Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Flimsy Scaffolds

I haven't been writing and commenting much, there's so much going on and I can barely process it all. But this morning, I am twisting again with anxiety, I feel it slithering through me, and I need to get a handle on it all. Finances everywhere are so damn tight. I won't talk about mine, because all that happens is my son reads it and begins to deny himself basic needs in the name of saving us money. And that makes me crazy. Neither of my children is unreasonable about money. They're both conscious and responsible, and both got themselves jobs on campus without our ever directing them to do so. But my son has this instinct to deprive himself of things I think he needs just to function optimally and perform in an academic context. At the start of the year, he cut his meal plan to save money, for example. It thought it was a bad idea, and argued with him for a compromise. I also worry he's working too many hours. He's the assistant aquatics coordinator and sets up all the swim meets and schedules and supervises the lifeguards at the college's Aquatic Center. And he's a swimming instructor, too. He insists he wants nothing for Christmas, but I am incapable of not putting a gift for him under the tree. Yes, the gifts will be modest this year. Suffice it to say it's time to pay spring semester tuition for both kids, and we are counting carefully.

But the finances that really have me brooding this morning are Aunt Winnie's. She has now lived long enough that the money she has coming in for pension and social security is no longer enough to cover her needs. God, when I just wrote that, and looked at it in plain type, the tears overflowed. I had no idea I was about to cry. I realize I am scared and overwhelmed from trying to make her money stretch. Yesterday, the disability trust, to whom I submit her bills, called and said they didn't have enough on account to pay her phone and cable bill, which sent me into a round of recorded menu loops with the phone and cable company trying frantically to determine how many days she had left before they cut off her phone. Which she needs to service her pacemaker. Plus, a woman who can't get out of bed needs to have phone and lights and a working TV. We have 22 more days to bring the bill current. This means that I will need to pay her bill and have the trust reimburse me when her December payment posts. But that will create another shortfall. Meanwhile one of my cousins is giving Aunt Winnie's jobless daughter money every two weeks and she needs to be reimbursed. I feel like I'm screaming my head off but no one can hear.

The reason my aunt's money is tighter than ever is that our co-op has not only raised maintenance charges by thirty percent, they also added a six-month thirty percent assessment on top of that to pay for all the facade and roof repair and chimney and boiler replacement construction projects they have been mismanaging for the past four-plus years. At the same time, Citibank closed down my aunt's line of credit. They said they were cleaning up "outdated technologies" but I think they shut her down because she is old, and they think she's going to die soon and they don't want to be left holding the bag. Had I known they were going to close it down, I would have withdrawn every penny she had there, instead of trying to be so fiscally prudent on her behalf. Now, that safety net is gone, and her retirement income just won't cover everything. I don't quite know what to do, because I can't personally cover the shortfall. And everyone else in the family is having their own struggles. Besides, any contributions family members might make would only be a temporary fix.

My mom called this morning and asked could we send money to my cousins in Canada who are having it hard. And to my aunt in New Jersey whose family got so battered by Hurricane Sandy. I took a deep breath and for the first time ever I said to her, No, Mom, we can't. Not right now. In February, maybe, but not right now. I think I needed to write this down and look at it plain. I needed the release of crying.


This is how I know that the scaffolds around our buildings have been blocking out the light for going on four years. This photo of my son and my mom was taken in August 2008, on the morning we left to drive him to his freshman year of college. My son will graduate this coming May. I'm noticing in this photo that my son and my mom have the same high foreheads. How I love those brainy foreheads. Better that I meditate on this.

24 comments:

  1. This is so overwhelming- I can see why the anxiety has you tied up and feeling strangled. I hope that writing it out plain helps some. Maybe? Crying sure as hell can. It's another form of saying, "No, not now. Maybe in February."
    My husband's daddy used to say sometimes (not often!) "I have done all I'm big enough to do." There is no shame in that. Sometimes it is simply the truth. And yet, of course, because your heart and your soul and your loyalty ARE so big, you continue to stretch.
    Somehow (mostly through your efforts, of course) things WILL work out. And believe me- your children understand and that is a beautiful thing. Let them understand. Know that the way they want to help is a sign of how well you have raised and loved them. And always will.

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    1. Ms. Moon, I love that saying "I have done all I am big enough to do"! Writing this post did help, and crying did help too. i supposed for people made like us, putting it out there, setting it down, helps somehow. It is more sanity saving to write on this blog, and commune with souls like you, than most people i know in the "real" world would ever grasp. thank you for being here, dear mary, for knowing how it is. thank you.

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  2. One of the thing that pulls me down fast and hard is money issues. I know the hopelessness of it. For so many years I wouldn't eat so my kids could. There were so many times when I could not buy even a loaf of bread. What is it when the most prosperous countries in the world has its people not able to have the basics? So sad.

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    1. Birdie, thank you. I think sometimes we just have to put the problem on the shelf and wait for a solution to present itself. but when there is not even a loaf of bread, that is indeed sad. im sorry you ever went through that.

