Blog Archives

Dreams

img_0881Have you ever had this urge to scrap everything and do something entirely different with your life?  Something so different it rates as impossible rather that merely improbable. I have done this.  I met someone and after only six months of dating, and most of that dating was via Skype, I married the guy.  It didn’t work out for me and I’m faced with rebuilding my life,but I don’t regret taking the risk.  I only regret that I didn’t manage the risk a bit better. I am the textbook reason prenuptial agreements need to exist.  But…I took the risk, it failed, but I don’t regret the experience and adventure that it was at all. My dream was to travel and live abroad. I did that. In the process, I learned a ton about how to schedule flights so that you never miss one, which airports to avoid and which are better for making connections. I learned how to schedule a trip across the pond (either direction) in order to minimize jet lag.  I’m still working on learning to travel light, but I’ve made vast improvement in that area over the last year. Most importantly, I’ve gone from thinking I should maybe give up my dreams to being confident that they will come to pass no matter how outlandish, impossible or impractical they might seem to me now.  I mean, I’ve had plenty of dreams over the last six years come true.  Why should that momentum end now? Read the rest of this entry

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Bounce

img_0511I have a friend I’ve know for quite some time who is an executive coach.  This man makes a living coaching top executives at companies to improve outcomes (and I imagine this means profits) for the organization. He makes more money in one gig than I make in several years.  He’s probably made and lost more money over the years than I will see in several lifetimes. As I type this, he is involved in putting together a deal that will allow him to quadruple his income and expand his business.  He’s doing this at a time in his life when he should be (or most people are considering being) retired.  He doesn’t punch a time clock. His office is in his home or in a coffee shop or cigar shop nearby. He lives in a tower and drives an Audi. He controls his time, his life and mostly his levels of stress.  He does what he wants, when he wants with no demands imposed on his life other than those he chooses for himself. It’s a pretty good gig for supposedly being retired. But it hasn’t always been this way for him.  He’s had some pretty rough moments along the way. Read the rest of this entry

Same Song, Second Verse Same As The First…Other Side

I must confess. I have not been up late at night…much…lately. I’ve been sleeping very well and feeling good when I wake up the next day. Never mind that I was sick for two weeks with food poisoning. My bills are paid. There is food in my cupboards. And there’s a wee little bit to offset the unexpected thing that might come up. It is amazing how having a little extra cash in the bank and a car that is reliable changes one’s outlook on life. It’s also pretty incredible how that makes it easier to sleep. It’s been a good month. Or rather, a good couple of weeks. I can’t complain. And I won’t start now, even though, life has turned on the proverbial dime for me, once again. Read the rest of this entry

The Value of Losing Hope

I read an article about the futility of hope a while back. I can’t remember where or what publication it was in. It may have been some random waiting room magazine I happened to be leafing through in the radiation center. Who knows? I just remember that the thesis of the article struck me as strange. The article suggested that there are times when hope is counterproductive. For example, in the case of a terminally ill person, holding out hope for a late-in-the-game cure actually prevents the person from doing the work ( emotionally, relationally, etc.) that they need to do to face their illness and prepare to exit this life. This was just one of several examples. I wish I could remember the article or even the magazine so I could provide you with it, but I just can’t. My explanation of it is weak.

I’m not so sure that I agree with the premise of this article. Hope keeps us going. The Bible says that without hope, the people perish. If we don’t have hope, then why don’t we just all drink the magical elixir and end it all right now? Hope keeps us moving forward, pushing onward, taking that next step even though we’ve been brutally beaten in life’s most recent battle.

On the other hand…I think I’m beginning to understand the value of giving up hope.

Sometimes, when we face our problems, troubles, or situation without hoping it will change, we end up finally arriving at a place where we can do what we couldn’t do before while we were hoping for different outcomes. I guess, in a way, hope can masquerade as denial. When this occurs, or at least lately,for me, when this occurs, I spend my time and energy on futile endeavors rather than facing facts and moving on with a different plan. My hope was in the wrong thing. My hope led me to deny the truth that was staring me in the face. Had I given up hope, I could have faced the truth and avoided a great deal of pain and confusion and, quite possibly, even some financial loss.

