I should be crying, or drinking, or walking the beach in a haze of worry, yet a weird optimism maintains a hold. Perhaps this is what it feels like when one finally loses one’s mind? After all, our income has taken serious hits in the last few months. Bobby was laid off, I just undertook a 40 percent paycut at the paper. The combined loss in income is the equivalent of two years’ rent. A year of college for one of the kids. Ten trips to San Francisco for Nick’s medical appointments. My cut alone is groceries each week.
With Bobby in construction and me working two jobs, we’d found ourselves in the middle class at last, after years and years and years of riding the line dividing the impoverished from the working poor. Suddenly we were able to do things “normal” people did. Buy shoes when the kids needed them. Go snowboarding for a day at Shasta. Keep the car maintained. Pay bills. See movies in the theater from time to time. We were living the dream (albeit without the credit cards that allow our peers to have bigger TVs and newer cars).
Enough so that when the occasional other job came up that I might have been qualified for, might have been interested in, I passed it up, preferring to keep the creativity and flexibility of the paper, the perks of the radio, the excellent coworkers at both. Ha! Once again, my lack of foresight has resulted in a scramble to keep the auto insurance from being canceled.
Of course, this kind of struggle is what a friend once blew off as “first world problems” and that’s true. Certainly my house is still warm and safe, the ocean still only a 10 minute walk away, the children clothed, a DVD rental still manageable. I have paid the bills this month; the tax refund is due in a week. Money is tight enough that taking Nick to his appointment – scheduled two months ago, when I still expected my paychecks to remain the same – means no buying groceries till Friday, but I think we can get by on the essentials already filling the fridge.
(“I just want to write more,” I’ve been saying. “I never get to surf enough,” I complained. Thanks, Universe, for the go-ahead!)
A chance to freelance, ride out the recession on resourcefulness instead of worry, right? Not that worrying is a choice – no matter how hard we work a garden, watch our propane use, minimize our expenses, the fact remains that poor unavoidably equals powerlessness in some ways. If the state budget crisis affects Nick’s health expense coverage. If serious problems spring up with the car. If Bobby’s asthma worsens. If one of the animals suffers an injury or illness. Even “little” things like the sports team going out for pizza night unexpectedly can trigger a chain of not-enough-money events. The list goes on and I will likely expand upon it during one of my sleepless nights.
For right now, though, a chance to reassess priorities and reconnect with what makes life worth living. We’re planning to use part of the tax refund to join Eddie Tanner’s Deepseeded CSA – having a share in a community farm is something I’ve wanted to do since we moved to Humboldt 11 years ago, so yay! for that.
Nick’s diabetes isn’t keeping him from sports or friends. He has good care and is still on track to acquire an insulin pump, which diabetics say is a huge improvement over shots.
I have an awesome bike (thanks KSLG and Revolution) and with Bobby able to chauffeur the kids and no office hours to make, I should be able to ride to Ferndale more often, saving gas and wear on the car – Green-Wheels even has some ways to offset bike commuting costs. I’ve been using Mint.com, which is helping me track my spending, bills and balances better than ever, so that should alleviate some of the wondering what the hell is happening with my bank account.
Radio perks include my membership at Praxis, where Ceci has already kicked my ass (and heart and lungs and triceps and muscles I didn’t even know existed) into healthier shape and which is such a pleasant place to be that my entire psyche improves with each visit (and, noteably, my surfing with each paddle-out!).
I still like my jobs.
I have books to read, movies to watch, a family to gather round, an abundance of friends, Surfrider chugging along successfully, a new president justifying hope in a country I thought might be beyond saving. (Follow Obama’s keeping – or not – of his campaign promises here.)
I say this all now and out loud because I need to solidify this optimism into evidence that I do truly have so much and – as long as luck holds (Hey, luck! Please hold!) and I stick to what I need – things just might be all right. (Cue Bob Marley… “Every little thing/gonna be – “)