He Said, She Said: How We Resolved an Intense Money Debate By the Ocean

written by Bari Tessler February 25, 2015

Today, I’d like to pull the curtain waaaaay back and share a very intimate money-teaching-story with you all. It’s intense, it’s personal, it’s full of mega-wisdom … and it carries an incredibly hopeful message.

Back in January, my little family hit the road for our crazypants-fun Art of Money Roadshow adventure. We met, broke bread with, and shared amazing teaching stories from our dear community and my wonderful colleagues. But little did we know that one of the biggest money lessons we’d came back with was from our very own marriage.

You see, we all carry our “money stuff” around with us. Even on the road, on vacation, or in the middle of a big project.

And: my husband and I aren’t perfect, folks! Yes, we’ve done tons of work around money. Yes, we have moved mountains. But, as I always tell you: we all have our “growing edges” around money. This work is never done … it evolves and deepens right along with us, through a lifetime. Forest and I still get “triggered” sometimes, have intense negotiations, and talk things out. We will continue to fine-tune and update our relationship to money for years to come.

That’s why I’m not the kind of teacher who preaches from a mountaintop or tells you precisely what to do. Hopefully, by sharing great tools, practices, strategies, and personal money stories, I guide you to your own way with money.

Okay, onto the story. You might find a little bit of yourself in it. Or a little bit of the dance you and your own honey do, around money. And, I hope you’ll find some comfort and strength to rely on, the next time the volume on your “money stuff” gets cranked up to 11.

It all started at the end of The Art of Money Roadshow, which was far, far harder than we thought it would be.

Just imagine: 3 adults and a six-year-old, IN A SMALL RV. 8 towns in 17 days. Uncomfortable beds, leaking toilets, a breakneck pace, primping in campground bathrooms and rushing to get on camera.

Don’t get me wrong: we positively adored seeing all of our dear community members and sharing their stories with you. The hugs, the meals, the conversations were everything to me. But moving so freakin’ fast, living out of an RV — it was definitely not a vacation — it was hard work and more on the challenging end of the spectrum. And by the time we reached our final city, Santa Cruz, our whole family was discombobulated burnt toast: beyond done.

And there, on the magical sands of Santa Cruz, I watched my family came back to life.

The sun, mama ocean, the beachy breeze — they all worked their healing magic on us, and I watched in amazement as we all perked up, woke up, and smiled. Ahhhhh.

And then it hit me: we should stay, rest, relax for a few days before we head home to continue with the rest of the launch/opening of our year-long Art of Money program. We needed to take a little break!

Were were supposed to fly home to Boulder early the next morning. But I knew that if we went home as planned, we’d all crash, big-time. My exhausted, beautiful family would fall into a communal depression. And it would be awful.

Everything in my body — and my soul! — told me to stay. To give us all a few days of rest and fun and chill-time. We truly needed it.

Then, reality set in. This was a money decision. What would it cost??

I knew it would be expensive. We would need to change our flights and pay for 3 extra nights at the hotel. From an initial estimate, it was looking like it was going to cost around $1700 to extend our stay. There was a lot to weigh in this decision.

Now, back when I was younger, I made most money decisions purely from the heart — like when I took myself to graduate school at the age of 24. I simply knew that was the next step on my path, and was going to do it regardless of the cost.

But these days, my approach to money decisions is much more weighted to the rational side: I look at our numbers, ask if we have the cash-flow available, ask how important it is to me, and go from there.

But this time, in Santa Cruz, it was different. I knew staying might not be the most rational decision, based on our numbers. But I knew we had to make it work.

So I presented it to my dear husband, Forest. “I think we need to stay!!” We looked at how much it would cost us, and it was terribly steep. Forest reminded me that we didn’t yet have a clear picture of what our finances were going to look like for the rest of the year: we were in the middle of our registration period for The Art of Money, where we make almost all of our money for the entire year — and we don’t yet know what the final numbers would be. And because of that, we just couldn’t make a clear money decision, here.

So, I did what came naturally in the moment: I went into my “locomotive mode.” I wouldn’t take no for an answer.

It’s incredibly rare for me to pull out this card. I only do it in key life moments, when every bone in my body knows it’s the right move, on all levels: money, soul, heart, mind, timing. I push as gently as possible, but I do keep pushing forward like a freight train.

The more Forest said “no,” the harder I said, “yes.” My yes got bigger, stronger, faster — and, as softly as I could, I started pushing. But the harder I pushed, the more Forest retracted into his “no.”

I could see the fear on Forest’s face. I could feel it. I knew that this wasn’t a simple money chat for him: it dove straight into the heart of his core money issue. I could see my dear husband in this old, familiar, fearful space. He hadn’t been there in a long time.

I told him, “I see what’s happening with you. I see you shutting down. But there is clarity and purpose to what I’m doing. I know we need to make this happen. And I want us to stay connected through this.”

I stepped out onto the hotel balcony and began swaying my body in a sacred Orisha dance to remove obstacles and open up doorways. I danced as I called our airline — but they wouldn’t budge on the fees. I kept dancing as I called CheapTickets — and after an hour and a half on the phone with them (dancing while on hold), I finally got us a great deal: they waived their cancellation fees, and we got new flights that cost half of what the airlines were going to charge to cancel and re-book. Plus, the hotel allowed us to stay in our beautiful, oceanview room (which they’d originally told us was booked). Triumph!

So I went inside to share the good news with Forest. While the CheapTickets agent waited on the phone, I asked my dear husband if he could find a “yes” with me.

