And nobody knows what it means… yet

Well, they’ve shuffled the deck chairs on the Titanic at work, and now my group, which is responsible for making things happen, is smaller than it was before.

Who knows what that means? Two people I depended on a fair amount — one of them more than the other — have moved to a different “level”, so now I don’t have the same access to them that I did before.

Sigh.

The whole thing just makes me tired — at least, it would, if I had the time and energy to be tired. But I have to keep going, get my work done, and just keep at it.

If there was a plot, I’d say I’d lost it. But there doesn’t seem to be a plot, no particular direction that people are choosing to go in. They just flail around for 6-12 months, then shuffle the deck chairs again… flail around… shuffle… flail… shuffle… you get the idea.

I’ve been looking around for another job, but to be honest, my current situation is pretty sweet, since I can work from home anytime I need to, and that’s freed up a whole lot of extra energy and time for things like… oh, having a life. I can’t ever go back to commuting 5 days a week, dealing with office politics, etc. But that’s what everybody else wants me to do.

No thanks.

Plus, then I’d have to start all over again with a new bunch of people and figure that out. Maybe they like me, maybe they don’t. Maybe we get along, maybe we don’t. In my experience, it takes 6-12 months for people to just get used to me and my quirks, and I don’t have the energy for a year’s worth of uncertainty.

Well, anyway… Eventually all this will shake out (as it always does), and I’ll be able to make some sense of things. Then they’ll change them up again.

Whatever. In another couple of years, I’ll be in the age range for early retirement. Till then, I just need to bank as much money as I can, doing what I can. I need to get my house in order — literally. Clean up. Do repairs. Rearrange my home office and different parts of my house. Get my financial books in order and get that accounting software I’ve been meaning to. Just tend to the day-to-day, and not worry about what the workday is going to bring.

The job will bring what the job brings. Whatever.

I just need to take care of my own house, my own life, my own path. Let them do what they like. As long as I’m covered, on my side, it’s fine. Eventually, it will become apparent, just what’s going on… most likely, after things have finished going on, and I have some perspective from looking in the rear-view mirror of my life.

So it goes.

Onward.

Once again, I remember why I tend to favor contract work

abstract checklist with Xes beside the lines
A list of all the things I like about my job, right now — not a lot.

When I take contracts to work, instead of doing the permanent full-time thing, I have some actual control over my destiny. I also get compensated fairly for what I do, and I don’t have this blurred line of “exempt” status, which ropes me into working overtime and never being properly compensated for my work.

I can’t even count the number of times when I was “perm” that I pulled out all the stops to fix stuff other people had broken, really put myself through hell, and expected that my contribution would be recognized. But no. They just treated all the work like it was a normal thing for people to do, and they moved on. The promotions never came. The special consideration never came. Not even a bonus, for my over-and-above-the-call-of-duty work.

So, why bother? Seriously. I can make more money contracting, and since I don’t have any kids to put through college and my spouse is covered by their own insurance, I’m not bound to a permanent job for the benefits. I need the money more. And I need my freedom. The permanent full-time thing is a scam that works in the favor of employers, not the minions.

They can have it. They can keep it.

It’s time to break out of this annoying little mythology about “job security” and get on with making some serious coin. Yes, I need to pay for my own insurance. But if I land the right work, I can totally cover it. And I’ll be free to come and go as I please.

I looked at my savings over the weekend. By the end of this week, I actually will have four months’ worth of living expenses in the bank. Sweet. That means I have some leeway — not to quit work entirely, but to take a little time off between assignments. And also pursue some of my own interests on the side.

Please – please – please – let me get laid off this week AND get a severance package. So I can get on with my life. Contracting. Making the big bucks. And not roped into a life of indentured servitude, stuck with the spoiled fruits of other people’s screw-ups.

I’m really sick of this sh*t.

Controlling the #concussion conversation

Woo hoo! More money to be made!
Woo hoo! More money to be made!

Oh, Lordy — it’s all breaking loose. Now that Will Smith and his controversial accent have shed light on the dangers of concussion in pro football, the discussion about concussion is becoming very, very LOUD.

While I’m glad that there’s more information getting out, a huge problem is that now — apparently — there is money to be made from concussion. Not only in terms of Hollywood, but in terms of all those panicked parents, coaches, school districts, athletic associations who will rush out and spend any amount of money on any product or service that promises to A) protect athletes from concussion, B) help them recover faster (so presumably they can get back in the game), or C) alleviate the long-term effects of post-concussive symptoms.

Oh, and let’s not forget — D) keep them from getting sued.

Sigh. Concussion / mild TBI has been around for eons — probably since the beginning of time. As long as there have been heads with brains… and gravity… and heavy objects overhead… and places to fall off… and people / animals / objects taking shots at your head, there has been mild traumatic brain injury. Concussion.

But nobody’s paid much attention, over the years. At least, not till recently. And since the American public really gets its “most trusted” information from commercial sources, only now that there are products and services being hawked as “solutions” to this “epidemic”, only now are they starting to pay attention. Somehow, Americans don’t trust sources which are not profitable — with profit being our litmus test for validity — if it’s not profitable, it must not be any good, because people aren’t willing to pay money for it.

And so, our society is plunged into yet another permutation of confusion and disinformation, spread by those who know exactly how to position their marketing and advertising “messages” to a frightened public.

Step One: Make People Afraid

Step Two: Tell Them You Have A Solution

Step  Three: Convince Them That Yours Is The Only Viable Solution

Step Four: Collect Their Money

I don’t want to sound embittered or cynical, but maybe I am. I just can’t stand the way people are jumping all over this concussion issue and promising things they cannot possibly promise. Like football helmets that prevent concussions. Like mouthguards that prevent concussions. Like body armor that protects from concussion. Meanwhile, the folks who are getting hurt are just so much collateral damage. I’m sure all these new products have disclaimers that exempt them from legal liability if they fail to deliver on their promises.

Nobody seems to get that concussion happens inside the skull, not on the outside, and if you are moving forward with incredible force, no amount of cushioning is going to halt the impact of a soft brain against the hard, bony, rough-edged inside of a skull. You just can’t protect the inside 100% with something on the outside. It’s common sense —  IF you understand how concussion works, in the first place.

But people don’t. They don’t want to think for themselves. They want an expert to tell them what to do. Because experts have convoluted the discussion so terribly, that everyone is just confused. Confused and scared and desperate, holding their credit cards at the ready. And the experts are often really just marketers who know how to present themselves as experts. Even “physicians” who pose as concussion experts are suspect — witness the Steelers’ “team concussion expert” who was a rheumatologist, not a neurologist.

Sad.

The saddest thing of all, to me, is how the concussion conversation has been so controlled and manipulated by the people who already have economic ties to concussion-producing activities. The NFL, NHL, and other leagues are culpable — and they’ve gotten away with all kinds of sh*t for many, many decades. But they’re serving a need, so those of us who want what they’re selling, will buy their version of the story. Gladly.

It’s really, really easy to market things like football, boxing, and MMA to people who are stressed out from the demands of their daily lives, who are looking for a way to unwind, and who want to see someone else get beat up, for once. I know — I’m one of those people who loves to watch football… boxing… and MMA. I know what it does to people, but to my tired mind, they’re not getting beaten down any more than I am — and they stand a chance to make a whole lot more money than I do. So, I figure they’re taking their own lives in their hands. They’re adults. They can make up their own minds.

But then again, if someone is brain-injured — as so many of these athletes are — is that even true? CAN they make up their own minds? That’s what we’re being told, and that’s what we want to believe. But again, that’s part of the conversation that’s being controlled by the people who make the money — and who stand to make even more … or lose a lot … depending on how the conversation goes.

Officially, football is a way to make men out of boys. It teaches them teamwork, it teaches them to be part of a common goal. It teaches them to get knocked down and get up to keep fighting. It toughens them up, and it’s an integral part of becoming an American Man. As for boxing, we have the Rocky movies (including the last Creed movie), where the heroes bond and prove themselves in battle, becoming men (or better versions of the men they were) through taking a beating and coming back stronger. As for MMA, all I can tell you is, I find it very gratifying to see people just going after each other — like gladiators of old. Only now, the gladiators are killing each other a lot more slowly — which in the end is easier on the promoters of the sport. It’s expensive to keep finding new fighters. Keep recycling the old ones, and you can build a story-line around their ongoing battle to get to the top.

Like so many things in this country, it’s really all about the money. It’s what drives us, it’s what sustains our systems, it’s what gives us motivation. I know there have been studies about how money is not the #1 motivator for people, but the people they surveyed weren’t at the very bottom or the very top of the economic food chain, so I don’t think much of those studies. It’s comfortable in the middle, where you never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from. For those without that safety, money is a big deal.

And it’s a big deal for the people who have a lot of it. Because it’s awfully easy to lose it all, and end up cast out of your place in the world.

It’s on either end of the spectrum, where the money matters most.

But those in the middle — well, it seems all too often like they’re happy to not even think about the issues. They’d rather have someone else think it all through and provide them with a solution to problems they don’t want to try to understand.

After all, that’s what they pay good money for.

Oh, sweet, sweet relief

I finally got my first paycheck, and wonder of wonders, it is NOT less than the paycheck I was bringing home before as a contractor. For those who do not understand the significance of this, contractors typically earn 30% more than full-time employees, because of the benefits they don’t get. A full-time employee (FTE) has insurance coverage of several kinds, retirement savings, flexible savings plans for extra health expenses, and a number of other perks that usually skim off the top of the paycheck, making a sizeable dent in one’s take-home pay.

With this full-time job, that is not happening. Even with a percentage of my checks taken for the pre-tax flex savings plan, as well as my retirement savings (which my employer is matching).

I was nervous… with good reason. But wonder of wonders, I am bringing home the same amount of money I was before — AND there is quarterly performance pay for another little boost.

What an enormous relief this is. I can breathe again. I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain to my spouse that I bring home less money. They count on me “making bank”  — and so do I.

I can rest tonight. I’m having some supper, then it’s off to bed.

This is very good.

A big bunch of boxes

My situation is not quite this extreme, but sometimes it feels like it

I went a little off the rails, a couple of weeks ago. I decided I needed some new computer equipment, and I bought a couple of items I’d had my eye on at Amazon for some time. I knew I had the money, and I got a deal, so I went for it.

The only problem was, I forgot that A) My spouse had just paid off a bunch of bills that drained our bank balance, and B) I had moved money into our savings account. Saving occasionally is on my to-do list. I used to direct deposit $50 into savings each month, but then things got very tight for a few years,and I had to stop even that.

Yes, we were living close to the bone. Since getting back, I still have this sinking sense of dread that catastrophe is just around the corner. It’s not true, but I feel like I need to be constantly prepared for disaster. So, I haven’t done the regular direct deposit, recently. Even a little bit helps. … Actually, let me fix that now.

Okay, I’m back. I’m putting a little bit aside with each paycheck, now. That feels better. It’s not a ton of money, but it can add up.

Anyway, as it turned out, last week, I really miscalculated about how much money I had on hand. Not only did I spend more than I had on that equipment, but I also spent more than I should have on a couple of side projects I’ve been doing. For some reason, I was convinced that I had $5,000 more to my name, than I did. And the bank was kind enough to inform me of my miscalculation.

I fixed the problem, then it happened again.

More overdraft charges from the bank. Good grief.

A series of confused choices commenced, with me transferring money to and from the wrong accounts, and completely screwing up my mortgage payment. My susceptibility to short-term interference really bit me in the ass, in the space of only a few minutes. It’s crazy. Unless I write stuff down and keep referring to it, it might as well have never even entered my mind. It can evaporate in a matter of minutes — sometimes seconds.

Thanks to the magic of online transfers and a 30-day grace period, I eventually managed to sort things out, but it was a comedy of errors there for a while. I got so confused about which account was which, even though I was looking right at everything on the screen in front of me, and I thought I was 100% clear, each time I set up a transfer. I did it wrong three or four times, before I was able to get it right. And just now, when I looked at my pending transactions, I realized that I’d actually cancelled the mortgage payment transfer. So, I set that up again.

