Saturday, March 17, 2012

Upping the Status Quo

When most people use the word "normal," I believe they mean "Status Quo".  After all - normal is supposed to be the median - somewhere near the middle of various statistical outliers, right?  So you have to sort of ask yourself, what IS the median for here in the US these days?  I know what the "Dream" was while I was growing up.  I know what the median was during that time as well, and how things have changed from then to now.

So.  For the past - oh, 15 to 18 months - almost 2 years of my life - things have been quite removed from both the median, and what I consider "normal" or "status quo." 

Life has changed for me significantly since I started this blog a little over 2 years ago.  Granted, things were what Most people would call "normal" for me at the start of this lil venture.  I had a live in (abusive) boyfriend, a (unstable, unhealthy) relationship with what remains of my blood relatives, a couple of (semi-psychotic) pets, massive debt, and the "standard" stuff that we all consider "necessary" for living - electricity, hot water, ac in the summer and a working heater in the winter, a running vehicle, the standard amounts of insurance coverage for same, home PC, and a few "extras" to make life a tad nicer.

That all came to a crashing halt during the course of 2010, and it's been a long (and frequently frustrating) road to recovering something that at least Remotely resembles "normal" in my life. 

What happened to change everything?  A lot, really.  A nervous breakdown.  Jail time over an unpaid traffic ticket.  Betrayal by the abusive ex, followed rapidly by that non-relationship flushing itself down the toilet.  Followed far too closely by a twit roommate (no longer a roommate, or considered a friend) who ran my electric bill up to over $1000 in the course of 2 months during the summer of that year (while I was still unemployed), only to jump and run like a rat leaving a sinking ship when the electricity got cut off rather than helping to pay down the bill that she caused.  Fortunately for me, I started work within 48 hours of her jumping ship.

There are a lot of things we tend to take for granted in middle class America.  Working lights.  Running water.  A working car to get us where we need to go that isn't within easy walking distance.  (And in some states, such as here in Oklahoma, that's practically everywhere - there Is NO real public transportation system to speak of, and the Oklahoma City Metro area covers a Lot of ground!)  A hot water tank that doesn't leak to the point of self destructing when you can't afford to replace it.

Being without all of those things for several months really caused me to take a step back and examine my priorities.  No electricity doesn't just mean living in the dark or by candle light.  (Trust me, while most folks consider dinner by candlelight to be romantic, when you do it Every Single Night - simply because you have No other light source, and the sun has gone down - it looses it's appeal rapidly.) 

It also means having no Safe heat in the winter.  Why?  Because even with a natural gas heater, that heater has an Electric Thermostat.  No electricity = no thermostat = no heater.  Hope you don't mind wearing lots of layers, and have plenty of spare blankets.

It means no TV, no computer, no games, no way to plug in that cell phone (which has become your only means of contact with the rest of the world when you aren't specifically at work - so don't forget to take the charger with you TO work, so that you can plug it in while you're there!) 

It means using a laundromat to wash clothes, because the washer & dryer in the garage require electricity to run.  And since you have no Car, it means only going when Every Stitch of clothing in the house requires washing, within a day or two after payday (so you haven't blown the laundry money on other necessities - make sure you save your quarters for the machines) and you can cadge a ride to the laundry from a friend. (Better make sure you budget yourself to pay their gas, it'll make them more amiable to helping.  And consider throwing in lunch on you as well, just to make sure they don't balk or find something else to do - after all, not many people will pass up a meal on someone else's dime, right?) 

It means not having company over, because no one really wants to sit around in the dark with nothing to do - not you, and certainly not your friends. 

