full circle

. . .from an upward battle of struggles and emotions to a journey of healing, growth, and laughter. . .

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shopaholics anonymous

I’m in debt. Like a lot. Like I should be going to a credit counsellor. But what is he going to tell me that I don’t already know? Stop spending money.

It wasn’t always like this. When I went back to Australia for my 30th birthday, I spent $3,000 on shopping {ok, maybe it was always like this…?}. But that’s not the point of this anecdote. When I returned, I was fired from my job {that’s another story}. I had no savings and a humungo credit card bill to pay off. Hashtag panic! Hashtag anxiety! I promised myself I would never be in that type of situation ever again.

And that was when I started building my emergency fund. The famous financial experts advise you to save at least three months’ salary for your emergency fund. For me, at the time, that would have been $8,500. Also recommended by financial advisors was to set up a certain percentage of your salary to be automatically deposited into your savings account. So, that’s what I did. I started with 5% {I had found a new job within a week} and never touched that account.

It took me nearly five years, but I had managed to save $10,000. What a financial accomplishment! What a financial RELIEF! But that same year, due to an unforeseen rental apartment incident, I took all of it {and every other penny I had} and put it towards a down payment on my first condo.

And that was the beginning of the end.

I already had my birthday trip to Greece booked and didn’t take possession until three days before I left, so I had to pay my last rent and first mortgage for the same month. After that, I just couldn’t keep up with the additional expenses—my mortgage plus strata fees plus property tax was double what I had paid in rent. I could feel myself going under and was sure I would drown any day. Hashtag anxiety. Hashtag desperate.

One of my favorite books was Confessions of a Shopaholic, and the movie had just come out. The main character ends up at a Shopaholics Anonymous meeting. I thought, well, if they have it in the movie, surely, they must have one in real life? Right?

So, one night, I googled “shopaholics anonymous” and found a meeting called Debtors Anonymous. Ah! So, that’s what they’re called in real life!

I started going to the DA meetings in 2010, a few months after I moved into my new place. In the first meeting, I cried while explaining my situation. But I felt relief in being able to share the seriousness with kind people who had or were going through exactly what I was going through. I felt comfort and hope. The meetings also kept my money issues at the top of my mind, which made me reassess the need for purchases before making them. The meetings were on Friday nights in my neighbourhood, and I looked forward to connecting with the others who attended.

But then my now ex-friend started asking me to go for a drink after work every Friday. Being social was a strategic part of my life given my history with depression. On most nights, I thought I would finish in time to go to the DA meetings. But, that never happened. And eventually, I stopped going completely.

That’s when my debt got worse.

641-01517495Being unhappy at work, I decided to go back to school and take an animal welfare certificate program and a community engagement certificate program. The latter alone was nearly $5,000. And then there was my weakness for retail therapy. And then for kitty health reasons, I had to switch my four cats to very expensive vet food. I put everything on credit because I didn’t have any cash as I could barely keep up with my condo expenses—they sucked up one entire paycheque. My credit card was going to be maxed out soon. My credit line, which had helped me consolidate some previous debt, was also maxed out. So, what’s the sensible thing to do? I increased my credit card limit and got a travel credit card. I figured the travel card would help me pay for three trips planned over the next two years. But it was supposed to be pay as I go. Very quickly {how the hell did it happen?}, I started losing the battle, and the credit on that card, too, started piling up. But that’s not even the latest. Last week, I booked an expensive trip to California due to family pressure. The new card is almost maxed out.

I have wanted to go back to the DA meetings for a year. I even put it in my calendar last year, so I would be reminded to go. But I never do. I’m embarrassed. I’m sooo embarrassed. I tripled my debt in three years. I’m not even using my regular credit card—I make more than the minimum payments, but the interest piles up faster than I can make the payments.

I’m not The Girl in the Green Scarf. Cutting or freezing credit cards doesn’t work—I have the numbers memorized. I don’t have lots of fashionable clothes and accessories to sell at an auction. {Though I did sell my red microwave from my old apartment. My new one came with one, and I hadn’t used the red one in five years, so I let it go. I’m also converting all my remaining CDs into mp3s, so I can sell them on Craigslist. I am definitely asking more for them than I did when I sold my first 300 due to downsizing into a smaller place. But those will amount to only a small payment.} And I’m not a fictional character.

