My journey from impoverished hippy to successful entrepreneur
I grew up in various countries in Latin America, having moved to Mexico City at age 3 with my family. My dad was a plant manager for Goodyear. At age 17 I was sent to college in Michigan. I experienced pretty strong culture shock and felt lost and confused. In the middle of my 2nd semester, I sold my high school graduation present, an electric typewriter, and took off for Taos in a school bus with a hippie friend and some guys she knew. My poor parents received a call from the college telling them their daughter had left the college. That journey marked the end of my financially secure life and the beginning of my precarious relationship to money.
Running back home
After a few weeks living in communes in New Mexico, I called my parents and they sent me a ticket back home to Guatemala. At 17, I was only too happy to fall back on the comfort and security of my parent’s home but experienced a complicated mixture of guilt for having too much in comparison to the locals, righteous teenage judgment of their “corporate” lifestyle, and yet being willing to fall back on their resources when I needed it.
Back in Guatemala, I pursued my search for meaning and adventure, living in rural areas of Guatemala teaching literacy. I spent several months in a remote agricultural coop in the jungle area, living a very subsistence life in exchange for teaching literacy to the farmers. I loved this jungle episode, until I got very ill with paratyphoid and had to find my way once more back to my parent’s home to Guatemala City and medical care.
Wherein I have a spiritual experience, get married and move back home, again.
My parents had discovered Esalen Institute in Big Sur and went there for periodic workshops – they thought some Gestalt therapy might do me good so my mom and I went for a 2-week stay. There I met my first spiritual teacher and moved to Cupertino with 2 girlfriends to be part of his community, where we spent hours and hours a day meditating. I don’t recall how I supported myself during this time or if my parents helped me. I had powerful spiritual experiences, which I did not have the emotional maturity to cope with and felt very conflicted about being there.
I met my first husband at age 18 during this time. I left this community under the threat of “loosing the keys to the kingdom” to follow him to a small town in Ohio where he was living with his parents. We got married, I got pregnant, and then discovered he was gay (well I guess bi) all within the period of a month. I went to work in a nursing home to help support us, which I hated. After a while it wasn’t hard to persuade him that we should move to Guatemala. He promised to stop being gay. So at 7 months pregnancy we packed up his VW camper and drove from Ohio to Guatemala, where we landed at my mom’s, now divorced from my dad. I remember feeling so very relieved to be “back home.” My first son was born when I was 19, my marriage was a precarious see saw, as my husband struggled with his sexual identity and periods of manic depression, and our finances were also precarious, living off the help of our parents and various ventures selling Guatemalan crafts and my husband’s artwork.
An earthquake shakes our lives
When my son was still a baby, I strapped him to my back and apprenticed to a local pediatrician whom I had met in the jungle while he was doing his fieldwork in medical anthropology. My second son was born 2 years later, followed a few weeks after by a devastating earthquake which necessitated us living in a tent in our front yard and shook up our flimsy marriage as well as the whole country. By this time, my mom had returned to live in her home country of England, my dad had been transferred to another country, and we were living in a small rental on the outskirts of Guatemala city, eking out a living by managing an American bookstore and my husband’s frequent trips to the US to sell Guatemalan handicrafts. We split up shortly after the earthquake and he returned to live in the US.
By age 22 I was a single mom with two young boys living in Guatemala. This was the first time I took full responsibility for my own finances. I was able to obtain my first real job through the help of my pediatrician mentor, managing a health education program in coastal regions of Guatemala. I loved the work, felt I was making a difference in the world, and was able to support myself and my little family. I sought out a woman who had worked as a servant for my parents and to whom I had been very close. She was barely surviving in her coastal village as a single mom with two young daughters, and we made an arrangement that she and her daughters come live with me. I supported us all, and she took care of the kids while I was working. Money was tight, and we supplemented my income by making jam in the evenings that we sold to neighboring grocery stores, but It was a happy arrangement for us all and I felt a sense of standing on my own two feet.
Leaving behind Guatemala…
I met my second husband 6 years later, and we worked together developing health education programs in rural areas of Guatemala through grants we obtained. We managed OK, although our income was never very stable. The deterioration of the political situation in Guatemala, and the growing sense of danger we felt to our safety, forced us to make the painful decision to leave Guatemala. Destination: Amherst, Ma where my husband has been pursuing his Ph.D. I was pregnant with my daughter when we left; I was heartbroken to leave Guatemala but also relieved to feel that I was bringing my family to safety. We landed with his parents who lived in a small trailer, until we could move in to married student housing.
Birth, midwifery and another stressful marriage
The birth of my daughter was a joyous occasion for me, yet this was an incredibly stressful and challenging time, struggling to survive on student loans, going to graduate school, raising 3 children and what turned out to be another troubled marriage, exacerbated by financial stress. In addition to pursuing my master’s degree in adult education, I began studying midwifery and apprenticed to a local midwife.
For six years I made a barely decent living as an independent midwife with my own practice, and also working for a training institute teaching workshops in health education to visiting health workers from Latin America. My husband got a job managing a local massage school. I loved my work as a midwife, but my marriage continued to be stressful, at one point we split up for a year and got back together. I felt that something was missing, and was still haunted by the spiritual connection that I thought I had lost by leaving the community in California.