It wasn’t that difficult, but for some reason, my head got completely turned around. I’m still a little fuzzy about it. I’ll check again later this week, when I’ve gotten some more sleep.

It’s all sorted out, now. At least, I hope so. And … getting back to my original subject… I have the new computer equipment I have been needing. And I now have a bunch of boxes I have to figure out what to do with.

The equipment was shipped to me as boxes within boxes. And a bunch of packing stuff to go with it. What the heck? How many boxes do you need? I have them stacked in in front of my bookcases, awaiting their fate.

Not that this is a bad problem. I have shelves full of crap books and papers that I have not used or looked at for years. I’ve moved things around a bit, but I haven’t actually used them. Not the way I used to, years ago. But fortunately, with these boxes, I have a solution – at least in part. I can put some of that stuff under my bed in the narrower cartons. It’s an elegant solution, really. Space is at a premium in this house, and I’ve long felt that space under beds is best used for things other than gathering dust.

So, there’s one solution.

Now I just have to choose what goes there. That’s another question.

As you can probably tell, I’m still in quandary-mode over how best to organize my workspace in my study. I’m incredibly fortunate to even have a study.  It’s mine, all mine, and it’s my sanctuary. It’s a cluttered sanctuary, but I’m not convinced that’s necessarily a bad thing. But with freedom comes responsibility, and I’ve been so caught up in all my projects for the past six months (if not more), that I’ve ditched a lot of the responsibility and let things slide.

With the end result being that I have a lot of stuff that needs to be rearranged and put in proper order – stat. So, I’m working at it a little bit at a time. Not making myself nuts over it, but trying to be smart. A little goes a long way, actually, and that’s a good thing.

Enough talk. Time to solve some stuff. And go for a long walk on this beautiful day. And get a nap.

Onward.

Yes, but I’m free

Not the life I always wanted

I woke up this morning with an image in my head — a horse tied to a cart, pulling it along. Kind of like this image:

It reminded me of the day I have ahead of me… pulling along the burdens of the company work for, together with all the other folks on my team who are hitched to their respective wagons of family and job and mortgage, and so forth.

It made me feel sad.

And I had a realization:

Even though I have had my share of troubles, even though I do not have a college degree or a “safety net” or a lot of security around me. I am free. I have never placed a huge premium on hitching up to anyone’s wagon, and in fact the expectations of others that I will hitch up to their plans and ideas and schemes (in return for money, respectability, and some measure of safety)… well, I’ve always seen through that. In exchange for money, I lose my freedom.

Kind of like today, when I have to go off to work instead of having time to sit quietly and go about my business.

And I realized — yet again — that I have made just about all my choices in life in order to preserve and protect my freedom — even if that meant I was going to expose myself to danger and not be part of the “gang” of compadres who were on the inside track to success.

So, as I prepare for my day, I’m thinking a lot about how I can really, truly be free. I have to work to make a living, and I have to trade my time and energy for the things that will keep me alive. But I have other things I can do, to keep my spirit alive, and I must remember to do those things.

Because, after all, I am free.

 

Two less things to worry about each month

Yesterday I put my tax refund to good use and paid off two outstanding debts that have been a continuous source of stress around the 24th of each month. Both of these bills were due at the same time each month, and they amounted to about 1/4 of my available money, after I was done paying my mortgage and utilities, putting food on the table and gas in the car, and meeting other obligations. Not only were they expensive, but they also stressed me out at the end of each month, because I had to remember them and make the payments at a specific time, or I would incur further costs and headaches — and one of the creditors was threatening to take my house.

The one who had threatened to take my house (which they actually couldn’t because I have a homestead declaration on my home), also hauled me into court several times over the past few years, over stupid little things like changing the spellings of names on the paperwork. Just intimidation tactics, to show me who was boss. It was pretty tiresome. And pretty stressful.

Now that is behind me, and I have finally paid off all the debts I had racked up over the years. Four years ago, when I started the debt settlement process, I owed as much as I take home in a year’s time. So, paying it off has not been easy. I contracted with a debt settlement firm that seemed like a good option and really helped me. People all warned me away from using them, but I had no other option. My life was a story of one harassing call after another, and never being able to get ahead. I was literally paying out more than I was taking in, and all I could do was hope that something would break… but it never did, so I had to bite the bullet, kiss my credit rating good-bye, and just do the impossible. The firm I used was recently put out of business by lawsuits and going broke, but this was after they helped me pay off everything for 50 cents on the dollar. So, it worked out for me in a very big way.

And as hard as it was, I don’t regret doing it. I would probably do it again.

But now I don’t have to. And I never have to go back to that place, because I (and more importantly my spouse) know the dangers of getting way in over your head, and not having a way out. When things are going great, it’s fun to charge things on your credit card and live free and easy. But when things go bad — as they will do — well, that’s another story.

My spouse especially has grown up a lot, in the past four years. They no longer reach for the credit card immediately, because, well, we don’t have all those cards to pull from. And whenever they show me another card to apply for, I just ignore it. Personally, I can’t believe they would even think of getting more credit cards. It just makes no sense to me.

So, I will have to stay vigilant and hold the line. And focus on doing good work and making some good money.  Just stick with the basics, and leave it at that.

Speaking of sticking with the basics, it’s time I got to work…

Onward

 

 

It is so good to be home

Good to be home again

After more than 24 hours of go-go-going, with about an hour of sleep on the flight back home, I spent most of yesterday taking care of myself. I went out with some friends around lunch time, just to catch up, then I came home and slept. For almost 7 hours.

God, that felt good. I have been operating on 5-6 hours of sleep a night, with really long days — sometimes 15 hours of non-stop going — and it is fantastic to get to just STOP moving, and basically collapse.

I could do without losing the hour, thanks to changing our clocks, but that’s the least of my concerns, right now.

I have a big week ahead of me, with some significant projects. One of them is really behind – it’s overdue, and the folks I’m working with are just not happy about it. They haven’t been happy about things for several years, but I’m not the only one to blame. They don’t do what they say they’re going to do, on time, and then they come back to me, bitching and complaining about things not being “right”.

It’s generally unsatisfactory, and nobody is happy, but that seems to be how it always goes. Frankly, the fact that I’m able to get anything done under the conditions I’m working with, is a miracle. I have a feeling things are going to be changing soon in my life and work, so I’m not going to let it get the better of me and throw me off. These things happen. Nobody likes them. They’re awkward and uncomfortable, and they’re a pain in everyone’s ass. But that’s just how things are for the time being.

It’s all experience. Just that. Experience.

Speaking of experience, I’ve decide that whatever happens in my life, I alone am responsible for the experience I get from things. Yes, there are going to be really tough times and really easy times, too. But how I react to it, and what I get out of it, is on me. I can treat the tough times like they are victimizing me, and I am helpless to prevent them. Or I can treat them like lessons and opportunities to build up my strength and reach deeper within myself for more strength and endurance.

These past weeks – the past couple of months, actually, have been all about learning to deal with adversity and looking my imperfections and shortcomings and limitations in the eye. These are very public imperfections, which are resulting in frictions and drama with my workmates, as well as compromising my work product. In the past, I have really let that get to me, when I came up short, my focus and attention failed me, and I screwed things up.

I really beat up on myself, convinced that I was broken beyond repair, and I would never amount to anything. But that wasn’t actually accurate. Those were just times when I had the opportunity to see close up and personal just where I needed to put more attention and effort.

And when all was said and done, when I held steady and didn’t let things throw me in a hyper-personal way, what I had was a greater resilience and the ability to wade into potentially distressing situations without losing my cool.

That’s been a great boon to me, because the thing that my last TBI cost me — which also cost me my job(s) and almost killed my marriage — was my ability to stay cool. In the past, I had really banked on my ability to stay calm in the face of the storm, but after my TBI in 2004, I just lost it. I couldn’t keep anything together. I was so stressed and so fried by every danged thing, that I couldn’t make it through the day without melting down or blowing up over one thing or another.