I need to—no, I MUST—go back to DA. There is no other option. The solution has to start (again) from within.

What’s the evil number? $43,500.

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My car (i.e. my dad’s old car) broke down on my way to the rescue group meeting tonight in the rain. It was the icing on the cake of a really stressful week. I made some calls, got a stranger to look at it, made some more calls, saw that my phone battery was dying, called a cab, and left my car to deal with later.

I started to tell the tale of my unpleasant week to someone I volunteer with (whom I now consider a friend) and felt the stinging tears building in my eyes, so I abruptly stopped talking.

A friend at work told me today how last night she got home and just burst into tears. That’s what I need – a really good cry.

But who has time for tears? I’m already stretched to the max. I have responsibilities, I made commitments. I want to be able to look back on this year and say that I did my best to help myself, to help other people.

My friends at the rescue group don’t just save the lives of cats. Tonight, they saved mine. After putting me in touch with a mechanic friend of theirs, they drove me to my car and did what they could until by the seventh turn of the key, the engine roared. And then they followed me home.

Sometimes, I really do have great friends.

Of course, they instructed me to keep the engine running for 20 minutes before I turned it off, so it has enough juice in the morning, so I can make those calendar deliveries.

I’m sitting in the car on the street without heat, and my fingers are starting to get numb, so I shall leave with one thought.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

So . . . when do I walk away?

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musician standard time

back in the day, i had an insatiable desire for music. as a teen, i watched muchmusic (canada’s music video channel) every night while doing homework. i recorded all my favorite videos until i had a stack of 22 vhs tapes. i bought half a dozen CDs the day my dad gave me a cd player for my birthday. in university, i volunteered at the radio station as PR/arts and entertainment coordinator, promoted local bands, and went to their gigs every weekend. i had a lot of friends in bands. after i finished university and moved to italia, i was exposed to dance music, r&b, house, and electronic. when i returned three years later, i was really out of touch with the local music scene. (i still am.) but i reconnected with some old musician friends a few years ago. through some of those connections, i met T. T is an amazing musician – the most talented i’ve ever known. after playing bass for years since he was a kid, he taught himself guitar and began songwriting. i will forever cherish the tears when i heard the beautiful song he wrote for my birthday a couple of weeks after we fell in love. i will never forget the night he sang that song for the first time at a gig and dedicated it to me. {oh god, i miss him. 😦 }

{focus, focus}

{oh yeah…}

my friend at work (not the woman who was moving, whom i no longer consider a friend by the way, but the other one i had talked to – let’s call her martha*) had told me that her nephew’s band was playing at a bar downtown tonight, and i told her i would go with her. but last night, i started getting anxious. if you read my earlier blogs, you might be aware that i get anxious when i go downtown because i’m afraid i will run into T. see, he lives downtown. i live across the bridge near the beach. downtown is his space; the beach is mine. but sometimes, i need to go downtown for errands. i’m so scared to run into him – will he acknowledge me? will he be civil to me? will he say anything to me? will he smile at me? will he be happy to see me? or will he ignore me? will he hate me? will he tell me to !#$% off? realistically, i knew i wouldn’t run into him at all. i couldn’t imagine he would be at that particular bar, but YOU JUST NEVER KNOW, DO YOU? i stressed over it in bed all night. {sigh}

this afternoon, martha called to tell me she was sick and had been for a few days and wasn’t going to make it tonight. i had been too busy at work all day to stress over whether i would run into T, but at that moment, a part of me breathed a sigh of relief at not having to go downtown. i still think about him every day and wonder how he’s doing, how his songwriting is going, if he’s still working at the hotel………….. does he miss me……..? has he forgotten about me…….? does he have a new girlfriend………………………….?

when will the heartache end?

{focus, focus}

{focus, focus, focus}

{FOCUS, damn it, FOCUS!}

{sigh……i can’t.}

{forget it.}

{maybe tomorrow…}

*i’m making up the names for my entertainment.