Do You Have a Sexy Relationship with Money? On Artistry, Activism and Abundance

And by sexy I mean respectful, beautiful, celebratory and self-strengthening. Mine is getting there, but for years, it was about as sexy as moldy bread wearing stretched out granny panties. I absolutely have no idea where that came from. *clears throat* Moving on…

[No photo. You’re welcome!]

Pre-wedding panic

Seven years ago, my now husband took me to LA’s jewelry district to shop for wedding rings. While other shoppers’ eyes sparkled like the rows of jewels, I nearly had a panic attack. Palms sweating, heart racing and dizzy, I had to step outside for air. What the hell? 

I had no qualms about our engagement. After my first marriage (if you can call it that), I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to wed again. Then I met Mike. “I’m not getting married to get married this time,” I told a friend. “I want to share my life with him.” Adventure partners. It had to be. We’d planned a simple wedding—the two of us exchanging vows on the doorstep we met on before our pets, parents and the neighbors who’d played a role in our meeting. It seemed perfectly us, and given the chance, I’d have done it pronto. So why I was freaking out?

The money, honey.

Simply asking myself the question revealed the answer: money. One thing I’ve seldom shared about what I now call my pseudo-marriage is how broken we’d become in all ways before parting. Our financial struggles influenced, but more so reflected and derived from our incompatibility and insecurities. Desperate to salvage the union many people felt we’d rushed into and feeling a strong sense of responsibility (“We’re married;have to fix this.”), we hid our issues from loved ones.

But it was bad. At one point we had $15 to spend on groceries each month, which I stretched by purchasing rice and beans from the dollar store, 3 for $1 candy bars from Walgreens and Top Ramen. He’d been laid off but wasn’t receiving unemployment and I was modeling, which one can’t do well without the ability to buy even the simple bikini every casting in Miami seemed to require. For that and other reasons, my confidence level at castings was on the floor, making bookings few and far between; when I’d finally receive a paycheck, it had to last for months. I still had medical bills to pay from my eating disorder treatment, and we both had school loans outstanding. And then there’s that funny little thing called rent.

Even worse than a shoddy motel

One day the kind receptionist at the shoddy, hot pink motel we’d been living in advised us to move out ASAP, as the owners were beginning to deceptively overcharge tenants. “We have nowhere to go…and no savings,” I said, trembling. He offered to let us crash in the courtyard of his tiny studio apartment. Though it wasn’t locked, clean or comfortable, it seemed worlds safer from the actual street. Even so, we were essentially homeless, steps away from a crack house and its shady regulars. At one point I spotted a homeless woman shooting up and wondered if the primary difference between us was that she spent her minimal funds on drugs, instead of noodles.

Desperate for higher ground (no pun intended), I renewed my nutritionist certification and began consulting individuals at a local gym between castings until I was hired as an editorial assistant at a magazine. Once we could afford to pay for a month plus a security deposit in a neighboring studio, we took it. The small place with warped, partly rotted floors, a broken oven and a refrigerator that had been well-used but seemingly never cleaned seemed like a palace. As we dined on rice, beans and veggies using a cardboard box as a table, I shed happy tears.

By that point, I’d wanted to quit modeling, but my agent told me I’d be foolish not to use my stepping stone to acting, aware it was my dream. He was right. As soon as I had $300 to spare, I signed up for my first acting class and never looked back. As my passion for my acting flourished and the reality about our broken marriage grew increasingly obvious (particularly once we were no longer in desperate survival mode), we separated then filed for divorce. Meanwhile, I began booking modeling, and soon acting, jobs with relative ease.

The very freedom and independence I had feared after my solitary battle with an eating disorder brought incredible strength. So desperate to be un-alone, I had married a man I barely knew. And had we even talked about finances? Nope. We were going to follow our dreams and make it happen! (Now there’s a detailed plan…)

Lessons from Broke-ville

Being completely broke changes you, bringing heightened appreciation for shelter, food and basic belongings. How could you take what you previously couldn’t nearly afford for granted? But it’s also easy to feel guilty or overindulgent when spending money on virtually anything. That was the case for me—likely because I still had emotional richness to cultivate. The first time I could afford to buy much-needed clothing, I roamed around Marshall’s for over an hour clutching selected items in my perspiring hands. I set them down and rushed out twice before finally making a purchase.

