Monday, August 16, 2010

Money Monday: August 16, 2010

I know, blast from the past, right?! It is consistently amazing to me just how much this contract has thrown a wrench into my (so-called) normal life. From getting the bathrooms clean to making a budget to writing regular blog posts (ahem), it feels as though there is always something I didn't do because I was doing something else because there are only so many hours in a day, dammit, and furthermore why is everybody always picking on me IT'S NOT FAIR WAAAAAAH!.

Oops. Sorry. Still in the "post-vacation why am I expected to know everything get OFF me and NO, I don't know where Precious McCantSleepWithout'Em Puppy got to…" mode.

Anyway…until relatively late last night (relative to when the alarm was going off this morning, anyway), I was paying bills. Because my life? One big old never-ending rollercoaster of awesome, that's right.

I found myself contemplating just how far out of whack things have gotten since I started this contract. If I had been this disorganized before I started back to work, I'm pretty sure we would have ended up in an even sorrier way than we did – I don't think I'm exaggerating much when I say I think we might actually have found ourselves staring down the foreclosure barrel without so much as a dime for our own cannon.

I've been stuck in "reaction" mode for nine months now; stuck in the dreaded maelstrom of stimulus-response-stimulus-response.

It's hard to find a calm place to think, a moment of time away from "everything" to regroup and plan…and it feels as though it wouldn't matter even if I did, because right now Life is just plain out to get me.

Oh, did I just squeeze 10% of my paycheck aside into savings like I planned? HA HA! Welcome to a leaking water heater, splish-splash all over the garage! Warranty? Suuuuuure, it's under warranty, and you can choose one of the following two free water heaters: Ten gallons smaller with a lesser warranty than the original, or ten gallons bigger with the same warranty…great! Oh, did we forget to mention that you'll need a bunch of work done to install the bigger one, and that the labor for same is not under warranty?

…sorry, our bad...

And of course, when am I trying to sit down and do this stuff? In the evening! When there are children!

It's like trying to work on your Mozart flute solo in a kennel specializing in the rehabilitation of abused terriers.

Seriously. It is.

Life right now is more about surviving than about living. It's about getting through another day, another week, another dinner, another trip to the mall for whatever fool thing somebody forgot to tell me they needed (or I forgot they told me, or I lost the slip of paper informing me of said need, or, well, whatever).

This, of course, is nothing noteworthy. This is not a unique situation that only I get to endure; it's not my personal and exclusive cross to bear, something nobody else in the whole entire world could possibly understand.

This is just how life is, sometimes. Sometimes it's mellow and easy-going and we can take on all kinds of special projects. Sometimes, it's all wild and crazy and we don't have time for a danged potty break, let alone a nice long stretch of "me time" to regroup and reorganize and reprioritize and get our @*^@ together.

As things stand at this precise moment, I have another six months to go on this contract. That's very good, because I haven't made nearly the headway on debts and savings that I would like – the money has evaporated as fast as it has come in.

It has a way of doing that, if you're not staying 110% on top of it.

So I was having this conversation with myself where I was basically calling myself on the carpet for the lack of progress toward clearly established goals.

At first, I was really defensive. Show me what I did that was 'bad', I groused. I defied myself to come up with anything I had bought that wasn't necessary.

But coming on the heels of our camping trip, during which I had spent a considerable amount of time pondering the differences between the way I used to camp and, well, this…well.

Back in the day, I actually didn't camp at all – I was a backpacker. It's a whole different reality. You look at every single thing you might bring and you ask yourself a simple question: How am I going to feel about this wonderful whatnot when I'm five miles into my hike? Ten? Twenty? How about on day 3, when we're still three miles from the summit and oh by the way, it's another four days before we get back to the cars?

You start downgrading things pretty fast. What is "vital" and what is "nice to have" begin to veer sharply away from each other.

I seldom brought a flashlight. I used a rock to hammer in tent spikes, if I brought a tent at all which was not a given. I brought almost no clothes with me, and certainly not anything that was merely for sleeping in.

My jeans were warmer anyway.

But when we were camping ten feet from Homer the Odyssey…well. We brought soooooo much crap with us. Seemed like we had fifteen flashlights. We did have seven sleeping bags. {pauses to count on fingers} Yeah, there's still only six of us.

We brought two tents: One that sleeps nine, and one that sleeps (technically, although they'd better be really good friends) four. We needed them! In case!

And we brought enough food to feed about fifty people for a month. And way too many clothes. And lanterns and flashlights and games and decks of cards and tarps and door mats and sleeping pads.

