Everything happens for a reason

So today it snowed and my daughter decided that she wanted to take the day off from school… all so that I would have time to write. Right?!? Isn’t that why it happened? Doesn’t everything happen for a reason? Or do things just happen and we assign them a reason? Well. in this case it’s both. There is definitely a reason why it snowed having to do with all sorts of meteorological stuff that I don’t completely understand and wouldn’t dare try to explain. My daughter certainly has her reasons for not wanting to go to school today but I learned long ago that any attempts to understand teenage girls is pointless. Love and acceptance are the only tools which have any chance of yielding positive results in that situation.

The fact remains that I am now writing. It snowed, my daughter isn’t going to school and I’m writing a blog post. Cause and effect. Bam!

It’s also a fact that I haven’t been writing much since I got sober. There is obviously a correlation but fully understanding the cause may be a difficult as explaining the weather or teenage daughters.

There is a simple answer however. There’s always a simple answer. It’s God’s will is probably the simplest answer and it’s good enough. When all other explanations fail me, I still have God. To be honest, God has been indispensable during this phase of my journey but I don’t really want to write about God. I don’t. I really don’t. At least not publicly. At least not now. I consider spirituality in whatever form it takes to be a very personal thing. I no business writing about God or spirituality and I can’t write about what has been going on in my life without it. It may be God’s will that I not right but more likely it’s my will to not write about God.

A lot of things changed in my life when I quit drinking. The undeniable truth is that drinking played a huge role in my life. The simple act of quitting meant that things were going to change. That was kind of the point. If I wasn’t an alcoholic that would probably be the end of the story. Man quits drinking, stops making trips to the liquor store. In my case it’s a much bigger deal than that. In many ways my story resembles that of every other alcoholic who has gotten sober. If you want to read some of those stories there is a whole book of them online.

I’m determined to make my story a success story but I’m not ready to declare victory yet, not that I even know what that would mean. Every day I don’t have a drink is a victory but I’m under no illusions that my recovery will one day be complete. Prior to sobriety I didn’t care how the story turned out. It was just me, doing my thing. I felt perfectly comfortable telling it in the moment. Win or lose I knew it would make a good story. But it’s no longer just about me. It’s bigger than me. That is to say, I’m part of something bigger than me. If I fail I don’t want to bring anyone else down with me. That and I actually care how my life turns out now. It’s not just a story.

Advertisements

Why ask why?

I’ve been writing this blog for nearly a year. It was born out of a dream, a vision, a plan but in truth I had no idea what it would become. I just knew that there was only one way to find out. It has carried me through many changes, many ups and downs, many successes and failures to land me at a place of contentment. That was not my dream or my vision but to be honest, I never really followed my plan. The truth is I’m much better at making plans than following through on them. Still, not a bad place to wind up. Being content is not the worst thing in the world. If you are looking for a road map to contentment, then feel free to follow my example. It works.

When I chose the name for this blog I really didn’t know what it meant. I just liked the way it sounded and felt like it captured my state of mind and outlook on the world. Now, after treating it like a daily affirmation, it has taken on a more specific meaning for me. It is a call for awareness and acceptance. These are the core principles of my philosophy. They are rooted in embracing the present moment and letting go of suffering.  They allow me to see the world as it is without judgement or expectation. They have lead me to hold beliefs like, “in life all things have purpose” and “love is all you need”. They allow me to treat every experience as a gift and to benefit from the lessons they teach. They allow me to roll with the punches, to forgive and find peace.

All of these things are fine and I am grateful to have found myself in this land of tranquility. It’s pretty easy for me to look at my life today and see how much better it is than a year ago. I am finally at peace…

… but I’m not at the end so clearly there is something more.

I’ve gotten to a place where everything is okay. I’ve found balance. I am surviving. I have enough and life is good. So what am I missing?

Mutherfucker! That’s exactly how it happens. I get to the point where I have everything I need, I’m safe and comfortable yet I’m still seeking something more. That’s when the questions start.

Awareness is clearly a good thing and acceptance is without a doubt the path to contentment. The problem is that some things aren’t acceptable. Awareness without acceptance will lead to discontent. Acceptance is merely the ability to not ask why.

I’m not sure I have that ability. I’m not sure I want that ability. Our ability to ask “why” is behind every scientific discovery we have ever made. It is the driving force behind every religion. It is probably our greatest evolutionary trait and the cause of our unprecedented progress.

It is also the primary cause of our discontent.

So why as why?

Because I am aware? Because it is in my nature? Because I am not content? Because I know that there is more? Because somethings don’t make sense? Because intuition is not enough? Because the rules don’t work?

Actually the answers are infinite yet none may be satisfactory. That may be the only thing there is to accept.

Because I cannot accept injustice.

I cannot accept poverty.

I cannot accept destruction of the environment.

I cannot accept war.

