La, LA la la, wait ’till I get my money right

First of all, I should say that it would seem that Yeezy still doesn’t quite have his money right, so is there really any hope for me?

I am so, so glad to be back in NY. I am also so, so broke. But this is nothing new…not at all.

I am 47 years old, and I have never had a salary of more than $50,000 at any job. I’m currently at $10,000 less than that, and still reeling from my year of unemployment followed by underemployment followed by a 10% rent increase. In a few years, with scheduled pay increases, I will finally be doing…sort of okay. In a few months, I will be able to start my seasonal job, and in theory I will be able to pay down some debts and begin to dig myself out of this hole.

Today, however, I’m so limited by living one paycheck away from financial disaster. And there are so many seemingly “simple” things that I want to do that I’m just not able to because of my financial situation. I am afraid that friends and family members who have extended invitations to visit think I am blowing them off, when really the $100 or so that a rental car would cost is beyond my reach. One of my dearest friends is now only eight hours away from me by car, instead of twenty, and yet I’ve only seen her once or twice in the year and a half that I’ve been back in NY.

Worst of all, I am facing the very real possibility that I might not make it to Grand Rapids for Elijah’s birthday in September.

I’ve never missed his birthday. When I left Grand Rapids, I promised Mona I would always, always come back for his birthday weekend. I have some possible overtime coming up at work, so I may be able to swing it, but I am also (at least in theory) weighing my options in terms of paying my rent late so that I can be there for his birthday. Since my single biggest fear is being homeless and having gross feet, this should give you an idea of how much this matters to me.

Then there’s another one of my best friends who has a milestone birthday coming up in October. I would really like to be there for this as well, but the possibility seems just as bleak.

(I have written about this before. I get so sick of rehashing it, and yet I feel like I should be doing something to change things. But is it really a moral failing? I just don’t know. I also think that in a financial sense, being single brings its own challenges, but that’s another topic altogether…)

I’m determined to do what I can to climb out of this pit, even as I dream of some kind of windfall that could wipe the slate clean, free me from debt, and allow me to spend as much time as possible with the people I love. I pray for money from some random source, and instead God gives me a second job, overtime, opportunities to work and continue to earn money.

I still wish it were easier. I still wish I made more money, that I could feel like I was getting ahead, that I could visit the people I love whenever I wanted to.

Choosing to live in NYC means that I am choosing to continue in this struggle. It also means, however, that I finally have the potential to make more money in the future.

Maybe I’ll get myself together after all…in the meantime, all I can do is hope that the people I love can forgive me for not being able to be with them at crucial (and maybe even the not-so-crucial) moments.

I want things to be different. I won’t stop praying for a ridiculous miracle, but I also know that I need to do my part. I don’t want to miss another birthday of Elijah’s…I want to be able to go visit Donovan for his birthday, and to someday bring both of the boys to New York for a reunion. I know that the past can’t be recaptured, but I would love to see them renew the bond that they had when they were small.

I have to find a way. I have to get myself together. Maybe it will happen before I turn fifty…but we will have to wait and see.

La, la, la, la 
Wait till I get my money right
La, la, la, la 
Then you can’t tell me nothing, right?

– Kanye West, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing

 

Advertisements

Bad theology

“You’re not where you need to be.”

I have heard this phrase far too many times in the past two months. The words are being spoken in a work setting, so clearly theology has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. So why the weird title to this post?

(Besides the obvious, which is that I’m weird in general…but I digress…)

I should also say that I feel like I probably should not even be talking about the situation publicly, not even in veiled terms. But I also suspect that by now, there is almost nothing I can do to affect the ultimate outcome here. Although I’ve far from given up (in fact, I have been working really hard on trying to give myself credit for how well I have been persevering in the situation), everything I see and read and hear tells me that it’s highly unlikely that I will be able to come back from this. Which is a shame, because in spite of the situation, I really, REALLY love the actual work. And it’s certainly no secret that I gladly drank that blue Kool-Aid long ago.

So about that phrase.

