Thursday, December 14, 2006

"A Lost Compass"

I think I lost my compass. No, not the little round thing that point to what direction is where, etc. But I definitely misplaced my inner compass and I want it back. Not yesterday or a week ago or a week or months from now, but I want it back TODAY!

The compass I am referring to is the one that for quite some time now has been operating very nicely inside me, giving me my sense of humor again, showing me that I still have logic skills to call on and put to good use, and that compass that for many months now has kept me focused in a way that it didn't even cross my mind to want to go find a very secluded place - a nice little corner - where, out of sight from everyone else around me, away from the terrible thoughts and worries crossing my mind, I could sit and pull my hair out, one strand at a time and just cry.

Over the past 10-12 years, those feelings have frequently been a part of my composition. It became second nature most of the time to see only negativity and to moan and wail and thrash about because of all the worries and fears I had operating then.

The last time I was that depressed was four years ago when I had just been fired - about 3 1/2 weeks before Christmas and after only seven weeks on the job, as a staff writer for the local daily newspaper.

I knew going into that job - as did the management and my supervisor - that I was totally an untrained entity in the journalistic world. My only expertise in writing had consisted of the terms papers I did in college and a couple of letters to the editor I had from time to time submitted and which were published. A far cry from knowing anything about what it takes, what is involved, in trying to attend a township meeting - something I had done only one time before in my 50 plus years at that time - and take notes which I could later transpose into a good, readable text for the next day's copy at the paper. Two weeks before I was canned, I was called into a meeting with my supervisor and the editor and told there were problems with my work, with my writing and it was because I consistently wrote in the passive tense and they wanted - no required - the pieces be done in active tense.

I was lost! Had no clue as to what this meant. Active, passive. smasive - what did all that mean? They tried to give me examples and I thought I understood a little of what they meant but I knew I was far from being totally comprehending of this task to change my style. But, apparently they saw no improvement in my work and yes, they fired me.

I spent the full month of December and most of January at that time, curled up on the sofa, covered in a blanket, alternating between feeling like crying and just laying there sobbing, usually managing to keep the sobbing shoved down till well after my daughter and son-in-law had gone to bed. The dog we had then, good old Hercules, seemed to be the only thing in the house who had a clue of how dire my need was to feel comfort from some living, breathing thing - even if it was just a rambunctious little old mutt who would jump up on me on the couch, snuggle beside me and just stay there as if to say to me, "I understand; I'm here and I love you. Isn't that enough?"

It took two things to lift me out of that quandry that winter. One was sending a small essay I had initially written for the paper, but which my supervisor had poo-pooed as being trite and certainly none of that paper's astute readership would have a lick of interest in that piece, and I had sent it to the editor of a magazine called "State College" for their perusal. To my shock, the editor had almost immediately written back that she liked it and wanted to use it in their March edition. Needless to say, that tiny bit of acceptance did a heck of a lot to bolster my self-esteem.

The second thing that happened to me was I made an appointment with a counselor at the Vocational Rehabilitation Office to see if through them, I could get some medical care I felt I needed in order to be a viable employee again. Two doctor appointments later and a colonoscopy and I learned I had colo-rectal cancer and boy, if I thought my world had been turned upside down when I was fired, this turned it upside down a couple times and inside out too - again and again -in a matter of about 4 hours!

After an immediate emergency appointment at the local assistance office and signing away any further unemployment checks, making arrangements to cash in what little money was accumumlated in my life insurance policy and applying to cash in on an even smaller IRA through Penn State - all of $700 dollars for which I had to lose $200 in penalties for early cash-in, at least I knew I could get the medical care necessary to tackle the cancer.

It was at that point in my life that my outlook changed and stayed on a fairly positive note for a long time. Chemo, radiation, surgery followed by more chemo was the game plan laid out for me. And for the most part, it all followed suit with one small glitch. About 2-3 weeks after the surgery, for some unknown reason, I began to have excruciating pains in my left buttocks region - starting at the backbone, fanning out across the cheek and ending at the leg-hip joint. Several tests later, it was determined I had do herniated discs in my lower back and that necessitated heavy-duty physical therapy for the next 3-5 months before I could walk, sit, even sleep with any degree of comfort.

Those issues, the back and the cancer, all led to my applying for social security disability and 18 months after my diagnosis, I was one of the very lucky ones who was approved for disability. There was no way I could possibly return to any type of work of the nature where the bulk of my experience had been - mainly food service -so, at age 59, I was washed up in the employment arena.

Since then, I have discovered I like to write. I even found a small local newsletter that is supposed to be a monthly publication but because the editor/publisher is, as I like to joke and say, even more disorganized and much better than I am at procrastination, which explains why she and I get along quite well together in her endeavor to get the paper out and mine, to try to put together little pieces that the locals here would enjoy reading. It's a gratis venture too for me as she is not in any financial picture to pay me at this time - hasn't been able to pay anything for the past 18 months for that matter. And, as long as things were running pretty good at home, it wasn't all that much of a necessity for me to get paid for my writing either. The joy of putting thoughts together in printed form and having people come up to me on the street, in the stores, at church and tell me they had read this or that piece I had done and they liked it. Everyone likes compliments from time to time, and even if I had been severely depressed then, I could appreciate those words very much.