I cannot accept feeling alone.

I cannot accept feeling like I have nothing to give.

I cannot accept wanting to die or my friends wanting to die.

I cannot accept denial.

I cannot accept deceit.

I cannot accept lying.

I cannot accept contentment when I am aware that life still sucks.

So… what does that mean? Only tomorrow knows.

How are you doing?

As I rode my bike to therapy yesterday I pondered the question that I know would be awaiting me.

“So, how are you doing?”

To be honest, I had no idea. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t looking to kill myself either. I felt like I was making progress but I was still no where near where I wanted to be. I’d been concerned with how much I’ve been drinking but I’ve actually been drinking less that I had expected; with a couple notable exceptions.

So I’m somewhere in the middle. Things aren’t fantastic but they aren’t completely falling apart either.

Should I be feel grateful about that or disappointed that things aren’t better?

My first clue is the word “should”. I’ve always had a problem with that word. The fact is it doesn’t matter how I feel. I can feel either way or both. I can feel however I feel. I can be grateful for the things that are working and disappointed in the things that I wish were different. My feeling don’t change anything. The situation is still the same.

So I decided that the situation is exactly as it’s meant to be. Some things work and some things have room for improvement. But hey, that’s life! In that moment I just decided to be okay with it.

After my appointment I decided to go for a little bike ride. I didn’t really have a choice. I was over ten miles from miles from my house but I wasn’t really in a hurry to get home. I just wanted to ride around for a while.

I wound up stopping in at the 331 Club in NE Minneapolis for happy hour. I realized that I hadn’t been to a bar just to commune with people all month. This is actually a really important part of my life. I haven’t missed it which is probably good. I don’t need to be hanging out in bars everyday but in moderation, there is a reason for me to hang out in bars.

I met these two computer programmers. I want to go on record as saying computer programmers are highly under appreciated. Okay, I think most people are under appreciated but a computer programmer’s job is to not be noticed. Most of the world these days runs on software but the only time we even think about it when it doesn’t work. A software developer’s job is to create something that we can take for granted. Fuck, I’m glad I got out of that field!

I also talked to a guy who is trying to create a better battery than anything currently in existence. Yup… that’s what I do at the bar.

After that I went and hung out with a friend who had just gone through a couple of rough days. I couldn’t fix anything but I still think I made things better.

So how was your day?

Work with what you’ve got

My whole life I have struggled to find my purpose. Why am I here? What do I have to offer? What am I better at than anybody else? What makes me special?

The only thing that I have ever come up with is that I am the only “me”. I am unique. I am one of a kind. No one is a better me than me.

So then the question becomes what is it about me that makes me unique? The truth is there is nothing about me which is unique. There is nothing about me that is one of a kind except everything about me. There is no individual aspect about me which is unique but when you combine all of these redundant qualities in one person you come up with something that is truly one of a kind.

I am the only person on this planet who has intimate knowledge of everything that I know. This is what makes me special. This is what I have to work with. This is what I have to give. Being me is my purpose.

I think we are gonna crash

Over the past six years or so I have seen my financial situation get slowly but steadily worse. For the most part this hasn’t been a problem. I don’t need much. I don’t live lavishly, I don’t take vacations, I don’t drive much and I don’t need anymore stuff. Most of my money has gone to supporting my kids, caring for my friends and spending time with the people I love. This last year, however, has seen my income cut by 40% and my living expenses go up considerably, mostly due to increased auto expenses in order to see my kids who both live out of town, but also due to increased housing expenses; my mortgage has gone up $100 a month as a result of higher taxes and insurance cost.

I have done everything I can think of to cut expenses without jeopardizing my mental or physical health but it still isn’t enough to make ends meet. The past six months have been tooth and nail just to make it through. By putting off purchases and repairs, some creative financial juggling and some unexpected monies showing up just in the nick of time I have been able to squeak by. I knew I couldn’t keep it up for ever but I held on hoping for a miracle that never showed up.

I tried to refinance my home but I have too much debt, not enough income and not enough assets. Even though I had been paying my mortgage every month for the past 14 years without fail, and refinancing would have made it easier for me to keep doing that, I was told I was too broke to lower my mortgage payments. That’s fucked up!

I don’t have any savings because I’m carrying credit card debt. Any extra money I’ve ever had I have used to pay down my balances. Then when I hit hard times I turn to the credit cards just to get by. Now, that isn’t even an option. I am maxed out. For months I’ve just been making the minimum payments but in December I couldn’t even do that. I had to call one of my credit card companies to see what I could work out. This card has been closed for years so all I’m doing is paying interest and paying down the balance and I haven’t missed a single payment. I was able to refinance at a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. They let me slid for December as long as I paid them $125 by the 5th of January. I could do that and I though this might just be what I needed to balance my budget.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how much my van would cost me in January. This was the month where I could no longer put off needed repairs and I needed my van to do my job and see my kids. I had to spend the money. Once again, January saw me just squeaking by.

