I come from a family of artists.
My grandmother was a poet. My (other) grandfather was a vaudeville performer and the he wrote scripts and produced in Hollywood.
Mom and Dad met working at Arena Stage in the 1970s — at the height of American Regional Theatre. He was a producer and designer, and she was a stage manager.
He gave Raul Julia his first professional acting job, and she toured to Broadway with Raisin — the musical version of Raisin in the Sun — among other things, before they found their way to New Orleans. (It’s a long story for another day.)
My mother’s sisters are both artists — one was a dancer and actress on Broadway, and the other was a visual artist.
We’re creative people. I come by it honestly. We sing in four part harmony when we have family reunions. It’s like that.
One summer, Aunt Shannon was trying to make ends meet — because supporting yourself as a visual artist is NO JOKE, y’all.
So she got a side hustle picking potatoes.
“Picking” potatoes is not as fun as it sounds. It’s not like potatoesgrow on trees, after all.
In order to be harvested, potatoes have to be dug up. Rows and rows, miles and miles of potatoes, waiting under hot summer soil to be dug up with trowels and shovels and carefully placed into giant piles.
Now think about how much you paid for your last 5# bag of potatoes.
Extrapolate how much she got paid to “pick” them. There’s no premium blueberry or a mango up-charge for a potato.
But harvesting them? Hands in that hot soil, shoulders hunched and knuckles aching from digging, both trying to go quickly and keep from piercing the flesh.
For hours. Days and weeks.
Months of back aching, sunburns, and hands gnarled by gripping trowels. Exhausted, deflated. And for barely a living wage.
After that summer, my aunt proclaimed: “I will never pick potatoes again.”
This became code in my family: we never do desperate work to support our art.
So after some years, my Aunt went back to school and became a nurse. And her sister – the Broadway dancer – became a physical therapist.
My mother went back to medical school at age 40, because you simply cannot raise a family with a stage manager’s hours — or on their salary.
But by the age of 5, I knew I wanted to be an actress. My poor parents.
As a preteen, I used to daydream with a ballet friend about living in New York City, hustling, “living the dream.” I’d be auditioning for Broadway, she’d be auditioning for NYCB. We’d share a tiny apartment, and do whatever it took.
But even then, I knew that no matter what, I would never wait tables. I’d do anything ELSE, but I promised myself that I would never live that stereotype of an unemployed actress waiting tables.
In high school, I declared I was going to college to major in theatre… My poor parents. And bless them, even though they knew what was I was in for, they supported me anyway.
But they insisted I have a second major. A backup plan was not optional.
Because they never wanted me to pick potatoes.
When I quit my job as a nonprofit fundraiser, I was 33 and I had a mortgage. I left a job with short-term disability, medical & dental, AND retirement benefits — not to mention a health salary.
Suddenly, after avoiding being a starving artist in my 20s, I became full-time yoga teacher at 33. As a theatre major, I had never bit the bullet, because I understood what it took to support myself as an actress… and I wasn’t willing to do it.
Here I was, more than 10 years later. And I promised myself I wouldn’t wait tables.
And I never did.
This is just an example of a story I tell about money. There are so many threads of belief hidden in this one family myth:
Artists can’t support themselves financially.
If you follow a creative pursuit, you’ll need a day job.
NEVER pick a soul-sucking day job.
But the story isn’t all bad. Don’t be so hard on it. (Or on yourself.)
It also instilled in me a deep belief — a conviction — that there HAD to be way to follow my dream without breaking my body or my spirit. I was determined not to settle for a soul-less day job, and that made it mandatory for me to support myself while fulfilling my calling.
I knew I would do whatever it took, so long as I didn’t have to pick potatoes.
I started a business, by accident, and this conviction combined with some grit and divine lubrication, I have never missed a mortgage payment. My income increased steadily, year over year — by at least 25% every year. And in four years, it’s increased sixfold.
600% growth over four years, in part, because of a potato story.
Don’t get me wrong: I still get scared that I won’t be able to support myself with my heart’s work. There are months I still get nervous I won’t be able to pay the mortgage.
But do you see how both ideas come STRAIGHT from the story?
My actions are fueled by the story and the beliefs it upholds.
This story is part of my family mythology. It’s ingrained in my DNA, and it’s helped me get where I am now just as much as it fed my demons of doubt.
This is why I won’t talk to yogis about supporting themselves without talking about their money stories.
What mythology have you inherited from your family about making money?
What hidden beliefs do you have about following your deep dreams?
What story lines that have motivated you?
How do those stories feed your demons?
The workshop I’m offering at the end of the month will help you to start recognizing these stories — using practices and tools from the yoga practice.
In the end, the story is just a thread. There’s no way to know if it’s true until we see it, and examine it.
Once you use your yoga practices to discover the stories, you’ll begin to build a business that feeds your heart’s calling.
Yoga & Money: A Weekend for Yogis and Healers
The Yoga of Money: Saturday, June 30th, 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
The Business of Yoga: Sunday, July 1st, 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Get all the details or sign up here: