Thursday, February 13, 2014

Long lost Valentines



This may be the most unoriginal phrase ever typed: Valentine's Day sucks when you are single.

I blame Valentine's Day, and all the hype about perfect gifts and romance for getting me thinking about past relationships. Even the Google doodle is tormenting us single folk.

Tonight I found myself thinking about old girlfriends, lost opportunities, past mistakes.

One woman in particular has been on my mind lately. While I have spend much of my dating life (when not single) in monogamous relationship -- at least the were monogamous as far as I knew -- there was one woman in my life who I think of as a lover, not a girlfriend. Perhaps that is because she was actually involved with someone else when we had our adventures. I never let myself think that a relationship was possible, even when she got to the point where she made it clear that is what she wanted with me.

So, I never intentionally put my heart into the relationship, but that is not to say I was not emotionally invested. The woman -- let's call her her Tracy -- and I shared an emotional intimacy I had never shared with a woman up to that point. We could talk about most anything. We shared fears and fantasies. We talked. Really talked.

Maybe that was because the relationship started as an online relationship. We talked on chat and on the phone long before we ever met. And for some reason, I find it much easier to confess my secrets at the keyboard rather than face-to-face.

One day, a few months ago, I got an email from Tracy out of the blue in honor of milestone. While we both moved on, long ago, it was great to hear from her. It seemed like old times. She asked a few questions in her message, and I wrote back. But there was no reply.

Blackness. A flash of bright light. Then blackness again. Only the lingering afterimage of the light remained, before fading away.

Things would not of worked with Tracy for many reasons, not least of which was that I was not ready. But I miss the friend. I miss the friendship. I miss the adventure and the daring taboo nature of it all.

I've been playing life safe for a while. Not sure I would recommend it. A crisis of confidence, perhaps. In love. In work. In play.

Valentine's Day is not for the timid of heart.

Yes, I miss Tracy. But perhaps as much as anything, I miss the me I was willing to be back then.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Then there was one

There's only one debt left to pay. I sent a payment today to pay off another credit card.

It feels like this has been a long time coming. I am impatient to be done with all of this. Before the end of summer, I should be completely debt free, barring unforeseen financial circumstances.

There was a time in this process where any unforeseen expenses were a cause of great anxiety. Now, it is mostly just a cause of irritation, because it's just some money that can't go toward eliminating the debt.

I really wanted to have everything paid off in less than 4 years from the time I became committed to getting out of debt. That, really, that's just an arbitrary number. Perhaps there is some benefit to having this process take four-plus years. I have learned patience and persistence and learned to trust the plan and the process.

It works to live on less money than I make. If I can do that now, when I am still working to get out of debt, I think I have better odds I can be successful doing the same thing when I don't have credit card debt hanging over me.

All it will take now is about 4 more payments. Four more BIG payments. Then I'm done with it. Out from under it. And I can turn attention to other things. Then, and only then, can I start setting some new priorities. Then I can start making new plans.

That's the part I look forward to the most. It feels like life has been on hold, in far too many ways for far too long.

Vacations. Clothes. Toys. Car. Retirement. Maybe a house, someday.

I've learned how to get out of debt. Now, the next task will be learning how to save money and learning how to make smart choices on how to spend money again. I've spent the last four years paying off past bad decisions, large and small.

One more piece of penitence to perform, in four installments, then I shall be debt free.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Getting out of the rut

So far, 2013 hasn't gone exactly as planned. That's both good and bad. I had been in a huge rut. And I was using my budget and efforts to get out of debt as an excuse to stay well entrenched in that deep groove.

There's been an evolution in job duties, which has given me new things to do at work. But there was no change in pay -- up or down -- so that hasn't affected by budget, for better or worse.

But the biggest change was deciding to move into a new apartment. The change of scenery has done wonders for my mood. I hated the place I was living. I felt stuck there, but had been planning to stay until I got out of debt. I won't bore you with the details, but the living situation became untenable and I really needed to move. So I found a place I love, but it costs a bit more money for rent and I am paying a little more in other household expenses each month. And it cost me a little bit to get moved.

Then my computer died. While I have not been a very dedicated blogger, I spend a great deal of time on computers, at work and at home, so I needed to replace the old laptop. In doing so, I was weak and put the expense on a credit card. I am not proud of that, but I didn't want to wipe out my emergency fund. So, I did a bad thing and charged it.

The good news on the financial front is that I am down to three debts now and should have the next one paid off in three or four months.

But the bad news with resetting my budget is that it may take me into next summer, or even longer, to be completely debt free. I have chosen to pay more to have a bit better living situation and I have committed to helping a family member financially too, which will cut into the budget and extend the debt payoff date. I am not happy about that stretching out the timeline, because this process feels like it has already taken far too long. But I can live with it. I can now afford to make some financial choices when necessary. I don't have to stay holed up in my apartment studying my budget spreadsheets for entertainment. I have decided that having my finances in order, while an admirable goal, will be a bit hollow if I have no life. And I had stopped living there for a long time.

So, I have loosened up my budget a bit to spend a little more on things besides debt. I have actually had a date, and have another one planned. I didn't realize how much I was using my finances as an excuse not to connect with people. I was in an emotional rut too, perhaps even deeper than the financial one.

I made a lot of bad financial choices in my life. I don't always make all the right one now either. But I am making much better ones. Breaking some bad habits. Speaking of that, I am trying to quit chewing again too. I'm still getting my nicotine through gum, but I haven't dipped snuff in nearly 4 weeks now.

These feel like choices that can help me live longer, happier and financially healthier.  That may be a rut out of which I may never want to climb.

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