Just keep working – the solutions will come

I’ve been getting a big bogged down, lately. Money is a huge issue. After some unanticipated expenses and finding out that a big monthly debt payment I was supposed to have paid off in December is not going to go away for another year, things are extremely tight. And I can’t figure out how it’s all going to come together.

I’m sure it will. I just don’t know how that’s going to happen. Holy smokes. Things are very tight. I’m going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul, and Peter isn’t going to be happy about it. Guess I’ll be getting a friendly call from my bank around Thanksgiving time.

I did figure out a couple of ways to cut expenses, but I still have to pay for food and gas, and I have an upcoming trip to see family at Thanksgiving, so that’s extra funds I’m going to need.

My spouse does have some more money coming in… and I’ve figured out some ways to shift money around, but it’s going to be tight. Very tight indeed.

Well, I’ve been in these tough straits before, and I’ve made it through. Things are just going to be rough for the time being, until I can get my taxes filed and get that refund. I’m counting on that coming in and making a dent in what I owe to people. I might even be able to zero out that outstanding debt. The creditor has told me they will settle for 75% of what I owe them, but I don’t have $3000 lying around right now, so I can’t do it. In February, that will be a different story, I am sure. We shall see.

So, I’m collecting all my bank statements and financial records and organizing them for tax time. And I’m going to file as early as I possibly can. I need to adjust my W4 withholding rate, because I think I am not taking enough deductions. I have not been claiming my spouse as a dependent, which is totally untrue. I am supporting them through it all. Also, I have been looking up tax details, and I believe I may be able to re-file my taxes from the past several years to claim more of a refund than I originally received. I’ve got my tax software and returns from all those prior years, so I think I can explore that option as well.

The main thing is, I need to keep going. Keep moving. Not give in to the fear, not get intimidated by the problems around me. Just keep moving and not get frozen. I have options available to me, and I just need to follow up on all of them, as soon as I possibly can.

I learned my lesson last year, when I tried to refile some taxes that I’d paid years ago, but didn’t get my proper refund. I delayed following through on that, and I actually lost about $700 in possible refunds. I overpaid, and it stung. I had thought I had time to refile, but the statute of limitations ran out, and then I was SOL. And that was bad, because I had been planning on having that $700 available. Then it didn’t work out. And I was screwed. So, there you have it.

It was a painful lesson, but you can bet your lucky stars I’m not going to make that same mistake twice.

So, it’s back to the drawing board with this stuff. I’ve got options, and I’m going to follow each to its logical conclusion. And I’m going to learn a lot in the process. I’m a survivor, that’s for sure, and I’m highly motivated. I’ve come through worse things, and I’m not giving in to fear and desperation. It will all work out. It most surely will.

I just have to keep moving, keep thinking, and stay steady and strong.

Onwards.

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Stopping the bad stuff before it starts

A storm was brewing…

Signs of progress… Yesterday, I was pretty worn out after a long day of work. I was supposed to leave for my vacation in the afternoon, but I had too much to do, so I ended up working through the evening to at least make a dent in what was happening with work.

After that, I got into the beginnings of a very familiar argument with someone over a topic that’s very touchy for me. Things have been tense for over a week, since the Boston Marathon bombing, which injured some friends of friends and had everybody at work talking and stressing… talking and stressing…

No matter where you are, these kinds of events can really take a toll on your mental health, and I was a little worse for wear yesterday — between not getting to leave for vacation on time, having to rush to fix all kinds of stupid sh*t that got screwed up because somebody at work didn’t want to do their job, and feeling pressured by my family to spend time that I don’t have, visiting them… and (had I mentioned?) working like a crazy person all day.

So, when this argument started, I could feel the familiar rush of indignation, getting upset because I “know better” than the person I was getting into an argument with. They were making unwise choices about their health, not taking care of themself, and then getting all tweaked because they have health issues. Uh, d’uh — you eat crap, you don’t exercise, you have no apparent regimen in your daily life, and then you complain about not being able to do things you used to do, and you’re freaked out about illness and getting sick and coming down with diabetes or a heart attack… without ever doing anything about it. I get so frustrated with this individual, whose behavior seems to have no connection with what they actually want to have happen in their life. It’s maddening.

And of course, I know better.

I started to get really tweaked over it, getting angrier and angrier with them over what they were doing and saying and how they were acting. Then it occurred to me — I’ve had this exact same argument with this person for years and years, and it never gets resolved. We just get pissed off at each other, go our separate ways for a bit to cool off, then get back in touch as though the whole thing never happened. There’s never any resolution, because they think they’re doing things right, making choices that make them feel good in the moment but which have been shown by tons of medical evidence, to do them harm in the long run. All they know is “the now” and all they really strive for in their personal life is to be “present in the moment”.

Yes, it sounds insane to me — trading your future for the sake of the now — but that is their perspective, and in all the decades that I’ve known them (they’re one of my longest friends), they have never felt or acted or believed any other way. And the times when they did have little health scares, they were back to their old ways, as though they’d never had the scares.

But as I sat listening to them, I could feel myself getting more and more tense, feeling myself really stressing over it… while they just carried on talking about things as happy as a clam. And when I said something about being concerned for them, they snapped at me… and I could feel that old argument coming on again. I noticed that in my own body, my head was starting to feel tight and pressurized. And my heart was starting to pound. I was starting to sweat, and my thoughts were starting to repeat over and over the same arguments and concerns I’ve had for years — like they were a dog chasing its own tail. I was getting really uptight, really stressed, and I was on the verge of flipping out at them — as I have often done in the past.

But I stopped. I stopped the downward spiral, I stopped the dog chasing its tail. I knew I was tired from a long day of working. I knew I was upset about not being able to leave on time for my vacation. I knew my patience had been running thin since about 10:00 that morning. I knew that where I was going was NOT a good place to be.

I also remembered what I’ve heard and read in a number of places — the average emotion lasts about 90 seconds. Its biochemical “recipe” gets into our blood — and then can get flushed out in less than two minutes. If left to its own devices without any kind of intervention on my part, it will dissipate and disappear. I don’t have to do anything, if I don’t much care for the experience — just breathe and let it go its own way. On the other hand, I can choose to feel something different and let that get into my system for a longer period of time.

So, if I’ve got 90 seconds to work with, that gives me a choice — I can either dive into whatever I’m feeling and get all worked up and bent out of shape, like I have countless times. Or I can distract myself (I’m very good at that), breathe, let my system chill out, and NOT have the same shouting match that has been the buggaboo of this friendship since almost the beginning.

So, last night I chose the latter. I distracted myself. I just sat there quietly while they talked, and I didn’t get into it. I was upset at first, but after a little while that feeling dissipated and I started to feel sane again. The dog stopped chasing its tail. The tension and pressure in my head relaxed. And even though I was still irked by what they were saying and doing in their day-to-day, that feeling didn’t “own” me the same way it usually does. I was able to tell them what I felt and how I was feeling, in a sane person’s gone of voice… and then let it go. I didn’t get into the blame, the fear, the anxiety, the frustration. I “went there” for a little bit, last night. But then I let it go and did something else with my attention. I stopped the flash flood of emotions before it got started.

And you know what? When I didn’t fly off the handle and yell and criticize and attack, the person on the other side of the discussion could actually hear what I was saying. They could actually get that I was concerned about their health, that I was worried about how much money they were spending on junk food, and that my frustration and anger came out of concern for their health. It wasn’t about me trying to shame them. It was about me caring about their well-being and wanting to see them have a better life and do better with themself.

And it helped. Last night could have kicked off a really shitty vacation for me, starting me off on a foot that started with a blow-out, me not being able to sleep from being so friggin’ tired, having my chemistry out of whack, and having yet another instance of an impossible argument that never gets resolved.

I can’t say I’m that encouraged by my friend’s choices. And I can’t say I’m that optimistic about their long-term health and happiness. But for me, at least I didn’t drown in a flood of emotion that just swamps me and makes me feel really, really terrible. When I get that upset and blow up, the biochemical residue stays with me for days and drags me down, making me depressed and wiping out my self-confidence.

Today I don’t have that problem. And my friend doesn’t have to go through their day with the memory of yet another one of my blow-ups. Today I get to start fresh. Everybody does.

Onward.

Always at Tofino

I’ve been thinking constantly about Tofino, that western coast of Vancouver Island, where people swim and surf all year round, even in winter.

For a while, I was into watching parkour, watching folks throw themselves around, over, under, and through whatever obstacle was in their way. And that was great. But there was still a part of me that wanted to see acrobatics that I could (potentially) do — without cringing at the thought of landing hard the wrong way on a solid object. And I was more interested in seeing something in the wilderness, than in the city… something that involved people in dynamic interaction with their environment. Like I am with my own environment.

Then came Tofino. Onto my radar, thanks to YouTube. Surfing in snowstorms. Endless waves that have been rolling in for thousands of years… that can be caught by just about anyone with a wetsuit and a board… male or female. An equal opportunity constant challenge. Not unlike TBI — only much less particular. I think of those waves, deadly as they can be, as being all but oblivious to the presence of humans. TBI, though, seems a whole lot more personal.

Anyway, I’ve been struggling a bit at work, on and off. Struggling with money. Struggling with my marriage. Not constantly. Many days are great, and there are so many good moments. But still, I can’t help but wonder what it might be like to not be here at all… but be at Tofino, enclosed in neoprene, paddling after waves.

What might that feel like? The constant rolling, the chasing, the paddling, the riding, the flying, the falling… the constant ebb and flow, the never-ending crash and pull, the rip tides, the swells, the sky overhead, and the salt on your face, in your eyes, your mouth, frigid water seeping into the tight spaces between skin and wetsuit… I imagine what it must be like, to track through snow to get to the beach… how cold it must be. And how much you must need to want it, to do it. How much you must have to have it. Man, woman, or child. Elder or youngster. Local or import.

I dream of Tofino, having no idea what it’s like, not knowing if I will ever find out. I am almost out of money, for a variety of reasons, many of them neurological, past and present. I am intensely occupied with just keeping viable in the moment, and I am fully invested in living right here, right now. Will I ever see Tofino? Who can say?

What I CAN say is that I don’t necessarily need to be at Tofino to have that kind of experience. Oh, certainly, there is no place like it on earth. But surely some elements of the experience of it can be had, just about anywhere you find yourself. Maybe Tofino is as much a state of mind as it is a place…?

I have friends who like to talk about living capably “in the flow” in terms of being “skillful surfers”. These people bug the living crap out of me. Because they are — almost without exception — extremely un-athletic individuals who love the imagery of surfing without having any idea of what it’s really like to Get Out There in the surf and try your hand at surviving it. They don’t swim, they don’t surf, they don’t even boogie board. They just like the imagery.

But I’m getting prickly. The real thing I need to talk about is how I don’t have to leave the country to get the state of mind I seek — the surfing, the moving, the seeking, the riding, the splashing, the movement. No matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, I can have that quality of living that I seek, simply by putting myself in that head-space. It’s not easy. Sometimes it seems all but impossible. But it can be done. I did it when I was homeless, two decades ago, walking the streets of a very large city in the winter, wondering what would become of me, realizing that no matter where I was or what I was doing, I could choose to think and feel however I chose to think and feel. That was something NO ONE could take from me. No matter what. Unless I let them.

Now I find myself thinking this same way — almost out of money, wondering what’s going to happen to me and my family and my home… dreaming of Tofino and spending my days in the water. I can spend my days however I like, in whatever frame of mind I so choose. I don’t actually have to be in the water to get soaking wet. I can close my eyes… and imagine…

I may be here, or I may be there, but I can always be at Tofino.

Staving off the anxiety, bit by bit

My car is emitting a strange noise when I start it up… and later when I turn the steering wheel. I’m a bit short on cash, right now, so the thought of paying my mechanic yet more money makes me extremely nervous.

Solution for 1:45 a.m.? Google it. Power steering whine is not uncommon. And the noise seems to happens only when I’m turning the wheel, or when I start up cold. Who can say? Only the mechanic knows. But at least I know there are plenty of other people in the world who have strange whining noises coming from their cars, and they’re not panicking.

I also need new tires. And an oil change. Will the bleeding ever stop? So long as I own a car, probably not. And I think back fondly on the days when I did not own a car. Lived in the city. Walked and took public transit. The good life.

I think I’m coming down with a cold. Nose running. Cannot open the little pack of tissues. Everything feels like a conspiracy, the haves making life difficult for the have-nots. Bastards.

In South Africa, an avowed white supremacist was hacked and bludgeoned to death by two workers. The World Cup people must be having a sh*t fit. Apparently, people who “know” South Africa are waiting for the other side of the bigotry camp to make matters worse. Stoke the fires. At least I don’t live there

My body aches with all this springtime activity. Lots to do. New movements after a long winter. Body knows it, too. Ouch. Stretch. That’s better… a little.

Oh, God, I am so tired. I need tea. Chamomile or Sleepy Time. Something that will take the edge off. I haven’t been sleeping. I’ve been worried. If I had good sense, I’d remember that in another year, I will not remember this time, nor many of these worries, and I will have gotten on with my life. What kind of life will I have? Pondering that distracts me from my desperation. For a while.

Google Chrome is my new favorite browser, but it can’t handle logins to save its life, apparently. I think it gets confused with all the passwords it saves. It won’t let me into my email. So I use Opera. It’s faster than Firefox and I like the idea of using a browser that nobody knows about, but that pretty much works.

I hate technology. There, I’ve said it. I love what it can do, but I hate it for what it is: complication raised to an art form. Why can’t I just go back to farming like my ancestors? Dude — ’cause farming blows. Ask any farmer. Ask your cousins — ask your uncles, who went out and got desk jobs instead of doing 4:00 a.m. milking for the rest of their born days. I am one generation removed from being raised on a farm, and I grew up listening to my dad tell all us kids how lucky we were that we didn’t have to empty out the outhouse once a month. My dad grew up using an outhouse. Not indoor amenities. Most people forget how far we have all come in just the last 50 years.

If I were my grandfather, I’d be getting ready to go milk my cows, right about now.

But I still hate technology.

My hard drive is grumbling and grinding. That can’t be good.

BUT new gadgets are hitting the stores that will make everyone go out and buy them and dump their “old” laptops. I’ll buy a newish used one for a song. And its former owner will cling to their iPad, tenaciously ignoring its bugs and quirks because it’s… well… new.

I breathe… I breathe… I draw a breath in with a count of 1…2…3….4…5…6… exhale 1…2…3….4…5…6… and I reach for another tissue to blow my nose.

I need tea. Don’t just sit there. Make some tea. It’s 4:04 a.m. and there’s no sense in staying up any longer than I have to. I have an appointment with my neuropsych this afternoon. I need to be fresh for that. Awake. I don’t think that’s happening.

It’s 4:04 a.m.  Do I know where my money is? Do I know how my spouse is spending the money I earn? Do I need to buy a new car? The van is on its last legs – the van is what my spouse drives. They need wheels. Where will I get the money? I have two healthy kidneys, from what I can tell. I could live with one. I hear you can get $10,000 for a healthy kidney.

I’m only half joking.

Or, I could create something useful and worthwhile that brings value to others, and that they’ll pay for. And sell it. That might help. But I am an unknown. Not a household name whose personal brand sells just by association. I’m no Billy Mays, rest his soul.  I’ll have to work…

Speaking of work, I have to be there in another 5 hours.

