Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Will Work for Dog Food!

Well, it didn't take long for the Wall Street bullshit to trickle-- nay, gush-- down here to little old Spike's casa. Courtesy of soaring unemployment, a freeze on most lending, and sundry other factors, nearly all of my paying work has either dried up entirely or slowed to damn near a full halt. Clients are slow to pay-- totally understandable but still hard to swallow. And so I'm sitting here looking at a stack of bills that's causing me to grind my teeth even more. (Yes, I wore the damn night guard last night, since I can try to meditate into oblivion the bad dreams it spurs, but I cannot currently afford to pay for the real damage the grinding is doing.)

These days, though I am typically a major news junkie, I only listen to/read the news in short bursts. Ironically, I read two articles about how reading about the economy is making everyone more crazy. So I'm laying off of NPR's Marketplace and only skimming NYT. Because if I don't, I'm going to succumb to the craziness, too.

That said, during my allotted two and a half minutes of listening to NPR yesterday, I happened to hear an analogy, presented by a cancer survivor, about getting through all this recession shit. He said when you're facing off with cancer, all you can really do is move forward, strategize the next round of treatment, and keep going. There's little if any time to sit around and wallow in self-pity.

That resonates for me on a couple of fronts. In 1997, a grapefruit sized malignant tumor was found wrapped around my left ovary. It was removed, along with the ovary. At the time, I was in the middle of a horrifying divorce and, while the good news was that it was a rare time in my life I had insurance, the bad news was this insurance was part of my estranged nutcase's policy. Which meant, since I suddenly had a pre-existing condition, that the only way to continue having insurance-- which I needed in case more malignant cells showed up-- was via a COBRA plan.

For those of you unfamiliar with COBRA, it's this guaranteed right to keep insurance at the cost of... well cost varies but in my case it was around $500 a month. A friend of mine, a bankruptcy lawyer, when informed that I couldn't possibly pay both COBRA and my bills, told me to not worry about my credit cards. Of course I did worry, but I stopped paying them. I had no choice. This eventually led me to a bankruptcy filing which still haunts my credit rating. But I don't care. I did what I had to. There was no seven hundred billion dollar bailout for me. Just a lot of hard work, which I've continued to do, and a very slow climb back to a place of semi-decent credit.

The other thing the cancer patient's observations recalled for me were all those years when I struggled and struggled to stay afloat as a single mother trying to make it as a freelance writer. Occasionally, I broke down and took office jobs. Mostly, I soldiered through, forever awaiting the next check which, often enough, was late. Again, I did what I had to. Once in a great while I'd allow myself to lay down and weep over how scary it all was. Or I'd stay up late into the night crunching numbers, fantasizing how one or two big assignments, if I could just get them, would keep us afloat.

One Christmas, when Henry was ten, I became acutely aware of how tuned into my financial stress I was. He had managed-- through gifts from friends, birthday cash, and sales from an art auction he held-- to amass $167, which he presented to me one Christmas morning with a supportive pat on the back. That made me cry so hard-- I was so proud of him for his selflessness but I felt like shit that I had unintentionally let my anxiety seep heavily into his little world which, like all parents, I had hoped I could infuse with a sense of no worries.

So here I sit, fending off the panic. A truly big step back, coupled with a deep breath, let's me see that my situation is nowhere near as bad as that of many folks. I've got a number of gigs lined up for 2009 and, it's looking like, two very small book contracts that will help me eke by. So the reality is, or at least I hope the reality is, that this current financial nut-twisting is maybe going to keep me wincing for, at best, another eight weeks.

In the meanwhile, I'm feverishly searching for some piecemeal work to tide me over. I even applied to be the blogger for a natural dog food company -- they pay a little cash and some free dog food. With four dogs, you know, that's no small thing.

If you hear of any gigs -- folks that need copywriting, bad jokes, knitting advice, or command performances of Dick Monologues, by all means, do let me know, eh?

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