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…




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.