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  3. I wish things were different for you, financially. I feel the same anxiety, with next semester's tuition bill looming, and my mother's near poverty weighing heavily on my mind. She cannot manage her finances and will not let go of control, and has gotten herself into such a mess that I can't believe it some days. The stress of trying to figure it all out feels like living in a house of cards, worrying about the what ifs. I can't fix her mess because we're living in one of our own right now. This economy has been a total bitch to everyone I know. I hope our kids can find paying jobs when they enter the post college world. I worry about that a lot too. It seems that worry is my constant companion these days.

    Yes, focus on the love, and those beautiful high foreheads. This too shall pass, it will. I'm sending you hugs and compassion and kudos for putting it out there, for giving voice to the stress and worries. You are not alone in this.
    xo

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    1. Mel, i am often struck by how similar our realities are, despite the fact of our living in such different places and circumstances. I will hold out a good thought for you, as you have for me. And yes, I too have begun to worry about post college employment as my oldest will graduate in may. But yes, I will just focus on those beloved foreheads and trust that i will know what to do soon enough.

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  4. When I saw the post title, "Flimsy Scaffolds," I could guess the territory you'd be exploring. It appears flimsy has become a state of being - scaffolds, credit that seemed secure, body parts, unshakeable optimism, clear vision of anything beyond the next moment, finding peace when there are no answers. Somehow it seems our first job is to find solid ground, whatever it takes and whatever that looks like, so the boat isn't already sinking before we cast off in search of solutions. Wishing for you and your loved ones, for all of us with thinning margins, the strength of knowing our truth and being able to hold onto it, regardless of circumstances. Peace, my friend, and the contemplation of brainy foreheads. xo

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    1. Marylinn, thank you my friend. And thank you for that amazing flashmob video you posted on your blog this week. I watched it again and again, and it made me remember how wonderful this life can be. xo

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  5. I felt my own heart in my throat reading this, the queasiness, too. Financial anxiety is so horrible, so nagging and disruptive on every level. I often say that behind all the stress that is children (and my Sophie's health issues) is enormous LOVE, and that makes it bearable. But behind the financial stress is nothing but a big, black hole.

    I'm sending you love.

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    1. Dear Elizabeth, financial stress is so crazy making, because finding solutions is so time consuming and anxiety ridden it takes over your entire life, leaving so much else neglected. if solutions can be found at all. the fear of what awaits pervades every waking moment, tints every joy. your understanding is comforting, even though i hate that you do understand it. we will get through it, both of us. we are just stubborn enough! i love you.

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  6. Keep focusing on those high foreheads and know that this too shall pass. Your son is almost ready to graduate and he sounds like a wonderful, responsible person who will be a remarkable adult. Your daughter too. I would accept their desire to contribute to the family. It doesn't get much better than that.

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    1. Kristin, thank you, friend. They are good kids and they do their best to help relieve the stress. I wonder sometimes if I have been too candid with them about it. I hate that they worry. I dont think my parents let me worry like that. But then, things may be that much tighter now. But my son, I want him to focus on school and equip himself o go wherever he might choose in the future. But this boy prefers to work for a paycheck. Apart from the social experience, school is not really his thing.

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  7. Sister, a resolution will come... somehow, by some means. Just keep that in mind.

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    1. Nancy, i know you are right. I truly believe that. Thank you for saying it.

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  8. How well I know the blind panic of worrying about an elderly person's finances, when they have no way to change anything, to bring in more. I hope everything works out okay, but for now, everything does seem very cry-worthy, so go ahead.

    Seriously, I can't imagine being so uncomfortably enclosed by scaffolding for four years. Hugs to you, my sweet friend.

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    1. ellen, those scaffolds have such an effect on my world! i cant wait for them to come down! i will sing hallelujahs when they do! love, dear one.

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  9. I wish I knew what to say. It can't be anything but hard to have that kind of pressure on your shoulders. You have such a large family -- is there a way to spread the burden among many of you, like pooling money for Aunt Winnie? I'm sure you've considered all those possibilities. I'm just trying to be helpful from afar!

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    1. Steve, i have considered it, but everyone who would give is having a hard time themselves so i will figure it out some other way. basically, i have to talk to her creditors. it's a whole second job but im resolved to just take one step at a time. one phone call at a time. and make lots of lists. I appreciate your concern, friend.

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  10. The money part sucks. It's such an awful feeling.

    xoxoxo

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    1. michelle, it sure is. but writing it down helps. and knowing i am not alone in this makes me stop sniveling, pull up my big girl pants and just forge ahead. thank you!

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  11. I wish I could help. They say God will provide, but I really hope that something comes through.

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    1. Dear Miss A, something will come through. It always does. Especially when we've had a good cry and cleaned the decks so we can think clearly again. Love to you.

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  12. We're overwhelmed by the money thing. It's always a weight. A dark cloud.

    Sending love to you. Don't let it dim your beautiful light.

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    1. Deb, I am so happy to see you here again. I have missed you. I am okay. All is well, and WILL BE well. Big hugs.

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