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Surviving Difficulty in 20 Not-So-Easy Steps

Yes, I’ve bemoaned my pitiful luck this month here on several occasions.

No, this is not going to be another down-in-the-mouth, woe-is-me bitch session.

I’m actually going to be positive for a change and since I have only small change, I guess that’s a good thing.

I’ve bemoaned my financial fate of late and poured out my misery as to how deplorable and desperate I really am…economically…right now.

I’d like to make the following observations of the data of my financial life this month:

1. I began the month by ending last month in the negative numbers…oh…about $300. (This is NOT normal for me…at least not since those first few months after leaving The Evil Ex.)

2.  At the end of last month, in addition to the negative bank balance, I had to post-date two checks to my mechanic one for last month and one for May for the water pump that broke.

3. I am still trying to pay off utility bills for the rental unit (aka, my old house that I am walking away from).

4. I started my month with about $200 to pay over a thousand dollars worth of bills.  (That was after I paid some of the other bills first.  I don’t just have a $1,000 overhead.)

5. I was looking forward to a $3300 tax return, the first in 5 years, which would have been a nice windfall, allowing me to get caught up and all and I was required to turn this over to the bankruptcy court trustee.  Thanks to Ms. Trustee, I was allowed to keep the money I received from my partial rent payment I recieved.

6. I put everything possible up for sale on Craigslist.

7. I did have to write one post-dated check to The Good Ex for a hundred bucks to get through this week after the cat started oozing mysterious pus last Friday night. (Please, do not tell me I should have let the poor cat die.)

8. I sold nearly everything I put up on sale, except the stupid juicer, and paid all but two bills, small ones, which I will double pay tomorrow because it is payday in exactly 10 minutes.  At midnight that paycheck will dump in and I can start over for another month. The bills were the water and garbage and I’m writing the checks now for double the amounts.

9. I just checked my bank balances.  I have exactly $7.49. 83 cents of that is my savings.

10.  I have no credit cards.

11.  I have 83 cents in savings.

12. I am NOT overdrawn, in spite of this nightmare of a month.

13. Someone just called about a coffee table I had advertised on Craigslist.  20 minutes after answering that call, I now have $27.49 to my name.

14. I still have a $200 post-dated check that my mechanic will cash on the first and a $100 check that The Good Ex will cash tomorrow coming out of tomorrow’s paycheck, but…

15. I’m not overdrawn!!!!!!!!

This, in and of itself, is a huge step forward for me financially. It is small, but very definite, progress.

16.  I have not had an unexpected car repair this month…and I won’t because the car is parked and I’m not going anywhere tonight.  If it breaks down tomorrow that will come out of next month’s pay.  Let’s hope it does not break down.

17.  I had to pay $150 to an attorney last week on top of having to pay bills, put gas in two large gas-sucking vehicles, and feed a family of five, two of whom are teenagers.

18.  I got all my paper work in to the District Attorney’s office in response to The Evil Ex’s request to review the child support order. I feel better now.

19. I made a decision about what to do about the tenants in my house. I’m terminating the agreement, because I can.  The money and the stress are not worth it.  I feel even better now.

20.  I paid my bills, didn’t go into the red again, and I survived this month.

April 2012 was, by far, the most financially stressful month I’ve had in four years and I made it.

I can, for the first time all month, breathe deep, relax…and feel very, very good about being very, very strong.  Lesser people would’ve slit their wrists or swung from rafters if they faced my difficulties. (They do this because they have life insurance.  I do not have life insurance because I cannot afford it…yet.)

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.

Craigslist To The Rescue

They say money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s been said that money isn’t everything. I would agree. Happiness has to come from within and there are things far more important in life than one’s net worth. In the movie, Becoming Jane Reverend Austen makes a much more accurate statement:

Nothing destroys spirit like poverty.

I have to agree. Money isn’t everything until you don’t have any of it. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but I’d rather be crying in my mansion with the Lamborghini in the garage as I’m packing for a shopping excursion in Europe.

I’m sick of always scraping by. I’m tired of alternating which bills I pay this month in order to catch up on the bills I didn’t get paid last month. I’m still really unhappy that I had to turn over my tax return. I’m certain my bankruptcy attorney could have communicated and timed things a bit better so that things didn’t go the way they did; costing me even more money than I had and requiring me to forfeit what I had coming in tax returns.

My divorce attorney got back with me about dealing with the child support review. It is going to cost $150 for an hour, which isn’t bad, and my attorney is definitely worth all that. It’s just that I don’t have the money. I’m tired of not having the money.

