Sitting in the Cold

This winter has been horrible in both cold and snow.

I live in a tiny house by myself. I bought my house about ten years ago. It was before the housing bubble burst. I was 26 and I felt I had to get on the bandwagon or I would get left behind. I wondered if it was the right thing to do. Would it be harder to find a guy to marry if I owned my own house? Could I, as a single woman, pull it off?

I did pull it off. I paid nearly $65,000 for a two-bedroom house the size of a postage stamp. Since I bought it, I have worked seven jobs, went bankrupt, been unemployed twice, and have watched the value of my house plummet to less than $20,000. I have refinanced the house once since I bought it when I had gotten behind on my payments from being unemployed and the bubble finally burst.

The house is small. I wanted it to be manageable. I have a tiny backyard and front yard. I had a lawn mower for about three years, and then it broke. I usually hack the backyard once or twice a year with a weed whacker. The winters have usually been mild. Often, I have had either neighbors or friends help me with shoveling the snow…but it was never that big a deal. This year has been horrific. The snow is past my knee in most of the yard. I have had a little help, but it seems to snow more after I finally have gotten some help digging out from the last storm.

Things in my house are finally starting to fall apart: a strip of lights in the kitchen; the oven hasn’t worked in over a year; electrical issues. My furnace has always been touchy. It has stopped three times already this winter. Currently, I have some man tinkering with it in the basement. Apparently, it has a faulty ignition switch. I have been without heat for about eight hours. The house is a balmy 53 degrees. It is cold enough that my cat is starting to complain.

I have gotten behind on my mortgage payments again. I decided around November that I wanted to eat. I called the bank and told them about my illness. They have sent paperwork for me to look at, and I have been putting it off. I am like a scared little girl. I don’t know how to fix what is broken, just like I don’t know how to keep up with what is going wrong. I finally feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew. I would like to free myself from the burden, but I feel like a loser for getting in this situation.

I knew I wanted to go to college. My siblings were never really stoked about it, but I was. I was accepted into the likes of the University of Michigan, but decided to go to my local college because of the price. My parents signed me up for a variety of college loans. When you are 18, you have no idea what that means. All I knew is that I wanted a degree and the opportunity for a better life. I seized that opportunity. I studied hard, got good grades, and graduated on time. I never failed a test, let alone a class. What I didn’t realize is that the degree doesn’t really mean that much. I have peers who have not gone to college exceed my salary and even get the chance to go to college on their employer’s dime later on in life.

I feel like the day I signed up for my first college loan, I signed my life away. I signed up for a life of indentured servitude. College loans are unforgivable, unbankruptable. Some of them don’t even die when you do. Yeah, you can put them into forbearance for a while. You might decide to pursue other degrees. They go on hold when you do that. But, then you are stuck with new debt. The calls, the letters, the incessant harassment. You try to find out how you can pay them, but realize that if you paid them what they wanted you to, you would have no money to live on. When you only bring home $2000 a month and they want over $600, it isn’t going to happen.

I sometimes wish that debtors prison was available. Serve hard time for ten years and you can have the rest of your life back. Currently, I cannot see how I can ever repay my student loans. I don’t make enough. It has definitely kept me from even thinking about having kids of my own (now, I don’t even have that option). The weight of the burden is so heavy that you can’t see why you should try to reach for anything else in life. Is my worth entirely wrapped around my ability to pay loan promises? I was 18 and had no idea what the long term impact of such a decision would be. Why are schools pushing students to become college bound so they can get tied into this ludicrous college loan scam?

I know at the end of the day these companies just want money. They are not living or breathing entities with feelings. They don’t care how their get rich schemes are impacting you. People are killing themselves because they can’t see a silver lining in regards to them. Students who have done everything they could to show up to class, get good grades, and try to use the knowledge they are given are pushed into the world of underpaying jobs and immediate debt. It doesn’t matter if you studied hard or worked to be the brightest, what matters is if your parents saved enough money to pay for your education or you figured out a way to do it yourself.

So, even though I haven’t had a credit card in over seven years, have given up television, and have done the multitude of things the money experts tell you to do to save money. There comes a point where you can’t save any more money anywhere. You still look at your budget, and you realize that you can’t live on what you got. What do you do?

My house of cards is crashing. I don’t know what will be left underneath the rubble. The pit in my stomach grows. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know whom to tell. I don’t know what the solution is. I feel completely impotent. I wake up this morning and I can see my breath. My fingers are ice cold, and I know I am in trouble. The furnace isn’t working again. I have some money in my bank account. They are already slatted for paying other bills, but I can’t live without heat. Just breath. Get it fixed. At least it happened during business hours.

Overcoming the Disconnect

Life gives you a lot of opportunities to learn lessons.

The beginning of this week wasn’t bad, but I was definitely not on my highest flying disk. I know that I had slipped off after my hair was cut, but I couldn’t figure out what to really do about it. Monday came and I had to do a bunch of errands to pay some bills. It felt good to take care of some things that I had been neglectful of taking care of, but it left me with less than forty bucks to stay a float for two weeks.

Money has been a sore spot for a while. I have been so lucky that my school has had my back while I am out on leave. The union has been paying for my short-term disability. I am so grateful that they have my back, that I feel horrible when I feel like I am coming up short.

Like most cancer patients, I am sure a lot of us weren’t in a good spot financially before we got sick.  I was laid off and unemployed for a few years. How I was able to keep my house? I still don’t know. My bank account is in the perpetual red. I haven’t had money to buy clothes or shoes in years. All those times I bitched about money when I was younger, seem stupid to me now.

Anyway, whenever I pay what bills I can…I sometimes see the rest of the obligations I have and feel like a loser for not knowing how I will ever be solvent. Sometimes I don’t even know where to begin. It can be another cause of slipping off a high flying disk.

Of course, if you listen to the Law of Attraction advice, one of the best ways to stay in a place where you don’t have money is to focus on what you don’t have. So, for now I am trying to stay really grateful for what I do have…which is a lot when you think about it.

Yet, this little mental mind jockeying combined with a little self-conscience about my hair and nerves about getting a second infusion this week made life a little blah. I tried to make it a point to do some activities for fun, but I was thrown for a big curve ball on Wednesday.

I got home Tuesday night to find that my furnace wasn’t working. I knew there was no way I could afford a repairman, and my father is not always good in these types of situations. I covered up in every blanket I could get my hands on and found a way to sleep through the night. Michigan was getting cold. I could hold out for a few nights, but it isn’t like I could go through the whole winter without heat.

When I got up the next day, I had an appointment for a free massage. As I drove out, tears just streamed down my face. What was I going to do? I had to try and see if my father was interested in helping, but I hated the idea of asking him for money again.

I used my massage to calm me down. I was so sure that he would shoot me down that I knew that I had to reframe my thinking or I would get exactly what I feared. My energy and vibration lifted. I drove back home to find two packages and two cards in the mail. I had signed up with a group of Chemo Angels. Each cancer patient is assigned two angels who would send cards and letters to lift their spirits while going through treatment. It was an unexpected surprise from strangers. I opened them up and let the awe of knowing that these people really cared about me wash over me. I believe the massage earlier helped me to receive these gifts.

After I felt a little cheered up, I called my father. He asked me how I was doing and I said I wasn’t great. I told him about the furnance and he went into a mini tirade about bills and him being broke. I found myself begin to sob…I couldn’t even ask him for help. I felt so bad for needing help. I think he was thrown for a loop and kicked in saying that he would take care of things. It felt like he finally understood that I needed him to act like a Dad who knew his daughter needed help.

I love my father. I took care of him when he was diagnosed with cancer. I became his sudo wife when my mom died. I hung out with him a lot. Sometime after my sister decided to move back from Virginia, I began to distance myself from him. I spent so much time with him that I felt like I couldn’t have a life. I had taken a loan out for school before he got sick and used it to live on when I took a leave of absence to take care of him. When I became unemployed, I couldn’t pay the loan. This kind of became a sore spot. The funny thing is, he had just paid for my sister’s wedding and it was the same amount.

Now that I have faced the fact that I am a lesbian, I have trouble feeling like I am nothing but a big disappointment to him. In some ways, I am sure he already knows. Still, the dream that I was following for most of my life was one that I knew would be acceptable to him. Have a great job, a guy, maybe some kids. Be an upstanding citizen. Go to church. It was the path I am sure everyone feels like they are suppose to follow. The problem was, it was never my path. It is what I thought I needed to do, not what I wanted to do.

Still, I feel like staying true to myself is like becoming an embarrassment to him. Would he still be proud of me? Would he think less of me? The pain in having these questions answered is what keeps me away along with the fact that the reason I don’t drive out to his house is because I don’t have enough money to pay for the gas.

The boys are well aware of this dilemma I have with him. Max was getting pissed off because I didn’t want to ask my father for help in the first place. He was rather short with me during that day and than invited me over. Max apologized for getting frustrated with me, but he said that he saw me slipping into old patterns and it was pissing him off. Part of the reason why my father would get pissed when I called him in an emergency is because I never tell him what is really going on in my life. I have shut him out and it put Alex and Max in a strange position. It puts them in a place where my father would feel animosity toward them where it wasn’t necessary. My desire to protect my father from any obligation toward me is what makes him feel bad. The point is he wants and deserves to know me more and I am the one who is hiding, avoiding any display of the true me.

In order for me to continue to grow on this path, I need to be authentic and vulnerable in all areas of my life, not just with the people and places I feel most comfortable being it. Of course, the thought of being that way with my family was excruciating. So, the boys told me that they wanted to see my father at my infusion appointment. Immediately, I thought no way. First, how would you like to be tethered next to someone you have been hiding from for 6 hours with no way out? They said, maybe he needs to see his daughter hooked up to IVs and bald to understand that I am human and vulnerable. Maybe he needs to feel like he is contributing to my emotional needs and not always the financial ones. Maybe he still needs to know that I need my Daddy.

As the Universe usually knows how to manifest these things, my sister decided to spend the night in my cold house. Maybe to get away from her husband, maybe to feel like she was giving me some support. She took me to my appointment and drove back to my house to meet the furnance guy. She had already scheduled my father to come a little latter, but the furnance guy was done and gone before the original appointment was scheduled to even start.

I did my labs and met with my doctor per usual, without my posse with me. I knew that someone would join me at the infusion room, so I wasn’t too worried. They started with the pre drugs and I got a little sleepy. When I woke up, my father was there. There is a one person maximum guest policy in the room. He had brought me some lunch. It was nice to see him there. The thing is that I do enjoy my father’s company. We are buddies. I don’t have to say all the shit that is on my mind. What he needs to know is that I still enjoy his company and I still care about what is going on with him and his life, just like he wants to be a bigger part of my life.

We hung out for three hours, and my brother showed up from out of town. It was a pleasant surprise. They swapped out and had a great time. It was one of his last vacation days and even though he was having car problems, he still made it over. I got a beautiful picture from my nephew, and my brother made me into a zombie with a Walking Dead app on his ipod.

My brother suffers from the same painful lack of vulnerability that I have. We totally got it from our parents. We are so busy trying to keep up appearances that we kill ourselves a little bit. I have had a Renassance, and I feel like he may be on the verge of one soon as well. I believe that part of the mix needs to be us sharing what we have been feeling and doing with one another. The thing about sibblings is that we are genetically connected and we carry the same family drama and tropes from childhood. We can use each other to heal from those wounds so we can live more fulfilling lives.

When the infusion was through, I had my brother drop me off at Alex and Max’s. That way, I had someone to watch me until I feel a little more comfortable being alone. While my brother was there, I could feel him completely open up. We shared our drag videos with him, my recent art work, talked about all kinds of things and just saw him relax and unwind. He didn’t feel like he had to be anywhere or answer to anyone for a while. The release of responsibility is sometimes a bigger vacation than a trip around the world.

When it was time for him to leave, I basked in the day that I had. Just 24 hours earlier, I had dreaded the idea of what would happened…but now I realized it was exactly what needed to happen. In order to really heal, I need to be me. I need to have my family in my life.

The boys and I had some great conversations. We are a unit, maybe a dysfunctional one. I don’t have to worry about losing Alex and Max, but we do need to open ourselves up to more people and more experiences in our lives. We had been doing it, but when I slipped up…they got tripped up too. One of the favorite places for me to be is in their presence, but they made a good point as to say that I need to feel like I can achieve the same amount of happy with them as without them. My enjoying my house, my family, new friends, and/or new experiences should not suffer because I am afraid of not having it with them. In reality, having a great time without them is giving them a gift. The same goes for the two of them. They should be open to having experiences by themselves individually, or even together with out me. It is what fuels us and makes us enjoy each other even more when we are together.

It is not as if I didn’t know this, but I had always assumed that they placed it on my head like I was the desperate one. In reality, they told me that it is as hard for them to do things without me as it is for me to do them without them. One of the biggest ways I could help out is to be more assertive. I need to not be always available to them. I should voice my opinions more and take my leave when I know that I am drained as opposed to when I think they want me gone. They had become as dependent on me as I was on them. This had served us well recently, but now we want bigger returns on our growth journey and this is the next step.

It is not meant to be sad, it is meant to be expansive. This is what can get us to our next level of success and enlightenment. We have filled out trivial pursuit pie hearts with our pieces to an overflow capacity. Yet, there are still empty spots waiting to be filled with the contributions of others. We can’t do that for one another.

Because of the love I was feeling from everyone, and the increasing amount of a-ha moments, I have to tell you that I felt very little pain from my infusion. Even yesterday I felt great. And, as a big surprise, I got another visit from my whole family. Unannounced, they showed up to check on me and we even went out for dinner. I can’t tell you the last time that happened. Instead of feeling put out, I really enjoyed it. I even let my father drive my car for the first time. Not because I wouldn’t let him drive it, but because in a round about way he asked to.

It gives me hope that new beginnings are starting. The hierarchy and false pretenses of the past may be finally falling away. Maybe this whole cancer journey was just a catalyst to make these important life changes, a huge moment to stop the crazy spinning of what we perceive life is (work, work, and little play) and focus on our truth, our love, and our path.