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Destination Unknown

At the urging of a dear friend (you know who you are), I broke down and called my “second mother.” I can’t think of what else to call her, but she was my mother’s closest friend and I have known her since I was about three years old. She is the woman who gave me the $500 graduation present which I used on my overdue electric bill. I was afraid to tell her about what was going on in my life, mostly because I knew she wouldn’t hesitate to help me out. Part of it is that I don’t want help– or (more accurately) I don’t want to need help. I don’t want to need anything I can’t get myself. She has lent me money before, and I remember every penny. When I was living in a disgusting mold-ridden apartment, my roommate moved out and I couldn’t afford the rent by myself. I didn’t want to bring a new roommate into an apartment where even the light bulbs got moldy, so I needed to get out, too. Even though I was working two part-time temp jobs on top of my job at the phone sex line (where my pay was unpredictable), I was barely getting by and did not have enough money for deposits and a truck rental. My second mother covered my rent for the month until I moved out and got my next place (which wasn’t much better than the Mold Hole and my new roommate was an angry cokehead). She has told me not to worry about paying her back. She has told me over and over again to come to her if I have a problem and that my mother would have done the same for any of her kids. But I didn’t want to because I was worried that I would never be able to make it up to her.

I called her and just blurted it all out. I told her just about everything. And then she offered to let me live with her.

She made me a similar offer once before when one of my temp jobs ended, but I didn’t take her up on it. I would have felt guilty and I was worried I would get stuck there. She lives in a small town 2,500 miles away, and very near a place that has some awful, awful memories and some very toxic people. While not set in stone, it’s more likely than not that I am going. Unlike my local friends, she has a large home where I won’t be constantly underfoot. I feel this is a giant step backwards, but it isn’t. She has also offered to help me leave the country to be closer to my non-psycho living relatives. While I stay with her, I can get my immigration paperwork in order while I temp (or something) and help her around the house. My acceptance of her offer doesn’t mean that I’m any more comfortable with it than I was before. I hope this doesn’t sound overly mopey, but I’ve never been treated with unconditional kindness and it feels weird. It’s a pretty amazing thing to screw up, get angry with yourself, but to know that someone cares about you anyway. I certainly wasn’t raised like that.

Shortly after my last post, my actual landlord (not the owners of the condo) showed up unannounced. I’m surprised that he had never called me at any time during this mess, not even to return my call. I didn’t answer the door. I generally don’t when someone shows up unannounced. Why should I? Besides, I was in my pajamas and on the phone with a friend of mine who is currently in the hospital. Mr. Scary Landlord should have called first. I have become a terrible tenant, but I still have rights and he hasn’t taken charge of anything.

Mr. Landlord called me and left me a message saying that he had wanted to work things out without the court system, but that it was most likely not going to happen.

And I got scared. It took me over a day to get up the nerve to return his call. But I did it. I called the number he left me, and he didn’t answer and his voice mailbox was full. I called his office, and once again no answer. I left a message asking him what his plans were, and I told him I would be out soon. I just want to know. Once again, he has not returned my call. I called a third time. Nothing.

Between worrying about repo men and worrying about my landlord, I spend a lot of time hiding indoors. Until I called the local tenant’s union.

The tenant’s union has the worst hours ever. Their hotline is not so hot. You can only call from 3pm to 6pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, and you have to call over and over to get through. After two days of calling, I finally got through on Wednesday and got some of my questions answered. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get booted out any minute or what was going to happen if they chose to go through the court system. So now I understand a bit more. I have at least a week. Nothing has been filed yet.

I have been living on my own since I was 17, and over time I’ve accumulated quite a lot of stuff. Back in the day, I had money, which is a bad thing to have when you have hoarding tendencies. For the most part, I stopped accumulating stuff years ago, but I have not yet done away with every remnant of the old me. Now I have to fit it all into my car. I can’t just toss everything in boxes and go, and since I’m broke, I would like to get money for whatever I can. I’m using Craigslist and Amazon, and I am carting things around to local stores. When it gets closer to the time I absolutely have to get out, then I’ll be less careful, but I’ll need some money for the road at least. And I can catch up on car payments. U-Hauls aren’t really an option because they are prohibitively expensive for long-distance travel. Also, if I’m heading overseas in the semi-near future, I can’t really take a whole lot with me.