So much has changed since then, but bits remain. I still often feel guilty spending money on myself, but I’ve also maintained the gratitude. Going from broke to independent and pursuing my passions allowed me to move to Los Angeles, work as an actor, meet and marry an awesome man and recognize what I believe to be my life’s purpose—my writing and activism. Most importantly, it’s allowed me to stay true to myself. I think we all deserve that. So does the world.

Moving forward

I’ve been pondering these experiences lately, as my husband and I purchased (and finally moved into!) our first house, and as I work hard to take all-things-Girl Boner to the next level. I had the pleasure of discussing my goals with Rocco, a man who works for Tony Robbins’ company, recently. I told him that while I feel I’ve come a long way in many life areas, I want to go much further—and in order to do so, I need to cultivate commercial success. He agreed and asked me to expand: “What would that look like?”

When I’d finished answering, Rocco paused and said, “I’m going to have you do something really uncomfortable, okay? We’re going to talk numbers.”

I hadn’t mentioned a single number while describing my financial goals. (What do numbers have to do with money? ;)) In fact, I’d scarcely mentioned finances, consistently referring instead to “commercial success,” and making it ultra-clear that “it’s really not about money for me.” True, but still…  It’s not as though he hadn’t heard me the first time. Obviously, some of my ghost-wounds could use more healing. So now I’m going to share my numbers with you all, because I love being vulnerable like that. 😉 More importantly, I’m sharing to stand strong in authenticity, move past remaining money-related insecurity hold myself accountable. And who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire a few others to grow similarly.

Side note: Depending on your experience, the following may seem inspiring, impressive, braggy, nominal, relatable, feasible or depressing. Trust me, it’s all relative.

Welp! NUMBERS!

My writing has brought in around $30,000 a year for the past few years. In my biggest month stats-wise this year, my blog and radio show had upwards of 60,000 reads/views/listens. As far as I know, 14,000 is the most Facebook likes I’ve gotten for an article, and I’m just about to hit 7,000 likes on my Girl Boner Facebook page. Soon, I’ll reach half a million blog hits. Add all that up and what do you get? Honestly, I don’t really know or care—and perhaps therein lies my ginormous problem opportunity for positive change. (Have I mentioned that I’m a work-in-progress?)

I’m glad I’m not a “numbers person,” and that like many creatives, I value art and outreach far more than money or things. If I want to reach as many people as possible using my skills, experience and passion for greater good, though (and what activist doesn’t?) money can’t be an invisibly-inked afterthought. Financial wealth certainly can’t be something I fear or consider bad or “not typically for artists.”

The whole sexy shebang

When I look back on my life, I see a direct correlation between financial upset and insecurity. When my whole darn life feels sexy, I thrive in all ways—and I know I’m not a rare example. I don’t think I’ve ever fully embraced the idea of financial success for myself, adamantly believing that if you follow your heart and pursue your passions, money will follow. I still believe that and have experienced it repeatedly. I’ve never had a conventional job and have always supported myself fairly well—er, minus my stint of homelessness… What I hadn’t realized until recently is the importance of a truly abundant mindset.

Rocco asked me how I would feel about making a million dollars. “Sounds…fancy!” I yelped. Honestly, I couldn’t even fathom it, unless we were talking Monopoly-ese. “What about reaching a million people?” he asked. My heart did the happy hula. What if to reach a million, I have to make a million, he asked, or at least aim a great deal higher and expect more than I have been? What if I could afford to fly across the country today for a speaking opportunity or to help someone who desperately in need? His point shone in neon.

“Is that level of success doable?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, and meant it.

