Tag Archives: money

Nothing for Fear

Last week I came down the steep stairs from my little attic aerie, sat in a chair in the living room and cried while I asked my partner if he thought I would ever have a less effortful experience of life.

It’s not that anything was really wrong. What I was feeling was an old, familiar feeling of trying to manage my life and myself as efficiently as possible and feeling worn out and unsuccessful.

Trying. Manage. Efficiently. What am I, a machine?

I was tired that evening, and worried about diminished workflow and subsequent diminished paycheck. I wasn’t seeing a way out of my work/income situation, which is a place I’ve been in for several years.

One of the things I did last week during a work shift devoid of work was to join She Writes, an online community for, obviously, women writers. I’d been procrastinating about doing so for a long time.

For years, I’ve been trying to find a writing community, both locally and online. I’ve joined a professional local organization, but their programs are rarely offered up here in Central Maine, as Portland is their headquarters. I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to find beta readers for my first book. I put up an invitation to start a writer’s group at the local library and didn’t get a single call. I tried a give and take partnership with another writer so we could read one another’s work and provide feedback, but my partner had other priorities and needed to drop out.

And, of course, I need to work for that paycheck, so my time and energy are largely gobbled up by my financial needs priority rather than the joyful work of my life. This produces a chronic background tension that grinds away at my soul.

Anyway, I decided the time had come and I was ready to join She Writes and see what possibilities might open up through that community. I had to apply to join.

I knew they wouldn’t take me.

They accepted me (probably some kind of mistake) and the day after I sat in the chair and cried, I had another shift with no work and began exploring She Writes. I came across a blog titled “The Only Reason to do Anything is Love,” by Bella Mahaya Carter, and had an epiphany.

Engaging with life from a place of love rather than fear is not a new idea for me, or probably for anyone reading this. It’s the kind of thing we hear and read all the time. I would have said I do that. It’s always my intention to show up in the world with love, which is to say kindness, compassion and respect.

The wording of Carter’s blog, however, indicates motivation, an internal thing, not external action. Make choices with love, not fear. Decide what to do based on love. Do nothing for fear.

Right, I thought. I treat others and myself well. Of course.


I treat others well because I think it’s effective and I’m afraid of violence, hatefulness, rejection and just plain crazy.

I treat myself well because I’m afraid to be unhealthy, unable to earn a living and/or unable to be independent.

It’s all for fear. It’s not for love.

Furthermore, treating myself well doesn’t equal loving myself. I caretake my physical form like a good property manager takes care of a rental. I exercise, eat well, brush my teeth, wash my body and take care of injuries.

What I think about myself is that I disappointed my parents, drove my brother nuts (not literally!), failed two marriages and made unforgiveable mistakes as a parent. I think I’ve never made a successful career or had a good enough job. I think I’m ridiculously hard to live with. I think I eat too much, use too much hot water in the shower, like obnoxious music, try too hard and am too sensitive. I think I’m unattractive and few people want to hug or touch me. I think I’ve spent years writing a 300,000-word book that, for all I know, has less value in the world than a roll of cheap toilet paper. On sale.

Those are some of the things I’m conscious of. When I look at my fear-based choice making, it appears I also think that if I don’t hold my own feet to the fire at all times I’ll become a lazy, irresponsible, selfish slacker, demanding, mean, dishonest and greedy.

Carter’s blog made me realize I could hardly think of a choice, any choice, whether important or mundane, that I haven’t made based on some kind of fear. Ever. From earliest memory.

The greatest motivator in my life is and has always been fear.

Not only that, but I’ve created a whole pantheon of idols I obsessively and ceaselessly worship in order to avoid the vengeful, punitive God I’ve made out of fear. I make daily bloody and brutal sacrifices of time, energy and life to appease them, but insatiable fear just gets more and more powerful. Here are some of the idols:

  • Responsibility
  • Duty
  • Punctuality
  • Hard work (breaks don’t count)
  • Productivity
  • Loyalty
  • Efficiency
  • Trying
  • Pleasing
  • Perfection
  • Intelligence
  • Frugality
  • Success
  • Focus
  • Discipline
  • Expectation

I read that blog on Friday. There and then I decided to try out making choices based on loving and believing in myself rather than fear of consequences and see what happened.

Without leaving the chair, I asked myself what the hell I was doing messing around with a job I was unhappy in and wasn’t meeting my needs.

On Saturday I applied and tested for a job as an independent contractor to do transcription for an online company.

On Sunday I applied and tested for a job as an independent contractor to do transcription for a second online company and was hired on the spot. I also wrote the publisher of She Writes Press and asked for help with the next step for my book manuscript.

On Monday, when I ran out of work, I began getting qualified (via testing) to do various kinds of transcription through my new job and looked up the resignation process from my medical transcription job.

Yesterday the second online business hired me.

This morning She Writes Press wrote me back with support, suggestions, a recommended professional who might read the manuscript, and what it would cost.

The fear is not gone. In fact, it’s louder than ever because I’m challenging it on so many fronts at once. The difference is I’m not standing nose to nose with it right now. Playing with the new toy of making choices based on what’s loving for myself gives me another option, which means now I can make a real choice.

Fear is not a bad feeling. We need it to survive. It’s just that mine has grown bloated and swollen on all the power I’ve given it over the years. The bigger it gets, the more space it takes. At this point I’ve become its thing. It thinks it can do as it likes with me.

It’s wrong.

I’ve had a belly full of life based on doing things out of fear. It’s exhausting, demoralizing, joyless and hag-ridden. It doesn’t work well and I’m sick of it. When I think about it rationally, I know I don’t need to beat myself with a stick through every day for fear I’ll become lazy, selfish, etc., etc. If I was going to turn into any of those things I would have done it long ago.

How would it be if I used regard for myself as a motivator and refused to do or not do out of fear? What might a life based on doing things out of thinking well of myself look like? What if I stopped giving anything to fear?

The funny thing is life looks much the same. The difference is largely in the outwardly invisible motivation behind my choices. Am I going to relax with music or a video and stretch because that’s the right and responsible way to treat my tiresome physical needs after a long day sitting in which I earned inadequate money, or am I going to do it because I love the way it feels after a tiring day in which I worked hard, whether I earned money or not?

Life is crazy right now. Everything feels like it’s in transition. I hardly know what to concentrate on in any given moment, there’s so much on the table. Even so, now when I run out of energy in the afternoon I spend a few minutes writhing between making a choice between demanding more from myself out of fear or doing something pleasurable and relaxing. So far, every day I’ve managed to choose rest and relaxation after another wild day.

It appears I’ve begun a new practice. I didn’t know that evening I sat in the chair and cried that I was standing on an important threshold. I didn’t know by the end of the week I’d have not one but two new jobs. I didn’t know I was going to finally get serious about putting my manuscript into a professional’s hands and risk failure and rejection. I didn’t know in just a couple of days I was going to begin making a habit out of rolling out of bed and stepping into the day’s embrace with curiosity and a resolve to think well of myself as I navigate, rather than wondering fearfully what would happen next and whether I would manage it adequately.

So far, so good.

Nothing more for fear.

Visit my Good Girl Rebellion page for a quote from poet Rainer Maria Rilke, this week’s antitoxin to powerlessness.

All content on this site ©2017
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted


I took a walk yesterday on our land. I have a route over our 26 acres that winds around the open fields and keeps me out of the heavy woods and brush, where the ticks are waking. It was grey and overcast, not raw but damp, a combination of snow and rain coming down and turning my already wild hair into a mad woman’s wig. The surface of the snow is glazed hard in most places, but when I got too close to the tree line or the streams that trickle down to the river I punched through it and sank. Walking on the thick layer of leaves under and among the trees was like walking on a sopping sponge. My winter boots immediately let the water in and my socks became sodden.

I saw thickets where the deer had slept, melting the snow with the warmth of their bodies, lying out of the wind in the shelter of trunk and branch. I’ve seen them bedded down before, and I imagined them rising to their feet, squatting in their awkward way to leave pellets and a splash of urine, and then stepping away through the snow with those delicate hooves and legs. Their spoor was everywhere.

The medical transcription business is wildly unpredictable. One seesaws between frantic pleas from supervisors for overtime because of a sudden flood of work and the dreaded “no jobs available” message upon logging in. As I’m paid by production, no work means no money. Since the new year, work has been slow in the company and transcriptionists and supervisors alike are feeling the stress.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my fear of not enough these days, and how small it makes me and my experience of life. One of the reasons I like to go out and walk is because it pushes against my tendency to curl up in corners and play hours of solitaire while I make up stories about living under bridges and berate myself for NOT PULLING MY WEIGHT and WASTING TIME.

The river is still ice covered, but the edges are yellowish and slushy. I could see animal prints in the snow over the ice, but I wouldn’t have dared try to walk on it. As I leaned against a tree and looked down at the ice-bound river, I heard a nesting pair of barred owls calling to each other, though it was still early afternoon.

The truth is my medical transcription job is nothing more than a means to an end. It’s all about the paycheck. I take some modest pride in my ability to do an accurate, fast job, but I’m just a pair of skilled hands and ears. One day, when the job and I are finished with one another, I’ll leave no remnants of myself, no track, no scent, no spoor. It irritates me that it has so much power in my life when it means so little.

The bare twigs and branches of the trees were hung with water drops and the pussy willows are beginning to bud out. In the cloudy light the willow buds and water drops were the same silvery grey and I had to get close to tell the difference.