I hope to be rid of all my furniture by Tuesday, and by then I will also have sold most of what I’ll be able to and will begin giving things away. A friend has offered to haul my stuff away for me, which is a great help. This process is mentally and physically exhausting.

My goals at this point are to stay with Mom 2, find any old job, and get myself to a place where I’m not killing myself with immense pressure. I will also get bankruptcy underway while I  prepare to move again. I am fortunate to have dual nationality, so it’s really a matter of waiting for my new ID, saving money, and sorting out temporary living situations. I’ll probably be taking my cat with me as well, and that’s another complication, but gives me more time to save money. I will look for a job while I’m here, but given that I can’t even find a job in the next state, I’m not too optimistic about finding a job across the pond.

 

P.S. I know I haven’t finished the awful repo story. One day, one day.

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Filed under "In this economy", Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles, Work

Commence Freakout

There was more knocking at my door. I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. Then there was knocking at my neighbor’s door. They did answer.

There was a lot of talking, and I didn’t hear it all. I hid in the darkness and crept to my door to listen. I spend most of my time in my living room which is at the back of the condo, so I don’t think they could see the lights on or any signs of life when they looked in from the parking lot.

I just heard bits and pieces, but enough to get an idea of what was going on.

“Well, we don’t really see her or talk to her. I saw her not too long ago, though.”

“When?”

“I think it was Monday. I used to see her in the mornings sometimes, but not so much lately.”

“<garble garble>, so the rental agency told us to come out and see what was going on. We just wanted to know if she’s still here. <garble garble> and we didn’t know if something happened to her or what.”

I’m actually glad my neighbor said he had seen me (which is true, I did see him a few days ago). Otherwise the landlords may have called the police or broken in. The last thing I want is for them to think I’ve been murdered or injured. Now they just know I’m an accidental deadbeat. As much as that sucks, it’s better than some alternatives. No one wants to be the bad landlord with a dead tenant that no one noticed. No one wants their tenant’s corpse to get eaten by a cat.

I thought I heard them mentioning a note, but I just went out there and there was nothing. Really, people? Why don’t you mail me a letter or leave me a voicemail? The last time I called them didn’t go so well, and I’m too anxious to do it again.

I know that I’m wrong for not calling them. It’s the right thing to do but I can’t do it. It’s painful for me to be like this. I hate it. I have spent my whole life putting my needs second, walking on eggshells for everyone else, living in fear of inconveniencing other people, and here I am being a huge inconvenience. I’m causing a lot of problems, not just with myself but with my landlord and rental agency.

When I was sure they were gone, I made the rounds calling transitional housing facilities again. I was calling them regularly and I’d had no luck, and calling them again today proved to be no different. They’re always either overflowing or they don’t answer their phones and they never call me back. I’ve called several. Once I get kicked out, then I am out of a home, probably for good. I will never have a home again without a lot of help that doesn’t seem to be available. Of all of the transitional places, only one sounds desirable, like I’d be able to get the help I need and get on my feet. One has truly bizarre requirements: they don’t take in anyone who has an open bankruptcy, owes a landlord money, has already received help from Housing Services, or has been evicted. What the hell kind of homeless people are they taking in?

Most of the transitional housing centers have a religious focus, which makes me a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t get here because of a lack of religion, and religion isn’t going to fix anything.

Anyone reading this blog probably has the same questions I do. I don’t know why I haven’t been evicted yet. I don’t know why no one has sent a deputy. I don’t know why I haven’t received an official eviction notice. I received a 3-day pay or vacate notice, but I didn’t pay and I didn’t vacate. So here I am. Friends keep telling me not to worry, that they have to notify me and that there must be documentation and court papers and certified letters and all kinds of crap that I haven’t received. But as we all know, nothing in my life goes the way it should. So yes, I am worried. And I feel inept. I haven’t worked towards paring down my belongings in a while. Off I go.

 

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Filed under Depression, fml, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

But how are you getting by?

How are you getting by?

I get asked this a lot and I don’t know how to answer. I don’t know what kind of an answer people expect.

I suppose people think I’ll say something like “Oh, I’m just living on savings until I find something new” or “I’m getting unemployment” or “My husband/parents/in-laws are helping out.”

No one has ever asked me this question when I had a regular job. I find that strange because I wasn’t “getting by” even when I was working. There is a misconception that if you have a job, you can “get by.” My car was repossessed when I was working. My electricity was cut off when I was working. When I was working, I had to eat with the homeless people in the park because I had no food and made too much money for food stamps.

I had health insurance at two of my last three temp jobs. Unfortunately, I had so little money that I couldn’t afford the copays to see my doctor. It’s good that I had insurance in case I got into an accident, but what good was this insurance if I couldn’t use it when I needed it for less catastrophic times? I had health insurance when I was coughing up blood, but I didn’t have $10 to see the doctor. I couldn’t go to work like that, and my job did not provide sick days, so I would either get more poor or more sick.

Since early 2006, my rent has increased 27% while my income (until I quit) had decreased 29%. I was barely able to pay my rent when it was at its lowest, so it just seems impossible now. I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t. Right now I just can’t deal with working at a horrible job that I hate and am not good at where I’m likely to get reprimanded. I am hyperaware every second of every day that I still will not be able to pay my rent on time. This isn’t a money management problem. I really wish it were a money management problem. I can fix my budget, but this goes so much deeper than that. To quote a friend of mine: “If your boss gives you 60 hours of work to do and only 40 hours to do it, you have a time problem, not a time management problem. If you only get $400 for a week of work, but your basic expenses cost $500 a week, it’s not a reflection of your ability to stick to a budget just because you can’t make it work!”

When I was a receptionist, the company I worked for invited a personal finance counselor to come in and speak to us individually by appointment. I was struggling in a dead-end job and I was barely able to make ends meet, so I was glad for the opportunity to talk to a professional. He gave me a worksheet with a list of items on it and asked me to tell him how much I spent on each. He asked me about my utilities, groceries, my medical bills, credit card bills, and rates on car and renter’s insurance. I gave up my telephone land line years ago, and my cell phone plan is reasonable. I have not had cable since 2003. I did not even own a computer, let alone pay for Internet. I spent very little on groceries. I had the cheapest car insurance policy I could find. I spent about $200 a year on clothing and shoes combined (I spend far less than that now). I had already lumped several accounts into a debt consolidation plan that had reduced my interest rates by half. I do not buy music, go to bars, or go to movies, and I attend only a couple of concerts a year. At the time, my only consistent “luxury” was a $20/month Netflix account. My expenses were all bills I was struggling to pay off from my first two years of unemployment. After buying the basic essentials and making minimum payments, I was left with about $40 each month. It was not enough extra to see a significant change in credit card balances and the like. Also, $20 of that went to Netflix. Almost all of my money was spent playing catch-up.

The personal finance counselor told me that I had cut out all I could, and that the only solution to my problem was to make more money. He told me that nothing was wrong with my budget. I began looking for a second job, but I never found one. I was eventually fired from that receptionist position for “being unhappy.” I was only unemployed for about three weeks, but my next job paid nearly $10,000 a year less and I was laid off in less than six months. It did not occur to me that my next job would pay so much less, especially since it was technically at a higher level. It was a big pay cut, and it hurt. It hurt more when I got laid off.

So, how am I getting by? I sell some of my belongings online. When I get money from that, I put a little gas in my car, I buy cat food, rat food, or kitty litter. I eat food-bank food almost exclusively. I steal my neighbor’s wi-fi. I stopped taking all 7 of my prescription medications. I revel in the fact that the electric company won’t cut me off again for a very long time. I let my phone get cut off until I can scrounge enough money to pay my past-due balances. I think deeply. I worry. I go to a lot of used bookstores to sell my collection. I look around at the disarray and panic because I don’t have the energy to box it all up and I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m going get there. I sleep a lot. I mope. I don’t answer my phone. I wait for the sheriff to force me to leave. I jump at every noise. I don’t get out much.

I did something very unethical that I am ashamed to talk about, even here: prior to leaving my job, I found a year-long bus pass that had been dropped by a coworker. There was no one around when I found it, and I waited a long time and no one returned to get it. These bus passes are issued to employees for free, but they probably cost the company over $1000 (I know that they are worth around $1500).  I was a temp and did not get the year-long bus pass — I had to pay $90 a month for my own. The pass was brand new. I found it in July, and it’s good through next July. I fully intended to turn it in to security, but at some point it occurred to me that the pass was worth much more to me than to whoever had lost it. After all, they had a real job and I didn’t. Also, I’ve had so many bad things happen, that maybe this was a break for me. I don’t believe in Karma, but if I did, I’d actually think this was the universe trying to throw me a bone for once. Well, maybe I do believe in Karma after all. I kept the pass. I never heard anything about anyone looking for it, so I ride the bus to save gas, and I don’t pay a penny for it. I won tickets to a movie last night, and that bus pass was the only way I could have gone to the only fun thing I’ve done recently. I could not have paid for parking, and I did not have enough money for bus fare. Keeping the pass was wrong of me, but I’m doing it for survival.

So, that is how I’m “getting by,” if you want to call it that. I don’t even want a job right now because a job will not save me from eviction, and I need to be ready. I’m too depressed to make progress quickly, and I know in my heart that I’d be too distracted at a job, even a simple one. I had enough trouble focusing at my last job. I am using this time to focus on liquidating my belongings and finding a transitional shelter to move into, no matter how frustrating that may be.

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Filed under "In this economy", Depression, Food, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles, Work

Sanctuary for sale

I was an avid reader growing up, and compared to most people I guess I still am. Since my mid-twenties I have had some attention span issues that have led me to read less and less. These same attention span issues prevent me from enjoying most movies, as well. I just can’t pay attention to things very long. Thus began my torrid love affair with television.

I own relatively few DVDs. When I had surgery in December 2006, I knew that I would be housebound for weeks. I knew that I would be in a lot of pain, stoned on painkillers, and even less likely to enjoy a book. I had a Netflix account, but I only rented three DVDs at a time, and I did not own a computer so that Netflix account was my sole source of entertainment. Three DVDs at a time was just not enough to keep up with my television-watching marathons, especially when I was going to be all alone in a house I couldn’t leave. I was more financially secure then than I had been in a long time because I had a full-time job with good health insurance, so I went on a shopping spree in order to prepare my post-surgery nest.

I bought two seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I bought all four seasons of Futurama and all three seasons of Arrested Development. I do believe that these were good purchases for me, especially since I was able to buy everything used and in bulk. I am a smart shopper, even when shopping frivolously. I watched all of these DVDs multiple times and I did get my money’s worth. But now they must go.

I dream of a world where everything is downloadable so that I would not be so compelled to hang onto my things. I’m surprised I even kept these DVDs as long as I have. I do want them, and I would watch them again, but as of today I am listing them for sale online. I also own several Mystery Science Theater 3000 DVDs (including one autographed box set that I got at a signing — that one’s not going anywhere) and the first three seasons of The Simpsons. I have a small collection of horror movies (including most of Frank Henenlotter’s oeuvre). Now that I own a computer and steal wi-fi from a neighbor, I have less and less use for these things. I am packing my belongings, and the fewer items I have to worry about, the better off I’ll be. My television will be the next thing to go, but I don’t feel bad about it. If my neighbor’s wifi goes out again, or I lose my computer, I really could just go back to being a reader. I have a lot of books I need to sell, too.

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Filed under "In this economy", Materialism