The last taboo

September 30, 2013

live out loudWhat’s our last taboo? It’s obviously not oral sex, that’s for sure.(Thank you, Michael Douglas.)  Or incest. (Thank you, The Borgias.)

It’s money.

Money’s our last taboo, a friend said, in a discussion we had a few months ago about our relationships with it.  Being the troublemaker she is, she thought I should write about it.  This isn’t exactly the post we discussed, but I’m going for it.

Some years ago, a hard-working friend had some really fantastic luck at work and was able to cash out a significant amount of stock. Of course, here in Silicon Valley, that’s not an unusual scenario. It just never happened for ME.  <grin>  But after that, I noticed that one of our mutual friends would constantly make passive-aggressive comments to my friend:

“Well, you don’t have to work, like I do.”

“You don’t have to worry about a job.”

It wasn’t so much the words, it was the tone, and tone was ENVIOUS and not in a good way.

At the time, I was struggling to make my own ends meet. I had no money at all. I was trying to establish a career in tech, a single life and getting acquainted with a new town.  I was thrilled for my friend’s good fortune. Envy? It never crossed my mind. I don’t even understand it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Any woman approaches my man and the little green monster called Jealousy will spring out, armed to the teeth. Count on it.  I haven’t evolved enough for that to go by the wayside.

But when I see the good fortune of others, I’m happy for them and am glad that I’ve never experienced the emotion of envy. Because their good fortune has nothing to do with me or what I might do with my life. My choices are mine alone. Just as theirs were their own.

Choice is an important concept and for most, it’s the operative term.

I think sometimes people believe that the good fortune of others just lands in their lap, when the truth is that more often than not, it’s the result of hard work. Of decisions and sacrifices.  They leveraged opportunity. Got educated. Saved money. Spent wisely. Chose. But of course, all that is invisible to the outside world.

What IS visible is lifestyle and sometimes that reflects money. Means.

It was …distasteful…to hear that person make those envious comments to our mutual friend. It made me uncomfortable.

And then, one day, decades later I began to get comments like that. Not many. But a few.

I’ve always lived large–that is, exuberantly and out loud. Regardless of what was going on in my life.  When I had no money, I still lived out loud. When I was dating and had crazy and sometimes terrible experiences, I laughed about them as I shared. And I did share. That’s what life is for–to enjoy and yell it from the mountaintops. (I’m a big fan of Zola.)

But living large while also living a life that seems enviable — and blogging openly about it– had now made ME an occasional target for those awful passive-aggressive and sometimes plain old aggressive comments. And since I know nothing about envy, comments tinged with it always kicked me off balance.

“What do  YOU know about sadness?” someone asked a while ago. Seriously? Is that a trick question?   My response was “what do YOU know about ME?”  Because the truth was, that person knew very little about me, my life or my relationship with sadness.

stefanieSo here’s my position.

I’m never going to apologize for my life or for the hard work and sacrifices I made, the decisions I made that allowed me to have a great career and live well on my own merit.  Those personal decisions are known to me and maybe a few of my closest friends, but for the most part, they’re invisible to most people, as they should be. Personal and private.

I’m just like anyone else. I’ve had my share of stuff to deal with, good and bad. The truth is that I started with nothing, literally, and made my own way in more than one city in which I knew not a single person.  Most people have that same option. Not all, but most.

And, I’m not going to apologize for my husband’s hard work and the sacrifices and lifestyle decisions he made that allow us to enjoy a nice life together.  It didn’t land in his lap just as it didn’t land in my friend’s lap. He started with nothing and worked his way to a modicum of financial security. I know this because I was there when we drove off, a newlywed young couple with not even a pot to our name. Ok, not exactly true. We had a whole set of stainless steel pots, a gift from my mother.  Still have them. That’s right. Some 41 years and a dozen moves later I’m still cooking in the same pots. And he has a sports jacket he bought when we were newlyweds back in the mid-1970s. The car I just replaced was 12 years old, his is five years old. So maybe you’re getting some of our lifestyle priorities? CHOICE.

As those closest to me know, I’ve been poor and I’ve been a little bit rich and I’m not going to tell you that rich isn’t better. It is.  But the truth is, I always figured I’d make my own life, myself.  I never expected someone to hand me a great lifestyle. I made my own, and then M came along and enhanced it.

Actually, I've never asked permission for anything, ever. Especially not for being happy.

Actually, I’ve never asked permission for anything, ever. Especially not for being happy.

When M and I reconciled, no one was more surprised than I. To share this fantastic life with a man I love is a dream come true.  We didn’t have children and all those expenses to deal with. Our largest budget item is Travel. We love those experiences and relive them every day, wringing every last bit of value from that investment. Other than that, we don’t live large. We give generously to charities we believe in and money to homeless on the street. Our life is well-rounded. We are grateful for our life and show it in some way every day.

But I’m still going to live out loud. That’s who I am. And, I’m going to blog about it.

And to those few who think they know anything about my life and can judge me? Think again.

They don’t know a thing about it.

Just sayin’.



12 comments on “The last taboo
  1. Bouncin Barb says:

    Good for you Carol! I’ve been on the financial roller coaster in life myself but I too worked for everything I ever had. I’m now living on SS disability and it sucks but you know what? I’m happy, I laugh out loud, I go to the beach often which is where I find peace. And I don’t owe any explanation to anyone for my life! It’s mine!!

  2. Evalyn says:

    This was powerful……where did it come from in you…? Who criticized or passively aggressively was mean to my dear Carol? Let me at ’em!!! Xxev

  3. Barbara says:

    Yep. I find the harder I work, the “luckier” I get.

  4. Haralee says:

    Good for you Carol and well said!
    Choices are made and unfortunately for some people a cycle of bad choices can occur. Some people really think a quick fortune can be made effortlessly. They can be resentful and envious and passive aggressive when their choices and get rich quick schemes don’t pan out well.

  5. Good for you! This is such an empowering piece, and I also have had to deal with people who tell me how lucky I am, as though things just come to me. Yes, I feel very lucky but I have worked my ass off for everything I’ve gotten. You keep living out loud and blogging about it — and I will look forward to continuing to read it all!

  6. Susan Cooper says:

    Carol what an awesome post….. It is so wonderful how you are living the way you want. Keep it up. 🙂

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