Friday, September 15, 2017

What Hurricane Irma dredged up

Note: I wrote this the afternoon of Tuesday, September 12, and while my situation has changed since then, I wanted to post this now that I have the internet to do so.  I've been writing about myself a lot this summer, and adding this to the series keeps me honest.

After hitching a ride from a mini cooper to the local coffee shop (the driver agreed, “You don’t find many criminals in minis) and after making a call to my husband on a stranger’s phone (twice, two different strangers), I sit here with a delicious caramelatto and with hipster music washing over me along with all the emotions I hadn’t yet uncovered about the last 24 hours.

I figured there would be strong winds and heavy rain, but I didn’t expect the power to be out for over 24 hours.  That’s the marker we’re at right now, at least.  Who knows how long we’ll be without electricity.  About two hours in, I realized we had made absolutely no preparations for such a situation.  Thankfully we are at the very end of our two weeks’ worth of food from our last grocery trip, but we still have many meals’ worth of leftovers, frozen chicken bones I’d been saving for homemade broth, and creamer and milk in the freezer and fridge.  I absolutely hate wasting food, and the reality of everything spoiling in my kitchen is hitting me hard.  This is the greatest surprise of the storm’s effects.  I can handle the discomfort that comes with being without internet, and I can handle the gloomy light that comes through the windows all day, but losing the food and the money we spent on it nearly brings me to tears.

I’ve always been conscious about how I spend money.  My dad told me after I graduated college that while his work buddies’ college kids often had to ask for more cash, he was glad I never needed more than my monthly allowance of $75.  Living on my own, I always recorded my purchases in my check book ledger, and I felt guilty and embarrassed the one or two times I over-drafted on my account.  Once Caleb and I got engaged and my finances got more complicated, budgets became all important to me.  Somehow Caleb ended up as the overseer of our incomes and purchases, and he would occasionally tell me we needed to stop extra spending for the rest of the month, but typically our money discussions centered around him emphatically trying to convince me that we were okay, that we were financially stable, and that I didn’t have to worry.  Being distanced from the actual numbers myself, it’s been very hard to take his assurance to heart.  In fact, ever since we paid off the last of our debt last November, I’ve only just started to believe him when he's told me that we really can live off of just his income if we need to.  Turns out, as of August, we have needed to.

Let me back up a bit.  The last day of May, our first day back from a long vacation, Caleb was fired from his job.  Then, in July, I found out that I’d be out of a job starting August 2.  This new development of me not being able to bring any money to the equation brought me paralyzing fear.  I knew that Caleb would be fine.  He’s a software developer, the market for his kind of work is still booming, and surely he’d be getting a new job soon.  Even when he got turned down at the end of interview processes twice in a row, I knew he’d be fine, but when my own job security suddenly evaporated, the panic started to creep in.

That first weekend after being told I’d be laid off, we were in Minneapolis for a family wedding.  I spent that Saturday with the bride and bridesmaids building bouquets.  Some of the girls were ordering food for lunch, and someone asked if I needed anything.  I told them no, I would be fine.  On the car ride back to the hotel (which thankfully had complimentary breakfast), I was lost in my worry and barely spoke.  When I got back to our room where Caleb sat reading on the bed, I burst into tears and told him how I skipped lunch because I was so afraid to spend money.

Now it’s taken me nearly 4 years of marriage to learn that it’s not Caleb’s job to “fix me” or make me feel better.  I am 100% responsible for my own emotions and reactions, but I can’t tell you how thankful I am that Caleb stepped in to fight my fears for me that day.

“Lindsay, we’re okay.  We’re okay.  With the money we have left and your income and the severance package, we’ll be just fine until September without even having to dip into our savings.  And not only am I going to have a job by then, but we also have my parents willing to help us if we need them.  And our church if we need them.  And our landlord has already told me she’s willing to work on the rent with us if we need it.  And I’ve already been thinking of picking up a second job in the meantime while I wait for that offer letter that’s coming.  Tomorrow, I want you to get lunch.  Buy yourself a real lunch.  And don’t worry.  You don’t have to worry.  Please don’t worry.”

I know I’m in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest, but this is where I’m at.  This is what gets to me.  This is what breaks me down and what builds me up.

My last day at work was about two weeks later.  That evening, Caleb got the most welcome call.  He’d been offered a job with a great company, and the salary would be just what we needed.  His smile was so big and pure when he looked at me after hanging up.  We hugged, we kissed, and I probably cried a little.  With all these doubts about God I've been dealing with, and therefore also doubts about God’s provision, it seemed providential that a job for Caleb would come just an hour or two after my own job ended.  I told my close friends afterward that, if this God is real, and if He was listening to my cries and prayers, this was the kindest, most generous thing He could have done for me in that moment.  If He were trying to get my attention and remind me that He loves me, this would be the perfect way to do it.

I think it’s a testament to how stable we really are that Caleb didn’t end up accepting that job, even after they raised the original offer.  He waited to hear back from a second company to see if they would offer him a different job he’d been interviewing for that he would enjoy more.  Almost a week later, the second company told Caleb that, yes, they’d love to have him work for them.  Again, we celebrated, this time with dinner out and Spider-Man in theaters, which we’d been waiting to see until we had a bit more expendable income.  

Today, a month later, we have the security we need, but we also have a new budget that’s been constructed around our new income level.  Even with safeguards in place and our savings still intact, I still have misgivings about money.  I’m not sure if I’ll ever have a relaxed perspective.  A big part of me says that’s a good thing.  My father taught me responsibility, discipline, and hard work, and I’m a very risk-averse person in general.  Surely playing it safe and staying within boundaries is a good thing?

I’m far from the worst areas hit by Hurricane Irma, but today has been one of those depend-on-the-kindness-of-strangers days.  I'm thankful that I'm surrounded by people who can help me when the unplanned comes and throws my sense of control out the window, but gosh it would be better to be able to breathe even without everything going my way.  Becuase as with most normal people, I have my share of things not going my way.

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