Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Things are tough all over

Things continue. I suppose that is the only thing we really have, isn't it? The inescapable knowledge that whatever our troubles or pleasures, life marches on.

And by "things continue," I mean "things continue to suck." The depression hasn't lifted; however, it has taken on a new form and shape. On Saturday, we went to our accountant to have our taxes done. In spite of saving last year, the fact that we had to get a new roof and a new water heater, and the fact that we traveled some last summer, all contributed to meaning that we didn't save enough. I have almost half of what we owe.

I am horrified. I mean, almost paralyzed by this. I have vacillated between a wild range of emotions since we found out. When we walked out to the parking lot, I knew that Dereck had some errands to run. I said, "Take me home so I can change my clothes and get drunk."

We got home and I burst into tears in the driveway. Then I went into the studio, lit a cigarette, collapsed on the couch and cried some more. On the one hand, we aren't the only people who have gotten screwed like this with taxes. But after the two projects I finish up in the next two weeks, I have nothing else in the hopper. Nothing. And now, after every cent I earn, I have to pay present AND past taxes. We can set up a payment program with the IRS and it will probably take us FOUR YEARS to pay it off.

I texted my friend John that I was on a mission, and he came over within the half hour. I changed into shorts and a T-shirt and we sat in the studio watching House and drinking cider while I chainsmoked. By the time I sent inside for a nap, my problems hadn't gone anywhere, but I didn't care anymore. Mission accomplished.

On Sunday, I was cautiously optimistic. I took the Kathy Howe approach that I could view this as an opportunity to grow my business. I started researching research institutes to which I could send promotional letters.

Yesterday, I was despondent. I watched some of the TV that I had to write about for ClickClaque, and then I went out to the studio to work on a deadline. I sat out there for three hours, chainsmoking, paralyzed. I have a black ashtray in my studio. I clean it out frequently, and then I watch again as it has first one butt in it and a little bit of ash. By the time I clean it out, it is covered in ash, has a couple of bottle lids in it, sometimes crumpled foil from a new cigarette pack, and I am searching for places where I can ash without the ashtray flowing over. Then, I take a Walmart bag, dump the ashtray, tie a knot, throw the bag away and start again.

By the time Dereck came home from a work dinner, I was nearly catatonic. I hadn't eaten dinner, and when I walked into the house to use the bathroom, I found that the dog had emptied the trash, the compost, and the cat food all over the kitchen floor. I went back out the studio and lit another cigarette. That's when Dereck found me. I told him what the dog had done, and when I had finished the cigarette, went into the house and helped him clean up the mess. That's the second time I've cleaned up that mess in a couple of days.

Then, we drove up to get the kids from their father's house. In the car, I told Dereck that I am leaving Kirksville. He said, "What are you saying to me?"

I said, "You can come too. But I can't stay here. I am not staying here for the rest of my life. I can't have a real career here. I am so sick of the uncertainty of self-employment and the worry. When Tommy graduates from high school, I am gone. You can come with me; you have six or seven years to figure out what you want to do."

So, he wondered if he should start looking now, and I said, "Yes."

We were pretty silent for the rest of the ride after that.

I perked a bit for the kids. I am sure they always know when something is wrong, but I decided not to tell them about this. Sam worries about money anyway. They wouldn't be able to NOT freak out about this. Even if by some miracle we turn out to be okay sooner than we think, they wouldn't be able to shut this off. So, I'm not telling them. I turn vague when Sam says his friend has a nicer cell phone than he does (Sam hasn't asked for a new phone in two years-- why now?), and try to put the kids off at the grocery store when they want to buy two bags of Chex Mix.

Fortunately, we've never been rich. But we have been able to escape relying on a strict grocery budget up to now, and we've been easily able to get a couple of new books at Hastings when we want to. Sam needs new shoes; I am worried.

When we got home last night, the dog had gotten into the garbage in the studio and strewn it all over. I was so furious that I took my grocery bags into the kitchen and as I reached below the sink for garbage bags, I slammed the cabinet hard about four times, cursing the dog as I did so. I went out to the studio and sat down and calmly picked up one piece of trash at a time.

Two friends called and suggested some House. It's the remedy for everything. We have been watching House together since Season 1 episode 1 this winter, and we are half way through Season 3 now. I went into my house, calmed myself down, put my children to bed, and then went out to the studio for more cider, cigarettes and television. I excused myself at 11:30 and put myself to bed so quietly that Dereck didn't even realize I had come into the house.

In spite of my early bed time (that IS early for me), I still went back to bed this morning after taking kids to school. It was raining, so I got up again at 8:45 and picked up John to take him to work so he wouldn't be a puddle. We went to McDonald's and ran downtown for him, and then I dropped him off. I knew I was probably awake enough to get up and begin work with coffee. I went back to bed until noon.

After I got up and showered and dressed and went out to the studio to work, my phone rang. It was my friend Rebecca from one of my client sites. She had contacted me on Facebook and wanted to know if we could just chit chat this week, catch up. So, when she called, I knew it was her and I was expecting it. I told her what was going on. She said that she had really just wanted to chat, but at a meeting fifteen minutes earlier, she had been asked to check on my availability for a grant that has a deadline of April 27. That's the day before my birthday. I told her I was available. We talked for about 45 minutes more.

I got off the phone with her with a renewed sense that maybe I can make self-employment work; apart from the work they may have for me in April, she seemed to think that there is plenty of work out there. It's just a matter of FINDING it. It's tedious, but is it worse than committing myself to a 9-t0-5 job that I hate?

I wonder. Last night, I was staring off into space on our drive and thinking that what I want most in the entire world is financial security. However, I am also leery of The Monkey's Paw way of thinking. Be careful what you wish for. Be careful what you wish for.

I always think of the advice one of my friends at the university here once gave me. I was still in graduate school, looking for jobs, and I told her, "I just want a job that will put food on my table and a roof over my head."

She fixed me with a stare and said, "If that is all you look for, that is all you are going to find."

It's so hard in the face of financial crisis not to ask for the bare minimum of what will take the edge off the anxiety and pain and worry. Yesterday, I was so anxious as I sat and smoked that my palms kept sweating. I was trying to type to my friend Mary P. in Ottawa, and I had to keep wiping my hands on my shorts in able to type. I have never actually hyperventilated, but I have certainly felt lately like I might.

I don't what is worse: This acute depression or the lingering, dull depression that plagued me for the first part of winter. Neither of them is good.

Today, before and after that phone call, after I had dressed for the day, I sat and worked on a project that is due at the end of the week. I worked on it until 5:00 p.m., and I might work on it more tonight. Jes and Elliot and Beth are coming up this weekend, and I'd like to be able to have Thursday afternoon at the very least to clean for their visit. Tomorrow, I should get another call about the April grant, and hopefully know more by the end of the week.

I am grateful for the call; I am grateful that news like this comes along to save me. However, I feel too much like a yo yo right now to actually be happy.


  1. Practical Magic is the movie I watch when I need to cure something.


    And it works every time.

    Sometimes you just need to honor your feelings though which is not the same as wallowing. You can't really appreciate happy until you've allowed yourself to experience a bit of sadness.

  2. I am so sorry you are going through this on top of everything else you have been battling all these months. Can I help? I wish I could make it go away. In my darker days you were always a beacon of love and it helped more than I can ever begin to express. Please know I love you and wish I could hug you and make it all better.