Well, so much for that

On Friday I gleefully posted about how the Blargh had hit me, but that I was doing really well emotionally and pretty well physically.

I never should have posted that.

You know why? The Universe was listening.

And do you know what the Universe gave me? An anxiety attack that led into a suicide spiral. That’s usually how these things go for me. I’ll break it down.

I get into a situation where I stop seeing possibility. I stop seeing opportunity for things to change. It can be for any number of factors, but generally involves: 1. My physical inabilities currently to work in a full-time environment; 2. That I live in the desert in the Middle East; and 3. Bills. Damn bills.

Money is usually the trigger that sends me straight into the darkest places I can go. See, I know what plans Mr. Lyndsy and I have. We want to buy a house in the US (we were going to do that this summer, but it’s been tabled for reasons that have nothing to do with me). We also want to save as much money as possible before going back because it’s highly unlikely that Mr. Lyndsy will make what he does here. We also have no idea what kind of condition I’ll be in.

So on Friday, the trifecta hit and my anxiety shot through the roof. I have a student loan I cannot get rid of no matter what I do. It’s $500 month. Most months, I barely make that. Which means that the other various bills I have – hospital bills from the little trip I took to the ER in February, credit card bills from business expenses (sadly, direct sales haven’t gone super well lately), and personal credit cards (which are my fault, some, and stupid shit), don’t have much money to fund them.

Then I have to ask. I hate asking, because it puts me into the expense column.

My brain starts scrambling to figure out what I might be able to do. Then I get caught up in the fact that my body is not so good to me all the time. I have constant fatigue from fibromyalgia. I have insomnia which I only overcome when I take one of my antidepressants. The problem with that antidepressant is that it knocks me WAY out. Even if I fall asleep around midnight, it’s not unheard of for me to sleep until noon. That would make getting to work on a bit challenging. If I try to get up before my body is ready, it won’t move and I end up falling back asleep. I’ve learned it’s better not to fight it.

The thing is that here I couldn’t have any of the accommodations that I would have in the US. They don’t have an ADA. If you can’t do exactly what they’re asking (and most jobs work 6 days/week) they have no reason to hire you because there are people lined up behind you to take the job.

“So Lyndsy, just move back to the US!” Ah, but you see, the US is a problem now – healthcare. It’s too up in the air to risk it. Mr. Lyndsy’s anticipated job doesn’t have healthcare. *I* would have to find a job with insurance (the exchange plans where we’d be aren’t the best) and be able to work and make enough money to cover it. Right now, I don’t see how that’s physically possible. Knowing that any protections I would (no lifetime caps, pre-existing care coverage) would either go away or become unaffordable freaks me out. I see a rheumatologist, endocrinologist, nephrologist, and a shrink (and you know how Republicans hate treating healthcare!). I take 7 medications per day, well, 8 right now, plus one more weekly. I don’t even want to think about what those would cost if I had to come up with the out of pocket funds.

Herein lies my problem. Whether I’m here or there, I’m kind of screwed. The only saving grace would be a successful SSDI claim, which is unlikely the first go through. They often take 2 years to fully litigate. What would I do in the meantime?

This is how I end up feeling trapped in a dark place I cannot get out of. Where I hear from a voice in the back of my head, “The best thing to do would be for you to kill yourself.” And it starts to sound downright LOGICAL.

YES! Kill myself! Then all of this doesn’t matter. I stop being a expense! I no longer have to worry!

Friday night was the closest I’d been in a long while. I mentally wrote my goodbye note to Mr. Lyndsy and my obituary. I thought about messages I’d like to send people. I don’t want anyone to feel bad. This is just my life and how it rolls.

After a while, it’s too much. Knowing now, after almost 3.5 years of constant pain, with other worsening attributes, that any kind of traditional work environment would be too much, is demoralizing. I feel guilty about spending money on fun things. Because if I spend money out of my accounts on anything fun, I’m going to have to ask for money from Mr. Lyndsy. But, if I try to not spend, I grow resentful. I hate losing my independence.

So here I am. I made it through Friday night. It’s just a one episode at at time kind of thing.

Do I Really Need This?

Every now and then I go through phases where I see how much money I’ve spent or I look at the stuff around me and think, “Good God, I am a colossal fuck-up.”

I spent a few months in the homeland and spent a ton of money. So much is so readily available there that isn’t where I spend most of my year. Craft stores tend to be my downfall. I love walking through them and seeing all the possibilities. I even used some of it this summer! I made THINGS!

When it comes time to pay my taxes though, I see how much I spent instead of saving to pay my taxes. I panic a little when this happens. I *know* I should save the tax money. I generally don’t think about how much it’s really going to be. (This is one of the pitfalls of being self-employed.)

I chastise myself after the fact about how wasteful I am. I’m not sure why I do it since it’s not like I didn’t know what I was doing at the time and it certainly doesn’t change the situation. I just end up feeling bad about myself. It’s like bingeing on junk food – feels good at the time, pay for it later.

I’m about to venture into a new business that requires the largest up-front investment I’ve ever made. It’s exciting – really exciting. However, I am basically going to have to become a completely different person when it comes to money. I want to pay myself back for the initial investment as well as continue investing in the business. This will leave me almost no room for the junk food-style bingeing I like to do.

I don’t want to be a junk food binger anymore, whether it’s food or money. I learned recently that I don’t usually feel so good when I do either, so why continue to do it? You know you’ve hit a new point in your life when you not only feel the after-effects, but you feel it WHILE you’re doing it.

My goal now is to look at everything I buy and think – Do I really need this? Need is obviously a relative term. Compared to people all over the world, my answer for most things would be a resounding “no.” No, you don’t *need* a smartphone to survive. That’s not a realistic way for me to look at things.

I had a discussion with a friend the other day about some clothes we were looking at buying. She clarified some as “must-have” versus “cute, but would be okay not having.” Pretty much all purchases fall into those two categories, but I add a third one “why am I looking at this?” I can’t tell you how many things I’ve gone home with and I later look back and think, “Was I under the influence when I bought that?” Sadly, that’s almost never the case. Just monumental lapses in judgment.

We all have things that lift our spirits. We can’t always explain why they do, but that doesn’t matter. If it’s something that will bring joy to my life *and* I will use it, I’m okay with that purchase. I saw a Star Wars Furbacca at Target the other day. It took a surprising amount of willpower to resist buying it. As a teenager I owned a Furby because I *had* to have one. The poor thing mostly sat on a shelf, staring at me from its horribly large eyes. I never talked to it or got it to speak anything other than Furbish.

Despite knowing that I might never actually play with it, I desperately wanted this Chewbacca to come home with me. Had it been cheaper (I thought it was $70, apparently it’s *only* $50), I may have bought it anyway. I’m a big fan of the loyal Chewbacca. But do I really need him as a Furby? No. Am I still tempted? Yes.

Mr. Lyndsy and I have a terrible habit of wasting food. We buy fruits, veggies, and meat, and then get too lazy to cook them. They turn into science experiments in the fridge and we go out to eat. Eventually one of us gets disgusted by what’s happening in our science lab of a refrigerator and we clean it out. We vow to never let it get that bad again. Until the next time, anyway.

Once I modified my diet, it happened a bit less. Going out to eat became an unpleasant experience as my stomach reacted violently to what I ate. Since I was spending more time in the fridge to find foods that wouldn’t upset me, less stayed in there longer.

We both know that eating the fruits and veggies we have at home is better than going out to eat. I like knowing exactly what I’m eating. I don’t have the luxury of eating whatever I fancy. I am beyond tired of feeling sick all the time. I finally hit THAT point. The one where I’m actually willing to do the right things.

Before I buy anything, I will be asking myself, “Do I really need that? How does this fit into my larger plan?” If the answer is that I don’t need it or it derails my larger plan – whether it’s being healthy emotionally, physically, or financially, I won’t buy it.

Sounds simple, but I know what a struggle this will be for me. I decided that my goal for this year was to be healthy. I meant it physically, but now I can see that I was really missing the mark. To achieve health in any of the big areas, I need to work at it in all three.

Yikes. Wish me luck, and also tell me – what are your best strategies for health, whether it’s emotionally, physical, or financial?

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Jar of Good Choices

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook about how much she was enjoying her daughter’s imaginative play. Her daughter had selected a doctor doll as her prize after filling a container with marbles because she made good choices.

This got me thinking. *I* could use a jar of good choices. I may not be a kid anymore, but being an adult doesn’t mean I make good choices. My high blood sugar readings, stomachaches, and dwindling bank account certainly suggest that I often make poor choices.

So I decided to make myself a Jar of Good Choices. The added bonus was that I finally used the Silhouette Portrait my mom got me for Christmas… in 2014.

Jar of Good Choices

For me, good choices will revolve around things like choosing to cook instead of ordering fast food for delivery (it’s the worst thing ever that I can do that here), selecting water to drink instead of soda, delaying buying things that I don’t really need but just want to make sure I do actually want them, going for walks, etc.

I need to find marbles or something I can put in the jar and determine what my reward plan will be. I know that there’s a video game I want that’s kind of expensive (LEGO Dimensions), books that I don’t want to buy but want to read, more Jamberry wraps.

I’m not sure whether I should feel ridiculous about doing this, but whatever. I think the assumptions about what adults should be like are ridiculous. The fact that most video game systems are built around achievements or trophies tells us that adults still like to get rewards for shit they do. This isn’t that different.

I now have my jar. Now to find the first marble to put in. You know, for making the jar in the first place…

Trying to get over the guilt

I went to school. A lot. I have two advanced degrees. Both from private schools. The initial problem with those degrees is that I wanted to use them in the public sector – prosecution and then law enforcement. Why was that a problem? Well, as soon as I decided to do it, the economy tanked and money just wasn’t going to either of those anymore. There weren’t many positions with the government and the ones that did exist were being given to people already in the federal system or veterans (I’m okay with both of those).

I did get a job doing something else, but then my health took a dive and my back went out and my leg was all jacked up. Now, even if they were hiring, I wouldn’t be able to take a job. I still can’t sit for too long, stand for too long, or walk for too long.

Last year I got on income-based repayment for my federal student loans. This resulted in a dramatic drop in the amount I owe each month. I’m working on the annual certification for the loans now and it looks like, for my federal student loans only, my payment may drop to $0/month. Yes, you read that correctly. Nothing owed per month.

As much as I hate paying on those stupid loans, I feel worse that I may not be paying anything. I bored the money and I know I owe it. (Though I do totally understand those people who are suing their law schools – the job market is shit and people couldn’t really get placed. I also think that they interest rate they charge for student loans is bullshit. Let’s stop helping corporations and start helping people. The economy would really benefit if people like me could actually buy a damn house and not make the equivalent of a mortgage payment in student loans.)

But I was talking to one of the customer service reps and I mentioned how bad I felt that I wouldn’t be paying much or anything. Her response? “Don’t feel bad.” Apparently she agrees that it’s all a racket.

Maybe one day soon I’ll feel amazing and be able to work like a healthy person again. In the meantime, I’m glad for this little break. Maybe now my stress level will drop some.

Turkey Day Shopping

turkey-clip-art-cute-turkey

A friend recently posted this to Facebook:

For at least the past 29 years football has been played on Thanksgiving. In 29 years I have never heard a peep about all the people that had to work on Thanksgiving to make that happen. I’m not talking about the players. I’m talking about the poor guys who direct the traffic, take tickets, sell food and beverages, etc. Why is that considered tradition but shopping on Thanksgiving some sort of sacrilege? (I could also add that at least as early as 1997 I have eaten at a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner yet never seen such a hullabaloo about the waitstaff who have to work on Thanksgiving).

That sparked some interesting discussion. Some of the response was “Everything should be closed on Thanksgiving that isn’t safety (police/fire) or health (hospital) related.” Some people are irritated at businesses that are open and said that the onus is on the business to respect Thanksgiving. Sure, other things are open, but let’s not make the problem worse.

If people aren’t going to respect Thanksgiving, why should the businesses? Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Michael’s – none of them exist to uphold the moral fiber of America. That’s not their job. They are in business to sell items and take our money. We have, by continuing to shop on Thanksgiving, told them that we want them to be open. They’re simply giving us what we want. Economics 101 – Supply and demand.

I don’t get why anyone in the United States is surprised that Thanksgiving has become a consumer holiday. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about recognizing the blessings in life and being grateful for what we have. The Pilgrims were celebrating, as a community, their first harvest (and probably the fact that they managed to survive in a land they weren’t used to). (Of course, they had some help. We repaid the Native Americans by making them sick, taking their land, and disrespecting the women. Nice.)

Let’s face it though, the United States isn’t exactly known for being thankful for what we have. If we were, society wouldn’t be overrun by rampant materialism and consumerism. We wouldn’t work the ridiculous hours we do. Television wouldn’t be saturated with ads and product placement. No, we are all about MORE, MORE, MORE.

We have sacrificed connection, relationships, and family for things. This is why Thanksgiving is such a big deal in the first place. We dump a year’s worth of thanks and family time into ONE FREAKIN’ DAY. We’re so busy consuming or working to consume that we don’t stop and reflect on the blessings in our lives.

What if, instead of doing it once a year, we were thankful ALL YEAR? What if we focused on what we have instead of what we don’t have? There will always be a new iPhone. There will always be a faster computer. There will be a bigger TV with a sharper image.

I know I’m guilty of this. I bought myself five new t-shirts a month ago when I already have a drawer full. I have probably forty pairs of underwear. FORTY. What exactly do I think is going to happen that I won’t be able to wash my underwear? I have arts and craft stuff I don’t use but *had* to have. I have totally grossed myself out.

I do shop on Thanksgiving – sometimes the deals are too good to pass up and they’re items I’ve been eyeing for a while. Our family sort of makes it a family event though – I go with my mom and/or other family and friends. I’m sure there are parents who take advantage of it to make sure their kids have great Christmases. For some people it may be the only time they can go because they happen to be off.

There are a lot of dynamics that go into Thanksgiving shopping. But the reality is that if we want to see any kind of change, it has to come from the people, not the businesses. If you truly believe people should be off for Thanksgiving, use your passion to make compelling arguments to your friends. Convince them that it’s wrong to do. Go back into your communities and bring them to life again. Actually live the conviction that community is what matters. That we all matter to each other.

Maybe then shopping on Thanksgiving won’t be such a big deal.

To Tip or Not to Tip?

Big news in the New York dining scene as Danny Meyer has decided to eliminate tipping from Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants. Fox’s Outnumbered chimed in, but I generally found their comments useless, as per usual. In fact, it appears that Meyer is seeking to eliminate tips because of the ideas espoused by Fox’s Outnumbered crew. (Seriously, why is that a show?)

I currently live in a country where tipping is not the norm and I have traveled in Europe and South America where service is included in the bill. There are definitely differences – most notably people leave you alone while you’re eating. I’m not saying that they ignore your needs. Rather, we just have to indicate to someone we need assistance, and it’s dealt with promptly. It’s nice because it doesn’t have to be “our” server who assists. I have no complaints about it at all.

There are events going on in the background that make this move a seeming necessity, particularly in New York and other big cities. In Seattle, for example, the minimum wage is on its way up to $15 per hour. (Note that in Washington, there isn’t a separate minimum wage for tipping – everyone makes the minimum wage.) The minimum wage rise is going up in other cities as well. If I had a choice between a demanding waiting job subject to getting scheduled for slow shifts and assholes for customers and working at McDonald’s, I’d probably choose McDonald’s. No, it’s not glamorous, but I also wouldn’t be waiting on the same assholes for an hour or more, only to get stiffed at the end of the meal.

Meyer’s point about not leaving someone’s wage up to the customer is valid. People definitely use the tip as a means of power and control, servers get sexually harassed, and it contributes to a hostile work environment. I dated a guy who took his irritation of the day out on servers in their tips. That’s bullshit.

Of course, there have been times where I left nothing because the service was poor. Rather than suggest anything to the server about their service that occasion, I’m sure it just pissed them off. Comments to managers are more likely to yield a positive result, and it seems like that’s where Meyer intends to go once he removes tipping from his establishments.

The cost of dining out will have to go up when we switch to a hospitality/service included model. People balk at the idea of paying more for their food when they go out, whether it’s for fast food or in a sit-down environment. With minimum wage hikes and the skyrocketing costs of food, and goods and services that support restaurants, we’re all going to end up paying more. Of course, we could all just stay home and make the food ourselves. When it comes to fast food, that’s probably what we *should* be doing since most of what we make at home is going to be healthier for us anyway. Dining out is a luxury. With luxury comes cost. No one bitches about paying more for a Lexus than an Accord. Why should food be any different?

I’m all for switching to a service included model and I’m willing to pay for it. Are you?

Take your lazy labeling self elsewhere

I am an overweight, American, cisgender, straight, mid-30s, black/white female, who is spiritual but not religious, and tends to vote for Democrats. LABELS GALORE.

Now, with all of those labels, what did you actually learn about me? Go ahead, think about it. I’ll give you some time.

On a superficial level, do you know what I look like? My hair? Bone structure?

On a deeper level, what do you know about me? You might say I’m lazy, since I’m overweight. My nationality may lead you to think that I’m arrogant and narrow-minded given how Americans behave when they travel to foreign countries and what our government does with its power. My sexual orientation and gender might make you think that I’m homophobic or not understanding of others who differ from me. You might think I’m a lazy Millennial with an entitlement complex. You may think I’m hedonistic and without a moral compass since I actively proclaim my lack of religion. Maybe the fact that I’ve never voted for a Republican makes you think I’m a socialist.

Those are all things I’ve heard based on those particular labels. But they don’t even come close to telling my whole story.

Make a list of your own that matches mine. Try to picture yourself based just on those labels and come up with the things someone might say about you. How accurate it is? Probably not very.

Labels are quick and convenient. To some degree they’re necessary, but not to the degree that we’ve employed them. Each one of the labels I used to describe myself contain a range of values. By the labels I used above, it’s hard to tell where on the range I fall. Even qualifying them doesn’t really provide that much more detail because it either doesn’t get to the WHY/WHAT/HOW or it’s a big cup of “so what?”

Yes, I’m overweight, but why? Why Democrat instead of Republican – what factors did I use to make my choice? Why am I not religious? What does “spiritual” mean to me? What does being American mean to me? Do I see how we look to the rest of the world?

My race/gender/sexual orientation fall into the land of “So what?” Yes, I’m female both gender and biologically. Being female doesn’t tell you anything about what I’m capable or not capable of. Neither does my race. That’s not to say that those things haven’t had an impact on my life – but to the extent they have, it’s because others have made them an issue. Not me.

But that’s the real crux of the situation, isn’t it? It’s not how we label ourselves that matters – since we think we know who we are defined in those labels (though I don’t think we always do – some of us are as lazy about ourselves as we are about others). It’s how we labels others that matter – and the real problem is that we even think of someone as an “other.”

We label at the most minute points, rather than the highest point. We focus on the labels that separate us rather than those that unite us. If we focused more on human, instead of black, white, Asian, English, Indian, male, female, straight, gay, whatever, we might be more inclined to take actions that benefit all humans, since we fall under that label too. It’s much easier to sit back and do nothing, or worse, take actions that are harmful to others, when they don’t sit in the same label box as us.

The other error in that thinking is believing that something bad needs to happen to anyone. Despite what many people say, there is enough to go around. There’s enough money. There’s enough power. There’s enough.

Once we can stop thinking of life as a zero sum game and start recognizing the abundance that exists around us, we may be able to start thinking just in the label “human.”