It means cooking on a Coleman camp stove, with a window cracked open for fresh air (yes, even in the dead of winter when it's 15 degrees outside) and making sure you don't waste the propane before you have a chance to get more next payday, unless you happen to have a gas kitchen.  (Unfortunately for me, my parents were fond of electric, so they converted the kitchen to all electric shortly after buying this house.  If I ever manage to dig myself far enough out of the hole, I plan on converting at least the stove top back to gas - or maybe I'll simply add a second, gas, stovetop area in my workshop space.)  It means only buying food for 1 or 2 meals at a time, unless it's dry goods that don't require any sort of refridgeration (except in the winter, when the whole house is one giant deep freeze, and you end up wearing 4 layers of clothing And keeping a blanket over you when you're not huddling under 6 blankets in bed because that's the warmest spot in the house.)  Yeah - that's right - all those convenient microwavable things that you love so much?  Kiss those goodbye completely.  Between the lack of a freezer, and the lack of electricity to run the microwave, they're Right out.

That is what my life has been for most of the past 2 years.  While working, paying off the outrageous bill left by the ex-roommate, trying to keep the phone bill, gas bill, water bill, grocery bill, laundromat use, pet food, and tossing what help I could towards gas for the friend who most frequently took me to run my absolutely necessary errands that couldn't be done on foot in places within 2 miles of home.  I'm not out of the hole yet.  Things are improving - a Lot - but I still have a ways to go before it's back to what Most of you call the Status Quo.  

I finally managed to get the old electric bill paid off (mid-February) and get that turned back on.  With the electric back on, I found out that my old fridge died in it's long sleep.  So right off the bat, other things got delayed so that I could replace the fridge with a working one.  Fortunately, the same friend who has been kind enough to make sure my various errands got run found me a good one on the cheap at a second hand place, and brought the truck so myself, my current boyfriend, and he could go pick it up and get it in here at the house. 

As of Today, I finally have TV and Internet back on here at home, via Cable.  (Hence this blog update! LOL)  Being as addicted to the web as I am, I think being without a consistent, convenient way to get online has been as much a trial for me as any of the rest of it.  I spent a lot of hours up at IHOP and McDonald's, filching the free wifi - and spending so much money eating out, to justify same, that honestly I could have had everything back on probably 4 months earlier had I not been eating out so much just so I could log on to the web.

I ended up switching phone services for my cell during all this trial.  I had Sprint for a long time, but it simply became way to expensive and too much of a hassle.  I've gone pre-paid again, but it's not the same old pre-paid that it used to be in the past.  I get the same unlimited calls, texts, and web access via my cell for $45 a month through this pre-paid that I was paying Sprint $150 a month for.  I think that change, as much as anything else, helped me finally get myself dug out as much as I have.

It hasn't been all bad.  Don't think for a second that it's been all bad.  I caught up on reading that I kept telling myself I was going to do, but never getting around to.  (You do a lot of that, when there's literally nothing else TO do, other than read or do housework.) 

I managed to find an incredible man who I have a fantastic, Healthy relationship with.  (The first Healthy relationship I've had in more years than I care to count!  Perhaps my picker finally readjusted itself from it's chronically broken state.)  He has been a true gift from the gods, supportive and encouraging.  Gainfully employed at a job he's had for a long time (same company for the past 13 or 14 years, though not always at the same location) prior Navy service, intelligent, sense of humor (rather warped, which is good considering how warped My sense of humor can be) with none of the ugly bad habits that some of my former partners have had like alcoholism or drug issues. 

I've learned who my friends are - and who they Aren't.  (Which, honestly, can be an important step in life - not to mention extremely eye opening!) 

I've learned to appreciate what I have, to keep my expectations of both myself and others realistic, that despite being daddy's lil girl until I was in my 40s (and he had a stroke) I AM capable of taking care of myself and standing on my own two feet - even when I don't necessarily Want to.  I've learned that sometimes life isn't about what we Want or Think we need - but about being creative and doing much with little.  I've learned that while daydreams are great, and games are fun - burying your head and playing ostrich in the hopes that problems will just go away isn't a game that has any winners.  The problems are still there when you quit daydreaming or playing escapist games.

And mostly I've learned about myself.  Where I lost myself, what it's taking to refind myself, and what sort of road is in front of me to become once again the person I'm capable of being.  So far the journey promises to be interesting.

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