I’m an Under-earner


It has been my experience that when I refuse to give up and I keep on continually forcing my heart to stay open, even in the midst of great pain, “things” show up to help me in my progress.

I had coffee with a longtime sober friend today and she turned me on to a group of people who are applying the same principles that keep many alcoholics sober to the phenomenon of under-earning. Apparently I’m not the only alcoholic who’s been sober for a while who’s come up against other manifestations of the same disease. In some ways it was a relief to find that others  also have struggled in the same ways that I have. It appears that there are others who are intelligent, hard workers, and even have good educations who have continually found themselves broke because they basically ran their lives like I have run mine. I don’t delight in the fact that they have suffered but in the news that they are recovering in ways that I hope to. I need to do everything I can to plug into this community and find out what they have to teach me.

If I’m honest with myself, most things in my life are pretty great. But being broke all the time has a way of killing the spirit. I often have thought if my life was cut short and I had the awareness that this was “the end,” I’d be pretty proud of the things that I’ve accomplished in this life. Isn’t that odd coming from a guy who is so acutely  aware of all the mistakes he’s made?

I’m not afraid of flying— and if I go in a plane crash, so be it. Because I’ve flown so much since I got back from Iraq (with the show and with activist causes), I  somehow got in the habit of thinking, “What if this one goes down?” I always do a little ritual: every time I board a plane, I tap on the hull right outside the cabin door with my right hand and say, “Fly good little plane.” I’ve probably done that a hundred times by now. In the few seconds I give to entertaining the thought of a crash (and again, none of this is fear-based), I think about everything I did with other Iraq Veterans Against the War, I think about the veterans’ retreats, I think about my play and even if they are not produced yet, I think about the three new plays I’ve written. I let myself believe they would produce them after I was gone. I feel good about my life.

So why all the distress? Why all the sadness and anger and fear— the things I’ve dragged y’all through for the past 144 days? I can honestly say that it boils down to three things: 1) I want to be a self-supporting man when it comes to finances. I appreciate the kindness of people who have gifted me things because they love me and believe in my dreams, but I want to make a living doing what I’m good at! Is that so much to ask? 2) I’m lonely. I’m surrounded by people who love me and I’ve proved to myself that I can still bag a hot guy for sex when I want to (my marriage made me feel ugly) but that’s not really what I want. I’m lonely for a husband. and 3) (which is kind of connected to number one) I want to produce my scripts (or have them produced) and I want to staff these productions with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have been trained through the work of The Mehadi Foundation. In short, I want the career I dream of to become a reality.

What’s holding me back? Money.  I’m an under-earner. It’s not that I’m lazy, I’m not. It’s not that I’m not willing, I am. It’s not that I don’t work, I do.  I have worked my ass off trying to make the planet a better place but I never really made sure that my needs were met along the way. That’s got to stop. And guess what? I no more know how to stop this destructive pattern than I knew how to stop drinking before I did. It was only by reaching out for help from others who knew how to do it, that I survived (so far) a disease that kills an overwhelming majority of those who have it. I have to reach out for help in the same way to learn how to live in a better, healthier way.

If I was living in active recovery from under-earning, I could have money to ask guys out on dates when I get back to New York. God knows there’s no shortage of hot, kind, interesting, intelligent men there! And how happy would I be if I got up everyday and went to work with other veterans to bring productions from the page to the stage or screen? And what if at the end of the month I wasn’t broke even after I had paid my bills and put some away in savings and gone out to a ball game or play or movie every week, gotten to go the barber or maybe even had a massage? — man, that sounds like heaven to me.

Mind you, I’m not talking about under-working. Working I know how to do. It’s getting paid for that work that I’ve not had a great track record with. I’ve worked every kind of shitty job there is. I’ve tried the “if you need more money you need to work harder and longer” game and I know what it does to a person. I also put a whole lot of time, energy, effort and even money into causes I believe in— but I never made sure that I was taking care of myself when I did. I’d show up for any good cause for free just because I believe in it— and there’s nothing wrong with that— as long as my bills are paid! I bought a homeless man a twenty dollar gift certificate to Cracker Barrel the other day and I don’t even have enough money to cover my monthly bills! Don’t get me wrong, I want to be the kind of person that buys food for a homeless person but if I don’t square this shit away, I’m going to be a homeless person!

I know there’s hope for me in this arena because I have the experience that I do around alcohol. There was a time in my life that I was certain that I couldn’t live without drinking— but when I came to a point where I could no longer live with drinking, I reached out for help and I found a way. Even though from where I’m sitting right now, the life I want around career and finance looks a million miles away, I do think there is hope. And I am willing. Boy am I willing.

From now on, I’m going to get paid for what I do. If it’s okay for those bastards down on Wall Street to become zillionaires from destroying the world, I guess it will be okay for me to sustain myself while trying to save it.

See y’all tomorrow.

About this entry