Category Archives: Dealing With Stress

My Life on The Titanic

Someone once stated, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” For the most part, I’d agree. I have my own statement about fear, “Fear never made a good decision.” Today, as I faced my first of 33 sessions of radiation, I wonder if facing the unknown isn’t also a valid enough cause for fear. By unknown, I don’t mean the unknown where the possible risks or consequences are relatively minor. I’m talking about the high stakes unknown where the risks are great and the consequences unknown or potentially damaging, lasting, or life threatening.

My life is a convergence of unknowns right now. This creates a great deal of stress for me. Stress is not good for our health and even more so with those dealing with cancer or pre-cancer.  I liken my life to a vessel like the Titanic, which is large and carries the responsibility for the lives and futures of many. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to have my cake and eat it too, whenever possible. I like everyone to be able to do their life and attend all their events. With five or six schedules to deal with, this can be a challenge. I find that if I know in advance, I can usually plan things or get the needed help or money in order to make it all happen. As long as I know far enough in advance, I can maneuver around the icebergs in life and make sure it is smooth sailing for everyone.

When navigating icy seas at night, charting a course that is mostly unknown is, to me, terrifying in many ways. Of course, not many are gifted in seeing the future. This unknown is always with us, and for the most part, I don’t worry a bit about it. But today, lying in that treatment room, both arms frozen over my head, alone, with only the buzzing, clicking and spinning of a very large, intimidating, flat-faced one-eyed machine to keep me company, I felt my first really strong emotions since this whole breast cancer journey started. it wasn’t panic, but it was something close. It wasn’t fear, but it was something close to fear. There was great sadness there, too, along with wonder and a substantial dose of gratitude, which is always part of my emotional palette.  Maybe it was just the fact that I was tied down in a room with a very large and intimidating machine that seemed to move of its own volition that spooked me.

The radiation treatment took barely 25 minutes from the time I walked in the building to the time I walked out. I feel nothing…yet. More blue ink drawn on me to ruin my clothing and, with no great fanfare, I’m off to a day of making life smooth for everyone; dodging icebergs along the way and retorting as needed.

But I’m scared.

What if I have made and am making devastating choices with irreversible consequences?

What if the results of these decisions, intended to make the sailing through life smoother for us all, actually make things worse?

And…the question that plagues me and can really make me crazy if I let it…what if…instead of getting better, things don’t ever get better…or they get worse?

Then of course, there are other unknowns, more practical ones.

What is my schedule for radiation treatment going to be?  Will I need to take more time off?  How will my body respond?  Will I be able to continue work without having to take any time off?  My last treatment is scheduled to be June 5.  That is three days before the last day of school. How will this impact the rest of the school year?  How long will the effects of radiation last and how will that impact my summer?

Then, there are issues about the school district discovering my recent move and insisting I complete an inter-district transfer, since my new address is out of the district where my two older children attend school.  This gets tricky because it means both districts must approve the request.  If they do not, then I have a daughter, who within seven weeks of graduation will have to face finishing her senior year at another high school.  Now, I can’t imagine any school district official being so evil as to insist that this happen, but budgets being what they are, school districts are less likely to grant transfers than they have in the past.  I will also have a son, who at the end of his sophomore year, will have to attend high school where they have none of the activities that he is currently involved in.

On a side note, you might wonder why I moved if the high school in the district I was moving to was inadequate.  The move was a good one, for my youngest.  The entire family, even the high-schoolers were, and still are, in favor of moving to where we moved.  I just didn’t imagine the transfer issue would be a big deal.  I’m now hearing that it could be. I don’t yet know. I filled out the paperwork and we will just have to wait and see.  It’s an iceberg I can’t exactly dodge or move right now.  I’m kind of hope it’s a mirage and it will evaporate as I approach.

Then there is the added stress of the Evil Ex seeking a modification of the child support. The unknowns here were more frightening until I met with my attorney this afternoon.  I had to part with $150 hard earned dollars, but it was money well spent and good information I received. She was able to paint a picture of the worst likely scenario (bad, but not intolerable).  She was also able to paint a realistic picture of what was likely to happen.  This helps me chart the course through the iceberg strewn sea of Post-Divorce Dealings With The Evil Ex.

In other posts, I’ve mentioned the financial iceberg that creates stress as it slides along the ship that is our family.  I worry that any day now an edge will puncture us and we will sink.  For now, we remain afloat.

The icebergs continue to converge with no relief.  One after another appears out of the fog of unknown possibilities and they are all frightening in their own way.  I can’t do anything about them right now…I can’t even see them clearly enough to know which direction to turn the ship.  All I can do is survive today.  And after today, tomorrow.  And after tomorrow, the next day.  I hope that, by so doing, I will eventually find that I have successfully maneuvered my way through the icy currents I’m experiencing to warmer, more pleasant waters.

