Asking, Giving, and Receiving have been very much on my mind recently and I offer my learnings in case they inspire or awaken something in you.
To walk through the world with open hands, rather than closed ones, requires a courage and vulnerability that scares most of us. It’s a courage I have not always had. It’s the kind of person I want to be.
Money has come to carry such weight with most of us (as the representation of security, abundance, worth, etc) that to ask, give, or receive on that level can carry extra levels of fear and other emotions.
I received some feedback from someone that my starting a GoFundMe for this next step in my life was inappropriate and that I should work to earn it rather than asking others for financial support.
I understand this voice… I have had these same thoughts about myself (and others, if I’m being brutally honest) for years. In fact, I resisted staring the campaign for months for that reason. And I finally did decide to ask because of what I learned by looking more deeply into my resistance.
My first level of resistance? The age-old question of worth: who am I to…?
During this deep humanitarian crisis… who am I, as a privileged white woman, to ask for help, especially financial? Who am I to ask for help when there are children and asylum seekers being separated from each other, put in cages, and treated as animals? Who am I to ask for help when black and brown men and women are being incarcerated, killed regularly by cops, and are far more likely to die in childbirth from different access to resources and the stresses of living in a deeply racist world? Who am I to ask for help when the indigenous people of this country are having their rights to land we limited them on to threatened by big oil and White Indifference? Who am I to ask for help when our non-binary conforming and queer citizens are having their right to exist, safely and with dignity, threatened? When our public lands and the health of this Earth are being ravaged and squandered? Who am I?…
If a client posed this question to me, I would tell them you are you - doing your best to live a kind and meaningful life. Feel the pain of the world. Don’t become indifferent or look away. Look, specifically, at your part in it. AND don’t make yourself smaller just because of its heaviness.
So I am taking my own advice. If you find my request for financial support inappropriate, I hope, with every ounce of my being and my heart, that you will consider giving money to an organization doing important work in one or more or any of the areas right now that need our help, especially those headed by people of the community impacted - use your resources to raise their voices. I haven’t done enough of that. I have let my sense of lack keep me small in my giving, as well as my receiving. I want that to change.
My second level of resistance - should I let my business go and ‘get a real job’? At what point is this just irresponsible?
I want to be clear that to start my own business and to keep it going in these early years while money is very tight is ABSOLUTELY a privilege. To have the support network and social/cultural capital to choose to follow my heart and do the work that I KNOW I am here to do is not a decision that is accessible for everyone. I recognize that. I have been able to be with family during the holidays because of my parents’ support. I have had clients show up with food. I have bartered with many people for services. All of that counts. In all of it, I am grateful.
Could I get a job that would pay me a lot more? Yes, probably (although in this economy even that is not as easy as it is often made out to be).
Would I then be able to continue putting my time and resources and skills towards sharing my calling with the world? No.
Would I be making as much of a difference in people’s lives? Not in the same way.
Every time I decide on pricing for my offerings, I walk the balance of what my experience, training, and time is worth… versus what many people can afford to pay. I continue to learn a lot about myself and my own feelings of unworthiness, which make themselves heard every time I take an unapologetic stance. So although my decision is a privilege, it is not frivolous.
I have a job. I work hard at it. And through it I provide deeply meaningful work to this world. Our society does not often value emotional labor. But I have spent a lot of time and financial resources training myself to be the kind of fearless, compassionate listener that frees my clients/students/friends into their soul’s deeper truths. And I hear often from them that I have made an impactful difference in their lives. So when I stop empowering my own doubts and sense of unworthiness, what is left is a stance that is strong and clear - I have a responsibility to offer my authentic self in all of its messiness AND I have earned what I have already received and everything I have yet to receive, too. I suspect that many of the people who have chosen to offer me financial support through the campaign have benefited from my offerings and feel that I have earned their money.
And still I live with the constant question of: ‘at what point do I throw in the towel?’ For many years now, I have been living a very frugal life in order to continue making a difference. When business expenses are accounted for, I have had about $1000/month left - just enough to cover rent/utilities, health insurance, car insurance, cell phone bill and a little bit for food and gas. Not enough to put money away for retirement or any kind of safety net. My safety net has been entirely outside of myself and the part of me that ‘doesn’t want to be a burden’ or ‘wants to be independent’ is scared. And through this fear and resistance, I learn that reciprocity is multi-faceted. That support is not the same as dependence. That we can be open and also independent. That we humans do not exist in a vacuum. We are, in fact, mirrors for each other.
I recognize these projections and judgements you have thrown at me, because they are the voices in my own head. I am not willing to give them power any more. If what I am asking for invokes strong emotions or judgements in you, I invite you to look inward and realize that they speak more to your own relationship with yourself than to your relationship with me. And I also ask that you respect my boundaries and instead of using my space where I requested support as a place for you to project, judge, etc… that you do your own work or schedule a session with me where I would be happy to help you look at how your limiting beliefs may be causing you stress in your life. I have a lot of experience from working with my own…. ;)
This is not a vacation that I am taking or asking for you to fund. This is an investment in my own development, in what I have to offer many communities rather than just one. I don’t anticipate that living and working on the road will be easy. It’s going to be challenging. At times I will probably feel lonely and afraid. Which is why I am practicing opening myself up rather than holding myself aloof.
I don’t expect any of you to give money, but I have hope. It will go a long way and make a huge difference, I promise you.
I am also choosing to trust. To open my hands. To put myself in situations where I know I will have to learn and grow and come out the other side stronger, more compassionate, and more able to be the presence that this world needs each and every one of us to be. For those of you who have invested financially or verbally in me, thank you. I feel re-inspired by your support.
A friend supported me with this video and it speaks eloquently to so much of what I have been sitting with and struggling to put into words. It’s an inspiring 15 minutes, and I hope you’ll watch it: https://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking