Monday, July 29, 2019

Making Ends Meet: Every Day I'm Hustlin'

I am a hustlin' fool these days. I have been attempting to pull myself up by my bootstraps for over five years. While I have met several milestones, I'm not nearly as far as I'd hoped. I'll try one thing for a while, then another thing for another while, then yet another thing. Nothing has ever seemed to be enough. 

I tried to go back to school to be a therapist and that was sabotaged by divorce drama. SO much drama.

I tried a few traditional jobs and that blew up in my face with scary abusive bosses and general bullshit that was SOOPER tRiGgErInG and threatened my mental health. NOPE.

I accidentally started a housecleaning business out of desperation and rolled with that for about three years, until I was ready to drop dead from exhaustion (and lack of air conditioning in my van in Florida for the third summer in a row).

Then I went back to school again, that time with a plan that had small incremental steps that included a 1 year certificate followed by a 2 year AS degree, then a bachelor's (or beyond). This was to ensure progress in my employability while working my way toward a business degree that would help me expand my housecleaning business. The plan was rock solid, right? What could go wrong???

Welp, I finished the pretty useless 2 year degree (with a 4.0, thank you very much!) but now I'm kind of stuck with that one for the foreseeable future because of several pricey car repairs that had to happen (air conditioning -- WORTH IT). My financial assistance ran out about a year earlier than expected and it's up to me and me alone to makes ends meet now. I'm kind of freaking out about it. I NEED AN ADULT!!! Wait. I AM the adult. Shit.

Now, I do have a day job. I transitioned from housecleaning to bookkeeping after I restarted school, a job that ended up being the business internship that was required for my degree. Low-paying, but kind of beyond my qualifications, too, so I accepted the low pay in exchange for OTJ training.

My boss. Bless her heart, she has been so patient with me. She took me under her wing and has served as my accounting mentor for almost a year now. I know I've frustrated the fuck out of her on more than one occasion, and I've screwed up a few times so spectacularly that it had me in tears feeling like a giant fuckup. But still she puts up with me; still she sees my progress and my potential. 

All of that said, the firm is a startup still in its toddlerhood, and there's just not enough money or enough clients to give me the hours and pay that I need to make ends meet yet. In a few days I'm going to drain my savings account to pay the rent. I'm officially in crisis mode.

I can't leave that job. I just can't. It has way too much potential and I am lucky to have the job in the first place, considering my lack of accounting experience or even education beyond my own very simple personal finances. My boss is flexible in a way that accommodates my needs as a single mother (appointments, sickness, etc.). The environment is low stress (and the job is, too; maybe not for Boss Lady, but compared to the rest of my life it's like a day at the spa). This job is a really really really good fit for me, and has the very real potential for becoming a very lucrative career for me. Or if nothing else, a big fat pad for my resume, should shit hit the fan.

I spent several weeks searching job listings, trying to find another part-time job to help me make up one full-time income, but there was nothing that fit my needs (or desires). Nothing that was worth giving up what I have. 

So what's a mama to do? HUSTLE!

One thing I know I'm good at is starting a business. I did it by accident before and now I'm doing it on purpose, times two. I've decided to go full-force with not one but TWO side businesses that I've been dreaming of for over a decade, both of which I've attempted in the past, and both of which never went anywhere because I had five young children at home driving me crazy on the daily.

So I've opened a new Etsy shop to sell hand-knit wool diaper covers (something I have made 30+ of over the years cloth-diapering my children), and I'm working on breaking into the freelance writing world and monetizing my newest blog (this one, obvs. The other five or so are defunct and/or obsolete at this point!). Both ventures are risky. Both take a lot of work to get up and running, and to maintain in order to become profitable. But hey, I just finished a whole year of going to school full time while working part time AND mothering five children. I've got tons of time and energy on my hands now! (ha.ha.ha.)

No really. I have spent several weeks researching two different industries and making lists of shit I need to do, and (get this) DOING IT. I'm so proud of myself! That was the problem in the past with these dreams; when it came down to it, all the work that needed to be done in order to make it anything beyond a hobby was just too overwhelming and I would scrap the whole project. Well, it's amazing what a little bit (or a lot) of desperation will do for your motivation!

So here I am, flexing my writing muscles in between furiously knitting yet another adorable soaker while listening to how-to podcasts, and whoring my side gigs on Facebook. I'm sure I have months of uphill work ahead of me but dammit, I'm not giving up this time! Mama's got bills to pay!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Dealing With Loneliness by Taking Initiative

Single parenting can get verrry lonely. Even when surrounded by children, the lack of interaction with other adults can be so crazy-making! I use a mood tracker and one of the things I track is whether or not I get any substantial adult interaction on a given day. I've noticed a direct correlation between that and my mood -- if I don't get any, I feel melancholy. So obviously that had to become a priority!

Sometimes, however, life gets in the way. Most of my friends are other single moms with young children, who work and/or go to school, so coordinating schedules to spend time together can be a nightmare. Yes, there's Facebook and texting, but that's not quite the same as kicking back with a friend by your side and shooting the shit. Having another person nearby can be so soothing.

On my loneliest days, I've learned to reach out via text just to get some sort of interaction and remind me that I'm real (if that makes sense). Sometimes I'll text 5-6 different people, and sometimes no one texts back. That sucks, but I don't take it personally because people are busy! Especially my people. We are a busy bunch of bees.

Then of course in hindsight I'll think, hmmm, there are at least 5-6 other people I could have texted, but didn't think of it. Hell, I suppose there are about a hundred people I could text. You know how it is; sometimes you're not in the mood to talk to anyone but your very most inner circle -- the ones who know all the details of your current life, who you don't have to fill in with all kinds of shit before you can talk about what you want to talk about. When those folks aren't available, there doesn't seem to be any other option. So I sit. Sometimes I stare. I'm lonely and bored. Don't wanna do anything, even though my to-do list is a mile long and there are a million things I should be doing. I just can't. It's depression is what it is.

At my most recent therapy appointment (through my local domestic abuse network), my therapist asked me what brings me joy (we were talking about self care). At first I said, kind of wryly, "eating food," but then I quickly realized that wasn't real joy, that was an emotional response to the loneliness and discontent I have with my life. So I thought for a minute and then realized it's my people who bring me joy. So I told her, "hanging out with my friends." Once upon a time in my old life, hanging out with my friends, a tight-knit group of other SAHMs, was so frequent that between them and my full house, I didn't even know what loneliness was! It was how I survived. A tiny bit of "misery loves company" if you will. We were thick as thieves back then.

So I was given the assignment by my therapist to make getting together with friends a top priority again. You know how you can mean well, and then things just slip away, seemingly without you knowing it? Well that's what has happened. I know there are things I can do to be more social, but I just don't do them. I'm tired at the end of the day, I'm feeling introverted, no one is available (although I truly haven't asked everyone, it's just my social anxiety talking). And then there's the whole not feeling like it thing that happens when you make tentative plans and the day arrives and you clam up and want to hide. Welp, that attitude of "I don't wanna" has been hurting me.

I'm in a rough phase of my life, rebuilding after divorce (soooo sloooowly, but steadily nevertheless), and I need my people. No one can read my mind, and everyone is busy, so it's my responsibility to reach out and make sure I'm getting the interaction I need to feel like I have a place in this world beyond mother and breadwinner. And that interaction goes beyond a string of desperate text messages. It means interacting in person, or at least a good old fashioned phone call (or video chat!).

So once again I have resolved to be more social, for the sake of my mental wellness. I started by RSVP'ing YES to a party next weekend, and goddammit, I'm going to go!

How do you cope with loneliness? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Insomnia Trifecta: How I Cope

I wake up early. Like, really early. My alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m. on school mornings and 99% of the time, I wake right up with the first alarm. I take my crazy pills, pour my coffee (which is ready because I prepped it the night before and it turns on at 5:20), and check the weather forecast, various news, email, and social media, all while the house is still dark and quiet. It's lovely and peaceful and reminds me of the good old days when I'd putter around doing housework late at night after all the kids were asleep. Then at 6 a.m. another alarm goes off, reminding me to wake the children. This is not my favorite part of the morning because most of them don't want to get up! I have tried various methods to make the process easier, but that is for another post because for all my years of motherhood, I still haven't figured that one out!

So, I guess I've always been kind of a morning person, but it also kind of sucks because of why. I wake up early because of racing thoughts! Even when I don't have to get up until 7 or 7:30, or on the weekends that I don't have the kids when I don't have to get up at any particular time at all, I still wake up early. I am a light sleeper so birds chirping or the neighbor's dog barking might wake me to begin with, but it's the thoughts in my head that keep me from falling back asleep, even if I'm exhausted. If I manage to sleep until 7 a.m., it is cause to celebrate.

Falling asleep used to be a major problem for me. Every little noise, any tiny light, every single worry or regret of the day, would keep me from drifting off and I would toss and turn for half an hour to an hour. Not cool. For several years I was taking Klonopin twice a day, which would sedate me enough to fall asleep and stay asleep (and be groggy in the mornings), but when some studies came out linking long-term benzo use to Alzheimers & dementia (which I am genetically predisposed to), the state behavioral health clinic that I go to for meds stopped prescribing them. That sucked, but it's okay because Klonopin also made me cry all the time. So I had to do all kinds of other things to cope with my insomnia, like using a box fan for white noise, a sleep mask to keep my eyes closed and block out light, and hypnotic ambient music to lull me to sleep. My bedtime ritual is a big complicated deal!

Well, a while back, I accidentally stumbled upon some solutions to my difficulty falling asleep. It had become a joke that I could not stay awake to watch a movie with Man Friend and it always ruined date night, because I'm so physically active during the day (raging ADHD + cleaning houses for a living) that sitting still and staring at a screen tells my body that it's time to sleep. Now, I have never been a fan of TV in the bedroom because it supposedly interferes with both sleep hygiene and intimate relationships (you are more likely to watch TV instead of sleeping or having sex), but one day I decided that I'd try putting a TV in my bedroom and see what happens. Turns out it worked like magic. I'd put on PBS (I don't do cable) on a low volume, set the sleep timer for an hour, slap on my sleep mask and zonk out.

As a bonus, I accidentally discovered something else that helps me fall asleep. I had been taking a tremendous amount of ibuprofen pretty much around the clock to cope with chronic pain due to scoliosis, and I wanted to find an alternative that would not tear up my stomach. I did some research and started a supplement regimen that included taking magnesium and tart cherry extract (both muscle relaxers) in the evenings, and turmeric (an anti-inflammatory) in the mornings. The results have been amazing and I need ibuprofen far less often than before, and the unexpected side effect of those evening supplements is that they relax my body so much that I practically melt into slumber with no problem. Falling asleep problem solved without benzos. Yay!

I also used to wake up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts, at 2 or 3 or 4 a.m. There are various spiritual theories about why this happens, but I figured it was probably because my evening handful of pills (the supplements and my crazy pills, including Buspar, a non-benzo anti-anxiety medication with a relatively short half-life) had worn off and those racing thoughts were back with a vengeance. So I would get up, pee, take more Buspar, turn the TV back on, and start the whole process over again. It would take about 30-45 minutes to fall asleep again, and if I happened to be too close to my scheduled wake time, I'd often end up oversleeping because my alarm would go off in the middle of a deep sleep cycle. Argh! No rest for the weary.

But guess what? I stumbled upon a solution to my night-waking! A little over a year ago I embarked on a journey of emotional healing. That whole thing is a story for many other posts, but for now I'll share one part that solved one of my sleep problems. I started listening to guided inner child meditations at night, as a form of hypnosis to reprogram negative self-talk. I made a very long playlist on YouTube of various meditations from various sources, and started playing it at bedtime (instead of falling asleep to the TV). It would play all night every night, and still be playing when my alarm went off the next morning! I would occasionally rearrange the order of the playlist, and/or start at different places in the list when I got bored of a particular meditation. Welp, guess what. I stopped waking up in the middle of the night. Totally did not see that coming! AND, the hypnosis worked! I had some extreme and unexpected positive changes in my self-esteem and self-worth, but again, that is a can of worms for another time!

So, I have figured out how to solve the problems of my difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, but the early morning waking is still an issue. That brings me back to the beginning of this post where I described some of my school morning ritual. But that is not the only kind of morning ritual I have. In fact, I have four due to sharing custody of my children with their dad: school/work mornings with kids, work mornings without kids, weekend mornings with kids, and weekend mornings without kids. The short version is that I have decided to embrace the fact that I'm an early waker, and make the best of it.

Every morning includes the coffee (or sometimes tea) and checking news/weather/social media routine, but on mornings where I don't have to rush out the door, I use this extra time to myself to be productive. On weekends with the kids, I usually wake up an hour or two or three before they do, and I use that time to putter around with quiet housework or the business end of my housekeeping company. On weekends without kids, I write! Writing always takes longer than I think it will because once I get going I fall into The Zone and I can't stop for a few hours! Trying to write while kids are around can be incredibly frustrating because of all the distractions and interruptions. And since I already wake up with racing thoughts, what better way to cope than to get some of them out of my head and onto my blog? Now I am at peace with my "problem" and have effectively turned it into an opportunity.

Do you suffer from insomnia? How do you cope? Share your experience in the comments!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Getting Out of Debt: This is WHY

I'm on a spending freeze because I'm in emergency save-up mode due to an impending move. That means that right now, as a general rule, I don't buy anything that we don't truly need. But the other day I "splurged" and spent $5 on an 8x10 print of a snapshot I took of my kids a few months ago, when they were being goofy in the parking lot of a restaurant after a family dinner out (so rare!). Why? Well, that's exactly why: WHY.

I am facing 2-3 years of extra-lean times while I claw my way out of this financial hole that I'm drowning in. Getting divorced was financially catastrophic for me, and while I don't regret it for one nanosecond, four years later I have found myself $25K in debt. Well, I'm done with that. I've cut up my credit cards (which are all maxed-out anyway) and have begun to make a plan to get rid of this godforsaken albatross once and for all.

So, back to the photograph. It's really fucking hard to work really fucking hard. It's exhausting, and sometimes discouraging, and sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and disappear. BUT. I can't. Because those kids. They are my WHY. So I spent $5 to have that great snapshot printed, and I brought it home and carefully inserted it into a dollar store frame that I already had on hand, and put it on my dresser where I can see it from my bed. Now whenever it catches my eye, I think to myself, "that's why." I can do this, for them. They deserve better. I owe it to them to get my life in order. It is my responsibility to show them the way in this life.

That photograph makes me smile. It calms me down. It centers me. It snaps me out of any self-pity that might be creeping in. It's practically magic.

I'd say it's money well-spent!