Money Means Nothing


“You’ve got to stop your crying, right now! This is business!”

Tears mixed with sweat as I ran my hands over my face and stared into the serious eyes of my lawyer. He was right. The anguish I was expressing was ill-suited for the meanness  in the next room.

“Can ya’ll just give me a minute alone?”

My attorney and the mediator assigned to my divorce case left, angry. I closed the door behind them and turned off the light. I needed peace and the darkness felt right. I ignored their grumbles, kneeled down, pressed my feet against the bottom of the door and asked for hope. Actually,  I begged for hope. I don’t remember the exact words in my pathetic prayer, but there was a line about making sure I never was motivated by money to do anything. The quest for stuff, that thirst for greed, has turned the mother of my child into something unrecognizable. I even had relatives showing the same faces. As I composed myself and let the misery workers back inside, I said something to myself that I’ll never forget.

“Money means nothing.”

Over the next two years I turned down two job opportunities that would have meant higher pay. They would have ruined my relationship with my now eight-year-old daughter and prevented me from meeting my wife and other two girls. I stopped haranguing loved ones about not saving or spending frivolously or buying too much for the kids at Christmas. I felt the change in my life that started six years earlier.

I make good money at a job I’m fortunate to have. Yet, as I write, I have less money than ever. Bills, debts, life and many more things have depleted finances. But I’m happy.

Last night, after a serious discussion with my wife about our money problems, we sat down together to get our minds off trouble. My teenage daughter, whose modus operandi is staying in her room, came downstairs and stayed with us for three hours. We laughed, watched bad shows, and shared the ridiculousness of our lives. I may have even stolen a few hugs and kisses from the teenager. As we prepared for bed, I walked to the back porch and turned off the light. The sudden darkness reminded me of that day in the courthouse mediation room. I smiled, wiped an unexpected tear, and said “money means nothing”.

I hope I’m right.

This week, we asked you to share a memoir featuring hope, expressed in 400 words or less.

Nancy wrote a Prayer for Her Son, using Tina Fey as inspiration.

We can’t wait to read. Consider the spirit of yesterday’s post about constructive critique—and take a risk and try giving some feedback to your fellow writers. Remember, kindness first.

Today’s song is meant to be ironic and of course emotional. I’m very angst-ridden and in turmoil right now so Nirvana hits me just right. Here’s The Money Will Roll Right In.


60 thoughts on “Money Means Nothing

  1. Whoa…get out of my head! My family got caught up in keeping up with the jones and it nearly destroyed us. Never again will I allow us to become slaves to the grind. The more I write, the happier I am. There is a true joy that comes with doing what you were born to do. When you are doing it…the bank balance never seems to enter your mind, and in the bliss of becoming who you were meant to be…the dollars start to take care of themselves. Food, Shelter, Clothing and a smile…who knew it could take so little! Oh…can you tell I loved this?

    • Thanks Tasha. I’ve done a 180 on what matter means to me as opposed to five or six years ago. I’m currently watching it drive wedges and hurt people. It’s teh sad. Glad you enjoyed this.

  2. Wow. This is one of my favorite posts from you, partly because of how well it was written, but partly because of my experiences with divorce/money issues/etc. This is so spot-on and poignant, and I wish more adults would act like this when faced with the dissolution of a marriage/relationship.

    And while I have never not had money issues despite working my tail off, at the end of the day it’s about making ends meet and spending time–not money–with those who matter. Money does mean something–we need it to survive–but it’s not everything.

    • “Money means nothing” is kind of a end all/be all to money doesn;t really matter. True, you need it to survive, beyond that, it carries no value.

      Thank you. This post was organic. It sort of came out.

  3. TheKirCorner

    Lance, this made me cry. It was written with so much honesty that I could almost “hear your voice” reading it to me.

    Life, love,laughter is really all we need…at least I think so 🙂

    thank you for this glimpse into your heart.

    • What a lovely thing to say K. Sitting next to my teenager on the couch and watching her laugh made me forget about problems her parents have right now. Thank you.

  4. Timely, Lance – great points — money is merely a tool to exchange for things we need and want. Needs and wants are balanced by the amount of money we have.

    Though we all need to make a living, none of us need to be millionaires to be happy.

    Health, happiness, friends can’t be bought.

  5. Eden said it all more eloquently than I could have, so I’ll just add that the raw honesty in this is compelling. Writing from the gut is the best stuff out there.

  6. You’re right – money means nothing . . . but, damn, would I spend a lot less time worrying about finding meaning in my life if I didn’t have any money issues.

    You certainly have your priorities straight (I actually wish I could go back two jobs . . . I left a job for monetary reasons, though the pay was hardly bad . . . and this current job, which I took because my last company was about to “go under,” is driving me to drink, which is really, really not good for me). Keep that in perspective — you have the stuff you “need” right with you — the rest can be figured out, even if it means that you have to sacrifice stuff you want.

  7. This was great. I can totally relate-I’m beyond broke, but for the first time in my life I’m independent and that gives me a satisfaction that I’ve never really experienced. And with that, even though I may not get to go shopping or go out or whatever it, I’m more than happy.

