When in Doubt, Grab a Brown Umbrella

Rainy Day Waves – Curl Curl, New South Wales – Picture by John Calderwood 2012

Last Saturday afternoon, around the time that I was thinking about writing something for this blog about matching up plastic lids with plastic food containers and learning to relinquish control of ephemeral things I could suddenly feel a shift somewhere in the atmosphere.

My heart felt exactly like someone was sitting on it. It was a bit hard to breathe and I felt anxious.

All of this was a bit odd because earlier in the day I’d taught a yoga class and helped a bunch of women find their inner warrior queens by lifting up from a deep pudgy squat (malasana) into Bakasana. I bloody love arm balances – there is nothing finer than realising that by fighting fear, losing your balance and then finding equilibrium you can literally learn to fly (see below).

Teaching yoga feeds my soul and until that moment my soul was feeling round bellied and content. Then from somewhere I had this sense that something somewhere was being stirred up – the first leaves dancing in a strong breeze with a more muscular force behind it. That feeling I get just before a storm when my eyelashes feel like they may be burning was there.

It was an odd feeling but I get odd feelings every so often. Of late, when I get these and have no idea about what is going on I will do – absolutely nothing at all. I simply sit and wait to see what happens. As it turned out, I didn’t have long to wait.

Last night my family and I drove out to see our friend singer/songwriter Helen Perris perform in the Newsagency in Marrickville, Sydney. The Newsagency is a tiny little venue – a suburban shop strewn with paper lanterns and little plastic pre-school seats.

Helen Perris performing live at the Newsagency, Enmore Road, Marrickville: 16 June 2012

On the way to Helen’s gig my phone started dancing energetically in my bag. I thought about ignoring it. No one phones on a Saturday night unless it’s really important though right? So I answered it.

Have you received those emails?” It was my friend who owns the studio where I teach yoga.

Possibly, maybe, erm what emails?”

The shit has finally hit the fan, go look now“.

I was intrigued enough to sit and read backwards and forwards through a string of emails on an iPhone in a venue the size of my living room with 40 people around and about me.

Roughly the background to the emails is as follows:

Someone that I worked for last year didn’t pay me for quite a lot of the work that I did. Or more precisely that person put me on what is known here in Australia as the “the Drip” payment system.

Drip payers plead poverty and pay you just enough of your wages to keep you coming in to keep working for them in the hope that you will get all of your wages in due course. Of course in due course you never do.

In my case I gave up trying to get money back from this person when the amount owed to me reached over $5000. An excellent litigation lawyer in Melbourne kindly offered to try to help me get it back and sent a letter to the individual. The individual in turn got another lawyer to send me a letter back with several legal red herrings thrown in for good measure to ensure that I would spend more money chasing her. It was Christmas. I had not been paid for three months. I had no money to pay the rent let alone chase this person through the courts. So I sat and I did nothing. I was exhausted and disheartened and unwilling to throw any more money away.

I am still waiting for payment and so, allegedly, are at least 10 other people who worked for this person. A good proportion of the approximately $120,000 in wages this person owes in wages have, it would appear from the emails that I received been spent on the following items:

– get a professional hairdresser to attend the person’s home every Friday at cost of between $200.00 and $300.00 a week

– monthly visits to Sydney cosmetic surgeon Dr Van Park for skin resurfacing treatments and wrinkle reduction at an average cost of $850.00-$1450.00 per vist

– travel by taxis twice daily from Bondi Junction into the city and beyond at an average fare of $20.00-$50.00 per taxi ride.

– going out to eat/drink approximately 4-5 times per week at an average cost of $200.00 per night

– travel to and accommodation overseas every 10 weeks to New York, Bali (three times), Singapore and New Zealand.

In Glasgow one would employ a small shifty looking man with a nail gun to visit a person like this to suggest an immediate payment plan was anything but an option. In Australia it seems to be common business practice. This is the not the first employer who has not paid me wages and entitlements. Apparently in some US states in these people could be charged with the criminal offence of wage theft.

I realise that totally innocent victims are rare and that by trusting this person enough to keep working after having not been paid for a month and then two months and then three I allowed myself to override my better judgment and thereby to be taken advantage of. If I have one piece of advice to anyone who is reading this post it is: Know that you are worth it.

As Buddhists say: Thieves are sleepwalkers who steal from their own pockets.

So until the laws of karma redress the balance I am sitting waiting not so patiently to see what happens when all the shit that has just hit the fan finds a place to fall.

I am currently sitting quietly under a brown umbrella waiting for the flurry of slurry to land.

17 thoughts on “When in Doubt, Grab a Brown Umbrella

  1. All too common in Australia Megan – our family has also fallen victim to this twice. The trouble is, it’s good to trust, it’s nice to trust, it feels good to trust – and then suddenly that trust is betrayed and it’s hard to trust again. Really feel for you Megan. Replace the brown umbrella with a shiny silver one – you can shine on regardless.

  2. I’m curious, after reading the emails were you able to enjoy the night out?
    If you didn’t that person has stolen from you again!
    Isn’t there an ethics board that lawyers are governed by?
    you have my support and prayers for justice or at least a lottery win.

    • What a good way of looking at it Guess! Yes, I had a lovely time – my kids behaved beautifully and Helen put on a fabulous suite of songs. My person fave was her cover of Glory Box by Portishead. Check out her songs on her home pages. She’s fab 🙂

  3. First, what for a yoga position – I understand nothing about yoga, so forgive me if I’m not using the right words! It’s was amazing to see it, the strength and concentration!
    Second, it’s really bad to be stolen – and not only stolen, your time, your work expertise, the years that you prepared yourself to work properly (I mean, university, experience)… all mocked at, sorry to say that, but when a person like your ex boss does this, this is the word that comes to my mind – she mocked at people. She thought she was better than other people and wanted to shine – but going to surgeons to have a face lift or to a hairdresser, won’t change her character – it’s dirty, it’s bad.
    It was 5,000, but believe me, she will pay for that – if not with money, it’s her karma, as you said. I know it’s not what really matters – you worked for that money, you don’t want or need the payment through her karma – but at least you know you are worth it and she is not – and will never be.
    Yes, in the US it woudn’t be this way. I had no idea that it happened often in Australia.
    I really hpe you get the money, and soon!

    • Non-attachment takes practice Denise, this I am learning. Part of the development of non-attachment (to material things as well as people) is allowing the feelings that bubble up from the fear of loss and see what effect these have on your body and mind. It is easy to get angry when people steal from you or do not value you. Retribution is what most of us crave and/or restitution. When these things are not practical or possible we have to find other ways to deal with the hurt. Personally I love the story of Zen Buddhist poet Ryokan disturbed a robber who had broken in and was in the process of stealing his few possessions. In the thief’s haste to leave, he left behind a cushion. Ryokan grabbed the cushion and ran after the thief to give it to him. From this experience Ryokan to compose one of his best known poems:

      The thief left it behind:
      the moon
      at my window.

      • That is an interesting concept, development of non-attachment. The thought that crosses my mind is….if successful in obtaining this state, would it not affect those around the one who attains it. Fox example an appearance of aloofness or a lack of emotion. This may give rise to others totally losing the one, whose emotional spontaneity attracted them in the first instance. As individuals we are unique, our emotional traits make us who we are.

        Am I going to deep? It maybe better to detach from material things only, as they exhibit nothing in return. However personal attachment, within reason, teaches others empathy and compassion and influences others to respond appropriately.

        We love you Megan the way you are. It is natural to hate and despise evil doers and takes a concerted effort to see through their short comings and even have pity for what they lack. They are the ones who lack personal attachment and we are the ones who hopefully show them up with our generosity and forgiveness. I personally will probably never get there but I know I can at least aim for it! 🙂

        Feel free to lecture me if I am on the wrong path as I like your accent.

      • The Dalai Lama puts it better than I could ever do so Guess when he says: “Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.”

        Over-attachment can be seen when we believe that people and things will provide us with more happiness and satisfaction than they really can.

        We are the authors of our own happiness. Material things and other people cannot make up for a contentment deficit. You cannot truly love someone if you rely on them for your sense of self-worth.

        Non-attachment does not encourage us to be aloof, in fact it encourages to observe and to be more present in our relationships.

  4. Megan – you have summed it up for all of us. God bless you!!!! I feel I have been part of a 60 Minutes episode some days – lived to tell the tale after being part of a cult!! I can’t believe how blinded I was but I do believe in “what goes around comes around”.

    • Miss Leanne – you and the others who have experienced the same are all talented teachers. I think we have to take the view that we received a good training and move on. That said, it would hurt my heart to think of more teachers unknowingly put themselves in the same position.

      • Megan – I just wanted to let you know that I did save one young twenty-something from falling into the same trap we did. She was devastated to learn that what she had been promised would not be delivered but luckily at the time I found out she had not invested any money or too much of her time. She has just come back from a wonderful overseas trip, with a bit more experience and although still wants to pursue Pilates teaching is now more aware of who and what is out there!!

  5. Now I understand your silence better. Will you understand if, should I live to be very old, I do the final pilgrimage, where I give up everything, wander and rely on the kindness of strangers?

  6. I am seriously considering doing sannyasi, but would use my pension rather than depend on begging. I need to start preparing.

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