The Last Rant You’ll Ever Read Here

If you’re wondering why there was no blog post last week, we took a few days off to relax in the Smoky Mountains. Although short, it was just what we needed. You see, the past couple of weeks have been a real struggle. I’ve questioned just about everything in my life – from quitting my job last September to writing this blog. I wouldn’t call it depression so much as I would call it frustration. The job-free life I had imagined was far from what we were living, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

I thought being free from a 9-5 job was going to be life-changing. I admit, I had very high hopes for all the extra time I was going to have – like spending it cooking, gardening, and traveling. Moreover, I thought having some extra me-time hours would help me better balance my role as a caregiver – something I have long felt I need to learn to do. But none of that actually happened. Other people/obligations/situations claimed that time instead.

I know that I’m partly to blame for this. Boundaries have never been my strong suit. So trust me when I tell you this – I feel so much guilt even writing this post. I love my family to the moon and back but sometimes being the designated caregiver is so time consuming and stressful that it makes me want to curl up on the couch and binge watch I Faked My Own Death – while taking a lot of notes. I want to shove my Kindle and a few clothes in a backpack, toss Angie and Caesar in the car, and drive off into the sunset. I want to hide in a closet until a sibling I never knew existed knocks on the door to tell me that they are on their way to the pharmacy to pick up Mom’s medication so I can take a nap. And on a really bad day, I want to shut my computer for good, stop deluding myself into thinking my life is my own, and move all my family into the same house so I can dutifully care for the ones who need me. Because truthfully, that’s why I left my job in the first place!

They say expressing oneself is good for the soul. If that’s so, why do I feel like crap for typing that last paragraph?? In fact, I feel like I should hit delete right now because what if my family does read this? What if the wrong folks think I’m talking about them? Or better yet, what if the right folks know I’m talking about them? Sadly, this isn’t a Hallmark movie or an episode of This is Us. The truth isn’t going to suddenly wake people up and make them start expecting more from themselves and less from me. This is real life and people get hurt and angry when you tell them that you love them but you just can’t help them, at least not right now.

My family thinks that I quit my job because I was frustrated with my employer. They are baffled by the fact that I haven’t found another job yet – and by job, I mean a career-path that will take me to retirement. They say things like, “I’d rather just write you a check than have you out there doing something like that” and by “like that” I mean putting up a seed display at our local co-op. They ask me questions like, “when are you going to be over this phase?” as if I didn’t spend 3 years of my life thoughtfully planning out and practicing for the day I would leave my job for good. But they don’t know that…because the last time I tried talking about living on 50% of our income with anyone outside this blog, it caused too much yelling and a good bit of foaming at the mouth.

It was at that point that I came to truly understand that the people closest too us are not always the closest ones to us. Being part of a family does not mean that everyone in it shares the same beliefs, values, and ideas. And sometimes, when your beliefs, values, and ideas are drastically different than theirs, your best bet is to just shut up and avoid the drama. Neither of you is going to change the other’s opinion. Right now, I like to believe we’re doing something avant garde, trying to create our version of the good life from scratch. My family thinks I’m floundering and as such, they think they need to help me fill my time (at least until it prompts me to get back on track.)

So that’s where I’ve been these past few weeks/months/years. Despite the fact that I try to focus on happy things in this blog, life isn’t always happy. We have bad days, frustrating days, and full-box-of-Kleenex days just like everyone else. A lot of times I try to put a positive spin on caring for an aging parent, but the truth is; folks, it’s not easy! Especially when that parent is in a mean mood (her words, not mine) and wants to berate you for not makingĀ  Kool-Aid the right way.

Getting away for a few days didn’t dramatically alter any of this. It did, however, give me a chance to rest and reset and that led me to reconsider a few things. Yes, I’m going to spin this now. Don’t shake your head, you knew it was coming…

My family can be needy, yes, but I had to ask myself if they were actually being more needy than normal, and the answer was no. In fact, in some respects, the needs have been less. And the drama? Well, that’s pretty standard too. Is it right? No. But my family has been challenging me at every turn since I was 6 years old and told my mom I was going to be a writer when I grew up (not a nurse). In short, the real change here has been me.

My stress is caused in large part because I think deep down I want someone in my family to understand what we’re doing, to support it, and to maybe even brag about it to their friends. I want that level of encouragement because it will help keep me motivated. And I really could use some motivation sometimes! I also think I’m stressed because in some respects that are right, and that is a super hard pill to swallow!

Being job-free has been harder than I expected. I didn’t think things would just fall in my lap because I quit, but I figured, with a little effort, I’d be able to make enough money to afford this simple life we were trying to live. Some weeks are better than others, and so are some of the gigs we’ve accepted to help facilitate this journey. But sometimes I feel like I’m spending all my time chasing down the next gig and other times, I feel overwhelmed doing all the gigs I’ve scheduled. All this chasing/working leaves little time for anything else – like all those things I hoped to be doing instead – and it makes those otherwise normal family obligations seem so overwhelming.

While propped up on a big fluffy bed in our hotel in Pigeon Forge, watching Property Brothers and scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post from one of the companies that I often accept gigs from. It wasn’t anything profound, just a simple post about a job opportunity, but it sparked the kindling in my brain and I suddenly saw a way out of the frustration. It was an avenue of work that I had not really considered (get your mind out of the gutter!) but it was right up my alley, so I applied. Now, as of this post, I have yet to hear from that job but…a quick Google search revealed about a dozen other companies hiring for the same type job and to me that was all the inspiration that I needed.

These past five months have taught me something I never knew about myself. I need some structure in my life to make the good parts function properly. I’m not able to fully retire right now so some work is still necessary, but creating that work by stringing together different gigs is not…well, working for us. So, I’ve decided to try to find one steady freelance gig (or part-time job) that I can do from home and put away when I’m done. I know this sounds similar to the job I just left but I assure you, it’s not. I’m not looking to be in charge of anything this time. I’m not looking for a growth opportunity, benefits, or anything like that. I’m simply seeking a task-based job (think editing, proofreading, etc.) in a field I’m familiar with, that I can spend a few hours a day on, and I believe I’ve found several good ones to apply to. I’ll definitely keep you posted on the progress.

So there’s my rant…

You will (most likely) never read another one like it. Not because it’s not okay to express yourself – it is definitely more than okay – but because I hope to have a lot of other, more interesting, topics to discuss going forward.

The Longest Week Ever!

I’m about to tell you a story. It’s a story that will either sound too crazy to be true or will have you nodding your head in understanding because you’ve been there before. In fact, I’m willing to bet that most of us have lived some version of this story at least once in our lives – some, many times over. It’s the story of a week that I thought would never end!

It all began with a gig…

Earlier this month, I mentioned that I had joined a job board for retail merchandising and reset work. At that time, I was about to do my 2nd job for them and I was pretty excited about having access to a platform that would let me select jobs that fit my schedule, especially in slow months when I needed the extra income. The day of the second job, it snowed – the first snow all season – but despite my 40 mile drive, I made it to the job site at 7:45. I was the only one that did. The rest of the team came in at 10:30. The team leader made it at noon and decided on the spot that she was calling it a day at 4. The job was super easy. I worked on my own, marking down prices in a store that was closing, and I had a pleasant day. (And even though the whole store was 70% off, I didn’t buy a thing!)

When I got home, I was still feeling good, so when I received a text about another job the following week, I accepted it. This was a job that I had previously passed over half a dozen times on the board because it was 1) too far away and 2) involved a lot of detail work. I didn’t think the pay was adequate for what was required. But, like I said, I was feeling good so I completely disregarded my first inclination.

About 30 hours before the job was set to begin, we received a middle-of-the-night call from our niece. The baby was in the ER, about to be sent to the Vanderbilt. They thought he might have the flu; which is horrible anyway, but 100 times worse for him because of his heart condition. We got up early the next morning and went to pick up our 4-year-old great-niece so her mom could go to the hospital with her brother. We never thought twice about it – that’s what families do. What I did think twice about at this point was cancelling the gig. But when I checked into it, I realized I would lose “points” in their system if I did. I thought the loss of points might prevent me from getting other jobs, so I decided to stick with the plan.

In the midst of playing with the little one, checking on the baby, and trying to prep for the next day, my mom sent a text that said, “I’m thinking about going through my drawer to see what I have to take. I just can’t take this anymore.” I immediately put on my shoes and coat and headed for the car, thinking she was talking about doing something drastic. She has never been suicidal, but lately she has been depressed, dealing with a milestone birthday and the winter blues, so I wanted to be safe rather than sorry. I texted back, “Don’t do anything. I’m on my way.” As I was flying down the road, I got another text. “You don’t need to come over here right now. There’s nothing you can do for my headache. I’m just going to lie down.” Apparently the first part of her original text – the one about having a migraine – had not come through.

Relieved, but frazzled, I headed back home. At this point, I once again considered cancelling the gig. And once again, I talked myself out of it.

Around 8 PM, my mom texted again that she had a snack bag for the little one if I wanted to come by and get it. Yes, it was 8 PM and I knew I needed to go to bed in an hour, but nevertheless, I went over to get the snack bag. The little one went with me and we stayed just long enough for Nanny to give her 4 pieces of candy! Needless to say, she was riding a sugar high at bed time and it was midnight before we all fell asleep. I knew I needed to be out the door by 6 AM to meet my sister. I had made arrangements with her to pick up the little one at the job site. (She lives nearby and was going to pick up my niece at the hospital later that day anyway.)

As we were getting ready the next morning, my mom called. She was beside herself. She didn’t want us to go because it was pouring down rain and she had a bad feeling about me driving 70 miles in the rain. Again, I considered cancelling. I didn’t have the same feeling she had about our safety, but I did have a niggling feeling that the day was not going to go as planned. But once again, I didn’t listen.

My sister met me on time and I went in search of the team I was supposed to be working with. All of the supplies were there but the team leader had no clue what we were supposed to do with them. She had been called in at the last minute when the scheduled team leader called out. After an hour and a half of saying “I just don’t know what to do”, she finally called her manager and the job was cancelled. At 9:30 in the morning, after driving an hour and a half with a preschooler in the pouring rain to get to this all-important gig, it was cancelled! But the story doesn’t end there…

I realized on my way home, right after I pulled up to the gas pump, that I had left my wallet at home. The fuel gauge said that I had 58 miles worth of fuel. I knew I wasn’t going to make it. In the age of technology, I figured I’d just download GooglePay, find a station that took it, and get gas. Except, my phone doesn’t work with GooglePay. So, I called my sister. She was on her way to Vanderbilt and I just happened to catch her right before she got on the highway. Two minutes later and I would have been stranded (at least until I drove myself out of gas and called roadside assistance).

When I finally got home, I collapsed on the couch. My body was starting to ache and my throat was hurting. I knew it wasn’t the flu, since they had diagnosed the baby with the Rhinovirus, so I chalked it off. I figured even my stressed immune system was good enough to fight a common cold. It wasn’t. The next day I was down for the count! Which meant that I didn’t get to go check on my mom, like I usually do.

When I did get there the following day, she was sick too. Like the baby, she has a compromised immune system so things like the common cold can be really bad. We went from the doctor’s office to the ER and I ended up spending two nights on her couch, making sure she took her medication and got enough fluids. Today, she is doing much better, but me…I’m typing this with one hand while holding my 452nd Kleenex of the day in the other.

And while I was sick or tending the sick…I missed the free heart health screening at Kroger, a meeting about a potential new project that I can do from the comfort of my own home, and Valentine’s Day! Not that we go all out for a commercial holiday, but I didn’t even get to wake up and have coffee with the love of my life that day. I didn’t even get home until 3 PM the next day!

Now, if ever there was a moral to this story, I’m going to venture a guess that the Universe was trying to remind me to always listen to my inner voice and STOP CHASING DOLLARS! I even wrote that down in January as one of our rules/goals for this year…and yet…

The job paid me a fee of $50 for showing up, even though I did not get to work. Counting my drive time, the time I spent standing around the store, and the hour it took to figure out how to pay for gas, I made about $8/hour that day. I traded time with my great-niece for $8/hour. I traded my peace of mind for $8/hour. I traded being available when my family needed me for $8/hour. You don’t have to be a financial genius to know that wasn’t smart.

Cancelling the job probably wouldn’t have prevented me from getting sick but it would have saved me a lot of time and more than a few headaches and it would have kept me aligned with my own priorities, which is what really matters in the first place. The last thing that I want from this new life we’re trying to build is stress, missed opportunities, and the inability to be where I’m needed because of a job. The next time I have a long week, I want it to be because our life is so full of peace and happiness that time just seems to stand still.