Friday, May 13, 2011

Money Between Friends

I had a falling out with a friend over money. Not lending it, borrowing it or spending it. Just about having it or not having it. According to the American Psychological Association, 76% of Americans are stressed out about money. That includes those who have it as well as those who don't. And everyone in between.

We both have places to live that we own, enough food to eat, Enough left over to buy cars and computers. It's true that she has an inheritance of undisclosable proportions and I do not. But I am ordinarily not an envious person, I have a job, a promised pension, in short I am doing fine.Yet sometimes I panic in a way that isn't really rational. It has more to do with past wounding; a host of experiences that my friend has nothing to do with.

Financial security is a totally random and subjective idea. I know people with a million dollars worth of savings and assets who are terrified and feel totally broke. I also know folks who live hand to mouth and haven't a care in the world in this regard, people who believe that the universe will provide.

No matter how the chips fall people tend to come unglued when it comes to money. It is a trigger for all sorts of feelings because of, not only what it buys but what it represents, freedom from wage slavery, all kinds of travel but most significantly, freedom from fear.

Many people are very secretive about their financial situations. I've had friends who seem like they would rather die than tell me how much they earn. The friends who speak quite freely tend to be ones in situations most similar to mine.

As I was working at the library reference desk, contemplating these ramifications, a ghost from my past suddenly appeared in the flesh. She had been lovers with an old roommate of mine in the early eighties. She looked older, still attractive but disheveled and totally down and out. Her speech was badly slurred and she was carrying a large duffel bag. She didn't seem to recognize me at all as she crouched down on the marble floor and began unpacking the clothes in her sack, spreading them around her. "The security guards keep hassling me," was what I think she said. I flashed back to her young, wild self. The one who drank and danced till dawn and shot up a bit too.My mind drifted back to the time that her roommates planted drug paraphenalia openly in her apartment the day her probation officer was scheduled to come for a visit. Now, I've had some crappy roommates myself, but never ones who wanted to see me in jail. She told this story in her expansive forthright manner, the way she would tell any other. She'd had a tough life and survived its turbulence the best she could. It's all any of us can do.

The guard escorted her to the security gate and out into the beautiful, spring afternoon as a crowd of people descended into the atrium needing books, information and basically just a bit of attention. Some people have greater of lesser success challenging its parameter but one truth is incontrovertible. Just as Cyndi Lauper astutely observed, "Money changes everything."