My starter goal is to double my income within the next 12 months through meaningful work, so that I can reach many more people with my message of self and sexual embracement. This will require intense efforts I’ve already started, most of which is of the heart/mind variety. I have to move past my fear of asking people to invest financially in my mission and dream bigger and bolder than ever before. (I totally dig that last part!) Money isn’t the opposite of a giving, loving heart, I’ve realized; it’s as beautiful or useful as we make it.

So you can make your checks out to… JUST KIDDING! I would’ve hired Rocco or another life coach with Tony Robbins’ company—seriously awesome people and philosophies, but I can’t afford it—yet. (The irony!) So I’m taking it upon myself to kick my own butt, which I’m quite fond of doing.

Toward this end (pun embraced!), I’m aiming to:

♣ Join forces with an awesome, sex-positive sponsor for my Girl Boner brand.

♣ Write for more major publications, broadening my journalism reach.

♣ Land a book contract with a major publisher (with the help of my stellar agent, Jill Marr).

♣ Create and sell empowering merchandize.

♣ Meditate routinely and try yoga. If yoga helps, stick with it.

♣ Continue to give my all on Girl Boner Radio and other shows.

♣ Continue to surround myself and have adventures with fabulous, like-minded people.

♣ Spill my guts on all of this in a blog post.(CHECK! :))

♣ Take a bold step toward greater abundance and financial success Every. Darn. Day.

Abundance is a mindset, not a finish line.

Greatness comes when we live authentically, especially when it requires stepping into the uncomfortable. Sometimes doing so allows us to heal wounds that have lingered for years. When I look at my wedding ring now, I’m reminded of the shimmery treasures that materialize when we never stop working on ourselves or our lives. And when I pass a dollar store or a homeless person, I’m reminded that we’re all more alike than we realize. Money doesn’t make us better or different than anyone else, but it can help us help those who need it.

Last week I had the sheer joy of attending Katy Perry’s concert in LA with one of my favorite people, Sheri Fink. The VIP experience was a luxury I never would have considered for myself years back—and while such sparkly pink adventures aren’t likely to happen every day, we can perpetually have glimmers. Just imagine what would happen if we all embraced and nurtured them. We just might illuminate the world.

August McLaughlin_Sheri Fink_Katy Perry LA

 

Do you have a sexy relationship with money? What related goals are you working toward? Have you ever been semi or fully homeless? Do I ask bizarre questions? LOL I love hearing from you! ♥

Leave a comment

28 Comments

  1. “When my whole darn life feels sexy…” OMG – that single line hit me in the heart. You’ve once again, given me much food for thought. Thank you for being willing to share.

    Reply
  2. I grew up in a large family who was far from wealthy. I didn’t know it for a good many years (didn’t everyone use WIC and eat government cheese?), and I’m sure that has contributed to my relationship with money as an adult.

    When I got married, the hubs and I both lost our jobs, so I’m accustomed to making funds stretch. It was a challenge I was used to. We’ve been in that situation more than once, although we’ve never been at the point where we didn’t have a roof over our head.

    I love what you said here: “Money doesn’t make us better or different than anyone else, but it can help us help those who need it.”

    I’ve donated MOST of the money I’ve made from my first novel. I’m currently working a job that pays decently, and while I get weird about treating myself to things, I love that I can help out friends (or sometimes strangers), donate to causes, or just get a gift that will make someone’s day.

    Thanks for sharing your goals with us!

    Reply
    • I adore your heart, Amber! I love that you donated so much of your first novel’s profits — and that you’ve maintained such a giving, grateful heart over the years. Sharing these goals felt really vulnerable, but I think that’s a good thing! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Thanks for sharing what got you where you are–and for being so open and honest about the actual $$. In general, our culture seems to have a dysfunctional relationship with money and wealth. (Part of it, I think, has to do with our “rugged individualism” and the idea that personal failure, not class and social structure, are the sole determinants of wealth and success.) It’s great to have some positive role models (you!) for how to embrace abundance and not let money–or fear of it–rule your life. Wishing you great success in your journey to doubling (tripling, quadrupling, etc. etc.) your income!

