The topic of food and money—and all the rich insights that can come along with exploring the emotions surrounding them—spring to life when the bestselling author returns to Bookshop Santa Cruz
If anybody could sink their creative teeth into the topic of food and money, it’s Geneen Roth. In her bestselling book “Women Food and God,” the author, and former Santa Cruzan, boldly explored the notion that the relationship people have with food is a direct correlation to their relationship with “God” (Spirituality). Delicious, sure, so imagine what’s in store in her latest endeavor “Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money.” Here, Roth dives into the idea that the emotional issues individuals have with money mirror those they have with food and, often, dieting.
Yummy. (Grab a napkin—maybe a tissue—pull up a chair, and stay a while.)
“Lost and Found” is a compelling, thought-provoking read, from beginning to end, but it’s curious to note that the entire project—and Roth’s fascinating internal exploration, for that matter—may have never come to pass in such a unique way, had it not been for one man: Bernie Madoff.
Like countless others, Roth and her husband lost their retirement savings—30 years’ worth—when charges of Madoff’s $65 billion-dollar Ponzi scheme finally came to light several years ago. But even when the financial rug had suddenly been ripped out from under her feet, Roth—shaken, unsure about the future—surprisingly found solace in the perceived emptiness. While the dust settled, she used the experience to begin identifying her own unconscious choices surrounding money. She even took it a step further. She began connecting some dots. What was really behind, say, bingeing and splurging? Or, using money as a substitute for love? And … “checking out” when it came to fully understanding where the money really went after it left her hands?
Roth’s rich internal inquiries lift “Lost and Found” to intriguing creative heights. It’s one thing to have insights, quite another to be able to share those insights effectively, and in a way that engages readers to also look within themselves—and not kick and scream about having to do that. Self-inquiry as an act of fun and curiosity? Imagine that. But Roth does all of that to winning ends here and comes out the other side solidifying herself as one of the most refreshing voices in publishing today.
In an interview with GT, the author discusses her fascinating journey and why there always seems to be a bounty of revelations waiting to be had on the food and mone trail.
GOOD TIMES: YOUR OTHER BOOKS EXPLORED FOOD AND EMOTIONS (AND MORE), SO HOW DIFFERENT WAS THIS FOR YOU TO CREATE?
GENEEN ROTH: It was a very different process for me. ‘Women Food and God’ was more about distilling what I’ve been working on for 30 years and finding fresh and new ways to speak about it. With ‘Women Food and God’ I was making the connection with spirituality much more explicit than I made it in the past—to make explicit what had been implicit; say things, write things, find ways to express concepts and feelings that I had been working with for quite a long time. With money, it was a completely different thing. I had never written about this before and it was a revelation for me. It really was. The whole discovery of the subject, seeing the parallels between food and money; coming upon my own lack of awareness about it—that was pretty shocking. And it was all thrilling—from the get-go.
SO, WHERE ARE WE, TODAY, AS A CULTURE? WHAT DO WE NEED TO understand ABOUT OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MONEY?
I think the main thing is to actually be interested in it. I just got an email from somebody that basically said they were ‘going along acting as if money is just a foreign country I may visit someday, but until then, it’s just a place where everybody speaks a different language and eats yucky food.’ (Laughs) And I think that’s how most people see money. They feel like it’s this foreign land that’s too complicated to understand; too challenging to be interested in.
Because money is so tied up with survival and at the same time, we’ve got so many impressions made from our childhood that have to do with conflict, confusion, shame, fear, scarcity. That’s enough right there. Then you take all that you’ve learned about money from your childhood, whoever it was you grew up with and how they interact with money—that saying that people have about money … “it doesn’t grow on trees” or for women, “it’s just as easy to marry a rich man as it is a poor man,” or things like … “money flies in the window, flies out the door.” So many things like that. So we already had that coming into this economic atmosphere that is fraught with complications and fear, and we see the people in charge with money just acting and talking in words that are so complicated that you need a special dictionary just to understand them. So … who wants to?
HOW ARE YOU NOW, AFTER WRITING THE BOOK AND THE MADOFF EXPERIENCE? WHERE ARE YOU TODAY WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO MONEY?
I’ll tell you where it is and where it could be for other people as well. I think what happened because of the Madoff debacle—because it was so shocking and so devastating—I had nothing left to lose when I wrote the book. So I could afford to be, so to speak, interested, in how I got in such an extreme position. And it was extreme. We didn’t know how we were going to live. There was something utterly shocking about all that—terrorizing about that—but also something completely refreshing about it. Because it put me back into a place of “beginner’s mind.” After I got through the initial couple of days of fear and regret and shame and self loathing, it put me into a place of being curious and interested and really wanting to see. And I think this is what people don’t allow themselves to do—just being interested. It’s never about the money. It’s about the relationship to yourself and your own mind.
YOU TALK ABOUT THAT IN THE BOOK.
Yes. How … on stage—like a theatrical stage—of your life is a relationship with food; another is a relationship with money. That’s how we act out these internal beliefs and feelings and convictions. Another way is through your relationship, another is work. We’ve got all these different theatrical stages that we act out these things, and we think they’re about the “thing.” So I saw quickly that it wasn’t about money. It was about my desire to remain unconscious; the way that I put myself down; deep feelings about myself—shame that I had about myself … that was there in my relationship with food that I had dealt with enough so that they weren’t coming out through that relationship, but they were through money. And so, I became interested in exploring those; really exploring in the same way I had begun exploring what was going on with me and my relationship to food.
The belief that I had … the convictions I had about myself and life; what I was allowed to have, not allowed to have; what I was getting in trouble for having; what I needed to pretend about what I didn’t have; what I needed to lie about; the trance of depravation that I seemed to be in, even that I had dealt with that around food … I was still doing it with money. I was still feeling like there wasn’t enough. I was one of the people that didn’t feel I had enough and completely ignoring what I had, which is what people do with the food on their plate. They are always focused on the one bite that’s to come, instead of the bite that is in their mouth—the things that they are not allowed to eat; not the things that they are allowed to eat. So we live in a trance of depravation.
SO, IS THE TRICK, THEN, TO TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF?
I think it’s to really become interested and be willing to explore those areas in which you become conflicted and ashamed or afraid or confused. And to know, like food, there are so many parallels; but that those things are the very doorways … to a sense of standing in your own shoes; occupying and inhabiting the space, the life you’ve been given … that most of us don’t occupy because we are driven by these beliefs, convictions and feelings that we don’t even know we have. I think what most people don’t do about money is that they don’t connect the dots. They don’t think that money actually costs them something to make. And so, they don’t follow the trail of energy … that if it costs me to make money and I just blow it on something, or I give it to somebody else to invest, like I did, it’s basically like disavowing the energy that is my life; what it costs me to make that money—the love that I put into the work that I do. I make that money and throw it away—give it to somebody else and not realize what I was doing was disavowing, what it cost me, and not seeing that how I invested it was something I could be interested in and have more control over? Like with food, I didn’t see the connection for so long about what I put in my mouth and what it had done to my body.
Geneen Roth will speak about, and sign copies of, her book, “Lost and Found” at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 28 at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Please note: Prioritized seating and signing vouchers are now available with the pre-purchase of “Lost and Found.” This is a free event, open to the public. Standing room, as well as limited open seating, will be available. For more information, visit bookshopsantacruz.com or geneenroth.com.