A profound experience leads to a devastating decision
In 1988 I met my second teacher, had a profound spiritual experience, which catapulted me into a radical decision to leave my husband, follow the teacher and his community to California, leaving my daughter during the school year with her father, my boys to live with their dad in California where he had moved to. I left my midwifery practice, and began a 13-year period of being immersed in this community to the detriment of everything else in my life. We lived in group houses, spent every spare moment either in spiritual practice, meetings or service, and had little time for much else.
Putting my language skills to work while going downhill in a spiritual community turned cult
I looked for a new venue to support myself, and decided to put my language skills to use and became certified as a Spanish interpreter and translator.
When the community moved to the east coast, I moved back to Boston and was hired to manage an interpreter-training program for a large HMO. Although I loved my work and was successful, I still never seemed to have enough money and started going into debt to support the demands of the community lifestyle, which included lavish gifts to the teacher, (especially when you “blew it” by not living up to the current idea of what you should be doing), trips to India to go on retreats with him, etc. It was a time of great highs and great lows, the lows taking more precedence in the latter years as the community devolved into a cult and I went downhill from a position of trust and authority in the spiritual hierarchy to one of shame and ostracism for “failures” I never quite comprehended. My finances went from bad to worse as I struggled to keep up with the demands of the lifestyle and my mounting debt. I often felt inadequate, ashamed and embarrassed because I did not have the money to meet the demands of that life. It took all my strength to finally break away, and when I did I was pretty traumatized, in big debt and had virtually nowhere to go as my whole life had revolved around the community. Finally having the strength to leave was a pivotal moment as I began the journey to find my own sense of autonomy and self worth again, and left behind a sense of victimization.
More transitions, love, and healing
Shortly after leaving this community in 1999, I got together with James, whom I had known as a friend in the community and whom had also left the spiritual community shortly before I did, in a similar emotionally and financially devastated state. We were an incredible support to each other in making sense of what had happened with our teacher and in the community, and in rebuilding our lives. I left the HMO where I had been working and started working independently as a freelance interpreter, translator and trainer. In 2000 James and I decided to relocate to California, where by this time all of our children (my 3 and his 2) were living. We married, I was offered a job as a director of a national interpreter training program, James, a skilled kitchen designer, was offered a position at a local design company.
Tenuous financial stability, a wake-up call at age 60
Over the next 10 years, we worked hard to get out of debt, create some financial stability and were able to buy a small house. Melding our finances was an incredible blessing for me, as his earnings top mine by a long shot. Several years ago, I left that non-profit to set up my freelance business as translator, interpreter and trainer. A year later, James left his position and set up his own home based design company, after taking a 6 month leave to remodel our 40's house with a small inheritance from his dad. Although we have done fairly well, changes in the economy affected both of our businesses and our cash flow was irregular and often lacking. The notion of saving, let alone investing, has been absent from my thought process. Turning 60 and realizing the implications for our future of having very little in the way of a retirement was a wake up call. Although we have some small investments from his dad's inheritance money, we really don't have a plan for the future other than continuing to work.
A venture into Network marketing
About the same time I started working independently, I became involved with a couple of network marketing companies. Because of my own health sensitivities, I have always sought out natural solutions to environmental health challenges and this approach seemed like the perfect vehicle for my passions for health and education. My appreciation of gratitude as one of the most positive and powerful emotions we have access to, and finding an easy was to express this, inspired me to add a greeting card service to my health oriented bofferings.
Healing my relationship to money
At some point along this journey it dawned on me that no amount of marketing endeavors were going to work until I healed my convoluted relationship to money. Some themes that stood out for me: guilt, shame, embarrassment, a sense of failure, brightened with periods of a sense of accomplishment at being able to overcome difficult circumstances. Other thoughts: I'm happier spending than saving, often giving more than I have to give, thinking more for today than tomorrow, valuing present experience more than future security. And to keep things in perspective, although poor in dollars, I feel richly blessed with joy and love in my life.
And so last year I began a journey to heal my relationship to money. Starting with a live radio show on “Healing Your Life” with Dr. Chris Michaels – wow, talk about the impact of airing your financial laundry live on reality radio! I also completed The Art of Money journey – an 11-month program that is rocking my money world!
As a result of this work, my relationship to my finances has shifted from frustration, fear and worry to trust, a deep-seated commitment to changing my situation and confidence in my ability to do so.
So here I am… moving forward along the path, through the twists and turns of my voyage from impoverished hippy/spiritual seeker to successful entrepreneur and manifester of big dreams.
My empowering plan
Here is my plan. I have recently embarked on a new phase of this journey – to tackle a new foreign language so to speak, the language of internet marketing! Scary – yes! Daunting? You bet! Ready to throw my beloved MacBook out the window? More than once! But also full of the thrill of a new challenge, the confidence inspired by some amazing mentors as part of my support team, and the hope for a better financial future. My dream is to empower myself and others to actually live those big dreams –without working a gazillion hours a week- so we can be free to do the important things in life – like spending time with our loved ones, empowering them to realize their dreams, and making a difference in the world.
Hence this blog, dear reader. So if you too, are inspired to journey towards a more abundant relationship to money, to success in whatever passion you are pursuing, while figuring out how to stay healthy and happy and connected to your Source, I hope you will join me as we learn together how to navigate these new waters.