It’s being used in a diagnostic sense, a warning, so to speak, that I am not okay and that I need to fix what is broken, and quickly. On a surface level, I fundamentally disagree with this as well, but my opinion about where I “should” be in terms of mastery of my role does not match theirs…and mine is not the opinion that matters in this situation.

But here’s the thing. Setting aside the actual situation, I also reject the message in a much broader sense. I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that I am exactly where I need to be.

I prayed for years that I would be able to come home. This move happened…but it didn’t just “happen” – I pursued it repeatedly. I am certain with every fiber in my being that God brought me here.

I. am. where. I. need. to. be.

To say otherwise…well, that’s just bad theology.

Whether some people believe that I am “where I need to be” in a tangible or a professional sense, and no matter how uncertain and potentially frightening the immediate future may be, I am here. I’m not going anywhere.

I’m where I need to be. I’m in God’s hands. And after all is said and done, that’s the one thing that really matters.

 

Planning some radical changes

…to my relationship with food. Does that sound over-dramatic? (so unlike me, I know!)

I am indebted to Michael Pollan, particularly his book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, and to a slew of documentaries, including Forks over Knives, Fed Up, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and others I am probably not remembering right now.

I don’t know how quickly I will do this, or whether I will jump in with both feet or make changes gradually, but here is what I want:

I want to be done with simple sugars, too much sodium, artificial ingredients, processed food.

I want to cut down – or perhaps eliminate completely – my meat consumption.

I want to train my body and taste buds to crave what is healthy. I want to explore ways to make *real* food exciting.

I want to be healthy. I want to have the energy to do the things I hope to do in the next twenty, thirty, or forty years that I have on this earth.

So much will have to change. I am already pondering how and when to say a final “good-bye” to a seemingly unending list of favorite foods…Krispy Kreme, Reese’s, cheesecake, newly-discovered chicken from a place that is (inexplicably) called Pizza Ranch (the pizza is meh, but the chicken!!!!!).I find myself trying to figure out how to plan a funeral/good-bye ceremony for each of these.

I am embracing the idea that my addiction to crappy food is as much (or more so) a physiological issue as an emotional one.

I am trying to imagine my life with these radically different food choices…what it will mean for my socializing over restaurant meals, my day-to-day food preparation, and so on.

This will be really, really hard. But I’m determined. Baby steps or big leaps, two steps forward, one step back, or spectacular failures followed by eventual success…I don’t know what it will look like…but I’m certain that it will be an adventure.

Stay tuned…

random, whiny, unedited

(otherwise known as “would have made this my Facebook status, but that would have been super-obnoxious”)

I went to an orientation this morning for substitute teachers for a center-based special education program in a town about 30 minutes away from me. I don’t know if I will sub there a lot, but in part it felt like it was free training, and I think I also needed the motivation.

Motivation is not something I have enough of, today or any other day.

My eyes lit up when I saw the kids. I felt energized by the information that was shared. The assistant director of the school used the words “evidence-based practice” several times, and I was impressed with the facility and the energy of the place.

(It was a little bit…white, though. Maybe “white” is not the right word, but it felt too perfect…wealthy…insular. The names of the teachers were overwhelmingly of the same ethnicity, and it felt like a bit of an insider’s club. Maybe not fair to judge after an hour in the place, but let’s just say that it was clear that we were not in an inner-city school district.)

Motivated. Trying to remind myself that I need to push forward with this school thing and then I can be around kids all. the. time.

You think that would have spurred me on…go home, dive into the schoolwork, get this one class out of the way so I can go on to the next…

But no. I turned on the Uber app, hoping to cover my trip out to the boonies. Took two riders. Needed lunch; was craving Chinese food, so I stopped and got some. Carb coma ensued. Fell asleep (but not for long enough). Woke up. Went shopping for no reason.

I need to sleep, because I know it will help me to feel better. But I am sick of myself, sick of knowing that I could be moving forward, but for this invisible force that holds me back. Sick of my house being in total disarray…sick of the crap I eat that is probably making me more tired…sick of my days getting away from me and my constant level of disorganization.

My therapist tells me that she has nothing new to add to the situation, that I have the knowledge that I need…I hear her words, I know she is right.