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The Biggest April Fool

The weather this month, so far, is stormy. I’m not necessarily talking about real thunder and lightning. The pressures are mounting. It happens that way, doesn’t it? Life goes from almost complete routine and uneventful to overload. I’m at overload on steroids. I’m tired but can’t sleep and that’s the toughest part of all.

I think the biggest April Fool was me this year for a number of big reasons, but for one little one…agreeing to allow myself to take on the challenge of blogging every day for a month; particularly this month.

When will I learn?

Fear & Finances; Bankrupt But Wealthy

The days, months and the first few years immediately following my second divorce were, as I look back on it now, terrifying. To be honest, they were nothing compared to the angst and trauma I endured before deciding to seek a divorce from the nightmare that was my second marriage. I was terrified that I would not be able to survive on my own. I was even more concerned because I was responsible for four children, two dogs, a big mortgage on a small shack, a car payment, and student loans.

I soon learned that I did, indeed, have much to be frightened of. I didn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, have anything scary enough to keep me in that marriage as long as my fear kept me there. I should have gotten out earlier. Looking back, there are a number of things, I should have done differently. Isn’t that the way it is with life? We look back thinking what we should have done differently, but we look back with different eyes than the ones we viewed the situation with in the first place. We look back, older and wiser, hopefully, because we learned from the experience.

I remember agonizing over finances. The ex was irresponsible with money, and, among other things, routinely overdrafted the checking account we used to pay bills. This became a downward financial spiral of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Add to this, the fact that he was hard on things. For example, cars he owned somehow always wore out quickly due to negligence and abuse thus requiring costly repairs. He was just as careless when it came to our home. By the time the marriage ended, I was over my head in debts I could not on my own salary pay, and living in a house which had been damaged by his misguided attempts to “improve” it. I bought a house that was a fairly nice ranch home in a quiet neighborhood. Three years later, you almost wouldn’t recognize the place. It looked like something out of hoarders. It was one disastrous unfinished project after another. I was left to dealt with the debt and clean up the mess.

All of this went down in 2007, and by the time my divorce was final, I was also upside down in a house that I’d never have the capital or cash flow to improve, let alone sell for what I still owed. I should have called uncle then. Instead, I went on a debt repayment plan and for the following six years I struggled to pay off debt, had no credit, no savings and more bills to pay than income coming in. I also had four very hungry children, and because my income was $50 over the guidelines, my children couldn’t qualify for free and reduced meals or any other assistance. I was awake many a night wondering which food pantry or church I could hit up next.

During this time, I also experienced blown engines on three cars (obviously not all owned by me at the same time), a failed rear-differential that dropped right out of the vehicle as I was pulling a load of firewood gleaned from a friend’s property. Of course, there were also the normal maintenance repairs and things that come up. I remember being so destitute that when gas went up to well over $4 a gallon a few years ago, we ended up walking to the store. Were it not for the assistance of friends and the kindness of strangers, I would not have survived those years. (Note: I didn’t mention the help of family members…that’s because there was none, though my first ex and his wife were angels to me on numerous occasions.) I should have walked away from it all early, applied the financial atomic bomb of Chapter 7, and then moved on.

Six years later, I’m finally getting a clue. That bomb has been set to detonate and I look back now and wonder, what was I so afraid of and why didn’t I do that much earlier?

I fought to keep my home, now I’m surrendering it. Here’s the kicker, I moved into a place that is much larger and newer than that house, has all the modern amenities (the house needed updating in the worst way), and costs less than half the house payment. I thought that I’d be hit hard with taxes this year due to not being able to use the house as a write off, but because of having a child in college, it turns out I’m getting money back. And I have to wonder why didn’t I do this earlier? Why did I try to stick that nightmare out?

You could say that if I’d known better I would have made different choices. I don’t think that’s true. I knew better about the bankruptcy. I had good information about the pros and cons. I still hung on trying to repay debt that both was not mine and which I wouldn’t be able to repay in three more lifetimes at the rate I was going. I think the real thing holding me back all that time was fear. I was afraid of the stigma of having a bankruptcy on my record. I was so worried about what it would do to my FICO score. I was worried that I wouldn’t survive.

I ask myself why I didn’t do all this earlier? Sometimes I can beat myself up about it because, after all, I’m six years older and as you get older you begin to realize that both time and money are precious commodities, but time is more valuable. I forget, that I’m looking back with different eyes than the ones I viewed the situation with first. My eyes now see that in this economy, these days, sometimes bankruptcy is not only the only option, it’s a very smart financial move. My eyes now see that if you live on a cash only basis, you don’t need to be ruled by the FICO. More than anything my wiser vision recognizes the strength and courage born of enduring. I know I will survive.

Sure, there will probably be things that come up down the road that terrify me (the second ex seeking a modification in the child support order comes to mind as it seems to portend a costly and futile legal battle). I also know that there are certain things that just won’t ever scare me again. Things do always have a way of working out, they aren’t always disastrous, and somehow I will survive. I’m wealthy in ways that can’t be measured in currency.

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