We’ve lately found a local lawyer to help us update our wills and take care of end-of-life paperwork. It’s made me think about all the fragments I’ll leave behind me, the furniture I’ve loved and polished; the mirror I’ve looked in since I was a child; the books I’ve handled and read in cars, in bathtubs, at tables, in beds and chairs and waiting rooms. All these things will be sifted through, separated, sold, passed on. What money there is will be divided and wind up in other bank accounts or hidey holes or cast back into the flow somehow. Perhaps whispers of me will cling to a few objects, but for the most part no one will ever know I passed this way.


We have an old shed/garage on the land and the snow slide off the roof has had the door blocked and partially pushed open for most of the winter. I was just able to squeeze in the door over the thick layer of ice on the threshold, formed by melting snow dripping off the roof.

We had cleaned out and swept the shed last fall, but when I went in I found pages of paper blown all over the floor. It was a few pages of the first draft of my book manuscript. Last summer we had visitors who used the shed, and I’d hoped they would read and give me some feedback. They didn’t, and I’d never found the manuscript when I looked for it after they left, but the winter currents and drafts discovered its hiding place. Perhaps the wind read it as it ruffled through the pages with chill fingers.

It was odd to stand there and see those pages. It gave me a desolate clarity. Those written words are the most important thing I have. Working or not working, large paycheck or vanishingly small paycheck, all the objects I love and use and call mine—none of that is really who I am. None of it really matters, though it takes up space in my life.

None of it contains the smell of my breath, the taste of my pain or the spoor of my love the way my words do.

None of it contains the smell of my breath, the taste of my pain or the spoor of my love the way my words do. It was as though it was me lying there, discarded, damp and wind strewn, unseen, unread, unwanted. It hurt me.

As I gathered up the scattered pages, I noted where the snow had drifted through gaps in corners. Wrinkled beech leaves lay on a discarded futon, whirled in through the broken window above it. I opened a ramshackle cupboard and found a roll of shredded toilet paper and evidence of mice at work, making the most of the unexpected bonanza of nesting material.


I found a bottle cap and cigarette butts on a window sill. More leavings. I know who stood there, smoking, looking out the window. I stood where he’d stood and picked up the butts, knowing his lips were around them, his long-fingered hand had carried them from pack to mouth and then stubbed them out in the bottle cap, a tiny ashtray. I wished for the nose of a wild creature so I could search for the cold, lonely ghost of his scent.

He was here. I am here. Deer crisscross this land we call ours. Mice go about the business of ensuring more mice, and the barred owls carry on their early spring conversation about mating, nesting, eggs and all those mice. We are so caught up in jobs and money and things. We give them so much meaning. The days go by and we alternately struggle and dance through them. But one day we’ll be gone, and we’ll all leave spoor behind, a scent or sign or footprint that is uniquely and simply ours.

These words are my footprints, my scent, my lingering warmth in the places I came to rest, my spoor. They are the signs of my passage and the truest things I have to leave behind when I’m gone.

Visit my Good Girl Rebellion page for a song as this week’s antitoxin. 

All content on this site ©2017
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

The Failure of Money

I’m thinking about money today. This is not new. Sometimes I think most of my life has been consumed by thoughts about money. Well, not thoughts so much as panic, guilt, shame and worry.

Photo by Teddy Kelley on Unsplash

There’s a heavy snowstorm here in central Maine. I’ve just been standing looking out my attic window, watching it fall on the huge elderly maples, bare as old bones, and the grass and the street and our little black Hyundai car in the driveway.

We found out this morning that the car needs about $1,300 worth of work. Almost exactly what it’s worth. Time to make choices.

We went out to walk, my partner and I. I didn’t cover my head, and when we got home my hair and eyelashes were clotted with wet snow. My son, who had gone out to run errands, was backing into the driveway as we came home. He’d been meditating in a ditch, not being able to get in touch with us, after sliding off the extremely slick road and into a guy wire securing a telephone pole. Some kind soul drove by and pulled him back onto the road. Fortunately, my son wasn’t dented, but the car was. This, needless to say, does not improve the resale value!

Photo by Caley Dimmock on Unsplash

I also took time this morning to buy Christmas gifts, so I’ve been absorbing all the jingle bells, merry merry and buy buy online. Quite a contrast, all the glitz and glitter, deals and special buys and impossibly joyous advertising, to the silent world outside the window, grey, smoke blue, brown, dark green and the ivory snow. Over the years, I’ve done less and less gift exchange for Christmas. There are only two people left with whom I do it, not because I don’t love giving gifts but because of financial stress and my resentment of the pressure to consume.