You would have thought we were going camping for six months in the wilderness, y'all.

I found myself thinking about that as I was shaking my head over where the money went these last nine months, looking for where I shoulda/coulda/woulda done things differently.

Apart from a few (dozen) too many pizza nights, I couldn't really point out anything that wasn't "needed"…until I started asking myself whether I would have taken them on a fifty mile roundtrip peak-bagging backpacking trip.


Wants and needs aren't really that complicated. We tend to put a lot of stuff on the "need" list that really doesn't belong there. We say we can't live without our iPhone, or our cable television, or our organic clover-honey mead…and sometimes we know we're wrong about that, but I suspect more and more we don't understand that.

We really do think we will curl up and physically die if we don't have these very specific things that mankind somehow managed to stagger around without for generation upon generation.

How they ever got anywhere without a phone that could guide them via GPS is beyond me…but they did. Even sailed right out to sea and somehow got to whole new continents, while we can't get to the local dry cleaners without that steadying voice telling us, "…in 500 feet, turn LEFT…"

I want to accomplish two things in the coming month.

The first is, I want to get back on top of things. I want to regain control of where our money is going, instead of constantly and passively allowing whatever crisis has arisen to decide where it's going to go. Yeah, I'm tired and I don't have time and I don’t feel like it and wah wah wah…but at the same time, I'm not a danged twig caught up in a river here. I'm a full-grown woman (allegedly), with an oar and a compass and dog-dang it, I know how to row.

The second is, I want to clamp down on the spending, reevaluate these "needs" we seem to think are vital to our survival, and make sure we're not losing sight of where we want to go…which is a long of way of saying, I'm going to institute a spending fast. I don't care what it is or who thinks they will D-I-EEEEEEEEE without it (and Tama, I am looking at you right now, madam if-I-don't-get-a-netbook-I-will-no-really-physically-D-I-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E-E), the answer is no.

Unless of course you really will curl up and die.

All you have to do is prove it, and whatever it is, I'll get it for you. Go ahead. Prove that without coffee, you will actually, physically die…I'm waiting…go ahead…prove it…

(ohmygah, I'm going to die doing this, aren't I…)

(no-no, think positive…I have tons of coffee in the Den right now, it's ooooookay, we can get through a month of this…)


pharmerboy said...

Tama, you remain one of my biggest sources of inspiration for keeping my long-term goals in the crosshairs. Thanks! Your reward is today's User Friendly comic strip (currently being guest-written, but funny, still.)


Today's verification word: mutivers. Which makes me think of the Multiverse that undoubtedly channels all that extra energy you use to get stuff done.

Rena said...

sounds good, only one thing I'd add: be kind to yourself. You really are doing the best you can with enormous demands, so pat yourself on the back a little for hard work accomplished, then gently steer yourself back on track. (Just a friendly reminder from a sister who loves you)

PipneyJane said...

Phew - sounds like your marathon is turning into a 26 mile sprint to the finish. Just keep plodding away, one day and one step at a time, and you'll be the winner.

Regarding trips to the mall for stray items: I remember you saying once-upon-a-time that, when you get home in the evening, you put your planner on the secretary in the (?)hall, open it to check what's on the to-do list, etc. Would it be possible to keep a pad at that spot and train the denizens to write down whatever it is they need for your next trip to the mall? (On the basis that if it's not on the list, Mommy won't buy it ever.)

- Pam

My word verification is harain which makes me think of harangue. Don't beat yourself up - you're doing wonders.

Betty Catherine said...

Just wondered -- how many kids were you taking when you were backpacking?

RobinH said...

Hmm. I might very well die without coffee- it's the difference between staying awake at o'dark'hundred with not enough sleep behind the wheel and not. OTOH, I am perfectly willing to drink store brand instant...because who tastes anything at that hour anyway?

Anonymous said...

You are my hero for staying on track and reminding me of the difference between want and need. Quit beating yourself up, and just go forward from here. There are quite a few of us out here in cyber space who are rooting for you.
Nancy FP

Science PhD Mom said...

Perspective is everything. I'm glad you aren't beating yourself up about your time in the trenches under heavy fire from the money munitions. Eventually the fire ceases (however temporarily) and then you can take stock and reassess, as you have done. Keep plodding along, eventually the war will be won!

JustGail said...

Don't beat youself up for things that aren't in your control. It does nothing to help re-take the wheel (let's keep with the water theme you started). Like you said, deep breath and start paddling again.

my word is mistabin. This year mistabin a heck of a ride so far, hopefully it has a better finish.