As I look back on the events of this year, especially of the losses this last month, and as I look toward the future, I have to admit that in certain areas of life there are certain goals and hopes I am beginning to give up on. I think of what this means for me, and quite honestly, there are aspects of this that trouble me greatly. It isn’t exactly the destination I wanted to arrive at, but I’m here, and at least for now I see no exit door. Admittedly, I’m not looking that hard, because I’ve given up the hope that if I found an exit, the room on the other side would be any better than the one I just left. I’ve given up hope that there are any rooms at all worth exploring. Just opening the door is distasteful idea to me. So, for now, I’m in this room in my life alone. I’ve given up hope that there will be any of a certain kind of companionship. Or, at least, I’m beginning to.

The more I ponder this, the more I think, this might not be such a bad thing. After all, now I can focus without distraction, on the things in my life that need my attention and energy. I can, at last, focus on doing some things I’ve always wanted to do. I haven’t given up on hope altogether. I believe there are better days ahead. However, I’m enjoying some pretty good moments and days now, and I don’t want to miss the joy in them by spending my energy hoping my situation in certain ways will change.

It’s an interesting thing. While I would never have chosen this for myself, I’m finding that in spite of the sadness and loneliness I do feel at times, I am happier, more content, and more at peace than I’ve been in a long time. This is not to say I feel great all the time. I don’t. But I think, no matter what, I’m going to be okay.

I wonder, have you ever felt like abandoning hope in something, and found that when you did, you were pleasantly surprised?

What’s Holding You Back? Could It Be…Reality?

Lately, I’ve read a great deal of people writing and exhorting things like this: You can be whatever you want to be.  You can do whatever you want to do.  You decide.  If you don’t like  your life the way it is now, make the necessary changes and create the life you desire.

Okay, seriously?  This is 20-year-old thinking.

I mean, when I hear someone say that I am in complete control of my destiny and that any minute I can just unilaterally shelve everything and make a change (that works for me and me alone) then, well, I’m thinking this person is young, and so very optimistic (I do applaud this) and they do not have children.

So, let me dial it back about three decades for you.

I was one of those who believed exactly that:  I was in charge of my future.  I was in charge of my life.  If I didn’t like something, then I could make decisions and change it on a moment’s notice.  It could be the 7:30 am class I’d signed up for which I hated so I figured I’d change it, (I’m so not a morning person) or it could be the fact that I’d rather be living in the San Francisco Bay Area instead of the Pacific Northwest, or the Southwest, or the East Coast, take your pick.  It could be any number of things.  When I was younger (24+)  and had no real obligations, there really was nothing holding me back. Nothing.  I’m not kidding.  I made great money as a 25-year-old.  I was making bank and had no obligations.  The few credit cards I had, I could pay off in full each month (gross amounts of money I wish I now had). In addition, I had time.  I had time to regroup my losses.  I had time to correct my errors and regain my losses (if there were any).  I simply had time…or so I thought.  But…we don’t ever really know how much time we have…and we are never an island unto ourselves.

The reality is, you can’t always make the decisions you’d like, because you aren’t always completely in control of your life, unless you are an island.

I know.  That sounds blasphemous to many.  Sorry, but it’s true.  As much as I’d like to send it out to the universe that I am this or that…the reality is…what the reality is.

Think of it this way, if you are your own person and you have no obligations or commitments to others then, maybe, you can just up and do whatever you like whenever you want and, possibly, there really is nothing or no one holding you back. This is, at once, the best argument for remaining single forever and, at the same time, for leaving the single state as quickly as you can.   I feel for you if you are in this place.

The reality is, that as life goes on, life becomes less and less about us and more and more about those we love and what is best for them.

For the average 25-year-old, there aren’t many people you have to consult to make decisions about your life.  If you are lucky, your parents will support you in whatever adventure you take on.  You also, if you are lucky (meaning you did what you needed to do to make sure you were employable at a better-than-minimum-wage rate) have an income that provides for your basic needs and allows you the ability to make some choices with your life. In addition, you have the golden opportunity  that I call “TIME”.  At 25, you have an entire lifetime ahead of you.  If you make a bad choice, you have time to regroup and mitigate the losses.  It’s a very different story when you are say, 50 or 60.

So, let’s consider the mantra of “What’s Holding You Back”  (clearly a 20+-year-old perspective) from a more seasoned stance.

As a person well over 40, let me tell you “What’s Holding Me Back”:

  • I would love to consider another career field.  While it isn’t entirely impossible that I make the switch, the reality is that I am currently in a field where I am required to have at least a graduate degree.  The cost of this for me: $46,000. I have about 15 years to pay this off while I try to feed and clothe my children on a salary that is a fraction of what most other professional people make. I can’t possibly consider taking out more loans for a career field switch, especially when the likelihood is that I cannot have these loans paid off before I retire in my current profession.  It is wishful thinking to believe that I can completely jump ship on the professional field I’ve been in since 1985, and think I’m A.) going to be able to fund this life change, and B.) be able to pay off the debt in the time I have left to work.  This is just not going to happen.  The reality of economics and time hold me back here.
  • I would love to sell everything I own, find a job in a BIG CITY (read San Francisco Bay Area or something really decadent back on the East Coast), but the reality is this:  I have children.  My children have friends and lives that I have to consider in every decision I make.  I can’t just quit my job and move.  I have to consider how that’s going to roll with the kids that the respective ex’s.  (Yeah, I hate that part.)

The  reality is, no one is completely in charge of their destiny.  At 20, I might have had more freedom to make more choices.  At a much older age, this is not the case.  I now have children, ex’s, significant others, and employers to consider…and if you think considering the employer isn’t important consider this:  I work in a career field where, if I move, I take a significant pay cut and I lose the security of knowing I have a job in years to come. I’m sorry, but I have children to feed, clothe, and hopefully prepare and send to college.  Me, as a single mother of four,  taking a pay cut, or even risking it, is so not an option.

So…what’s holding me back?

Really?  You’re kidding me, right?

Because that’s the question a 20-something would pose.

What’s holding me back is my obligation to the other people in my life that I am responsible for and the reality is, I can’t just ditch that for something that works for me, but fails them. So, I remain in a place, that I like, but I don’t “LOVE” and I do a job that I love in a place that is, at times, troublesome and which makes me wonder if there isn’t something  better elsewhere…yet…I endure it, not because I have no desire to change, but because it is best for those who depend upon me.   All of this is holding me back from what I would personally love to be doing…if I had my druthers.

The reality is, I am responsible to others and for others, and it is no longer just about me. I cannot make these  decisions in a vacuum, excluding their input or perspectives.

So, here’s what’s holding me back:  It’s my decision to recognize that it isn’t always just about me and that sometimes, I must think of others before I think of myself, even if those choices aren’t ones I would choose in isolation.

What’s holding me back is my love for the other  important people in my life versus me choosing to make life all about me and what works for just me.

Alone-ness

It’s now the end of the second week after The Gone BF and I parted ways. It’s been a week since he ran away to a distant land and started a new life there. The first week was unbearable, this week, surprisingly, not so bad. I think it really helped to force myself through my routines. It also helped to have friends and my son around to help. Realizing that all the drama merely reflected the immature character of The Gone BF, rather than my failure as a companion or person, moved me to a better place more quickly than I hoped. Not being in contact with TGBF also kept me from wallowing around in sadness; ending it quickly the few times he did contact me, proved to be an effective strategy. Work, as much as I dreaded it, going in, proved to be a blessing. It kept me busy and mentally focused on something other than my miserable situation.

In fact, by Wednesday I was sleeping better and drinking less. The bottle of gin I purchased, upon learning that TGBF couldn’t get away fast enough, is long gone, and has been replaced by a small bottle of cheap red wine that tastes so badly, I was forced to mix it with Sprite, just to get a glass of it down. I will finish the last glass of that wine tonight, and tomorrow, I exercise and drink only water. It is time to get serious about taking care of me.

By Thursday, not only was I feeling better, I was actually in a place where I could begin to feel hopeful about the future, and more accepting of the present. Today, some of my old contentment has returned: I look forward to coming home, I love my place, my kids, my work. I believe this feels like contentment. I feel no desire or need to rush out and replace TGBF, and I like being able to keep my home exactly the way I want it. I am even looking forward to the days to come. I’m beginning to look forward to fall, the cooler air, and the golden colors. It will continue to be my favorite time of year even though it was at this time that TGBF and I started dating. I’m making plans for the holidays and I’m not dreading it, even though this year at Christmas I won’t have any of my children. I’m planning to go visit friends and family elsewhere, and that will be my gift to me.

I’m alone these days, and it isn’t by my own choice. Even so, I don’t view my aloneness quite the same as the loneliness I experienced early on. This alone-ness is comforting, it is familiar, it does not mark me as an untouchable or a failure. It is my freedom. I really do not mind or dread this experience two weeks out. It is bearable. I can see hope from here.

Now, maybe you are one who dreads being alone. I’ve included a link to a video poem I love. It’s just as affirming now as it was two years ago before the TGBF entered the arena of my life. Enjoy!

How To  Be Alone

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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