Take notes. If your life is like most, you aren’t bored, incredible changes are rearranging your life, and you can’t count on your past to predict your future. We live in a time of great stories and, as a non-fiction author, I can assure you that memory isn’t as reliable as words written in the moment. It is one reason I blog. It encourages me to record key moments every few days and, even in such a short period, so much happens that I pause when I try to remember it all. My friends are in a similar state, which makes for conversations filled with exclamations, digressions, and a search for new words for woes and wows. I think that is temporary.
This blog is about personal finance: personal, because a person is a life and a life is time and both are non-renewable and precious; and financial, because we’ve constructed our society around money, even for basic needs. Those two words cover a lot of territory, which means I rarely lack a topic. Some days, like today, there’s a surplus worthy of a book. The irony is that the blog started with a book (Dream. Invest. Live.). The world is circular.
Within the last week, various topics have been part of conversations: serendipity, foreclosure, bankruptcy, opportunity, jobs, sales, passages, insurance, exhibit, dance, dismay, joy – a list that feels like a large portion of the Oxford English Dictionary. Personally, I’ve had to build a logic diagram to understand the consequences of foreclosure, bankruptcy, and good fortune. I’ve also had surprises in sales, books to proofread and help publish, referrals for consultations, possible jobs decisions drift away indefinitely while other unexpected opportunities arise, students arrive, exhibits appear, and talks squeeze into my schedule. The clutch for my mental transmission and the clutch for my emotional transmission are both working hard enough to warrant a cool down session on the deck, but I haven’t scheduled that time – yet.
Spiritually, I feel that it will all work out; yet logically, I am forced to balance the influences by adding and subtracting dollars. Spirituality doesn’t work to a schedule. Unfortunately, finances, especially bills and debts, can be merciless managers of time.
My mortgage company, at least I think it is them, sent me a package that may forestall foreclosure, but that brings me closer to bankruptcy. (I can’t be sure the package came from the mortgage company because some of the collection tactics have included paperwork that misrepresented itself as coming from banks that aren’t involved. I know. I called the bank and checked. Is someone committing bank fraud?) The sum of my recent good fortunes is encouraging, but empirically, is not enough to remove foreclosure and bankruptcy from the list of possibilities – yet.
It’s a gorgeous spring day here in Langley on Whidbey. Between that paragraph and this I ate lunch down at Waterfront Park, the place for whale watching without boarding a boat. No whales today, but water flat and peaceful enough that a kayak’s wake would be the most noticeable ripple. A necessary interlude.
I started writing this post amidst the internal turmoil of trying to decide about my foreclosure options while emphasizing the bits of good news that are welcome and sustaining, though not liberating me from debt. That break brought me back to the middle, the present and the now that are more than good enough for the moment. Today’s hectic lives provide little obvious opportunity for such times. Activity layers on action spawning worries about what’s being overlooked. Undoubtedly, something is. As situations improve we’re able to get by with a bit less work, take time to relax, and live better lives. That was the goal of retirement, but that goal appears to be more of an illusion; which means finding ways to balance concerns, time, life, and money becomes a part of life maintenance.
Working from a coffeeshop is a fine window on hurried versus stilled lives. It appears to be relaxed and casual, with the smells and sounds of espresso shots being pulled. Being in a small town means it is easier to see behind the facade. Here are the stylishly unemployed – and notice that they are drinking tea, if anything. Here are the perpetually busy, living along their passions – with some striving for a destiny, others from concerns and fears of loss, and others working towards and through recovery. Thoreau’s lives of quiet desperation aren’t as quiet as they were, but the desperation hasn’t reached boisterous levels either – yet.
Yet is a word commonly used by the optimists. The present has too many woes. Wows are arriving, but have a long way to go to bring lives back to celebration. Yet, the optimists know that the trends are good. Adapting to the change is necessary. And that, with a focus on what’s yet to be, they’ll be able to get through the unpleasant parts of the present.
While writing my books about bicycling across America, year-round travel in Washington’s Cascades, and walking across Scotland, I saw that my memories didn’t match my notes or the photos. Days were grander or more sedate. Pains were forgotten or amplified. Even the weather changed, and remembered sunshine showed up as drizzle in notes and image files. Conversations with friends include a search for words of woe or wow that are honest and accurate without triggering defenses against hyperbole. It isn’t easy, and that’s from an educated and artistic collection that has impressive vocabularies. I thank everyone who has shared their words, either written or verbal. Communication and an acceptance that many of us are working through unique yet similar struggles is our best support system and eventually a fine record of how we managed to survive and thrive.
I especially thank those who’ve interrupted our conversations about their struggles with, “Hey, I just realized that you could help with that. What do you charge?” (Thank you HCLE, NRM, and all of my personal clients.) So far, it’s not enough to please my mortgage company, but be assured, it’s pleased me and helped all of us progress.
Tom, you seem remarkably calm and relaxed despite all that’s going on. Is it the real you or a facade? Either way, the situation’s gotta be hard.
Yep. An ambiguous answer, but pretty close. Writing helps, and so does knowing that others need it said too.