I’ve always had a dreadful relationship with money. My earliest understanding of what it was became inextricably tangled with anguish, fear, rage and power issues. As a child, I was always afraid there wouldn’t be enough. As an adult, I was locked in a belief that money defined me. To have money was to be successful, and to not have it was to be a failure. There was a well-known and well-defined path to follow: Graduate high school with top grades and scholarships, obtain a college education in something employable and lucrative, get a job with benefits, and never NEVER touch the principal. If you must borrow, pay off ASAP and stay out of credit debt. Save for retirement, own your own home and pay off the mortgage, take vacations and have a nice car.

However, during my lifetime the world has changed considerably. The middle class from which I came has all but vanished. I didn’t want to go to college, but did it because it was expected. I didn’t get a good scholarship and felt guilty every day I was there, and my guilt was made worse by the fact that the only subjects that interested me were religion, literature, history and the like. After two years, I dropped out. (Note: Dropouts are NOT successful. Ever.) I’ve been working ever since.

Then I got divorced (credit card debt), saved for retirement but cashed a couple of those accounts for emergencies, lost all my investment money to a crooked contractor, never took a vacation or even a plane ride out of my own pocket, and never in my life bought a new car. Retirement? You must be kidding. What are the chances there will even still be social security by the time I’m 65?

This is in no way a remarkable biography, I realize, but for me there’s a red stamp across every page of it that says FAILURE.

I’ve only in the last two years really understood how much power I gave money to define who I am and what I’m (you guessed it) worth. The idea of monetary value, like sexism, is embedded in our very language. There’s no escaping it. In my culture, the failure to make and spend money in ever increasing amounts is unpatriotic, unattractive, unsuccessful and sometimes illegal.

This is all wrong. I feel like the little boy who said out loud the emperor had no clothes.  Everyone was appalled and shushed him, lest the emperor hear and be offended.

I know myself to be an intelligent, heartful, creative, empathetic, honest person. The numbers in my bank account have absolutely nothing to do with those qualities.

The most important things in my life are my healthy relationships. Again, the numbers in my bank account have no influence over my ability to love and be loved and connected. (Hint: A relationship dependent on money doesn’t fit my definition of healthy. Just sayin’.)

Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

My ability to be present, entertain joy, laugh, create and learn has nothing to do with money.

My enormous talent for life has nothing to do with money.

Unfortunately, our broken system does require money for health care and the necessities of shelter, food and water. To be human is to need these basics. Not having money for them is the experience of increasing numbers of Americans and the vast majority of others in the world. I myself don’t have the money to buy health insurance. Does that mean we’re all failures?

Of course not.

Not only that, but we’re exhausting our global resources and when no amount of money will buy food and water we’ll all starve together, regardless of our bank balances.

So, yeah, we’re going to have to figure out what to do with the car. We’ll have to get a loan and work on finding a good used vehicle that can deal with our weather. It will mean a monthly car payment. No idea how we’ll do it, but I know we’ll find a way. Before that, we may have to do some work on the Hyundai in order to get top price for it.

But none of that is about me, or what I’m worth in the world, or what I can do or be. It’s all just static and distraction. It’s not failure or success, it’s just that cars age out and need to be replaced. If I could go out and buy a brand-new Subaru, it wouldn’t be failure or success, either.  It would be CONVENIENT and LUCKY.

Here are a couple of Christmas presents from me to you. The first is a quote and the second is an old wisdom tale from the Hindu tradition, one version of which is in More Ready-To-Tell Tales from Around the World, edited by David Holt and Bill Mooney, and told by Jim May.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

–Jiddu Krishnamurti

The Ruby

A holy man awoke, as usual, in the hour before dawn, on his mattress of grass. A warm wind moved across the land, bringing the scent of dust, animals, early morning cooking fires and blossoms, fresh and sweet in the cool morning.

The holy man was beginning his morning prayers when an excited young peasant ran up to him. “Master, where is it?”

The holy man raised an inquiring eyebrow.

“I had a dream,” said the peasant, calming himself. “In my dream, I met a holy man at the edge of the village. And here you are! The holy man gave me a precious jewel.”

“Ah, yes,” said the holy man. He bent and pulled from beneath his mattress of grass a ruby the size of his fist. “You must mean this. I have no use for it.”

He handed it to the peasant, who had never held more than two copper coins in his hand. The peasant raised the ruby between himself and the rising sun and his awed face was washed in red shadow. He walked slowly home, his eyes fastened on the ruby. He entered his simple hut and sat down on the dirt floor with the ruby before him.

All day he gazed, enchanted, and dreamed of what the ruby could buy him. He forgot his morning prayers. He didn’t eat, bathe, or take care of his livestock. He didn’t scythe grass for hay. When night came, he didn’t say his evening prayers, make a meal or lie down and rest. He sat before the ruby, worshipping.

The next morning the peasant took the ruby in his hand and went out, searching the fields for the holy man. When he found him, he handed the ruby back to him.

“This is not the precious jewel I want. Teach me what you know that made it so easy for you to give it away.”

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted