Rust Belt Bliss

Converting chaos to bliss in the heart of the Rust Belt

Brief Update

Wow…I know I’ve neglected this blog lately, but I didn’t realize that I hadn’t logged in since January 24th.

It has been an up and down time. I was sick for a while. Physically, this time. Nothing serious, just a viral thing that lingered for what seemed like an eternity. I’m still hoarse and coughing, but at least I feel semi-functional again.

I really feel like things are going to hell with my husband, but that warrants an entire blog post of its own. He has been a real jerk lately. I understand being frustrated that I am unemployed, but the snide comments and sarcastic remarks are rude and hurtful. I’ll write more about that later – I don’t even have the energy to think about it now.

Must go tuck my kids into bed now, but I’ll try to give an extended update within the next few days.

P.S. Last post I made was about lunch with my aunt. It was fine. We kept the conversation pretty casual. Not particularly eventful, which is a good thing. I was worried about being pressed for info, but that didn’t happen.

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Under Pressure

So frustrated!

Apparently BJ talked with my Aunt Maureen. They decided that I need to go to lunch with her. BJ informed me that I have a lunch date with her tomorrow at 12:30 pm. I was not asked – I was told.

I love my Aunt Maureen. I understand that if she wants to meet me for lunch, it means that she’s probably concerned and wants to make sure I’m okay.

However, being told that I “have” to go is making me panicky.

I am an adult, not a child. No one can make me do anything. Does anyone really think that backing someone into a corner and demanding that they do something is the way to help a person with anxiety problems?

I’m already feeling stressed about needing to return a call to my mother. OK, needing to return several calls to my mother. I just can’t deal with talking to her now. Our complicated history would need an entirely separate post – a series of separate posts, actually. For now, let’s just say that my mom is a chronic pessimist and tends to be very critical of everyone. She’s the last person I want to talk to when I’m already feeling down.

I’m not breaking any laws. I’m not neglecting my children. I’m not hurting anyone. (Well, aside from the financial impact of being unemployed, but I’m not physically harming anyone.) Back off and give me some space.

I know that people mean well and think they are trying to help. However, the only thing all this “help” is doing is making me want to run far away from everything and everyone. My love for my kids is only thing keeping me from walking out the door now and never coming back.

charlie brown

Fake It Till You Make It

I used to be fun. Really, I swear!

In college, I was the life of the party. The happy-go-lucky, quirky friend who you brought along when you wanted to act silly and have a good time. Oh, the stories I could tell. A few of them don’t even involve alcohol. (Though I confess that most of the really, really fun ones do.)

I haven’t felt fun in a long time though.

At first, I thought my lack of fun was just a side effect of growing up, getting married, and having children.

It seemed like a logical conclusion. After all, there’s a lot of behavior that you can get away with as a 21-year-old college student that just won’t fly as a 38-year-old married mom.

Now I can see that my undiagnosed anxiety and depression were slowly sucking the fun out of me.

I guilt myself into thinking that I shouldn’t go out and have fun while my house is a mess. I stay home to get things in order, but I’m too overwhelmed to make any real progress. The more I stay home and stare at the mess I created, the more anxious and depressed I feel. The more anxious and depressed I feel, the more I want to withdraw from the outside world. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

It’s a vicious cycle, and I’m not quite sure how to break it.

However, I am willing to try anything at this point. I miss the fun, lighthearted me, and quite frankly I’m tired of the anxious and depressed me.

My new philosophy is “fake it till you make it.” I’m going to work on putting myself back out there in the world. If I’m not making any progress on cleaning the house, there’s no point in sitting around here like a bump on a log. Even if I just take the dogs to the park, I’m still putting myself back out in the world. I’m not expecting instant results – it took years for me to gradually withdraw, and it will take time to find my way again.

Of course, I still need to tackle the house, especially if we end up needing to move. My current approach leaves me overwhelmed and frustrated – I need a new plan of action. Something with defined steps to follow, as opposed to me sitting in the house all day not knowing what to do first. I’ve been intrigued by the FlyLady method for a while, but never fully committed to trying it out. I have nothing left to lose at this point, so I will be working on implementing her techniques. Wish me luck!

My New Philosophy

Reconnected!

My cell phone stopped working while I was dealing with the worst of my anxiety attacks. I had damaged it a month before, but it didn’t officially die until November.

To be honest, it was a relief to be unplugged while I was in crisis mode. I wasn’t exactly feeling chatty.

I should note that we don’t have a landline in our house, and the cell phones are the only way anyone can call us.

I knew I couldn’t go forever without replacing my phone, but I did put it off for a long time. Part of it was financial – I didn’t want to pay to replace it, and I’m not eligible for an upgrade until October. (I have equipment protection, but there’s still a $100 deductible with that.) And, admittedly, I enjoyed checking out of civilization for while. Family could always reach me by calling BJ’s or Tallie’s phones.

It sounds ridiculous that I’m paying on a phone contract that I haven’t been able to use for 2 months, but the thought of being available to the outside world was almost paralyzing.

However, the fact of the matter is that I’m often here alone, and I need a phone even if only for emergency purposes.

So, today I took a huge step – I replaced my old cell phone with one given to me by my mother-in-law. They changed from Sprint to AT&T, so she had no use for the phone anymore. It’s a much more basic phone than what I had, but at least it works. I didn’t even have to talk to anyone to make the update – a Sprint rep helped me by online chat.

(Confession: It’s a good thing the rep helped me online. If I’d had to call or go to a Sprint store, I’m not sure I would have followed through with it.)

It feels weird to know that my phone could ring at any moment, and I might actually have to talk to someone outside the small circle I’ve kept since November.

It’s a good weird though, not an anxious weird. I feel like I’m slowly reconnecting with the real world and stepping outside my protective bubble. More progress!

Progress Not Perfection

I feel like I should make a profound post about what it feels like to have anxiety and depression. However, I’m not ready for that now.

Writing about those feelings would mean that I have to really think about those feelings. I haven’t made enough emotional progress for that yet.

In the meantime, I’ll share an update on what little progress I’ve made since hitting rock bottom a few days ago.

First, the good news:

I’ve worked on cleaning up some of the clutter. I have mountains of paper in our basement, and I have already filled a 30 gallon trash bag with papers for recycling.

Most of it was my kids’ old school papers. Yes, my kids are in 3rd and 4th grade, and I still had most of their school papers going back to preschool.

I know it’s ridiculous that I kept it all, especially since so many were just fill in the blank worksheets. However, back then, I just couldn’t bring myself to part with any of their school work.

This will sound totally irrational, but I might as well be honest: I used to not be able to throw away their school papers, because I kept thinking “what if something happened to Tallie or JD?” I felt like I’d regret tossing the school papers, because I’d want to keep everything the kids ever touched if something happened to them.

Thankfully, it wasn’t emotionally difficult to part with the papers now. I think seeing how quickly several years of school papers piled up made me realize that I can’t keep everything. Even if the unthinkable happened, I doubt that I’d take much comfort in looking at kindergarten worksheets. Nothing would bring back my child, and I would be devastated whether I had the papers or not.

I have more papers to go through, but most of it will need shredding. I’m embarrassed to say that I have a large collection of bills and statements going back to 2007. We don’t use our basement for anything other than storage, so I guess I didn’t even realize what was down there.

I can only imagine what else I’ll uncover as I work along my decluttering journey.

Now, the bad news:

I haven’t made any progress on getting money yet. I did list JD’s old toddler bed on Craigslist, but no takers so far. Not like I was expecting much money from that anyhow.

Our finances are in shambles. I have no idea what to do at this point. My parents are fairly well-off, and I suspect that BJ wants me to ask them for some help.

However, I can’t bring myself to do that yet. My parents don’t even know I’m not working anymore. The last thing my mom needs is more stuff to worry about, while she’s dealing with her illness.

We used to have a 6 month emergency fund, but had to use it when BJ lost a job a few years ago. Haven’t been able to rebuild it yet, and now we have no money. It’s terrifying. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have thought twice about going into a grocery store and buying almost anything I wanted. Now I’m freaked out, because I don’t even know how I’m going to keep putting dinner on the table every night. I’ve even considered selling plasma.

I think it might be wise to take a break from paper decluttering, and focus on going through things that might have resale value. Did I mention that I still have most of my kids’ clothes going back to roughly size 2T? Hopefully I can at least get some grocery money from unloading some of that stuff.

I also have a few big-ticket items I could sell, but I need more time to research pricing and figure out the best place to sell large bulky household items.

I suppose I could always enter and hope to win the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes. Too bad I’d be embarrassed to let the Prize Patrol in the door, even if they did come bearing a giant check!

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Rebuilding

The real work must begin today.

If I want to move forward and rebuild my life, I need to get off my butt and do something about it.

I don’t have a plan yet. I don’t even know where to start. It’s overwhelming.

What do I know?

I know that I need to replace my income. I am was the primary breadwinner of our household. Things will get worse if I can’t figure out a way to make money.

I know that I need to get my house in order. It’s important to get my clutter under control for my family, of course. However, I also need to face the realization that we may have to sell our house eventually. I’ve watched enough HGTV shows to know that there’s no way we could ever list and show the house this way.

There’s an endless list of things that I should do, but this sounds like a  good place to start when I have no idea where else to begin.

I’m hoping that in the decluttering process, I can get some extra money by selling items that we don’t need. It won’t replace my income, but any extra money will help. If anyone has suggestions on the best place to sell household items, please share! Garage sale, eBay, Craigslist, or anything else? I have no experience with this, so I welcome all comments.

Rock Bottom

It’s official – I have hit rock bottom. At least, I hope this is rock bottom for me. I know that technically things could always get worse, but I can’t let that happen. This is the point where I say “enough is enough.”

When I started Rust Belt Bliss, my intent was to work on improving life for myself and my family. That is still my end goal, but my path has changed. I’ve had a few curveballs thrown my way recently.

A few months ago, I started having anxiety attacks regularly. It has affected every facet of my life. I lost my job, which didn’t exactly help with my anxiety levels. After all, I was my family’s primary breadwinner, and the economy stinks now. I’ve become isolated from my friends. It’s hard to find the words to explain what’s going on with me now, so it’s easier to just not talk to them at all.

My kids are the only reason that I function lately. I get out of bed in the morning, because I need to get them to school. (Yes, they’ve been a few minutes late more often than I’d care to admit lately, but they are still in school every day.) I cook, because I need to feed them. I’m fighting to get my life back, because my kids need a good mom.

I’m ready to heal. This blog will document my journey. One day, I hope to look back and be proud of how far I’ve come from this moment.

If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean…

Instead of talking about how I’m going to change things, I’m actually going to jump in and do something.

First up today, the entryway.

Sick of feeling embarassed when I open the front door to a delivery person.  If I can get the entryway in order, hopefully the rest will flow naturally.

I even snapped some photos, so I can share the before & after later.  Being brave today!

Do I really feel like cleaning after spending yesterday at Kings Island?  Nope, but if I waited until I “felt like” cleaning it would never happen!

(This is also my first post from my phone.  Testing the WordPress app.)

Weight of Secrets

I don’t think I have fully realized the weight I carry in my heart.

Sure, I know that I’m creating stress by only letting people get to know the Surface Me. By fooling people into thinking that I have my shit together, I am keeping people at arms’ length and no one gets to know the real me.

That doesn’t make it any easier to expose my flaws and my struggles.

Last week, I had a phone call from one of my best friends. Erica and I met 20 years ago in college and have been through a lot together. We’ve been sorority sisters, roommates, co-workers, partners-in-crime, bridesmaids, and confidants.

We live 2 hours apart, in different states, so we don’t see each other often. We don’t even talk on the phone very often, though we do keep in touch electronically. However, we have the kind of friendship where we could go months without talking to each other and instantly pick up where we left off.

Erica was calling in response to a text message that I had sent her about another old friend, Jena.  We were all close friends and sorority sisters in college and have remained so in the decades since.

(Some background information is necessary here before I continue: Jena is not the most emotionally stable person in the world, and I have always suspected some sort of mood disorder.  I love her to pieces…she has a big heart, and I really value her friendship.  However, sometimes she stops communicating with everyone for months on end, and we really start to worry about her well-being.  After 20 years of friendship, we know that she only does that when she’s going through a dark time.  If someone hasn’t heard from her recently…even just a brief “I’m alive” text…we worry, because we love her.)

I needed Jena’s mailing address, so I Googled her name to see if I could find it quickly.  The first search result was her LinkedIn profile, and you could see from the Google preview that she’s listed as “Deep South State – XYZ Professional.” (Specific state and industry masked for privacy purposes.)  This struck me as odd, because she had lived for several years in a South Atlantic State.  Since when was she in the Deep South?  I clicked on the profile and noticed that her job was end dated June 2012.  The fact that she may have moved hundreds of miles without saying a word to any of her friends was troubling.

Thinking that perhaps I might just be out of the loop, I texted Erica to ask if she’d heard anything about Jena moving to Deep South State.  Erica then called to let me know that she hadn’t heard anything about a move either.

The conversation turned to the fact that Erica feels that Jena goes out of contact when things aren’t good in her life, because she envisions that the rest of us have perfect lives.  That our lives are turning out according to plan, and everything is sunshine and roses.

Not true, of course.  I am a generally content person, but there are things I would like to change.  (Hence the reason I started Rustbeltbliss – to document my efforts to make some positive changes!) I haven’t written in detail about the state of my marriage yet, but for now let’s just say that it is up and down.

And Erica?  On the surface, she seems to have it all too: a loving supportive husband, 3 wonderful kids, and a rewarding career.

However, on this phone call, Erica confessed to me that she “single-handedly destroyed the family finances” (her words) a few years ago, and that they are still digging out of the mess she created.  She wished that Jena knew that we all have problems, and that true friends will be there for you through the rough times.  Instead of shutting everyone out when she’s struggling, wouldn’t it be better to allow your friends to give emotional support?

I didn’t share my confession with Erica.  She had to get off the phone before I was able to spill my dirty little secret.

Even though I didn’t get to specifically say that I fear my chronic disorganization is holding me back and starting to affect my kids, I felt a tremendous sense of relief knowing that Erica wouldn’t think less of me if I did.

The weight of that secret has been a burden for so long.  I almost forgot that I don’t have to carry it alone.

How many of us carry this weight, afraid to admit mistakes or weaknesses to others?

Even though I started this blog as a completely anonymous way to share my fears and document my efforts to change, I’ve still been holding back a little.  There have been times where I wanted to share photos of my chaotic world to go along with something I’ve written, but I’ve been afraid.  Afraid of being judged, afraid my readers won’t like me anymore.  Silly, isn’t it?

I am going to make an effort to be more open.  While I still don’t have the nerve to be an open book with everyone, I can at least start here.  Some people might be turned off, but perhaps it will also give me a stronger connection with other people.  Even if it means sharing photos or anecdotes that make me cringe!

Sunday Confession: Tapped Out

Despite having secrets I could confess, I can’t wrap my brain around the task.  I’m tapped out.  No confession today.

This weekend was a whirlwind.  We had 4 party invitations for today – 3 birthdays and a baptism.  I wasn’t crazy enough to try attending 4 parties in one day, of course.  The kids and I attended 2 of the birthday parties.  Good thing both were pool parties, because the temperature was in the 90s today.  Ugh…so not ready for another heat wave.  This week will be busy – baseball games, trip to Kings Island, not to mention everything I need to keep up with at work this week.

Aha!  Perhaps that is my confession:  I keep myself busy, busy, busy with other things, so that I don’t have to deal with disorganized I am around the house.  The magnitude of the problem is overwhelming.  Instead of tackling it a little at a time, I avoid it completely.

After all, we have things to do.  Places to go.  People to see.  I can’t take time out of that schedule just to <gasp> clean.

The more I procrastinate, the worse it gets.  The worse it gets, the more I procrastinate.  It’s a vicious cycle.

If only I knew how to break it.

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