I scraped together the money, this time without having to dig into the family grocery and gas money. I did what I have done for a while now: when things get tight, I sell something on Craigslist. I was fortunate this time, in that I actually had a few things I could get rid of. So far, it all added up to $170, just a little more than I needed for the attorney. That definitely helps. I’m just weary with having to operate like this. Pretty soon, I’m not going to have anything left to sell on Craigslist. Then what?

Hopefully, by then, I will have this little season of difficulty behind me. The Hesitant Boyfriend is actually working and making some decent money. Even though it is only for a few months and he won’t see any of it until next month, it will help. Things will get better. I hope.

The Judge Can’t Change An Evil Ex

Well, without disclosing too much, I think it is safe to say that the EE is back to pushing buttons again.  This time he is using the daughter as a pawn.  Instead of following the parenting plan, he arbitrarily took advantage of some vagueness in the language of the parenting plan and decided without discussing things in advance and without any warning to keep my daughter instead of bringing her home as stipulated. Now, I could have called the authorities and had them enforce the thing, but I’ve been part of that nightmare, and have seen the damage done to a child when a parent puts the child in the middle like this.  I decided to meet with my attorney instead.

Now, I don’t have a problem with him wanting to spend time with her or her him.  I have a real problem with the very selfish and inconsiderate manner in which he did this.  Instead of discussing it in advance and planning ahead, he takes her, keeps her and by so doing completely thwarts any plans or life I might have going on at this end. Of course, what can I expect from a man who, when we were married, would intentionally pack up our one vehicle with all the kids and take off just moments before I was going to head out the door to do something that I’d put on the family calendar weeks in advance.  Or who would make plans a month ahead for a particular holiday, requiring me to orchestrate a major adjustment in my children’s schedules and then completely do something totally different and unexpected (read usually something we had no desire to do and which cost me money, because he certainly wasn’t bringing anything into the family coffers).  I could go on, but to do so would only make me feel really unhappy, and really foolish for ever having married the guy in the first place.  He really is an ass-wipe is all I can say.  He is an evil and unkind and, yes, abusive man. And he is really, really good at making people around him think he is wonderful.  He’s not.  He’s really icky.

I say all that to say, that after spending some good money for a consultation with a very excellent attorney, I found that there is really not a whole lot I can do unless I want to spend a great deal of money for next to no results.  Well, essentially, no results.  My attorney thought that as it turned out, there is some vague language in our plan and I might want to go back and deal with that.  However, the downside to this is that he, then brings to the table all the stuff he wants to fix.  We won’t agree.  (We never have and he lies, so even if we did agree, it wouldn’t matter.  He does what he wants to do and the rules just don’t apply to him.) So the thing will end up in front of a judge.  Now, I’m reasonably certain that I won’t lose out much except financially if that happens.  As my attorney stated, “You really can’t change your ex.  If it goes before the judge, what can he really do?  He’s not going to change your ex to keep him from being the jerk to you that he is.  So, if you can let some of this roll, as long as she’s not in imminent physical danger, you might get more mileage out of just not fighting back. And…if it were to go to court, you’d end up with a plan that isn’t a whole lot better than what you have now and might even be a great deal worse.”  So, my decision is to be the adult here and walk away.

I have no idea how long he’ll keep her.  He mentioned until Saturday.  However, I have a deep and growing dread that Friday night, he will bail out of town to the coast and I won’t see my daughter at all during Spring Break.  In anticipation of just this, I asked my attorney about it.  The response?  I could call the cops…or I could let it go.  (The court in this area really hates when people get into the calling the authorities thing.) If he doesn’t return her to school then I call.  If he just keeps her for two weeks at Spring Break, I just write the extra week back into the summer schedule, somewhere.

I have 7 years left until my daughter is 18.  If I can hang in there taking his low-grade button-pushing power-playing BS until then I’m golden and that’s what I’m going to try to do. It is unfortunate that he is unable to negotiate anything.  It’s his way or the highway, which means I will always lose out and he will always push the envelope to get things his way, but when it comes to being flexible or considerate of my schedule…it’s not a two way street at all.  He’s working her now, though, to come live with him as soon as she wants.  Of course, I’m the sole legal and physical custodian, so he’s going to have a huge lawsuit getting that to change and he won’t be successful, however, he’s working her and playing every angle.  This is just part of that.

It really hurts.

I can’t do anything about any of it.

He’s not going to change and he’s never, ever going to be kind and thoughtful of me.  That’s why I left him.

If any of that happens, there’s nothing I can change by worrying about it now.  I’ll just have to cross that bridge when I get to it.

I think my attorney is right:  The judge won’t be able to change the Evil Ex, so what would be the point of taking it back to court.  He’d just find some other loophole in the plan to exploit.

So, we won’t be going back to court at my initiative, but let him beware if he ever tries to take me back.  I’m going to be so ready.

 

 

 

 

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