Tides

Emotionally, feeling the bounce toward my typical push-pull life balance. Gaining perspective doesn’t happen in a vacuum with all my sadness and grief under lockdown. Unfortunately grief is a process and there are no shortcuts.

Tuesday mornings I have a standing 5:30 conference call with an east coast client. It is typically an energetic phone call, because they are rather dynamic people and nearly always have something new and interesting for me to do in the days or weeks ahead. Funny me we have now been working together for over 2 years and have actually met in person exactly twice. But I got a really strong recommendation from another mutual client/friend, and they are very happy with the work I am doing for them as a group as well as individually. So it’s always a boost because they are appreciative of my time and efforts on their behalf and express it every week. I know they mean it; we all know they don’t have to carrot-and-stick me to get their work done. Our conference call is just a highlight of my job-related work week. So that makes me happy, too.

My former big corporate firm (BCF) wants me to do some limited consulting, so yesterday I looked at my September calendar and emailed them a proposal with a discounted hourly rate and how much time I could give them for the month. I thought it very fair, considering how they tried to screw me over and now find they need me. Cynically, I fully anticipated they would come back with either an observation that I’m already getting paid (via my severance package) or protest my rates were high. Sure enough, this morning there was an email expressing their surprise at the rate quoted. Dumb asses. I guess they figure I am sitting around eating bon bons and living off my severance package rather that hustling for self-employment clients and keeping myself well over scheduled with work. Laws of supply and demand, lady; I’m in demand and will be billing more than 40 hours per week through the end of the year with or without the 10 hours per month I have offered to you.

Yes, I suppose I am a still hostile toward these people. I have not yet responded to her counter proposal, because I’m in a particularly snarky mood and not willing to be tolerant and diplomatic in light of her bullying bullshit. Her undervaluing my ability is a huge issue for me, but my not needing the work is going to prove tricky for her. Whatever happens, I will remain profession and reasonable, but BCF is so far from a non-profit and I am unwilling to volunteer or donate my time to people who do not respect or value me. If I am merely a commodity, they can damn well pay for my services.

Assholes.

Really, I am only hostile toward them the firm management, not my former crew or the clients they took over and who are not complaining loudly enough to make BCF approach me for help. Rest of my clients do like me, like working with me, because for the most part I am more than reasonable and easy going about the hurry-up-and-wait nature of consulting. It’s the flow of the business. BCF, though, made what seems like a typical mistake of pooh-poohing anyone who is primarily support or overhead labor. They are paying for it now, and the only reason it’s not a lot more expensive is because of my relationship with the former partners.

Perhaps I just need a good strong dose of indignation to catapult me out of my funk. Or the long weekend is over (for everyone else) and my phone/text/email are blowing up as clients and business associates get back to work and reach out. Whatever it is, I’m grateful to be focused and fully engaged on something other than misery and grief.

Malaise

It’s been 2 weeks since my close friend J died. During that time I have primarily carried on as normal, albeit with more crying and feelings of sadness and grief. But work has continued, my exercise and better health quest carries on, the immediate paperwork and document filing associated with someone’s passing have been handled. The list of personal bequests was fulfilled.

And today I could barely drag myself out of bed and through the shower. It was a struggle and a fight to get dressed and start thinking about going to the gym. Knowing it would likely make me feel better did not motivate me to get my ass in gear and going. The List was not especially difficult, but even the lighter weights I was using felt heavy. For the first time in a lot of months, I felt disconnected, uninspired, and completely dejected about the work. I did see my son in passing – he cruises by to use the shower after his marathon training group – and that made the sun shine again for a few moments. It was a brief fly-by, but when I get the blues this way any ray of sunshine helps.

External distractions are not really working for me today.

So I’ve wallowed. I’ve cried. I dropped and broke not just a glass but also a glass bowl that I brought home from my mom’s house after she died. I cleaned it up  and cried harder, so frustrated and angry with myself. Then I got out the stainless steel cup for a glass of water because I obviously cannot be trusted with anything more fragile.

I did some listless grocery shopping for the week, came home with ice cream, ate it without any guilt or any joy either. I cried while eating it, too. And after months of no dairy and minimal sugar, I’m paying for it with an upset stomach on top of everything else.

Which makes me angry at myself, for being so ridiculously stupid and eating crap that I know is more likely to make me sick than anything else. Sparking anger is somehow better than sitting here crying over things I cannot change. Anger tends to inspire me to action, rather than lying around waiting for lighting to strike me down. Since it’s over 100 degrees again today and I’m inside the house, that lightning would have to be a self-directed strike from Mother Nature herself.

