Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Psychology of Financial Health

I'm at that stage of my life where I've plateaued and I'm looking back to see many of my life's questions/mysteries explained.  Looking into the future is like peering into the void with only death as a certainty.  I sometimes feel extremely lost, something I never thought I'd feel at this age.  I thought by now I would have figured it all out and have done some spectacular things with my life.  Instead I feel very behind. 

When I was growing up I knew we were poor.  From where I stood middle class look like rich, like over-whelming wealth.  I looked at my peers and they had more than me and better stuff than I had. Their clothes were not hand-me-downs or homemade.  Their shoes did not wear until there were holes.  They did not need reduced lunches.  They had the latest toys, watched the popular shows on TV, did stuff after school and on the weekends that didn't involve work.  Everything they had, that they were able to buy, made me feel "less than".  I was regularly taunted for just this.  I was a weird kid anyway but I was also poor, unable to follow the latest fads, unable to participate much with after school activities.

When I was older and obtained my own money, I bought whatever caught my fancy.  I was over-compensating for all I felt I lacked as a child. As an adult I had access to credit which stupidly made me feel like I could spend more freely on the obsession of the day.  [I regret that I'm unable to get back all the money I most foolishly spent on all those needful things.  I wish I could be reimbursed for all those things I bought that I no longer even own!]  Nothing ever fulfilled me for very long.  I would move from one obsession to another to another.

It wasn't just for myself that I was over-compensating.  I made sure my children had all the things their hearts desired - toys, games, clothes, foods/eating out.  None of this was healthy for them or for my family's financial situation.  Even when we were financially strapped it was heard to stop.  It put a strain on the marriage and on our relationship with our children (how do you suddenly say 'no' when you've been a near-constant stream of 'yes'?).  I stayed stressed out over our finances.  I juggled credit card balances until the economic crash of 2008.  Then we just had to bite our nails when the bills came due each month.

Another realization came when we moved.  All that "stuff", all those things "that weren't causing me happiness (after the initial purchase) were literally weighing me down.  So many little knickknacks, keepsakes, collectibles, obsessions had to be packed/unpacked for each move and it was physically wearing me down.  In my mind they became not only a financial but a physical drain.  It was easier to let them go.  It was easier to not buy new unneeded, unnecessary thing to begin with.

My children are older now.  My eldest watched us struggle and in her adult life has avoided credit cards like the plague.  Her only debts are college loans and a car loan.  I'm very happy for her and relieved that at least some good came from my very bad example.  My youngest, who is autistic, has unfortunately grown up able to get most of what he wants.  He doesn't fully understand financial planning and I know that's partially my fault.  If I could talk to my past self, I'd tell her that she's creating a huge problem for her future self and , more importantly, for her son.  I have a lot to work on with him so that he understands.

We were able to correct our financial standing after I finally learned that these things I was surrounding myself with didn't help me, nor did they make me happy after that initial purchase rush.  I stopped eating out as much.  Resisted those impulse purchases.  Made extra money by selling off those now unwanted impulse purchase items.  Learned to say 'no' to the kids and explained why I was saying 'no'.  I began paying down the cards one by one.  Each balance moving closer to zero gave me that same high that I used to get from buying stuff.  Each card that was finally paid off was a super rush.  I'd then double down on the next card and pay it off even faster.  Once they are all paid off, I shifted my focus to building up our savings.

It was hard to change one set of habits for another.  I could only have done it because I reached that plateau in life.  I saw that I couldn't move any further towards my future if I was stuck in my past feeling deprived.  I didn't want to feel deprived again in my old age because I destroyed my financial future due to a ton of debt.

I'm in a better place now.  At least, I'm not lost financially.  We're not rich.  We're middle class, but that is more comfortable than where I came from.  Barring any major disasters, my family should be okay into our golden years.  I'm happy about this.  I just wish I'd learned this lesson when I was my younger.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Daily Mire

Turn on the news, view Facebook, or worse, Twitter, open any form of media today and you are blasted with some sort of negativity.  It is more than overwhelming to some (including myself).  Unlike some other creative types who thrive in hostile environments, I have come to a complete stall.  Every day is a struggle to tear myself away from different areas of social media.  I tend to hop from one to another afraid that I'll miss some bit of news (international, national, local, among family and friends) that will end up impacting me.  I have been unable to complete large creative projects for almost two years now.  I work on them a bit here and there but I can't bring them to fruition.  It's degrading.  It's depressing. I'm stuck.  I know that I'm not the only one experiencing this - social media and the news outlets tell me that I am not alone (yet, oh my God, how alone do I feel).  I've considered taking a break from social media, the news, the computers, but then I start to feel anxious, really anxious.  The best I can do is to cut down on my time spent in the virtual world.  I'll let you know how that goes.

In the meantime I'll work on every day things like getting my house put together from our recent move, re-establishing services for my disabled son, and trying to take the time to get to know this new area/new town (weather permitting).  Taking deep breaths and traveling through life one hour, one day at a time.  I wish us all luck.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Books and Stories Read in 2017

2017 was a rough year to get through.  Aside from all the political upheaval in the USA, my personal life went through a series of changes as well, not the least of which was a move.  I still made time to read though.  The great escape from my childhood came through during these turbulent times as well. 

Stories Read

The Egg - Andy Weir (re-read)
Clay and Smokeless Fire - Saladin Ahmed -
Bear Language - Martin Cahill -
Dancing Princesses - Roshani Chokshi -
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? - Joyce Carol Oats (1966)

Books Read

Six Scary Stories - Selected and Introduced by Stephen King

Jonathan Livingston Seagull - Richard Bach

Dexter in the Dark - Jeff Lindsay

Cycle of the Werewolf (Illustrated) - Stephen King

You Are Here - Jenny Lawson

Hungry Ghosts (Eric Carter Series) - Stephen Blackmoore

Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman

Cemetary Girl: The Pretenders (Graphic Novel) - Charlaine Harris/Christopher Golden

Cemetary Girl: Inheritance (Graphic Novel) - Charlaine Harris/Christopher Golden

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris

Under the Empyrean Sky - Chuck Wendig

The Mystery Men (Graphic Novel) - David Liss/Patrick Zircher

Deadly Valentine - Carolyn G. Hart

Deep and Dark and Dangerous - Mary Downing Hahn

The Family Plot - Cherie Priest

A Study in Scarlet - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Next of Kin - Dan Wells

Crimes By Moonlight - Editor, Charlaine Harris

A Ghostly Light - Juliet Blackwell

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Graphic Novel) - Oscar Wilde, Ian Edginton, I.N.J. Culbard

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie/Ellen Ferney

Chessie - Ruth Carroll (vintage book written in 1936)

Gypsy - Kate Seredy (vintage book written in 1951 - amazing illustrations)

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis - Anne Rice

The Bride Striped Bare - Nikki Gemmell

The Devil's Only Friend - Dan Wells

Over Your Dead Body - Dan Wells

Sleep Like a Baby - Charlaine Harris

Inked - Eric Smith

Sam or Our Cat Tales - C. Louis Schaffner (vintage book written in 1913)

Vicious - V.E. Schwab

Nothing Left to Lose - Dan Wells

The Royal Diaries: Isabel, Jewel of Castilla - Carolyn Meyer

Shit My Dad Says - Justin Halpern

Dead Trees Give No Shelter - Wil Wheaton

Shakespeare's Landlord - Charlaine Harris (re-read)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas and Chaos

It's Christmas and we've moved... again.  In my 29 years of marriage, we've moved 16 times.  This time has been harder for me.  I think my body is just getting to the point that it can't handle the physical requirements to actually move all of our things around.  There seems to be an endless amount of boxes to unpack. Not just the placement of furniture but all the artwork, knickknacks, books, and technology. There just seems to be so much of EVERYTHING. 

It's not just the material things.  It's the emotional baggage as well. It used to be exciting when we moved - the idea of redecorating, of making new friends, of discovering new things to do.  This time however, I don't know what to do with it all and it's overwhelming.  It's winter and where I've moved gets even more snow than the last place we lived.  My background level of anxiety/depression ratchets up a bit during the winter months anyway and with the move as well it's a bit higher than even the normal.  Between the unpacking and the weather and my own personal emotional rollercoaster, I've barely gotten out of the house in the last month and a half aside from grocery shopping and doctor appointments.

This is not a whining session.  I know that six months from now everything will be in place.   All the furniture, the knickknacks, the artwork, the books, the technology will all have found a place.  All the closets will have been sorted out.  We will be able to park the cars in the garage.  All of our doctors and services will have been re-established. That's not just my hope, that's the reality from my own experience.  

The only thing that will still be out of place is this Christmas.  It just doesn't feel Christmas-y to me at all.  I've put a smattering of decorations out (the ones I could find easily and then easily put up again later).  I've bought and wrapped most of the presents and sent out most of the Christmas cards.  But I just feel lost in this season. Separated from family and friends both physically and emotionally.  

Everything feels chaotic but I know that it will settle down.  I'll get through this - the move, Christmas, and this emotional upheaval - I am a survivor.  It's just the waiting and working to get through to the other side is exhausting.


