A couple of years ago Oprah did a show on a young girl living on the street but still doing her schoolwork, desperate to get an education. Oprah gave her an apartment and paid for school and college. The girl was blown away. It was very moving.
I watched and despaired. In comparison to that girl I felt so undeserving. I’ve had many times of not being able to generate money, with nothing in my purse, bank account or fridge. I had very few clothes and my car didn’t work. But I had friends who could bring me food, and I could borrow enough money from my mother to pay rent. And even though I paid a huge emotional price for it, I didn’t land on the street.
Plus I could go to therapy, repairing self esteem, learning a different way of looking at life, understanding the different components of my mind, facing the truth of my behavior and what drove it, and laying a new foundation that would let me live and breathe freely, express myself unconditionally and enjoy success in a way that’s meaningful for me.
I clung to the idea that when I’d reached a certain momentum of change on the inside, my world would begin to change, but it was hard, because I got poorer and poorer. I thought about asking Oprah for help but I couldn’t believe she’d be interested in me. My journey so far has been pretty epic for me. But everybody’s journey is epic for them.
I knew how hard I was fighting to find my sanity and keep it, and to work towards building entitlement and belief in myself. Dealing with a past that crashed in on my present often without warning, paralyzing me, leaving me unable to decipher where reality was; facing a rabid inner critic and monumental fear. But I wondered what Oprah would see. I needed financial help, but would she think I deserved it? Of course I was the one who didn’t believe.
It’s funny how a big crisis takes you back to the root cause of it and everything else that has never worked in your life. After bankruptcy I became dependent on my mother. She kept me alive, but did it reluctantly and punished me emotionally. The more she helped me the more worthless and guilty I felt for being vulnerable. This was how it was when I was a child.
I’d spent my life believing the myth that she was the tragic heroine in our family. But she wasn’t. Narcissists survive and it doesn’t matter to them who pays. Accepting that was like facing death, but it gave me the momentum to finally shut the door. I didn’t know what I was going to do for money, even within a couple of weeks. But I did know I was never ever going to let anybody manipulate and hurt me like that again.
It was as if the room I was living in was suddenly flooded with light. It became clear that you don’t have to suffer to get help. You just have to be aware of what you need, and entitle yourself to ask. And know that you have the right to not let anybody manipulate you in your vulnerability.
These days I joke about Oprah discovering me, and of course I want that. It’s fantastic publicity for a start. And loads of fun. But also it would be an amazing stroke, of course it would. I really do admire her. I could handle a trip to Chicago and a seat in the hot spot on Oprah’s show. But I don’t have the sense that I’m waiting for her permission any more. Probably because where I once longed for her to embrace me, I know how to embrace myself.