From Forest:

So, there I was, in a very frightened place. Silent and dark. It’s a really young place in me … a pre-verbal place. So much so that I am at pains to find words to describe it, much less give it a name. I can say, though, that it’s very close to a deep fear of dying, or, the level above that, which is a fear that I will be, or our family will be, homeless and without food. Or, at the very least, forced to live for free in my parent’s basement while I get back on my feet.

This core money issue got pushed right out into the open, in Santa Cruz. Bari and I were debating a big expense, and because we were right in the middle of our registration period for The Art of Money (where we make the vast majority of our annual income), I didn’t have a clear understanding of just how much money we had. I felt lost, in the dark with our numbers…and deeply afraid.

Plus, I needed to make a decision right there, while feeling it, because Bari had the CheapTickets customer service person on the phone, waiting to make the changes to the tickets. But within a few moments in that hotel room, I was able to sort through all of this, feel it, and say, “I’m scared. I can’t see clearly into our financial future. I barely have words right now … But let’s do it.”

When I first started working on my “money stuff,” I thought that once we made enough money, my core “money issue” would just go away. I’d never have to feel this fear, this dark feeling, again. That’s what I hoped, at least. And once we earned significantly more money, a couple years went by without those dark feelings coming up. But I always had the nagging suspicion that the issue was still there, in the background, waiting for the right combination of triggers to arise.

On that day in Santa Cruz, I learned: oh … yep! There’s that same money issue. Right there. It was just waiting for the right conditions to rear its head.

And here’s what I’ve learned from working with this core issue over the years: deep money issues aren’t about the numbers. If you make more money, they don’t go away. Making more money won’t heal them — awareness does.

Let me explain this another way: this exact same core fear used to get triggered 14 years ago when I spent $120 on two bags of groceries at Whole Foods.

And now it was getting triggered from having to decide about spending $1700 to have a few very needed days of rest in Santa Cruz.

The amount of money involved doesn’t matter, at least for me. There’s deeper things involved in working with my core issues around money, and I suspect it’s similar for most people.

At this point, I’ve done enough work that I can see my money issues arise. But, whereas before I would make a decision from this dark, unhealthy place, now I’m able to get very quiet, turn within, feel the fear, move it aside, and make a decision from a healthier place. I consciously do not let the fear make the money decision for me. And, I’m able to do this pretty quickly. After all, I had to make this decision within a few minutes, while the CheapTickets woman listened to Bari and me as we did a quick money discussion process.

The marker of growth isn’t necessarily that your issues disappear. It’s that you’re able to move through them when they arise, and you can prevent your core money issues from making major money decisions for you.

Beautiful insights from Forest. So, yes, you can heal around money. Yes, some issues will disappear completely. Yes, you can learn practices and cultivate self-worth and plan better, so you’re earning and saving more. Yes, you can get amazing support and make incredible breakthroughs. Yes, yes, yes!

But-and: tough “money stuff” will continue to arise. Dark, hard places within you will linger, and asked to be looked at again, or differently this time.

Awareness is HUGE. Having the tools to work with your emotions is HUGE. The Body Check-In is huge. Un-shaming, faster. All the understanding that you bring when you know your own money story and your unique strengths, challenges, and patterns.

We can’t expect to exterminate our reactions or emotions around money. But we can tone down the emotions and soften the triggers. And we can catch our reactions, honor them, work with them, be loving and gentle with them, learn from them, and be present in the fullest way possible.

Your money issues will remain, evolve, and grow. But with the right support and tools, you can deepen your presence, expand your capacity for connection, and stick with yourself during those tough moments … so you can enjoy the beauty on the other side.

In the case of our Santa Cruz decision, there was so much beauty on the other side.

forest-surfing-santa-cruz-300wForest: Every moment of those 4 days in Santa Cruz felt heightened, like a hyper-real dream: every breath of that warm California air, every swoosh of the waves — I was very aware that I wouldn’t have experienced any of it if I hadn’t hopped on Bari’s locomotive, worked through my money issues, and stayed. I’m so grateful that Bari had the clarity to see what we all needed.

And I’m so grateful that I didn’t let my old money patterns make my decisions for me. I recognized the pattern, was patient with it, stayed in connection with Bari, and made a new decision. And it was wonderful. Those four days in Santa Cruz are turning out to be a highlight of our year so far, and I have a feeling they will remain that way in my memory.

Those days in Santa Cruz were indeed an incredibly valuable experience for our family. We really did need those days of rest and sunshine. To commune with mama ocean, to feel the sun and wind on our skin. Noah played on the beach, Forest surfed, and we let go of the stress of the trip and reconnected in a soft, deep, beautiful way.

Forest has thanked me over and over for staying clear and holding the light on this Santa Cruz decision. It ended up being a great money (and life!) decision. I took the lead on this decision — Forest and I take turns leading. We each have our strengths, issues, and challenges, and we each have tough moments and more clear moments. It’s beautiful to have a partnership like this, where we know each other so well, and can sense when to push and when to support.

The biggest teaching here, folks? Your money story and emotions don’t go away. Yes, they get smaller, and more manageable. There is so much hope, here! But ultimately, this deep money work is about how much awareness and understanding you can bring to them, the level of communication and support, and how quickly you can move through all of this. So that Body Check-Ins become second nature. Emotional honesty is just how you roll. And you show up with more patience and power every single day.

This is the heart of the Art of Money experience. Learning to bring more and more love and awareness, honesty and compassion, smarts and empowerment to your relationship with money. This is why we’re so incredibly passionate about this work. Because we’re walking the path, ourselves. And we’ve seen the beauty down the road. It’s a journey of baby steps. In-the-moment awareness. But when you stick with it, the results are simply breathtaking.

Santa Cruz sunset 2 (550)
Sending love out from one of the most gorgeous Santa Cruz sunsets. 

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