I was sitting on my couch sipping a cup of coffee looking at my Christmas tree when it hit me, I was no longer struggling. That I was no longer struggling to figure out who I was or where I was headed, and mostly no longer worrying about bills. In 2010 I made the choice to leave a terrible firm and take a $12 an hour job working foreclosures and that was my spiral.
Freshly divorced and barely making ends meet. I cried myself to sleep most nights. Durring the day I put a smile on and acted like my life was perfect. It was far from perfect, I wasn’t fine and it hurt. Life wasn’t supposed to be this way. I went from a plush lifestyle where we didn’t worry about money to that’s all I could think about. I knew something had to give and I needed a different job. Creditors called me more than friends did and the debt it just got taller.
I use to work in consumer debt collections as a paralegal and now I suddenly found myself in their shoes. I use to think “yea right” when a woman would say her ex husband had screwed her over. Then I found myself in that woman’s shoes and I didn’t have a clue on what to do. One thing I did know was that I didn’t want the debt to haunt me forever and little by little I paid it down. I learned to live lean and to only do what I could afford. Every bit of overtime I made went towards my debt and I cashed in part of my 401k to pay off medical bills. It has taken me almost two years, but now the only debt I have is my student loans and thankfully I can finally start paying on them.
Divorce may look easy, yet it is the ugliest thing I have ever gone through. It brought me to the brink, to the bottom, and eventually I struggled inch by inch to the top. Divorce taught me that as a woman I can not depend on a man to take care of my finances, I have to be the one in control. Truth: when I left my ex-husband I had no idea how to pay bills or even do an account transfer. I had to figure it out and plan out my pay checks. I had to do my least favorite thing and that was create a “budget”. Budget was such a dirty word to me and now its a part of my daily life. Budgeting has taught me how to plan for trips and those unforeseen expenses. Like dropping your cell phone in Old Navy. Only to pick it up and realize “shit, the screen is fucking cracked to hell” Thankfully I had cash on had to pay for a new phone. For once I didn’t have to worry about where the money was going to come from. An that was the best feeling in the world.
The feeling of not having to worry about “how am I going to pay for this?” I didn’t want to fork the $129.00 over for my clumsy mistake as it cut into the money I had saved for shopping. I have always loved Black Friday, I am one of those girls who refuses to pay full price for anything that is not edible. If it’s not on sale or if I don’t have a coupon, then I don’t need it. I always shop for clothing at the end of the season and save about 75% off retail, shoes I wear them until they fall apart, same with purses. I rather spend money on a quality product that will last me than spend a ton of money on cheap stuff that falls apart. Since my shopping budget was cut by $129.00 I had to rework my shopping plan. My living room is currently being taken over by presents. I bought gifts for seven people on Thursday/Friday and my grand total was $126.98. Even thou my bank account was down $129.00 I was still able to buy everything I had on my list and not have to worry about my account being in the red. Everything is wrapped and tucked under my tree.
This is my first Christmas where I am not worried about money, about being alone, or my health. Its been a long road, a long three years and I can say that I have finally arrived. My bank account is in the black, my bills are paid, being alone isn’t so bad and for once in three years I am finally not sick. I have gone an entire year without a kidney infection. According to my doctors we are winning the war, yet my future is uncertain. I have chosen to take my disease one battle at a time and one day I will conquer the staph virus that has taken up residence in my kidney system. My heart is strong and my lungs they are doing their best to keep me going. Today is great, yesterday is behind me, and tomorrow has yet to be determined. I have learned to live each day like its my last and to be thankful for every single thing I have.
For now I am happy that I can hold Sophia, tell her stories, and watch her grow. I am thankful to see Nylan one Saturday a month. One Saturday a month may not seem like much to you. However I know that all it takes is one day to build a memory that will last a lifetime. My love for Nylan will never cease, he is one of my greatest joys and I am greatful that I get to watch him grow. In Nylan’s eyes I will always be the woman he calls “Nannie” and that is all right with me. Charlie once told me “AJ if you believe hard enough the pieces of your life will fall into place.” Charlie was right, even thou he is gone the pieces of my life have fallen into place. This is my first Christmas without Charlie, yet I can feel him around me and I know that he is pushing me on to the next peak. Charlie would never give up on me and because of him I will never give up on myself. I am truly blessed to have such amazing friends, colleagues that put up with me, and one hell of a family that refuses to let me stand alone.
While sipping my coffee the worries were quietly silenced and I looked up at my tree with a smile. The muppet sat beside me sniffing the steam from my cup, I rubbed his goofy head and said “we made it pal.” A few tears began to fall and it started to sink in that I was finally “alright”. Three years of struggling led to this moment and I am finally comfortable in my own skin. My struggles will remind me to never turn my head away from someone who needs help and to smile at every stranger I meet, for they could be fighting a harder battle. I know what its like to be in their shoes, to feel lower than low, and to lose hope. The only difference is, I had people who believed in me. They never let me give up and always told me to keep fighting the good fight. I never stopped fighting. I plunged, dove, kicked, and punched until I got my kung fu back.