It’s all a jumbled mass of shadowy recollections in my head, now, but I can remember a number of times when I just lost it — at work as well as at home. And I really know how that impacted me — lost jobs, friction at home, a fractured marriage and lost friendships…

Now, though, I’m getting back on my feet. I just got my tax refund back, and I also actually got a bonus this year, so things are actually looking up for me. I’m able to pay off a LOT of back debts, that have been sucking hundreds of dollars from me each month. It has taken me four years to clear out debts that were the equivalent of a year’s take-home salary. It has been a long, hard slog, but I am now making payments that will wipe out ALL my old outstanding debts, even my line of credit at the bank to cover my mortgage payments. I’m getting current on all my bills, and I’m consolidating and removing extra costs that I don’t need. I am now also in a position to do some house repairs which have been waiting about ten years — since I had my TBI in 2004, and I ceased being able to deal with, well, just about anything.

I’m in a position where I can actually fix the issues with my cars, and I’m considering getting a new (to me) car to replace my commuter car that’s nearing 150,000 miles and is starting to have the kinds of problems that older cars have. Radiator needs to be replaced. Back left strut needs to be fixed, rust around the edges, and so forth. So, if I can trade in the car I have for another one, it would probably be cheaper just to get a new-to-me car, instead of having to replace and repair so much on my current vehicle.

Having that influx of money to my bank account has just solved a whole lot of stress-inducing problems, the nicest one being that whenever I go look for another job, I don’t have to push the envelope on what I’m earning, just to get by. I’m not saddled with all these infernal debt payments, and I can actually work with what I’m making, rather than watching it trickle away.

Looking at all my numbers, I can see how I can actually get ahead in the coming months and years, which is a great feeling, after the past four years of being trapped in a cycle of debt resolution, feeling like I would never get out from under.

Yes, it is really good to be home.

When things turn around – for the better

I recently realized I needed to change my tax withholding information for work. I wasn’t taking enough deductibles each year (as evidenced by the refunds I’ve been getting for years), so I submitted a new W4 form a few weeks back. The results are in, and it’s pretty amazing – I actually got a 10% “raise” in the process.

If I were my mother, I’d be shouting “Praise God!” to the heavens, Praising His Name to everyone within earshot. And I’m almost there, myself.

It’s just now sinking in. The more I think about it, the bigger news this is for me. This changes everything. It’s pulling me back from the brink in so many ways. Even just that little boost is making the difference between a barely-scraping-by subsistence frame of mind, and actually feeling like I can plan my life.

It’s pretty phenomenal. I have now gone from being strictly hand-to-mouth… pinching pennies each week, sweating it out about how much I run the heat and electricity, driving on fumes till I’m almost out of gas by the side of the road, postponing necessary car repairs that will prevent larger problems later, and buying those $2.94 lunches at work each day.

For the record, it’s actually pretty filling, considering how cheap it is, and I can buy at the cafeteria cheaper than I can make it myself, but now the thought that I actually have a choice, is just phenomenal.

Holy crap. And all of a sudden, the world looks that much more friendly. I have been seriously stressed about money for years, now, and after realizing my mistake, I did something about it. This is all coming from my troubles after my TBI in 2004, when my brain stopped working the way it was supposed to… and it’s coming at a time when my spouse and I have been pushed to the absolute limit of our endurance. The money situation has been literally tearing us apart, and this break comes at a critical juncture, when we are going into a winter season that promises to be cold, with neither of us able to afford getting sick from not having enough heat.

Now, with just this little boost, I can quit hovering over every cent they spend, harassing them over every cup of coffee they buy on the road, instead of making it at home, fussing over ordering a large size versus a medium or small size, and worried over which utility is going to threaten us this month with shutoff.

Just a little bit can make a huge difference. And looking back at my tax forms, I realize that I didn’t do the math correctly there, either, and I did not get the full refunds I was entitled to. So, I’m going to be refiling my taxes from the past three years in the coming weeks, and it looks like I’ll get something from that as well.

Which means I can pay off some debts that are sucking us dry each month, a little bit at a time. I just might be able to fix my 15-year-old car with the radiator problems, iffy starter, and bad struts. I might just be able to have an electrician come in and fix the wiring in the dining room that’s been out for the past several years, because we didn’t have the money to get it fixed. And I just might be able to buy some new pajama bottoms — the ones I wear are about 10 years old, and they’re getting threadbare. When I look around the house at everything we have here, most of it has been given to us, and the rest has been cobbled together, piece by piece. We have very few truly nice things. We don’t live like paupers, and we have almost everything we need to live like normal human beings, but it’s a humble existence, truly.