But last night, my bubble really broke - again - after four years (almost) of being on my own little happy cloud. I got a phone call - second one this week - from the collection agency for the mortgage company who holds the deed to my house and to whom I owe a bunch of money after seven years of their mortage which at over 11 percent interest rate means I've actually only paid about $200 towards the principal of this thirty year debt! The only way this thing will be paid off will be when I croak!

It seems my daughter had not made a mortgage payment for three months and a fourth payment is coming due on January 1st and how would I like to make arrangements to bring this payment "au currant" the lady asked. I was dumbfounded. I knew my daughter had been behind in the payment about 2 months ago but since she hadn't mentioned it lately, I was under the impression the only bill we were behind on now was last year's oil bill. WRONG! Seems we now need to acquire about $1,500 big ones between now and January 1st in order to start anew for 2007.

I don't know about anyone else, but I sure as hell don't have an extra $1,500 laying about anywhere, nor do I have parents, siblings - heck not even kids - who are in a position to come to my rescue with a small business loan!

At the request of the lady who had reached me on the phone, I sat down and listed all our monthly expenses as well as our combined monthly income and the breakdown was such that - without allowing for any emergency expenses, such as something the 15-year-old stepgranddaughter might need at school, clothes, the least little thing that would provide some type of respite and discontinuing having the subsidized day care for the two little ones here, we would have a total of $59 a month left over and that was all contingent on no one using more than the allotted amounts for gas for the cars or food expenditures either!

I wasn't surprised then when the lady on the phone told me that because of our income and bill levels, she couldn't offer us any type of alternative payment method to try to bring our account up to par either. She did however give me three phone numbers I could try to see if any of these places could offer any type of assistance.

I called all three numbers today and learned that United Way is in the process of administering severe cutbacks to any social service agencies they assist, Salvation Army had no one available to talk to me so I left my name and number there and the HUD Housing number I contacted said until we receive an Act 91 letter of forclosure, there is nothing they can try to do to help us either. And even then, all they do is assist with filling out the application and to guide people through the process which, if they are among the lucky ones, they can get their mortgage refinanced at a better interest rate and it will be a guaranteed loan too with whatever bank might pick it up.

So, as it stands right now, it looks like the ACT 91 letter may most likely be in the mail come January 2nd and we can look at filing an application for that program. Whether or not we will get the assistance needed - or win the lottery - make that the POWERBALL one to boot - in the meantime, the possibility that after 103 years, this old house might be on the market and my daughter, son-in-law and the three kids living here plus me - the oldster of the pack - may just be out on the streets looking for some kind of cheap house to rent.

And, as anyone across the country looking for affordable housing today can tell you, finding that entity is virtually impossible! My son-in-law thinks our mortgage, which runs $408 a month now, is ridiculously high but he has absolutely no clue how much rentals are going for - even out in this region of the absolute boondocks of central Pennsylvania.

Today, I was so worked up, nervous, edgy, miserable, bitching, on the verge of tears at the drop of a hat, that I actually dipped into a little prescription my doctor gave me about 2 1/2 months ago when I was horribly on edge because of recent health issues and determinations. I took a Xanax tablet! It pretty much knocked me out for about 3 hours of sleep so sound that I didn't even hear the noises of 5 children racing around the house in celebration of the step-granddaughter's 15th birthday.

But when I got up from that nap, I was getting edgy and really grumpy and upset all again, plus the damned shingles were doing the rat-a-tap-tap jackhammer action on my right side and so, about midnight, I ingested yet another xanax along with one of my lortab pain pills in the hopes this would give my system the impetus to want to crawl back into bed and sleep like there is no tomorrow.

Maybe tomorrow, I will be a little calmer, more stable in my thinking patterns, more able to look at things and comprehend some base not yet covered that would help us resolve this issue in the required time.

Maybe I will find a part-time job I can manage. Better yet, maybe that winning powerball lottery ticket will be mine.

Or best of all, maybe, just maybe, I will locate my compass again and get back from being lost in this forest and swamp that right now constitutes my mind!

One thing at a time here though and right now, that one thing calling is sleep. So I think I'll go see how much good that does me tonight! Cross your fingers, say a prayer, get out the salt and a rabbit's foot, light tons of white light candles to send their vibes my way!

Best of all though - let's pray!


East of Oregon said...

hang in there - here's HUGS!

Skittles said...

Yep.. hang in there.. I've lost mine, too.

Vic Grace said...

I am so sorry that all this has happened to you. Will say a prayer