippet of what looked to be a wonderfully frank and personal discussion of money by two of the wealthiest women in the world. This conversation has helped to free me to think about creating my own wealth. As a rule, anytime I’ve thought of being wealthy (I’m talking about $1 million or more), I’ve only thought of it in terms of the lottery or some other windfall event dumping the funds into my lap. Since watching these two on the TV during my break at work, I’ve begun to consider actually being able to create wealth, and of the good that could be done with it. As I go forward making financial goals on my Life List, I will endeavor to remember that money is a neutral object, a tool which can be used for good or bad, but in itself has no morality or lack thereof. Small thinking leads to small living, which leads to small contributions to the world. My challenge with the idea of making and having money is really a challenge with my beliefs about my own self worth (hence the lottery scenario being the only way I could imagine wealth). It’s very much a case of “who do I think I am?”

Marianne Williamson address this issue with poetry and grace and as she’s done such a beautiful job of it, I’ll share her words. This is an excerpt from her book A Return to Love.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”

Go forth my friends, and shine.


Not referring to that long running sitcom (and hope I’m not infringing on anything expensive to defend by using that title for this post…). Although I did recently hear on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (my favorite radio show) that the airing of Friends on some TV station in the middle east (sorry for the lack of specifics, I’m too lazy to check out the details) actually boosted the viewers’ friendly feelings toward the US….. One of the panelists then wondered aloud (as is the right of all good humorists) if we also exported “24”…..

Anyway – as I said, this post isn’t about that show – it’s about another one of my New Year New Me goals (sounds catchier than resolutions, doesn’t it? And I figure by reframing the title, perhaps I’ll reframe my follow through….) The goal? To be a better friend.

Due to my long work days and tendency to hibernate during the winter, I don’t do much socializing. Because of this, I don’t really think of myself as having many friends – I mean, friends are people you hang out with, have lunch with, chat on the phone with at least once a week, and go on girls-only weekends with (unless, of course, you’re a guy) right? Well, I don’t hang out much, usually eat lunch while driving from job 1 to job 2, spend as little time as possible chatting on the phone (I’m more of a text/email kind of person) and I work weekends. So usually when I do those quality of life quizzes in the magazines which populate waiting areas, I kind of slide over the part which states that having strong friendships enables you to do everything from live a longer life and survive horrible diseases to jump tall buildings with a single bound. I try to pad my answers in the other categories enough to make up for this seeming affront to social scientists. I figure that since you always get points for having a pet, the fact that I have many pets gives me lots of points.

Recently, though, I’ve been thinking more about a few of my long-distance friends, lamenting the lapse of a work-friendship and just generally pondering the whole BFF thing. If asked, I couldn’t provide you with the name of my best friend – I’m not sure I actually have one. I love my husband dearly, but have always considered spouses to be a different animal than friends. The person I hang out with most is my daughter – and again, despite our amazing companionability, she’s my daughter, and it’s different than a friend. (I know many people consider their spouses or children to be their best friends, but this is my life so I have given up feeling guilty about not conforming to what other people do).

In considering what it means to be a friend and how to become a better one, I thought about things like staying in touch – via Facebook, email, and yes, even the phone. I’d been thinking about a friend in CT one morning several weeks ago, and when I got home from work that evening – there was a call from her on my voicemail – but it was 11 PM and too late to call. The next morning before I went to the barn, it was too early to call, I have very limited cell service at the barn and didn’t want to call only to lose the signal in the middle of our conversation. By the time I got to work at the 2nd job, it was time to clock in and I hated to call on a short break – why call when you only have a few minutes, right? A few days go by and then there’s the guilty feeling that I should have called back sooner. Well, I could go on and describe (or rationalize) why I didn’t return the call every day between then and now, but the reasons don’t really matter – I never returned the call. This was the main event which led to the creation of my New Year New Me goal.

So later today (as 3:47 AM really isn’t a good time to make a phone call unless it’s to announce a birth) I will call Julie – even if it is on a 15 minute break from work. Just as giving a plant a little water is better than none at all, even a 5 minute call is better than prolonging the silence and allowing our friendship to wither. And in the immortal words of Andrew Gold – I’ll be sure to say to Julie “Thank you for being a friend”.

What I wish I knew for sure….

OK, I know Oprah is a couple of years older than me, but I can’t imagine ever knowing as much “for sure” as she does. I wonder how difficult it is to come up with something every month that you know for sure – so much so that you can write a thousand words or so to put in front of a million people (give or take several hundred thousand….).

I’m lucky if I know what day it is for sure – and here at the new year? Forget the last digit of the 4 number year – that’s bound to be wrong on the first few checks in my checkbook. (Although that’s not strictly true – I now write the year in on the next few checks in my checkbook in the beginning of a new year so I don’t have to scribble out the wrong date ;-).

Simple things – like my name – you’d think I’d know for sure. Well, actually, my real name – Maureen, is one I rarely used growing up – most people knew me by my nickname of Penny (and how you get Penny out of Maureen is fodder for another post). Since I’ve been in Virginia (nearly 6 years), my two work lives (the world of horses and the world of J.Crew) know me by two different names – Penny to the horse folks and Maureen to all at “the other work”. Of course, when I’m competing at horse shows, I confuse everybody, because my horses are registered under my real name….. even my Social Securty card has me as Maureen E. Hawes – the E for Elizabeth, but I go by Maureen M. Hawes – the M for McCafferty – so there’s nothing to be sure of there.

I’m sure I want to ride my horse at least 5 days a week – except on the weeks when there’s rain, snow, ice, mud and the endless fatigue that’s been my companion for the past several months…

I’m sure I want to get up and get going tomorrow morning (until it turns into this morning and the spirit isn’t any stronger than the body and neither are a match for the magnetic pull of the flannel sheets, the electric blanket and another hour in bed with dogs and cats piled on and around my prone figure).

There are plenty of things I used to think I’d like to know for sure – like what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’ve neatly side-stepped that one however, by simply passing on the whole growing up thing….

Knowing something for sure seems to take lots of the fun and adventure out of life – and seems to me to be somewhat restrictive. For sure sounds like for ever – and I like to keep my options open on what I know and believe, because there is so much more to learn.

So I guess the one thing I do know for sure is that the person I see in the mirror today isn’t the same one who will greet me tomorrow morning (early or otherwise), and it’s not the same one I saw last week. Every day I have the chance to add something to who I am and what I know – (for sure or otherwise), and that will never change – and that’s something I know pretty close to for sure.