The Tides of Change

The one disadvantage to writing about your personal life and publishing it for any and all to see is that sometimes you can’t do it.

There has been SO MUCH CHANGE that I am dying to share with you but until I can figure out how to block entire cities from accessing the blog I will have to talk around it.

Here’s what it has looked like.  I wake up thinking this will be a normal day and someone in my immediate family brings home big news that would change our entire life.  Then it’s not a go.  Then it’s a go.  Then it’s not a go.  Then it’s a go with flexible dates.  In the meantime, you think,”Well, I’ll just roll with it and keep what’s stable, stable.”

Then the stable part changes the next week.  More opportunity for living a whole different life comes in.  You say no because if the unstable part is a go then you cannot take the opportunity.  The on-again-off-again nature of the entire first situation makes you wonder,”Hmmm…if that part doesn’t work out, maybe there was a good reason for this opportunity after all, I’m kind of sorry I said no.”  Naturally you get a phone call with a second chance.

It feels exciting.  Even the difficult, I don’t want to do this parts start to look good because you know that even if they prove to be daunting, you have to commit your willingness to the project or the whole thing could easily end in a puff of smoke and you’d find yourself right back where you started, with no opportunity.

That’s when you realize that you aren’t happy with the status quo.  You didn’t realize you were unhappy, you were just trucking along doing your daily grind without complaint thinking,”Hey this is far better than where I was last year so everything is great!  We’re making progress!”

The exciting parts bring in a blast of fresh air, like the recent days when instead of heat we got a cool day with wind bursts in the 25-40 mph range.  I live in Florida where it’s beautiful all year round but the temperature rarely goes below 70 and mostly is above 80 degrees and humid.  It’s like being in a warm bath all of the time, great for hydrating your face, not so great for alert minds.  The moment the air changes to a brisk 60 degrees my brain wakes up and suddenly starts clicking like it did when I was a teenager in Princeton, New Jersey and the curriculum was intense and I was up to the challenge.

There were little signs that we were on the move.  I came home to find that the pile of white stone that had been sitting in the driveway for two years was spread out on the first third of the driveway where I park.  The front of the house looked rejuvenated.

That same day the open dirt canal that was our septic system was covered over. All of the trees in the area were just gone, including the weeping one with the pink flowers that could be seen from the bathroom window.  My husband had tried to kill it before to no avail but this time I think it is gone forever.

The moment that we began to commit to some changes, the house started to object a bit.  Last Saturday morning my husband was in the bathroom, reading and smoking, when suddenly he realized that the smoke was billowing in the wrong the direction.  As quick as he could say,”What the heck?” he realized that there was an electrical fire.  The old Insta-Hot that was installed under the sink started billowing smoke, so he jumped off the toilet and ran to the garage to flip the breaker switch in the control panel that is supposed to control the whole house.  Except it didn’t.  So he ran back and forth a couple of times before he could get the power off.

I told him to disconnect the entire thing.  Naturally I have no idea how to do this.  It’s like the time he went to Houston for work for a week and the 1984 Sub Zero refrigerator started blaring an alarm when the kids and I got home from school and work.  Without my husband on the other end of the phone, I would never have gotten it turned off since there is no plug you can just pull (clearly the people who did the electrical in this house had no idea what they were doing – you walk into a room and start feeling for the wall switch only to find it’s across the room.)  When he got home and looked at the Sub Zero he told me I was seconds from a house fire.  Same thing with the Insta-Hot.

I told him,”You do realize if you weren’t here and I was home for this kind of thing that the entire house would just burn to the ground, right?”

That is one of the major things I love about my husband.  I feel safe because he can fix anything that is fixable.  When he got back from Houston, he ordered a new fan and in a week we had the irreplaceable fridge back in service.  The house didn’t burn down because he talked me through what to do.  If it had been up to me I would have ordered a regular fridge in my price range and paid some guys to come install it and what would have happened?  I would have blocked the access to the major intersection of the house, because 1984 Sub Zeros are incredibly shallow.  It’s like a depth of 25 inches being replaced by something with a depth of 44 inches – it kind of sticks out into the room like a jutting iceberg and suddenly blocks the flow of traffic.  Though it might not sound like rocket science to you all, this is the difference between taking care of business competently and garment rending hysteria.

The moment something goes wrong I have a tendency to catastrophize.  “It’s 5 o’clock at night and I just got something in my tire.  I am watching it deflate an inch a second right in front of my eyes.  At least I have the two kids and I am safe in the parking lot of one of the schools but the tire place closed at 5.  I don’t know if I have a spare.  I don’t know if it’s inflated.  I don’t know if it’s a donut.  How am I going to get all the way home?  If I get fix-a-flat, how do I use it?  Will it ruin the sensor inside my tire?  Will I have to be late to work tomorrow and get a tow?  How will I get the kids to school?” 

All of this happens in my head in 10 seconds.  Imagine what it looks like in there when there is smoke bellowing from my wood house that will go up in flames in a heartbeat since we have no close fire department and no fire hydrants – only a (sometimes) dry canal to pull water from and only some of the firemen know that you have to use the right hose to actually get it out.  I have stood many a time in front of what used to be the neighbor’s house where everyone was saying,”They used the collapsible hose.”

So my husband is the Rescuer.  He is the one who comes and rescues me with the fix-a-flat, or with the tools to dismantle and/or rebuild whatever needs taking care of.  He is the one who will not only lower his entire body into the septic system which is brimming with waste and unplug whatever is stuck, realize why the whole system is broken, get the right pipe, fix it, and re-grade the area with the tractor.  He is the one who is calm in any emergency.  If you hear him say,”Oh, shit,” you know that it’s serious.

He is the person who gets the phone call for help when everyone else has given up and doesn’t know what to do.  I might have picked up a few things along the way from him after eighteen years but I am kind of useless in this department.  So when I said,”You do realize if you weren’t here and I was home for this kind of thing that the entire house would just burn to the ground, right?” he just said,”Get everyone out of the house, let the animals out, call 911 and let it burn.”

OK, then.

I had to go to the CPA this week and she gave me some absolutely dreadful news.  In spite of all of our planning and questioning before we short-sold our house, we were likely going to have a gargantuan tax bill, bigger than my annual net income. I almost fainted.  We had an enormous loss, and we were supposed to be able to use it to offset the enormous “gain.” The bank 1099s you for losing the investment in your house.  You lose your house and they send you paperwork which is the equivalent of saying the amount you couldn’t repay them is now Ordinary Income.  You have to pay tax on it like you earned that money – except you didn’t.

The amounts were supposed to offset so maybe we would have to pay taxes on some small amount, like $30,000 of “income.” I might have had to come up with a few thousand dollars that I don’t have.  I can deal with that.  What I can’t deal with is owing my annual income in tax, since we do like to eat and have gas to drive to work and such.

I am going to be spending this weekend gathering old financial information that proves exactly how “insolvent” we were at the time our house sold, which might reduce our tax bill some.  Not exactly my dream way of spending the weekend after working all week (it happens to be the height of my “busy time of year” at work, also).

My husband asked,”If we do owe $XX,XXX to the government, is it the end of the world?”

“Well it’s not good.”

“But is it the end of the world?”

I guess not.

Perspective being everything.

For years the burden of not being able to pay the mortgage or get a job seriously haunted me.  I cannot tell you what I had to do to get right with the whole situation and learn that a house is just a house, assets don’t go with you when you die, having money in the bank is not security, and identifying your day job with “who you are” is incredibly foolish because all it takes is extended unemployment to show you that it isn’t.  There were about a million life lessons shoved into that three (now that the tax thing has come up, four and counting) year period.  It might have happened faster if I had not been mentally set up the way I was, but the fact is, that’s exactly how long it took me to get right with it.  I suppose this is just a small hill to climb after going through the mountainous terrain in a blizzard with a bikini on and no shoes.

Like everything else, there will be a solution.  There might be a lot of pain or a little pain or even possibly no pain – it’s just a matter of how you set your heart and mind about it.

I think now I am at the point where I am getting to be very calm like my husband.  Did everyone make it out alive?

OK then.  Roll on.

Slowly, slowly we move toward the truth.  The closer we get to the core, the easier it is to laugh.