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~ Guest Writer, Natalie Soriano ~

I have let money determine my self-worth, I’ve given my power to it, and I’ve even been angry at it.

I’ve pushed it away, longed for it, and despised it. I’ve dumped a lot of heavy emotions on a piece of paper.

Money never did anything to deserve this harsh treatment. My relationship with money has been my most challenging one, and it’s very clear now that I created this dynamic.

My beliefs about money were formed very early on.

When I was 5, my sister, who was 10 at the time, asked to borrow a quarter. I reluctantly agreed. A week later, I demanded 50 cents back. I think that was the last time she asked to borrow any money from me, given my sky-high interest rate.

That same year, we were on a family trip and my sister and I were playing a trivia game in the back seat. She asked me to fill in the blank: “Where there’s a will…” I immediately and emphatically responded, “There’s money!” I didn’t understand why everyone was laughing at my answer, and looking back, I have no idea how I knew about wills, but I do love that I was expecting a big payout.

We traveled from Canada to the U.S. one year, and I lost a tooth during that vacation. The Tooth Fairy gave me 5 whole American dollars. Some kids would be thrilled with that. When we returned home, I pestered my parents for several weeks about the exchange rate, as I wanted to cash out when it would give me the greatest return.

When I was 15, I had my first job as a Math tutor, which paid pretty well considering I set my own rate. I kept all the cash in a jar in my closet, and would take it out and count it every night. I wasn’t saving for anything in particular, but I loved the feeling of having piles of money at my disposal. When I wanted candy from the corner store, I borrowed (okay, stole) money from my dad’s cabinet because I didn’t want to spend a dime of my own.

When I first became a teacher in California, my luxury item was basic cable at a whopping $13 a month. I rarely spent on anything but the necessities, and even then I was holding back. I put as much as I could into savings, but again, had no specific goal in mind. I liked watching the money grow, but I didn’t actually want to buy anything.

I wore my thriftiness as some sort of badge of honor.

A few years ago, my husband and I were driving out of a Costco parking lot and I spotted something on the ground that looked like money. I leaped out of the moving car just as he was turning on to a major street, and told him to come back around and find me. As I walked up and down the side street looking for that money, my excitement grew. I knew I had found a treasure. I spotted a flash of green, and as I approached the bill, I thought that maybe it was bigger than a dollar. Maybe it was five dollars. I unfolded the money and discovered that it was a nice, clean, $20 bill. I was ecstatic! I ran to the car to show it to my husband, and placed it excitedly in a special place in my wallet.

What was I going to buy with this free money?

For months I kept that bill there, thinking about all the things I could buy with it, but I could never actually bring myself to spend it. One day in church, the basket was being passed and it occurred to me that I would most likely never part with the $20. Truth be told, it would probably remain in the same place for years. All of a sudden, the impulse came to put the $20 in the basket, and without further ado, I did just that. Until then, I had been giving very small amounts. I had been living with the idea that I needed every penny to survive, so parting with $20 felt like giving away a fortune. This turned out to be the best thing I could have done with the money…

… and it opened my heart in wonderful ways.

A few weeks later, again while sitting in church, I learned about tithing. Our church was collecting pledge cards for the upcoming year. Again, on impulse, I took a card and chose an amount that seemed outrageous to me, and yet felt incredibly exhilarating at the same time. I had no idea how we would be able to give that much money. There were two spaces for donor names, so I wrote my own name and God, knowing that I wasn’t doing this alone. We not only met but exceeded our pledge amount in that coming year, and even in the weeks and months where our main source of income had come to a screeching halt, we continued to tithe and made it through. This newfound trust in something greater than myself had opened the floodgates of giving. My prior image of finances had been a hand clutching a bag of money, and that limited amount of money draining out from a hole in the bottom of the bag. I lived in great fear. We would never have enough and we would most certainly never be able to get ahead. What helps me now is the idea of circulation.

Money flows in, and it flows out. I get to choose how I want it to flow out. I can still live in fear if I really want to, or I can find peace in the flow.

I recently applied for a full time job, and since I had been working for myself for years, this opportunity was immensely appealing. It checked off so many boxes that I wanted, and some I hadn’t even verbalized but apparently desired deep down. I was really excited about the job. I told so many people that I had applied, I went shopping to scope out new outfits, I calculated the distance from our house to my new job, I started waking up at the time that I would need to, was imagining all the money that we could put into savings, trips we could take, and the fun we could have. I let myself live that new life. When I didn’t get the job, I was devastated. My dreams had been dashed.

As the days passed and as I talked it over with those closest to me, I began to realize that the job had all the appearances of a miraculous new life, and yet, if I were to be completely honest, at its core, it was missing one key ingredient: freedom. I had been trying to convince myself that this job was the answer, but it wasn’t, and I couldn’t see that at the time. I am truly grateful that the door was closed for me, as I might not have been able to do that for myself.

I value my freedom more than anything else, and do not want to live in fear around money anymore.

What if freedom and the flow of money can coexist? What if channeling the power of my creativity sets me free? What if I design a life of my dreams and what if that is the force that keeps me in a state of constant expansion?

My wish for all of us is that we find that place of true freedom within, and that we cultivate a joyful relationship with money. We can absolutely enjoy the circulation of it, use it to do great things in the world, and treat ourselves to beautiful experiences. I truly believe that when we choose freedom first, the rest will flow.

Natalie Soriano

Natalie loves creating harmony and beauty as a Home Organizer, teaches high school Math, and loves being the shortstop on her wonderful co-ed softball team.  She has a passion for spirituality, personal growth and development, crafts and Pinterest boards.  She has been published in the SOM magazine, and lives with her husband in beautiful Valencia, CA. 

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