I was scared to read this book. That's a silly thing to say about a short little memoir self-help book. But that's the truth. Part of the reason I wanted to read it was for exactly that reason, because I was scared. Scared of the feelings, thoughts, and questions it would bring to the surface regarding my beliefs and relationship with money. And scared of my judgments and biases about self help books in general. I read the first few pages of the book and struggled to silence this whiny, judgmental voice in my head that kept demeaning the author and questioning her motives and decisions, even before I got very far into her story. "What idiot would give Bernie Madoff all their money and not even pay off their mortgage first? "She's just writing this book to make back her money." "Why is some depressed rich lady's story of any consequence to me?" All of these unfair assumptions and judgments clouded my opinion. But I acknowledged my biases, my defense mechanisms that seemed to think that ridiculing this scary book and devaluing it's message would somehow insulate me from having to think too much about this uncomfortable money topic. So I ignored the voices and keep reading.
And it worked. The defensive voice slowly disappeared. I acknowledged my own blunt jealousy, (I don't even have $1 million to lose,) and realized that if I did have that much money, I have no idea if I would have invested with Madoff. Lots of smart people did. Lots of them. And then she got me. Roth won me over with this simple line:
"In this moment, sufficiency could not be denied."
After losing all of her savings, fearing losing her home, fearing having to move in with friends, fearing the loss of all of her possessions, Roth made an astonishingly simple realization. In this moment, she had enough. She was ok, she was sufficient. She had always felt the striving for more, better, perfect, the striving that so many of us feel in this culture. And she realized:
"In this moment, when I began paying attention to what I did have instead of what I didn't, there was a constant unavoidable display of gorgeousness everywhere, anywhere."
And she had me. I suddenly felt brave and powerful and unafraid to examine my own beliefs. Unafraid to figure out how to change them. While I didn't relate to everything that Roth talks about, I'm not a compulsive shopper and we are more conservative with how we invest and spend our money, once I set aside my judgments of Roth, I found so many perfect little ideas, phrases, and quotes that moved me. These made me think differently about myself, my money and my choices. So what I thought was going to be a preachy, silly book that would make me feel guilty, and then boss me around about my money, turned into something completely different. It's an honest, often painfully honest, look into one woman's relationship with money, food and fear. And I learned there is a lot to admire about Geneen Roth, who has deep reserves of strength and a cunning self awareness. And frankly I learned more about myself than I expected to from this slight self help book. I could quote many powerful lines from this book, but I'll share these two that have resonated with me the most:
"We're all muddling around doing our imperfect best, trying to hide or improve or figure out ways to be safe, special, loved, because the alternative - exposing the dark side of our feelings, our beliefs, our impulses - feels like throwing ourselves out of a plane without a parachute."
"...the very beliefs on which you construct your life are totally, 100 percent of the time, in your head and have nothing to do with reality. If I could believe that we didn't have enough when we did and then lose it and believe that we did have enough- what or where is enough?"
Consider reading this book yourself, and give your own money relationship a serious look, if you haven't already. I think it's worth it to push through the guilt and judgment and fear, uncomfortable emotions so often tied to our beliefs about money, and look at it in a new way. Try it. I'm still processing my thoughts a week after finishing the book. See if you can do it without being a little scared, I dare you! And come over and share your comments at Blogher, there are some fascinating and awkward money conversations going on over here!