Last Friday, I was driving down to San Diego to pick up Christopher. I had been sick all week and it was Friday evening traffic… so I decided I was allowed to splurge on the toll road. Taken it saved me maybe 15-20 minutes. Maybe. And it cost me $5.25. And I started wondering if it was worth it spending over $5 to save a maximum of 20 annoying minutes in traffic. It’s not like I couldn’t have made it without the toll road. And then I started thinking about how sad it is that I seriously have to be worried about spending $5 on a toll road. Or a coffee. Or a lunch. How sad (and exhausting) it is to keep track of every dollar I spend, because I am on a very tight budget.
Back in my married days, I used to get pedicures and manicures and waxes and had Starbucks every day. Well, maybe not every day, but whenever I wanted. We ate out whenever we wanted. I bought home decorations because they looked good and I thought: “That would be a nice addition!” I shopped at Ann Taylor. I wouldn’t think twice about using the FastTrack lane when driving during rush hour. Ok, I thought about it twice, but usually not very long.
To Barely Anything
I haven’t had a pedicure or manicure in 2 years. I have Starbucks maybe twice a month. It’s a treat now. I eat out… well, pretty much never unless someone else is paying or I am taking Christopher to In -N-Out. Every so often we go to Island’s. My existing home decorations are being creatively switched around to look different. I now shop at Goodwill; if I shop at all. And FastTrack… well, see above.
I’d say having to research creative ways to live well is a challenge and makes me proud when I find them. I’d say living frugally and being able to still save a little bit in the end of the month is a really great feeling. But in reality, taking a plunge like this just plain sucks. There is nothing fun about not being able to spend money. Nothing. It’s much more fun, and convenient and worry-free to simply be able to spend it. It’s one thing if you’ve never had it and this lifestyle is normal for you. But once you’ve tasted what they call the sweet life, or you’ve just always lived that way, it’s really difficult to go to having not much at all.
Balancing My Checkbook. Oh My…
I just balanced my checkbook for last month. I am really not sure what balancing a checkbook is, I’ve never balanced a checkbook. I don’t know if you actually are supposed to sit there with a checkbook and do left and right sides for spending and earning. I call it “checking my budget” instead. It’s in an excel sheet and consists of adding up all my costs on my bank statement and making sure I am not over in any given area without being under in another. I did well on gas this month. And probably on food. I didn’t have to use what I call my emergency cushion and I was actually able to save a little bit. It makes me hopeful that if I can keep it up, I can start paying just a little bit into my 401K again and putting an even slighter amount aside for Christopher’s college fund.
While this way of thinking is depressing as hell to me (I used to be able to save thousands a month for a while), I am learning for real how to use my money wisely. I am learning the very hard way to appreciate what I am given. I learned how to pay the bills myself (how to actually go through the motions and do it), how to open and use my own bank account. It’s very sad to say that at 30, I had just learned that because I always had someone else do it for me. I am somehow trying to find a way to just be thankful that I do have what I have and that it is enough to live comfortably enough. I can’t afford much extra, but at least I can live in a good neighborhood with healthy food on the table and not lack any essentials. I suppose you have to set priorities.
As I rebuild…
It is this learning and rebuilding process that I should have learned as a building process (without the re) in the first place instead of getting married and having it all laid out for me. Maybe this is God’s way of telling me that everyone who desires to have strong character needs to go through a building process. There is soooo much I hate about this process, so many regrets that come with it, so much worry and self-doubt and blame I cast on myself. But there is also all the learning. And I am hopeful that I can come out of it a stronger person, with a stronger character and a stronger self-image.
Until then, it’ll suck. But if it does one thing, it’s fostering determination in me. If I have one thing Germany instilled in me, it’s determination. Determination that somehow, I am going to make this right. I will right my wrongs, I will make it work and I will come out in a place I truly want to be in. I have to tell myself that a lot these days because more than not, it’s really difficult to believe it myself. That’s why I keep repeating the mantra. I am determined to succeed. I am determined to do the right thing. And I know that some day, my life will be right again.
I also view it as a growing opportunity. When something doesn’t kill you (which it doesn’t), it most likely makes you stronger (which it does). I am growing not just in determination and will power, but also in faith. For this whole mess that I have gotten myself into, there is an reason. There’s an answer to the why. I don’t know that answer. But it might just be “Because I needed to learn this lesson.” Or “Because there was no other way to save me from my ways.” Whatever the answer, I know I can trust in my God to give it to me one day. Until then, he’s using this to teach me. I’d like to say to punish me, but I know that’s not true. I am being taught a very hard lesson. And I am learning to accept that.