We are in the bank and I am waiting as Thor does his banking and stops to visit with the employees. He hugs one teller and another near me looks at me with a sorrowful expression. I don’t clue in until this happens three times, and then I realize the embrace is more intimate than I had thought. I run into the nearest washroom. Two women from the bank are present. “Did you know about this?” I ask. They indicate that they did and look at me with pity. “Is there more”, I ask? “Yes”, comes the reply. “He is doing drugs too.” “How do you know?” Panic grips at my heart. “He asked us if we knew anyone who deals in codeine.” I have no choice, I will have to leave him. Where will I go?
I awake from the dream in sobbing anguish, and then relief as I come to my senses. The dream had seemed so real, at least the emotional part. I know that feeling all too well.
Thor has an easier relationship with money than I do. He sees it simply as a tool, a means to an end. He seldom worries about it. “Feed the cat another canary” he will casually say before spending.
My experience is completely different. Money, I have learned is an instrument of power, and that power is abusive.
My mother’s first husband packed all their possessions into a moving van and left her with an empty house and even emptier pocketbook. She had four children to care for and no means of doing so. She married the first man who showed a willingness to take on her plight, and remained forever indebted to him, unable to free herself from the abuse that would follow. The power that he exerted over us was justified by the fact that he provided for us; he was the breadwinner. Money made him king.
I was sickened by how my father used money to control my mother. Until I was fifteen, he would not allow her to work outside the home. Just when she reached a breaking point, threatening to leave, he would buy her expensive clothes and take her on exotic trips. Her weakness angered me as much as his ploys. I hated that money reduced them to such ugliness. I vowed to live my life differently.
But of course, I didn’t.
When I married and had children, I chose to stay home, putting myself in a position of dependence. My husband reminded me of that frequently, never allowing me to spend money on myself or the children. If I wanted something, he would tell me, I had to earn it. I was trapped between my need to parent my children, and my desire to provide the better things in life for them. In the end, he moved me out, and abandoned us financially. Money was the weapon he always used against me.
My daughter now fights a similar battle. The father of her child, unwilling to take on responsibility, flaunts his new possessions in her face while she struggles to support the two of them. Money, again, is the root of this evil.
“(C)onsider formulating a new concept of money as a neutral quantity,” Derek Lin writes in The Tao of Joy Every Day. I would love to perceive money in a different way, free of the emotional charge it carries for me, but there have been too many painful associations for me to view it lightly.
I confess, when it comes to money, I still feel afraid.