Friday, July 11, 2014

in a nutshell

Which brings me to my current situation... and how we ended up in it...
which I've been reluctant to share ( in it's totality) for some reason.
(WARNING.. this is long. Feel free to skip this post)

I had worked as a nurse for about 17yrs when I resigned for health reasons in 2003. I spent the next 10yrs home schooling kids... and working on my stay-at-home and work-for-myself art business. Along the way; I was instrumental in starting and running a thriving art gallery... doing art/craft shows... running my online stores. It was awesome. I could work when I felt up to it... and rest when I needed to. It was perfect; and especially so as I have had some significant health problems and chronic SLE.
My husband made a very decent living... but we were still living paycheck to paycheck.
We had a lot of debt... with quite a large portion of it being medical bills from me being sick over the years. We didn't spend extravagantly, didn't take vacations... worked faithfully... but we had moved several times (8 times in the first 6yrs we were married)... had helped people out financially and otherwise... made some poor decisions with money... tried to help others, etc... not unlike most people I suppose.
And then everything started to fall apart.
One by one... close family members became suddenly ill... and I would travel back and forth to help as often as I could (sometimes up to 4 times in a year). My sister passed. My father passed. My son got married... had a baby... got divorced... had substance abuse problems and depression/anxiety problems... went to rehab... lost his job, lived with us for a bit...but in the end.... he is OK and that's all that matters. Point being... lots of "high stress life events"...
Then the thing with my husband's job.
A year ago... (roughly) we were told Jim's job was about to come to an abrupt end.
He had been working with this company for 13 years; and had all the perks and downsides of being in a management position. But things can sometimes go awry... and this was about to take a drastic detour. The long story short; he should have been in a position to be a significant player in the local branch; but because he was on another assignment... the position was given to someone from out of state... and that person became Jim's boss... and well... it got ugly. Jim was passed up for promotions. His office was taken away. He got less than favorable reviews. He was eventually "downsized."
We fixed up the house as quickly and as well as we could.
We listed and sold in a record -breaking 13 days on the market.
We helped our son pay off his debts.
We tried to pay off most all of our debt as well.
We cleared up and closed most all our accounts.
We sold or gave away (to charity) about half of our stuff.
We put everything in a single truck and moved cross country to PA where we had both grown up.

We cashed in our retirement funds and paid off any remaining debt... the exception being; taking out a loan for a house here. We were very lucky to find a smaller home; that is well built (but ugly and tragically stuck in 1978)... that is walking distance to town and to my mother's home.
We tried to get jobs... but for various reasons, it didn't pan out.
I did some odd jobs and some part-time, temporary work.
I had many friends and family repeatedly tell me to get a "real job"... usually in the form of going back to nursing. And I earnestly tried to do this. I studied. I took online classes. I worked on paperwork. Now, I realize it would pay well. However, in order to do that ... the state requires me to take boards again... which I haven't done since 1986. And I haven't worked as a nurse since 2003. So, while I could most likely do it... for some reason, I just can't bring myself to do it.
A lot of it has to do with me promising myself in 2003 that I was done with nursing.
I was a good nurse. I was probably a great nurse ... but I was done with it. I had done a good job, and wanted to leave it on a high note. I knew that physically anyway, I was not a 20yr old... and because of my immune problems... I was always getting sick.
I was very happy to be a working artist... and self employed.
Most of my frustration these past few months has revolved around not being able to work full time as an artist... and feeling like an abject failure because my art isn't bringing in enough money for us to survive on.

Which brings me to money.
A year ago, we were making over $100,000 a year.
Last month, I made $300.... and that was a better month than I had had previously.
If it weren't for our retirement funds that we cashed in ... shudders.

The point I am trying to make is that, as a family... we have had lots of struggles these past few years... and radically so this past year. We have gone from making "good" money... to making hardly any money. We have survived...  and in many ways... thrived.
And there is a lot of good that has come out of it.

On the plus side (and there is always a plus side):
-Jim is writing a book. He works on it every single day. Plus he is taking on-line classes. He knows what he wants to achieve. He knows what he wants to do.... and he is doing it.
-we are happy living in rural PA.
-we buy local every chance we can
-we support the local farm market
-we like our house. We LOVE living near the woods
-I feel better about living near my mom. I promised my dad I would look out for her; and I am keeping my promise.
-we don't have near as much stuff... which is good. We've paid off all of our debt (except the house)... which is awesome.
-we've learned to live on less... and find there isn't much that we miss. Ok. We miss being close to book stores, a variety of restaurants and coffee shops. We miss being able to go out at 2am and actually find a place to hang out and have coffee. But all-in-all... it's good.
-the daughter got a job... and loves the people she works with; and is saving money for her future.
-the son continues to do really well... and is loving life; perhaps for the first time in a long time.
-I've been doing part-time work on commission. It's fun work that involves taking photos, researching the value and such on items... and listing them online. I work with some fun and interesting people... and there is great potential there.
-I've been heavily involved in the start-up and running of the artisan center here in town... and it too... has tons of potential. I can really see it becoming a life altering thing for this town given an opportunity and drive from its members.

But it's a work in progress. It all is... this thing called life.
And I told this whole story, because I know it's hard.
Our situation is certainly not the worst... and it's not a unique story.
So many people all across this country have had hard times.
I know that.

It's hard to tread water.
It's hard to have hope when the lighthouse seems so very far away.

But, I know that things will work out...
I can see the beams from here.