Here's hoping for a much happier, much healthier, less chaotic new year!
May 2018 reign free for all.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Back to School

For the first time in 22 years I do not have a child returning to public school. As of May of this year they have all graduated and moved on to other pursuits.  I have this empty feeling even though my nest is not technically empty.  [My son is disabled and will not be able to live on his on in the foreseeable future.]  To help alleviate the weirdness, I gathered all the unused school supplies from past years around the house and donated them to a program for kids in need.

But there is something about the appearance of school supplies in the stores that gives me this rush from the possibilities of new beginnings. I've had that feeling since I was a small child.  I began attending schoool at the age of 5 (43 years ago) and either I have been returning to school or I have had a child going to school since then (I'm counting my college years as well). At the end of every summer we'd buy school supplies, some new clothes, and a new pair of shoes. And I'd sit there looking over it all and think to myself, this is the year where everything will be different.  I did well in school mostly (math was my only problem) and I always looked forward to learning.  School was also my escape from an abusive home life.  The only problem was that at school I'd also have to deal with bullies along with my own self-doubts.  Every year I'd buy the school supplies and think that maybe this year things/people might change and I'd make a few friends and things wouldn't be so harsh.  

It never really changed.  I never fit in.  I was this odd duckling that only the teachers seemed to have an affinity for - I was quiet, polite, and did well in most classes (even in the ones I didn't do well in they could tell that I was really trying).  Still, even with the bullies, school was better than home 90% of the time. I still don't fit in really.  There's something broken inside of me that prevents me from being normal in many social situations.

And that feeling stays with me. I look in the mirror and see wrinkles forming but inside of me is that little girl who has hope and wonder that new experiences, new people, new knowledge is just around the corner. The expectation that change is part of reality.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Cooty Girl

Age 6
Present day

I wrote this poem in 1999 while reflecting on my school days, being an introvert, and being bullied.  I thought about how although the school days had passed, there were many wounds that were yet to become scars (healed).  It's been 18 years since I wrote this poem.  I'm on a slightly better standing but I still have days where I feel the same as the girl in the poem.

- Lelain de Peche

In a corner she sits
afraid to admit
she doesn't know how
to join the conversation
It seems like such fun
but she just wants to run
back to the safety
of her well worn shell
Just her brief visits out
renew all the doubts
that she can ever
really belong
the questions remain
continually the same
what if she faulters
what if she blunders
In the midst of stumbling
there are mental rumblings
memories from by gone days
of name callings
of being tripped and falling
and rock throwings
that left bruises
I don't belong here
and I never will
is the cal of a fear
at an early age instilled
so she sits feeling lame
cheeks red with shame
pondering whether
to even attempt a move
he tongue is frozen
and her past has woven
a trap of fear
that has insnared her
there's only one way out
that's to let go of the doubts
and jump right into
the conversation
she fills her lungs to the brim
takes the first step to begin
the journey to leave
the schoolyard behind
It's not with effortless grace
but she goes her own pace
and finds a comfortable
niche with a comedian
Laughter spills all around
as her walls slide down
someday she could
get used to this

[On an additional note: With the prevalence of social media I have thought about looking for some of the people I knew in elementary and middle school. Why? I don't know. Maybe ask them why they were such shits to me? Maybe tell them what I was really going through at home? Maybe explain to them all the things that really messed up inside of me? Then I thought, will this really make a bit of difference? No.  That being said, I was foolish enough to go looking for one or two people. They are living their own lives.  My second cousin once removed who twisted my arm in the 5th grade and demanded that I never tell anyone that we were even slightly related is now a lawyer in Franklin, Tennessee. I sent a friend request to his FaceBook page. His reply was a rejection that sent me to his "professional" FB page. All I could think was, "Oh. He rejected me again. Well, I should have known."]

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Sun Comes Up And The Sun Goes Down

I seem to be lost. The sun comes up and the sun goes down. I don't accomplish much in between. There are so many things that I could be doing but I feel like I'm drowning. The anxiety stops me from doing anything.  There's this underlying fear that anything I create will be less than, it will be flawed, it will not be the perfect image that I hold in my head.  There's also an underlying current that it's too late to accomplish anything in life.  I'm too old now. I've reached my expiration date and that nothing I do now or have done in life matters.  I fear that don't hold value to anyone, not anyone or anything in the vast universe.  Part of me just wants that white knight to come save me from myself.  Another part of me wishes that part would shut up because, damn it, it's all been a useless fantasy. Sometimes I barely have the strength to keep breathing. I feel so exhausted just fighting my own competing emotions. Fighting off anxiety and losing.  Seriously, that's messed up. Truly, I don't know what to do next and I wish someone would just tell me. But there's no answer. It's all silence.