I’ve had the flu thing that has been going around in Arizona. It starts out strong and then hangs on for a long time. This virus is interesting. It reaches for your sensitive area, so if you have weak lungs, it latches on with a chronic cough. If you are like me and have wimpy sinuses, it will be hang out there for awhile. I still sound nasal. But being sick has been a big wake-up call for me. It first hit my back, and all I could find myself saying was how so many areas of my life didn’t “have my back.” I didn’t feel financially supported and that nasty flu attacked my “sensitive” imbalance.
In the midst of being sick and down for the count, I had a blog reader approach me with a question needing advice. When her answer would be easily addressed by reading a chapter in my book, or a few blog posts here already written, and also covered completely in a lesson in my one class, I directed her to all those areas. I was immediately blasted for not being “spiritual enough,” and “why didn’t I offer all my advice free,” and for trying to sell classes and books. She didn’t offer to pay for a consultation or a private lesson.
Well, the interesting part was, here I was sick as a dog, and not paid for teaching during Spring Break, and my business didn’t have my back. I was in pure panic, because, face it, if neither is producing money, I am screwed. Capital One and APS don’t give a hoot if I didn’t receive a check yet or there’s no sign-ups.
Early in my teaching career, I’ve had similar experiences. I was told I should give free classes, free readings, free help all because I work in a spiritual field. What it came down was a lack of valuing. I have never gone to a dentist and expected free cavity filling. I have never gone to the mechanic, expecting free car repair. And my doctor who went for years to medical school has to charge me to keep his office going and pay back his student loans. What I have learned and trained in has taking me years and years of experience and time also. Is this because our role models like Mother Teresa and even Jesus ran around in minimal clothing and didn’t ask for anything?
I talked to a number of friends working in the spiritual field in some way, and all have expressed the same complaints and experiences…and all were struggling with money. Did we collectively not value our own gifts and what we had to offer because of our spiritual teachings saying that was bad? Or because we were in the spiritual field, we felt those gifts offered were less then? Was that the deeper problem here?
As an artist, I and other artists have all experienced people liking our work but not offering to buy anything. I have often been approached in my twenty plus years experience to illustrate an entire children’s book for free. That always makes me laugh.
The ironic part of this woman accusing me of not being spiritual enough by offering paid options to answer her question, was I have a huge problem with giving away so much for free. All. the. time. I share free art on Instagram. A ton of blog posts that go back five years or more. Free excerpts. Free quotes. Free Pinterest posts. Free stories. And I used to give extensive advice for free for years and years until I realized I was screwing myself.
If I wasn’t listening enough to the signs, I had one woman who was repeatedly calling me for advice on how to create books, websites, etc. but didn’t pay me for a consult. What was the worst was that she kept remarking how she could hire someone else to do the work I could do while talking to me on the phone. Yup, this was a ongoing pattern.
All these teachers showing up, I need to really look at this. I have a huge habit of giving so much without checking on my own needs. It was like I was expected to give out so much selflessly to others, without having those needs matter at all, and you know what? That’s a lack of respect. I have done this pattern more times then I can count. And then someone I love told me the other day, “There needs to be an equal balance.” (and respect)
Okay, I get it. I really get it. I don’t need another teacher to arrive to show me, whether the teacher is the flu or a person or a situation. I need to value my information, knowledge, talents, gifts, and time. I love sharing but I can only give out and share if there is an equal balance, translated into sales coming back in or my time paid for, otherwise, I can’t give or share anymore. Then I have to do something else, which is what is probably about to happen. It doesn’t work, unless I think it is spiritual to live in a tent with my dogs, give away everything for free, and count on the kindness of strangers to feed us. I honestly don’t think the basset hound would go for it.