But I am still stuck.

I am running out of time. I am wasting my life. I have barely twenty good years ahead of me career-wise, and yet I am driving towards this goal via the slowest possible route, even though the highway is easily within my reach.

And right now, I just need to go to sleep and tell myself that I will make better choices tomorrow.

Far from poor, but never enough

I approached the gate agent and asked, “is there any chance…?” I had volunteered to be bumped from my flight, and all I could think about was a voucher…a voucher that would give me more opportunities to visit people I love. When she said, “I think we’re okay”, I am sure she was bewildered by the crestfallen look on my face.

(I’m embarrassed to say that I am sitting at the gate holding back tears as I write this. Trying to pull myself together. I am guessing that the tears are more about the good-byes in my life than about a travel voucher, but still…)

I first have to say that I know that I am nowhere near anything that could even resemble “poor”. I stopped using that word to describe myself a few years ago, instead replacing it with “broke”.

I am blessed. I have a job that, although it pays less than I would like, is enjoyable. I don’t dread going to work, which is perhaps as great a blessing as having a job to begin with. I have a nice car that runs well, even if I can ill afford it. I have a roof over my head and a washer and dryer in my apartment (those who have had to share laundry facilities or schlep to the  laundromat understand this!)

I have just enough. I can pay my bills, and I somehow manage to stay afloat even when I make bad spending choices.

I have more than most of the world. I need to remember this.

But I also have less than many people I know. I struggle more with the basics than some of my friends do.

A travel voucher could mean the difference between getting to see friends I love and having to rely on conversations via email and Facebook sound bytes to stay connected.

(On the plane now, crying again. Must not scare seatmate. Who is smaller than me, by the way, and not a talker. Another reason to be thankful.)

Some people’s lives are just easier. I am a traitor to my purported allegiance to Jesus when I say this, but it’s my reality. I hate what capitalism has done to me. I hate that I am so bound to “stuff”. I know that the love of money is the root of all evil…only I don’t love money-I hate it. Hate that it consumes so much of my time and energy. Hate the envy it invokes in me.

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?” ’Or I may become poor and steal,and so dishonor the name of my God. – Proverbs 30:8-9, NIV

But some people do not struggle this way. Some people are somehow not chronically under-employed. Some people’s parents help them pay for college, or are there to help them out in a pinch.

Some people start off with more and earn more and have more. Some people don’t need to put an $80 piece of luggage on a credit card, and don’t have to nervously count the days until their next paycheck.

And because I live in America, and have been shaped by the ridiculous values this country embraces, I am filled with envy, and I get tired of having to limit what I spend, of working two or more jobs, of struggling, always struggling, as I watch rent and car insurance and bills increase. Of drowning in student loan debt because for too many years I could not afford to pay enough to even touch the principal, and the interest just continues to snowball. Of watching a $2000 IRS balance refuse to budge because I am paying $200 a month in fees and interest, and I just do not have a way to access that amount of money all at once.

I am tired of having to limit my travel plans and to struggle to work out even the smallest excursion with other friends who are similarly struggling…or worse, to try to keep up with my friends who don’t have to worry about every penny they spend. The shame I feel-the comparisons-how is it that they have found financial success while I have not?

It doesn’t help that I was a lower-middle-class kid in an upper-middle-class high school, or that I was in honours classes with a number of extremely talented people. People I graduated with are AP photographers who attend the White House Christmas party, financial experts who are regularly interviewed on TV, and even people who are creating TV, attending awards ceremonies that I will only ever see from my couch. I have friends who never attended college, yet make three times what I make. It’s hard not to compare and to find myself lacking.

But I don’t necessarily aspire to any of that. When I play the lottery (or, as a friend puts it, “pay Stupid tax”), I don’t want the big winnings…I just want enough to get out of the hole I’m in, to be able to say that I can get back to zero. I just want to be able to not have to struggle so much. Mostly, I want to be able to travel to see friends who live too far away, and to have some confidence or certainty that I will  be able to move back to New York someday…

They say that if you can’t change your situation, you should work to change the way you view it. Problem is, I still have not figured out how to do that…