I’m not complaining. I’m just noticing.

And the thought of things turning around… well, that’s just phenomenal. Indeed, coming out of the past three years of severe lack and limitation — every “extra” dime we’ve had has gone into paying off the mountain of debt we acquired over the years (especially since my TBI in 2004), and it has been hard. We have done without so very much. So very, very much. Basic medical care. Basic necessities. And the opportunities to see family, who are all several states away. I’ve had to pass up job opportunities, too, because I did not have the extra money to front the airfare to go to the home office and get “face time” with the higher-ups. It’s been hard. Really, really hard.

But this is changing. Which means I need to shift my perspective away from just survival, to how to manage this new “windfall”. 10% more money in the bank might not seem like a lot, but it’s actually even more than that, relatively speaking. See, a good 2/3 of my paycheck goes to paying off the mortgage as well as old debts, each month. So, that leaves 1/3 of my paycheck for us to live on each month. (Nothing like trying to buy groceries, the night before payday and having the cashier tell you your debit card was declined. Horrible.)

But now with this “raise”, taking the amounts set aside for mortgage and debt payments out of the picture, I am actually seeing over 40% more takehome pay, each paycheck. That puts it in a better perspective. Relatively speaking, after the money is allocated to the house and those creditors, I am seeing almost 1-1/2 times as much pay, as I was seeing before.

Yes, that makes all the difference in the world.

And that means I need to make some adjustments. I need get out of the hand-to-mouth way of thinking, and squirrel some of this money aside. I need to beef up the house and car repairs fund that we had (and drained) earlier this year. I need to look at the long-term plan for getting rid of the debit load and saving for the future. I know I need to get a new (to me) car, because my trusty little commuter car is having more and more problems, so I need to plan for that, as well.

Long story short, I have some thinking to do. And planning. My spouse and I need to sit down with the numbers and make a plan — that’s based on future prospects, rather than just a knee-jerk reaction designed to ease the pain of daily existence (as has been our tendency for many years, now). I’m coming out of a very dark place, and things are turning around for me, and I need to adjust accordingly.

So, it’s time to sit down and look at numbers. And get priorities together. And move ahead. Just move ahead.

The crazy thing is, I woke up early this morning – around 4:00 a.m. – feeling incredibly down. I was so depressed and felt so hemmed in, it brought me to tears. I felt like there was no way out, that I was stuck, and I was never going to get free… and that part of my brain that loves to give in to despair started thinking about how much my life insurance was worth, and how I was worth more dead than alive. That comes up, every now and then, when I am feeling stuck in a corner with no way out. It’s horrible.

Then I called my bank and checked my balance, since my paycheck went in at midnight. And everything started to look brighter. As in, blindingly.  Everything turned around, just when things were seeming their darkest. And it went from the abyss to the mountain top.

Now, granted, there are still challenges, and I still have a lot of work to do, but this is a start. It gets me out of the red and to a place where I’m doing slightly better than just breaking even. I have years’ worth of backlogged obligations to take care of, and now they don’t have to hang over my head anymore. I can take care of these things, one at a time. Systematically and regularly and with a good plan that makes sense and as my spouse’s cooperation. I don’t have to live in horror and dread because of a bad credit rating, because now I can suddenly afford to pay for things when they come up.

And life is good again.

How quickly things can turn around. How quickly they can change. I just need to keep steady and not lose my head over things… and make sure my spouse is in synch with reality. Already, they’re starting to talk about skimming a little bit off the top, here and there, so I need to nip that tendency in the bud, before it puts us back where we’ve been.

I’m tired of being here. I need to get out. I need to move on. Make the most of what I have — however much or little that may be — and get back on the good foot.

Use my head. Be smart about things. And go. Really go.

The bottom line is, I must never give up. Because things might just turn around radically without me ever expecting it. Never give up. Never, ever, ever give up.