    This was beautifully written and it really warmed my heart. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Money means nothing is exactly right. Thank you. I wrote something for Band Back Together once about money and the lack thereof and everyone reminded me that money doesn’t matter, the love does. It may be a struggle to pay the bills, but we have what we need, a few things we want, and all the love in the world. Happiness means everything. Money means nothing.

  9. debseeman

    I’m always amazed that a writer can become a different writer when they write about something from their personal lives. This is from the depths of you and so completely honest. Perspective is always the key isn’t it?

    This sentence, “I ignored their grumbles, kneeled down, pressed my feet against the bottom of the door and asked for hope.” is awkward for me. Does it need to say “asked and hoped”? or drop the hope since you speak of it in the next sentence?

  10. I could not agree with you more! Money does not equal happiness. I had a great job, made good money, which combined with my husband’s salary meant we were livin the good life. But I was miserable. Because my job was so unfulfilling and all i wanted to do was write. So I quit, reducing our household income by almost half. I’ve never been happier.

  11. You know? That was such a great reminder. We all get sucked into the money trap on some level in our lives, even without divorce. There’s the whole keeping up with the Jones’s thing we may aspire to do even if we’re not aware of it. There’s so much fear and worry attached to the idea of money, of not having enough of it, and on and on…
    Powerful post, a great reminder for me. You are right. Money means nothing (other than food and shelter). Thanks for this.

  12. This post hits home with, I imagine, just about everyone whether you’ve come out the other end of a divorce, or not. Why do we buy so much ‘stuff?’ What is important in our lives? Family and a teenage daughter who ventures out of her room to watch tv with you, of course. We need far less than we think we do. Great post! I really enjoyed it. All that said, I hope it gets a little easier for you to pay those bills.

  13. Lance, if only your actions could be replicated by others in similar situations! To value family life, more than finances is almost unheard of today when money seems to be the driving force for everything. I applaud you for making that decision then, and understanding today the rightness of that choice.

  14. Gina

    I’ve got two things…”But I’m happy” and “My teenage daughter…stayed with us for three hours”. These are two huge things. Money might mean somethings but I know, for a fact, doesn’t always mean happiness.

  15. I like the sentiment expressed here about valuing what really matters and I like the details you used to make your point—the divorce proceeding, your daughter’s hanging with you ( I have a teen too-precious stuff). In the spirit of constructive criticism, I would just ask for more. I feel like your prose had me moving right along with you. i would have read another couple hundred words about this. It was an interesting aspect of divorce and decision-making. Your writing made the tough stuff go down easy—you can push it a little farther the next time. I don’t think i am alone in saying that i would keep reading. Erin

  16. Moving. So incredibly moving. And raw.
    You said you needed to see my post? I needed to see this today. I’m welling up here.:)
    “Money means nothing.” God, I hope so. I’m right there with you.

  17. First of all, this was really well written. I liked that it was so tight, so concise, with images that drew me in deeply, and without being redundant. I feel like I lived a little piece of your story.

    And then: What a bold decision! I’m glad you were able to shift your priorities in that moment and find real happiness. “Money means nothing.” That’s wisdom!

  18. mamamzungu

    Beautifully written as usual. I think we all (in some ways) strive to live that “money can’t buy you happiness” truism. But I think in some ways that only applies if you have enough of it to not be constantly stressed out by bills and obligations you can’t meet. That is unless you are a monk or a saint or something…

  19. runawaysentence

    i go away for one day and there’s already 38 comments on this thing, sheesh.
    just wanted to say yes. and yes. money problems galore, my glass is still and always half full.
    the beauty around me? whoa, that’s amazing. f**k money problems.
    also, i really appreciate that you cry real tears and tell everybody about it. that’s rare.

  20. divorce is so ridiculously ugly. and money, too. it’s nice to have to lessen the worry, but… with that comes more worry i bet.

    i love that you got a couple hours with the teen- and some stolen hugs and kisses. such a great dad!

  21. raisingivy

    Wonderful post. Sounds like you have true love and healthy children (so do I) and money is nothing compared to that. Keep writing; it will all work out.

  22. God, would it sound arrogant to say “I’m proud of you”? I hope you can hear it the way I mean it. You and your family are choosing ways to truly be together and present for yourselves, and it’s a wonderful thing. And because you have each other, and you are making these decisions together, it really will all be OK.

  23. SOOOO true!! Beyond the necessary items (food, clothing, shelter), money means nothing. I would so rather be happy than be rich. Which is good, because we are NOT rich, but we ARE happy.

  24. This is so powerfully written. I think the idea “money means nothing” is really about the choice you’ve made about what DOES matter, and that shines through here. It’s written in such a raw, honest way, and it’s truly a little glimpse into YOU.

  25. i keep making lists of things i want to buy my son, and then my husband comes home from work and he picks him up and dane lights up like a christmas tree and there’s nothing else we need. thanks for sharing this. -s

  26. I don’t know that money means nothing, but it certainly doesn’t mean everything. I also think that comfort (aka money at times) can breed complacency – and then you get people not relating and pilfering time and love and effort. It sounds like you’re where you should be. Sheesh – a hug and kiss from a teen? You’re rich, Lance!

  27. Lance, I loved this. I loved this because you’re absolutely right. And I loved it because you had the guts to say it then and now. Money troubles haunt us wherever we go…it’s important to remember what’s really important.

    Thanks for that reminder.

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