    Reply
  4. Wow! Did I ever need to read your words today. and yes, yet again, your life and mine are running parallel. I understand your story and how close you were to homelessness. Four years ago, my then diabetic beagle, Gumby, and I were desperate for a place as we lost our home. I had become too ill to work a regular day job. Technically homeless is a vast land. I know.

    Now, I make ends meet but increasing health issues are making life pretty difficult. Recently, I committed to work with a physician of Chinese medicine, and I now realize it will take longer than I thought. Reading your post has given me the courage not only to keep going but to reach higher than I was, in particular in the money department. For over fifty years my oldest and closest friend kept telling me this. Your post was like hearing her words again; she died in February. For that alone thank you, thank you, August.

    I am going to sit and put some numbers down and then, get back to writing these two books that I started. Remarkably inspirational post, my friend. Much appreciated.
    Karen

    Reply
    • If anyone can attract worthy richness, it’s you, Karen! I’m continually blown away by your insightfulness and talent. Consider at least two copies of those books sold. 😉

      Knowing we can help others and give more through increased abundance has been helping me hugely. I imagine that could be parallel, too. 🙂

      I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend–who believed in you, rightfully.

      Reply
  5. Raani York

     /  September 25, 2014

    Thank God I’ve never been homeless or in danger to lose a home. Even though there’s money there (apparently) since I can travel and so on… it’s not like I do have a sexy relationship to my money… I always get the impression it’s trying to escape from me. *chuckle*

    Reply
  6. For some months now I’ve been wondering whether or not I should get a 2nd job. We thankfully are not in danger of losing our home, but filling out our pre-nup was a big eye opener for me and how I handle finance…or rather don’t handle it. Admitting I managed money poorly for the 6 years I was actually earning it was HARD. Now, I feel like i have a lot of catch up to do and of course that’s when I need to pay off debt from my months of unemployment. I was really inspired by Pauline Campos and Liz Henry at BlogHer when they talked about the side hustle. I’ve made some starts at doing this, but with no bites yet. Reading your post has challenged me to come up with a more concrete plan and to really invest myself and my time in a more structured way. If I don’t want to get that 2nd job taking orders, then I have to make more headway with my writing career. Feeling a little dismayed, but you’ve given me some new insight to revise my plan.

    Reply
    • I know you can thrive in any way you desire, Jess! And I completely relate to that vulnerability as your financial history was exposed. Such experiences can help hugely, if we’re introspective and proactive in response. Sounds like you’re doing just that–kudos!! Please keep me posted, yes? I need to know how to best cheer you on.

      Reply
  7. laurie27wsmith

     /  September 25, 2014

    What a great post August. Poverty is a place that anyone can easily slip into but it’s hard to get out of. My sexy relationship with money? I love to blow it. 😉

    Reply
  8. Wow … you’ve had enough experience with different things – hard things – in your life that you can relate to (and help) so many people. It’s nice to know that it’s what you want to devote your life to. So many people would be scarred so badly that they just want to accumulate and hoard so they never have to be afraid again. Good for you, August! I hope you make all of your goals a reality. 🙂

    I’ve been “homeless” twice. Once when relocating to a different state (temporarily), I bopped back and forth between my dad’s and a cousin’s house for three weeks while I worked full-time at a new job. Hated it and moved back to Michigan and got an apartment here. The second time was for maybe a week when the sales person for a manufactured home said pack up, you can move in on ‘this’ date. Except he hadn’t even gotten the approval in the park. And there we were with a fully packed U-Haul truck – and nowhere to go. After camping in the ‘primitive’ area of a campground and in my uncle’s basement (while waiting for the $2000 refund), I rented a house.

    So once was on purpose, and once was because someone lied, but they were still a scary times. Yeah, I was never on the streets, but not having your own place, however temporarily, is not a good feeling. I like the safety and comfort of having my own place.

    So my financial goals are simple. I want enough to afford my dream house, to have a savings account that will always make me feel safe for the next fifty years, and enough to help anyone I want to help. Now I just need to figure out how to do that as an indie author with no other real skills than writing. 😀

    ***In case you don’t know what the primitive area of a campground is, it means you’re about a quarter of a mile from the bathrooms. 😀 😀 😀

    Reply
    • You can totally do all of that, Kristy! Rooting for you big time. 🙂 Thanks for the encouraging words–truly mean a lot. 🙂 (And I suddenly want to hug my toilet. LOL)

      Reply
  9. I filed bankruptcy during my first marriage. What is it about those first marriages???? I have a day job to pay the bills, but I work from home. So, I still get some writing in. It can be so hard to be creative and make bank. 🙂

    Reply
    • I think many of us are just fairly naive and insecure early on–a chance to work the kinks out! 🙂 There are so many ways to support ourselves as artists, but we really have to have faith in that to make it happen. Good for you for cultivating a workable system!

      Reply
  10. Last night I made myself spend $40 on Lean Cuisines because I’ve literally been surviving on ramen and my discounted meals at work for the past three months. I still felt guilty about buying food for myself, even though it still wasn’t very great food to buy. This post resonated with me so much, and I really, really needed to hear it. Thank you, August.

    Reply
    • BIG HUGS, Emmie. I can relate, and assure you that there’s absolutely no reason to feel guilty for investing in yourself — particularly when it involves self-care. It’s easy to know these things rationally, but feeling and believing take more work. I’m rooting for you!

      Reply
  11. I still feel guilty if I get anything for myself, even when its something I know I need. I never realized other people felt guilty over it. Thank you.

    I started trying yoga two months ago and I love it. I’m not taking a class but I picked different poses and watched tons of videos on youtube on how to do everything and its amazing. I feel stronger and amazingly relaxed, whereas the stress in my life has never allowed for even this amount of stress relief before. You should definitely try it. 😉

    Reply
    • The other day I felt guilty for resting for a few hours, then realized that not enjoying the rest rather defeated the purpose! I think guilt over spending money on ourselves works similarly.

      So glad to hear you’ve enjoyed yoga. People often assume I’m into it, but I’ve only tried one class! Really excited to try the brain/body/soul work out that isn’t geared toward calorie-burn. 🙂

      Reply
  12. *Hugging you long distance, and whooping it up for your revelation!*

    I’ve never technically been homeless – but I’ve lived in some scary situations to avoid it. At one point, I lived for several months with an abusive ex-fiance I was still in love with, and, maybe predictably, he played upon my emotions whenever he wanted sex, or needed a place to dump his hurt. I did the same to him…and it was largely because I didn’t make enough money to live on my own.

    After he suddenly moved, leaving me alone, I rented a room from a man I knew casually. Very bad vibes – everyone else living there was male.The owner knocked on my door wearing noting but a towel. Items started disappearing from my room while I was at work. And then one of my cats was killed, and everyone lied about how it happened…

    From there, I rented another room – this one in the home of a hoarder. He had excuses for the state of his house (and the unoccupied one next door, which he said he was renovating…). It took me a bit to realize that was never going to happen – I was as naive as they come! I knew I had to get out of there when he started telling people we were in a serious relationship. That was creepy enough that all my survival instincts triggered…

    So I accepted a job at the Grand Canyon, and took a train cross-country with $50 to my name. That’s where I met Jim, and things started to get better…

    Better,not perfect. Once, we we traveling to his sister’s house in Salem, OR, and realized that we had $7 in our checking account – it all went for gas and dollar meals. After the death of our second child at 12 days old, I got pregnant for Annalise as soon as I was able to. Without time to recover from Elijah’s birth, or to process grief, maybe it was inevitable that it would be a high-risk pregnancy, and I’d be ordered to stop working and go on bedrest.

    That was devastating to our finances, and, after she was born, we declared bankruptcy in a desperate move to get out from under….

    But what was really beneath it was our attitudes toward money- and you’ve prompted me to think not only about that, and how it’s shifted today (our money life is pretty sexy, just now!), but also about my goals – with – URP! – concrete figures attached.

    Stay tuned for future blogpost on this!

    And enjoy all that sexy financial lovelplay! =D

    Reply
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