Time for tea.

The anxiety will wait. It always does.

Sorting things out, bit by bit

I am at a complete impasse with my money. I am doing well, salary-wise, in a competitive field, but I am literally living paycheck-to-paycheck, in no small part because my last brain injury happened at a really crappy time. There’s never a good time for a head injury, but this one took place about a year before I was about to become vested in an options program at work, which had siphoned off all my extra earnings for the past three years to pay into, so that I couldn’t pay off any of my credit cards all during that pre-vesting time.

So, after I fell, I was left not only with crazy credit card balances, but also the inability to finish out my vesting term, which means I lost half my money to taxes, a remaining fourth to paying down out-of-control debt, and the last quarter fled from my wallet in an amazingly short period of time. I hate when that happens…

Long story short, I’m earning a good living, but I’m barely scraping by. It’s straining my marriage, it’s threatening my house and my sanity, and I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t ask for help from anyone close to me, because all my friends are in terrible shape, losing their houses and marriages and jobs, and my family is all fairly not-well-off… plus, they all think I’m made of money, not knowing the details of where I’m at — and why. I can’t even begin to explain my situation to them. They wouldn’t understand. They just don’t get a whole lot about me, including why I’m having as much trouble getting by, as I am. I just can’t do the lecture-thing. Just can’t.

Sometimes it just sucks to look good, while you’re struggling.

Anyway, enough feeling sorry for myself. I’ve made some calls, and I’m getting my financial situation in order. I have been wanting to do this for years, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with approaching others about my money. I got too turned around, and I didn’t know how to ask for clarification. I literally didn’t. I thought I had to tough it out and soldier through and try to figure things out on my own. That never worked, and it was debilitating. Disabling, really. I was trying to go it alone, while that was about the last thing I could manage.

I’m not going it alone anymore, at least in this respect. I’m asking questions when I need things explained. I’m getting help, and it feels good. Scary as hell, but good.

After being on the phone about this for the past two hours, I am utterly bushed. So, I’m off to bed. More on this later. Just the fact that I was able to pick up the phone is a real sign of progress. And the more I think about it, the better I feel. But for now, I’m too tired to do more than click Publish and head off to bed.

Cheers.

Basta with the credit lectures!

Here’s a somewhat rambling end-of-day post about something that’s near and dear to my heart — credit cards!

Lately, it seems like I can’t turn on my radio without hearing someone offering help for credit-strapped consumers. Let the record show that my own credit  card debt load far exceeds what the recommended amount is. And there is no way I’m going to pay it off in a year. I don’t care what kind of magical schemes they’re selling. I’m not going to come up with half my annual salary to pay off those balances.

Now (and I apologize in advance for my snarkiness), the popular response to carrying that much credit card debt is a well-conditioned horror. Everyone – from my parents (I quit telling them how much I make and how much I owe about 10 years ago), to the government, to my bank, to my peers, to strangers I stand next to at the post office – is avidly anti-credit-card-debt. Who isn’t? Paying up to 29% APR to people who are prone to cut your available credit without warning and just ’cause they can really sucks.

And our current popular culture is chock-full of gurus, financial “advisors” and online/broadcast marketers who are telling us in no uncertain terms that we need to be credit-free. For the sake of our savings. For the sake of our peace of mind. For the sake of our children (that’s always a compelling reason). For the sake of our retirement. And for three low installments of $129.95 (plus shipping and handling), they’ll tell us just how we can do that in less than a year!

But I’ve had it with all the personal finance pomposity. I’m sick and tired of all those “money people” lecturing me about how bad credit cards are, how much they threaten my safety, how zealouslyI should avoid them. I’m sick and tired of people who supposedly know all about money (and many of them do, because they have an awful lot of it) telling me how I should handle mine. I don’t have an awful lot of it, and I sincerely doubt I ever will — being RICH is just not that big of a priority with me, and any extra money I have, I tend to give away to organizations that are defending the defenseless or spend on occasional vacations and computer stuff… and my house. I’m tired of people who operate at higher financial levels thinking that their rules apply to me, down here in the “pedestrian zone” of personal finance. I’m sick of people preaching budget-budget-budget, as though anal-retentively socking away $25 a week is going to dramatically impact my long-term prospects.

I’ve got news for those folks – in case they hadn’t realized it by now – people like me don’t live by the same rules that people like them do. If they haven’t gotten that simple fact through their thick skulls, either their math isn’t nearly as good as mine – which is frightening – or they don’t have a clue how people like me really live, or they are actively concealing the truth about money management, so they can sell little shreds of hope to those of us whom they assume know precious little… after all, if we were that knowledgeable and smart, we’d be rich like them, right?

Anyway, even if I did put away $25/week for 52 weeks a year, I would save $1,300, which is nothing to sneeze at. And if I earn 5.5% on this amount (compounded monthly) like I do on my ING Direct savings account, after a year I would have $1,336.38. Not bad – that’s the magic of compounding, where every month your total balance (including interest) gets compounded.

But let’s remember, that’s a little over $100/month I’d be putting away. And in these tight times, there are about 1,336 other places I can think to put that money. And like the trickles of water that carved out the Grand Canyon, those places and reasons have a way of seriously eroding my savings. Or it can take just one or two ill-fated twists — like car repairs after being rear-ended in holiday traffic, or veterinarian bills when one of my pets gets in a fight with a stray animal or falls ill.

Now, if I want to be a little more modest — and realistic — and calculate for $25/month, at the end of a year at 5.5% compounded monthly, I’ll have $308.74 in the bank. Great. That should just barely cover the emergency dental work I need that my insurance doesn’t cover.

Note: I used the savings calculator over at Bankrate.com for these calculations.

There are countless sudden low-scale financial crises that can crop up over the course of a year, which are unpredictable, unavoidable, and immediate. Indeed, there have been more sudden extreme needs for cold, hard cash that have cropped up in my life on a regular basis over the past 20 years. Many an event has been as extreme as it has been sudden and unexpected. Car accidents. Medical and dental emergencies. Getting laid off. Health-related relocations to cleaner and safer parts of the country. Family crises that require immediate travel. Veterinary bills. You name it, I’ve probably whipped out the plastic to pay for it.

Never were these events foreseen. Many of them might have looked predictable to the trained eye, but trust me, if I’d been able to see ahead and take steps to avoid them, I most certainly would have. Unfortunately, being human and all, and living in a country that simultaneously doesn’t favor paying a living wage and demands that we all “play our part” as active consumers, the proverbial cards are well-stacked against me and my kind. And make no mistake, the cards are stacked. Anyone who tells you otherwise is sitting across the table from you in the dealer’s seat.

I don’t want to be a whiner and blame the rest of the world for my troubles. I’m big into personal responsibility. But at some point, the gross inequity of power and influence starts to get a little ridiculous. At every turn, the American middle and working classes are constantly prodded to buy-buy-buy… and all the while, our employers keep telling us they can’t afford to raise our pay… and we’re being lectured from every corner about how we shouldn’t borrow more than we earn. It’s a recipe for disaster, mental illness, systemic infrastructure collapse, or all of the above.

The system truly is totally schizoid, at odds with its conflicted self, and seemingly incapable of any sort of sustainable, consistently coherent cultural message. Sure, we’re supposed to be Good Americans by being good consumers. But heaven forbid we be paid what we need to live on, or have access to adequate medical coverage for the procedures and the tests that we are assured are absolutely necessary for us to stay alive and healthy. And God forbid we charge it — or don’t charge it. If someone could tell me, once and for all, what exactly I’m supposed to do, to keep America strong with my wallet, I’d be deeply grateful.