My primary source of income is Social Security so when that money came in for February I went on-line to pay my credit card bill. Instead of a bill for $125 like I expected I saw a bill for $250 with $125 being past due. Instead of my due date being the 5th of the month as we discussed, they switched it to the 26th. I never received a bill or any notification that they were doing this; not that I could have made another payment in January anyway, nor could I pay $250 by February 26th as the were requesting. So, I paid the $125 like I had planned and figured I would deal with this when I got back from tour.

Once I got back from tour I was able to deposit money in my checking account. I tried to take out $20 just so I would have some cash in my pocket but was told that funds were not available. This made me nervous  I could understand the deposited funds not being available right away but I should have had $70 in my account even before making the deposit. The whole day I was stressed out; wondering how much money I had, what bills I could pay or not pay, what I could sell to generate more funds and generally just working myself into a frenzy. I really try to never stress about money. I saw how disastrous it was for my parents growing up but there I was, falling apart over money.

Once I finished work I was able to get on-line. I saw that two automatic payments had been made from my checking account while I was out of town sending my balance into the red. I didn’t think this was suppose to happen. I thought the new Federal regulations passed in 2010 protected me from becoming overdrawn. Apparently it does not apply to automatic payments. Anyway, my deposit was enough to cover the payments and leave me with a positive balance. It didn’t appear that there were any overdraft charges so I thought all was good.

My next concern was my credit card payment for the computer I just bought so that I could start writing this blog. I hadn’t received a bill yet so I had no idea when that payment will come due. With no-interest financing I didn’t want to fuck it up.

I went to log-on to that account but was told that my ID and password did not match. What?!? It was the same ID and password I used last month to check my account before buying the computer. So I tried it again. Still no luck. I tried every combination I could think of but I still couldn’t get into my account so I clicked the link to have them reset my password. Fifteen minutes later I received an email saying that they didn’t have an account linked to that address.

WTF! I know they have my email address, they sent me the receipt for my purchase, goddamn it! What the hell is going on here?

So I picked up the phone and called the number on the back of my card. I just wanted to talk to a human being and figure out what was going on. Of course I had to make my way through a maze of computer prompts before that would even become an option. Actually, that never became an option. I got to the point where the computer voice told me that I would be transferred to the next available customer service representative but instead I was transferred back to the same computer voice now telling me to enter my card number. I complied but was told, “I’m sorry, I did not get that. Please enter your card number.” I tried again and got the same response.

“Fuck you! I just want to talk to a real person!!!”, I yelled into the phone but the computer voice just repeated over and over, “I do not understand your request. I do not understand your request. I do not understand your request.”

At this point I was shaking with frustration. My heart was pounding and I was ready to explode. I stopped myself just before hurling my phone across the room. I took a deep breath and said, “I’m done.”

I’m done with credit cards all together. I mean, who am I kidding?  I have no business using credit cards. Using credit to survive is fine when you know that things are going to be better in the future and you will be able to pay it back. I honestly thought that would be the case. I figured at some point I would be able to sell my house and get out of debt, but that’s not happening. My house is worth $50,000 less than it was in 2006 and it’s continuing to lose value. I see no chance of my financial situation improving, not in the near future, perhaps not ever. It’s time for me to stop borrowing and live within my means, measly as they may be.

In a moment of clarity it all made sense. A feeling of calm came over my body and I knew what I had to do. I had to break up will my credit cards.

DEAR CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: I can’t deal with this anymore. I’m sorry but you mother fuckers are on your own. I’ve got nothing left to give you. I tried my best. I hung in there as long as I could but now it’s over. We had a good run. You made shitloads of money off of me over the years but the gravy train has run out of track. Come after me if you want but I have given you my last dime. Literally, I’m broke; completely, totally, undeniably and utterly fucking broke!

… well not completely broke. I still had a little bit of available credit on one card. Okay, now this was clearly a dickhead move; maybe a little vindictive, maybe a last ditch effort at survival, maybe a purely logical decision; but considering that I was about to trash my credit rating I thought I might as well go all in. I was going to run up my credit card as far as I could. I headed to the liquor store and spent $70 on booze; 5 liters of wine, 1.75 liters of whiskey, 1.75 liters of vodka and a 30 pack of beer – enough to get me through the month for sure.

I still have $55 dollars left. Hopefully that will be enough to fill my tank, get a little food and toilet paper – then I’m done. I will spend what I earn and no more. And I’ve got a plan. I can do this. It is going to be okay.

By the way… my bank did sack me with overdraft charges, $37 for each payment, $74 in total. Yeah! Mother fucking bank, I’m done with you too! Tomorrow I am closing my account and as soon as I have some money saved up I’m opening an account at the credit union.

%d bloggers like this: