content top

Take the money and run to your nearest therapist.

I had a good, old fashioned break-down last night.  It was about money.  It’s always about money. I don’t make enough of it.  I never have.  What sparked my emotional toilet flush was the realization – I’m always broke. Like a ton bricks hitting my head, I finally put two and two together.  If someone is chronically anything for a decade — overweight, single, broke, etc. — then there’s a good chance that they’re creating the problem and not the world.  Woman vs. world is sometimes a smokescreen for woman vs. self.

I chose to pursue a profession in the arts which is a big gamble.  Sometimes you get work and sometimes you don’t.  When you’re getting jobs, life is great.  You can shop at the MAC counter for cosmetics, instead of CVS.  Have a nice dinner out with friends and buy organic everything from Whole Foods.   However, when the work dries up, so does life.  I tend to exercise more during these spells because it gives me a sense of purpose and control.

One of my many goals is to live my life without excuses.  I could write an essay about how America doesn’t value creativity or the crappy job market but that would be another smokescreen.  Despite America’s ruthless capitalism and extended recession jam, plenty of people I know are getting work and making money.   Yet, I’m not.  So, the most important question I need to ask is what psychic fortress of ineptitude have I barricaded myself in?

In an ideal world, I would have sought therapy for my money issues before I married my husband.  I would have left my luggage in Toxicville and boarded the luxury limoliner to Stablesburg.  But that didn’t happen and I must confront my demons in real time, side by side with Peter.  Being chronically broke is okay in your twenties but in your thirties you begin to wonder if you aren’t any different than a gambler, slumped over a craps table at four in the morning.

While I’m not saddled with the “provider” baggage that men must live up to when they marry, I am a feminist, for better or for worse.  Being dependent on a man makes me feel like I’m screwing up big time.  It’s like I’m juggling my own personal failures with my sense of failing as a feminist woman.  Talk about a miserable circus act.  I might as well pop on a red nose and call myself Bo Bo the Inadequate and Disappointing Clown.

It’s possible that I may have misinterpreted feminism.  I’m pretty sure the Women’s movement wasn’t looking to add more reasons for ladies to feel insecure about themselves.

Dear diary,

Not only am I not thin and pretty enough but I’m also not strong and independent enough.


Peter gets upset when I beat myself up.  Then I get upset because I’ve made him upset in addition to already being upset with myself.  It’s a no win situation.  It leads to… dun, dun, dun… stress in the marriage.


The way I see it, it’s my responsibility to confront my underlying self-esteem issues as they pertain to money.  I’m thankful that Peter supports and cheers me on but when push comes to shove, it’s up to me to do the head work that will erase the chronically broke label that I have scrawled on my forehead.

This is what marriage is teaching me.  When we live just for ourselves, it’s easy to maintain a comfortable co-existence with our issues.

Low Self-Esteen:  How was your day today?

Me: Sucked.  How about you?

Low Self-Esteem:  Terrible.  But, I made us a casserole of Haagen-Dazs, red wine and fried chicken.

Me:  You’re the only one who cares about me.  Thanks!

Walled up in our fort of pillows and television, with only our low self-esteem to keep us company, our flaws go unexamined.  But through partnership, all of our bombs, daggers and chains are laid out on the table for all to see.  Being married or living with someone isn’t the only way to grow into a more nurtured individual.  Allowing yourself to be open and honest and willing to evolve with others is the key.  Marriage, for me, is an opportunity to kick my toxic issues in the butt.  I have to.  I made a commitment to love and cherish someone, not drag them down into the gutter.  If that means having the occasional break-down, then bring it on!  I can take.

Now, if you’ll excuse me.  I have to go to an audition for the role of ADDITIONAL BANK TELLER #2.

-Cathleen Carr

Your comments

  1. robyn okrant says:

    Aw sister, I feel your pain. One week after Jim and I got married, I got laid off from my job. I’ve always been far more unstable and irregular with my income than Jim. I even went back to graduate school fulltime and took out tons of loans. But, our husbands are investing in our careers because they believe in our talent and dreams. We’d do the same for them. Still, this is all logic, not always how I feel. I can totally relate to your breakdown. Here’s the thing — we have the option to make more money but buckling down and getting a 9-5er. I think we have to own our choices…guilt is a waste of our time and energy and it just drains our hubbies.

    I still think Peter and Jim need to start their own support group.

    • cathleen carr says:

      Thanks RO xoxo!

      • Jim says:

        I’m not sure Peter and I need that support group for these reasons. You should give us some credit. We knew what we were getting into when we married each of you. I agree that you should accept our love and whatever form our support comes in. Just keep telling us how lucky you are to have us and I feel we will be pretty happy.

      • peter says:

        I agree with Jim and would add that head rubs are helpful. Lots of head rubs.

  2. Joan S. says:

    Welcome to my world.

  3. ellenpie says:

    Cathleen – I have a colleague who just celebrated his 23rd anniversary. I know him and his wife well enough to share this little story. Now, years later, they are both pretty successful at their 9-5 jobs, but he still jokes that “he’s waiting for her to pay off her credit card” from when they were dating. Go easy on yourself my friend – you’re not alone. I’m in no way saying that we should all just be comfortable with our debt – or being broke – it sucks.

    But take it from the person who spent years over-spending on cosmetics at the Lancome counter when she could barely afford them, only to voluntarily switch to buying L’Oreal at CVS after she could finally spring for the Lancome – and who still looks 25 BTW :-) – changing your relationship with money (or your perception of how much is enough) is one of life’s biggest challenges. And I very often think to myself “Wow, if you got married… What would Mr. X think of your spending/saving habits…” Money is a big issue in relationships.

    Years ago I stumbled on a book called: The Energy of Money: A Spiritual Guide to Financial and Personal Fulfillment, by Maria Nemeth. Her basic premise is that our relationship with money begins well before we move out of the house and start our independent lives, and that like many other things, money has an energy-like quality that can be draining or sustaining depending on how we channel it. It may not solve all of your issues, but it’s worth a look. It’s more than just “money management” – it definitlely made me realize some things about my relationship with money and I am doing some things differently as a result.

    • cathleen carr says:

      Thank you so much Ellen. I’m going to check out that book. You’re right- it’s not just a matter of math. It’s an energy- a way of looking at life. Almost a devaluation of myself. I’m more than ready to move on…

  4. ardenm says:

    In a world where everyone feels the need to blog about everything, you are one of the few who writes about things that are acutally interesting, and writes with both humor and insight.

    I grew up hearing my mother say “It’s only money…” a lot. She meant that as long as you had your health and love, things would be OK. I tried to believe this for a long time, but red wine doesn’t buy itself. And let’s be honest: money does provide freedom (90) of choice, and Americans need all the cable stations they can get damnit!!

    Good luck w/ADDITIONAL BANK TELLER. And your Low Self-Esteem casserole sounds fantastic. Perhaps you could market a cookbook…

    • cathleen carr says:

      What special words from such a special lady…thank you! Money does mean something, doesn’t it? Right on. Suze Orman has something to say right about now! Gosh, I hate the thought of upsetting Suze. Perhaps I can go on a vision quest underneath one of her jazzy blazers.

  5. Super Jessica says:

    Story of my life. I’m also dragging 2 kids into it. Oy. One day I think I am going to figure out how to act like a grown-up, but the odds are shrinking each day. God, now I’m depressed….

    • cathleen carr says:

      These are definitely the lost years. I would’ve thought the twenties would be but the thirties only make everything seem much more real and terrifying. But, it’s all perception. Fake it till you make it, right?

      • ellenpie says:

        Cathleen, please don’t think of the 30s as lost years. Real and terrifying, yes. Now 43, looking back on both my 20s and 30s I have come to the conclusion that while I was pretty sure I was all grown up by age 27-30, the initiation into “real and terrifying adulthood” occurred between 35-37, with 38/39 marking a turning point to feeling more confident about the direction my life was taking. All of this activity made my 20s look like a cake walk in comparison – and the issues were not limited to money. My friends and family now describe me as “much more comfortable in my own skin” – and while I try hard not to fall into being complacent, it’s a nice complement. This phase happens to all of us – you’re totally normal!!! :-)

    • Kristina Omohundro says:

      2 kids?! Super Jess. 2?

      • Jessica says:

        Well at the moment, 1 and 1/3 kid. As Ed and I once famously wrote “even though you ‘aint got money, I’m soo in luuuv wit ya honey…” I’m pretty sure we wrote it.

      • Kristina Omohundro says:

        Congratulations!!! That’s great! See – I may be ok on the $ front (although right now is questionable) but when it comes to love and family I’m a wreck. Its hard to have it all, I guess!

  6. Kristina Omohundro says:

    Cath -

    You have always been one of my most brilliant and talented friends. If I had a company I’d recruit you and pay you well to stay. After many years in the business world, I can say this with confidence: people like yourself are rare. I’ve hired and then fired so many boobs that looked good on paper but were frankly just stupid. Or unmotivated. Or both.

    You truly have what people want. You are smart, hardworking, reliable and very personable. You can get a good job and be paid well for it, I have no doubt. If you want to talk numbers or help with your resume, or interviews, I am here.

    For me – walking into the interview knowing my worth and sticking to my guns regarding what I need to be fiscally happy has served me well. You are worth a lot. You really are.

    Love ya sista!

    • cathleen carr says:

      You’re a fantastic friend and woman. Top shelf. You, simply, are the best! Expect some life coaching sessions- you can kick my butt into shape!
      And yes, there is a secret second on the way…

  7. Donna says:

    wow…for me im a bit disappointed reading this article….I was one of the rare people that stopped working to raise my son, after he grew up my mom suffered a heart attack at the age of 89 and we had her move in with us…she is now 91…I dont make any money but I have more riches than life can bring a person……
    My husband and I work together to keep our relationship strong…..good housekeeping will never come here to do a story on our beautiful stuff….nope…cant afford them….but we have more riches than life can bring……

    making money is great…..and I applaud all of those who work outside the home…right now Im not able to do that…however I feel rich despite that!!
    thanks for listening….just my opinion

    • cathleen carr says:

      Hi Donna- Thank you so much for your comment- I really appreciate your point of view. My day-to-day life I share with my husband is rich with joy and love. For me it comes down to pure economics- our quality of life suffers when I am not contributing financially. And I’m not talking about luxuries- we sacrifice a great deal of nice things to live in New York. So, I feel pushed up against a wall with myself- why can’t I land more work regularly? Actors are notoriously insane, so there is an element of that.
      I am also at one small point in my life. Children have not come into the picture yet and I know our lives would need to be adjusted dramatically once that happens.
      I couldn’t agree with you more – the richness of life – comes with the relationships you have cultivated and the community you have invested in. As you have done so successfully with your family. That belief guides me and rewards me continuously.
      But, we had $84 in the bank the other day… Sometimes basic finances bum me out.
      Thank you for reminding me of what is most important:)

      • Donna Ryan says:

        Well you just keep hanging on and dont give up. I only joined this forum earlier today. I was in the library yesterday and I saw Robyns book living oprah and thought wow…what a brave and interesting thing to do. I went onto the livingoprah website and saw she is now working with you on this. Your article was the first I had read but I look forward to continuing and learning about your lives a little more.
        I just started the living oprah book and it is fun…i guess i was commenting the way I did on your post because Im at the line where Oprah said i think in terms of investment the best thing you can ever give yourself is to have beautiful surroundings. Now of course there are a lot of interpretations to this…one can read words one way, and another totally different. She wasnt saying expensive things…she was saying nice surroundings…it could mean neat, clean, tidy, change of throw pillows here and there….I just dont think that would be my best investment…and with that in mind I saw how sad you sounded about not having money. I now understand better where you were coming from.
        sorry…i did not mean to make this a living oprah site again….
        just remember however…your commitment today will lead you to unimagined payoffs tomorrow….Hold On Tight….When you least expect it things can change..
        nice meeting you….

        • cathleen carr says:

          Thanks Donna, you’re very kind. I’m glad you found us! Please keep commenting- you’re voice is welcome and very refreshing. It’s funny you mention beautiful surroundings- I do get antsy in the city. When we visit family (MA & VT) or go to the beach, or take a day trip to the Hudson River Valley, I fantasize about how remarkable it would be to live somewhere quiet, green and gorgeous. Speaking for myself, it’s that duality of personality that is always causing friction internally. For instance, would I be happier working on a farm or teaching in a seaside town? I can never know for sure. I suppose that would take the mystery out of life. But, I do know that lighting a pretty candle and fluffing my throw pillows gives me a little bits of peace and all those little bits add up…

  8. Emily Richard says:

    I feel your pain, sister, and I actually have a job that pays well! Unfortunately, I have law school debt that is equal to a mortgage on a modest bungalo. And I also share your money-esteem issues. I often beat myself up for not saving every cent I make or not putting everything towards my debt. But I also know that allowing myself to indulge in meals out or organic groceries is nice every now and again. It’s a delicate balancing act.

    But here’s what I think about you – your life is and has been so much more interesting than many of us who have gone the conventional route. You were brave to make the choices that you did in your twenties, and you are brave and persistent in pursuing a career that you love, rather than just doing a job for a steady pay check. I admire you for all of that. Even though I am sure it can be hard to take the long view, I really believe you are doing what you are meant to be doing. (What do I know about this? Nothing. I just think you are fab and that your big break is out there somewhere.)

    If I ever need an Additional Bank Teller, you will be my first call.

    • cathleen carr says:

      You’re a gem. I’ve always been so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. I’m proud of all the hard work and accomplishments you have achieved and continue to achieve. You’re on of the good ones!

      Also- I feel terrible having an online therapy session for me. How selfish. I do have good new, after I posted my blog yesterday, I got a call and was booked for a job I had auditioned for last week. This was not for ADDITIONAL BANK TELLER #2. I will let you know if I hear back from that audition…

  9. You’re a hilarious writer. You should wake up every day and celebrate that. But I know it’s hard.

    What’s happened to the writing profession is basic economics: a HUGE supply of writers chasing very few positions. Most of us would write for free, so publishers are stingy. Getting published, even for free, is like taking out a huge ad out for yourself without having to pay anything. It’s a compliment to you just to have your name in print. If you want to get depressed though, take a look at the movie “I Remember Mama.” The budding writer gets paid something like $100 for her first piece. This is 100 years ago and in today’s dollars, that would be around $2,330, according to Why was she paid so much? Very few people were college educated then or could afford the leisure to write. On top of that, there were a lot more newspapers, because TV and radio didn’t exist yet. Writers were in demand.

    Exercising the blues away is a great idea. Another one is bread making. It’s adventurous and you feel a sense of accomplishment! Just keep telling yourself, “any other profession is way worse. Don’t even think about it.” I spent a lot of time in p.r., which is dullsville, though I did meet my husband that way.

    • cathleen carr says:

      Thank you for your kind words Joy! You speak the truth about supply and demand… I think about break making often. I’ve never tried it but I remember reading something years and years ago about how bread is our ancient culinary companion and to make it give one a sense of connectedness. I know, sounds a little new agey. Nonetheless, we can all use a little connection every now and again, right?
      p.s. I think PR is interesting! I would hardly call it dullsville! Keep fighting the good fight!

  10. Bill says:

    Cathleen, you’ve gotten lots of affirmation and good advice in the comments of your readers. I’ll add only this. You’re doing the difficult thing, and at the risk of an allusion to George Bush, it’s hard. But that makes you courageous. Furthermore, every word you write and audition you make is work; it may not be validated by money, but it’s more valuable because you invent yourself every day and no one can take that away from you.

    So light candles, fluff pillows and give Peter head rubs when you take breaks from doing your work.