Now, on the whole, I’m doing pretty well for myself. Credit card debt notwithstanding, I’m making decent pay. But countless other Americans are not, and that’s what tweaks me to no end. Because we are all — no matter how much money we are making — are under constant pressure, these days, to manage our money better. Money we only wish we had. Money we’re sure we had just a few weeks ago, which has mysteriously disappeared. It’s so maddening. I’ve got siblings whose whole families are working more than one job, each, and they’re struggling. It’s stupid, for such good, hard-working people to suffer so much, and live in constant fear of Losing Everything, while our lawmakers languish in Washington with their cushy benefits plans, pontificate about how to be Patriotic, and vote through legislation they haven’t even read.

What the hell can people at the bottom of the barrel do? On the one hand, our country pats us on the back for being responsibly contributing citizens by spending like crazy… while our political, social, and thought leaders keep lecturing us about doing more with what little we have, and not being such irresponsible, greedy gits. Their pulpits are the television, the internet, the radio, the bookshelves. And they just keep preaching away. Sinner, put down your credit cards! Repent! Come to your senses and lay your burden of debt down…

Indeed, there is a quasi-religious fervor to this anti-credit craze. People are spinning the mortgage lending crisis into a sort of anti-credit virtual run on banks, with all these hawkers standing at proverbial street corners shouting that The End is Nigh, and it’s all the fault of “easy credit”, so zero out your balances, bite the consumer bullet, and “live more simply so that others may simply live” (as though my doing without plastic is going to save Darfur or put roofs over the heads of homeless Katrina victims).

But it’s an overly emotional message they’re sending, and it’s at complete and total odds with the reality many of us live with — that we’re just getting by, no matter how much or little money we’re making, and even if we did rob Peter, it wouldn’t be enough to pay Paul. And then Peter would come looking for us and break our kneecaps with a lead pipe.

And as much as people love to tout the benefits of everyday budgeting and personal money management, for some of us, that level of attention to detail to our pitiful little pile of coins is unrealistic, if not impossible.Again, I don’t want to blame the rest of the world for my money woes, but I actually have had certain issues that prevented me from handling financial complexities in a sustained way. I do the best I can, and I’m learning how to do it better all the time, but back when I fell in 2004, I was about as far from being able to make wise money decisions, as a color blind person is from being able to dress models for New York Fashion Week. Sometimes, you just can’t make good money management decisions, no matter how hard you try. Especially when you’re dealing with a neurological condition that hides your own limitations from you.

Yes, some of us — perhaps more of us than care to admit it — are genuinely challenged, when it comes to handling money with facility and grace. And when I think back on all the screw-ups I’ve made about money, these gung-ho messages about dispensing with credit cards just irk me. They’re just so idealistic, so pie-in-the-sky, so insistent that credit cards can be just gotten rid of, like that.

Now, I don’t dispute that there may be some useful strategies for doing away with debt out there, but how many of them are for real? So much of the marketing is driven by raw emotion — fear – fear – more fear — I have to wonder if folks are able to truly use their heads when they take panic-instigated steps. And in the long run, might not some of those schemes to get rid of debt actually be more trouble than they’re worth? Some of the most beloved schemes involve additional mortgages on your house… and by now, most of us know where that can lead.

So, I don’t know what the answer to all of this is. All I know is, I’m in deep with Citibank, Chase, Discover, Sears, and Bank of America, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. I can only hope that someone somewhere on down the line I’m able to dig out from underneath these creditors of mine and keep some of my money for myself. I am very grateful that they hauled my ass out of hot water, time and time again. I’m grateful for the dental work, the prescription drugs, the veterinary services, and the emergency plane tickets they’ve all made possible. And now that they’ve managed to keep me alive and a viable member of society, I can pay my debt to them… like I pay my debts to society in general… gradually, sometimes grudgingly, but with a certain sense of duty and the hope that perhaps the resources I’m putting into them will help someone else on down the line. Someone like the customer service rep on the line who’s asking me when they can expect my next payment.