Yep, it’s been one of those kind of days. Completely unlike me anymore, I have done little other than lay on the couch reading depressing news and feeling the big giant void.

After 2 weeks, the anesthesia of shock has worn off and the malaise of grief has overwhelmed me.

I miss him so much. My world is such a smaller place without him in it, and I continue to marvel that life does go on so normally all around me.

I am mostly functional most of the time. I work hard. I exercise and eat the same boring foods over and over again. I have a lot of fun with my friends and my family. And life goes on, and mostly I’m really glad. Because to hurt this way 24/7 is beyond my ability to cope.

Until it doesn’t proceed as normal, and I have this day of wallowing in my sadness and loss and struggle to gain some ground on the concept of coping.

Practical me knows this too shall pass. But reality bites in the midst of it all.

Grief really sucks.

Hopeful realism

After starting this post during lunch and scanning it quickly just now, I recognize that shock of sudden death is starting to fade and I am in full-on processing mode, albeit the scenic route.

I live a small life. It’s not big, not flashy, not glamorous. But in the ways that are important to me, mine is a big, bodacious, overflowing, bursting kind of life. All good things.

What I value, I prioritize. My relationships – with M, my kids, extended family tribe, friends, clients and business associates – all are important to me and somewhere on my personal hierarchy of values scale. Work is on that scale somewhere as well, and not just for the financial support and stability it provides us. Accounting is not a flashy profession, and the type of work I happen to do is not as lucrative as being on the career track of a national or even a prominent local firm. But it’s infinitely more satisfying to me. The clients I have know me as a person and trust me to tell them the truth, no matter how much they don’t want to hear it. I have also come to care about them as people and experts in their own fields. There is some sort of new classification where the professional respect bleeds over and becomes a personal friendship as well. Having worked in larger corporate firms, it is so unlikely for me to have developed a work-life balance that blurs and blends into something that fulfills my need for mental challenges and stimulation as well as the emotional security of not having to hide myself behind the professional mask many hours each day.

From the work M and I both do, our basic needs are met. We have a nice home, an abundance of food, transportation, health insurance, employment, and money in the bank for our even older and grayer years. We have many wants as well, yet none that burn so hot that we are left feeling deprived and unhappy for its absence.

It’s the bigger losses that we cannot recover or replace that leave us sad and wistful for a different outcome.

I do not feel especially ambitious about travel or vacationing right now. If anything, I am enjoying being at home when I am not working on work-work. There is so much to do around our homestead, between decluttering and maintenance and planning/negotiating future projects. Just a few examples:

  • The dining room set we recently purchased used – $150 for an oak table with 2 leaves and 8 chairs – requires a good scrub and polish to make it our own. Then we need to move it from the dining room, put a newly purchased rug on the floor, and toss out the ugly old one presently residing there to protect the laminate.
  • There is more tree trimming to do, then the growing pile of dead branches need to be loaded in the truck and carted to the dump. But it’s been so hot; such outside tasks are lower on M’s to-do list.
  • Then there is our garage, a weekend job of organizing and decluttering all on its own. Again, the heat is a factor in this project; it’s difficult to get either of us motivated to take care of this crap when it’s 100+ degrees outside and not much cooler in the garage, even with the doors wide open.
  • Installing shelving in our laundry room. Part of this is just making decisions about how much shelving to put in there, purchasing and installing the materials, but it’s been low priority. However, my latest born-again zeal for getting rid of crap and doing a better job with available space has me eyeing this more critically and wanting to make get busy planning to make it happen.
  • Our hallway linen closet needs to be reorganized. This is currently the favorite dumping ground/stash location for anything and everything we’re not sure what to do with.

Left to my own devices much of this would likely already be done, either hired out or boatloads of crap tossed or donated long before this. Unfortunately, being married, staying happily married means some negotiation about how the shit gets done. With the way our lives and work/life balance tends to work, I only have small pockets of time to work at a project before I have to go out for a meeting or be at my computer working or am simply tired and in need of a recharge. Both M and I have health and fitness-related activities that consume their own chunks of time and are highly prioritized for each of us. Hardly matters if the trees are trimmed or crap we want/need to retain is stowed properly if our health is so poor we can barely do much for ourselves.

What often times judgmental me feels is lollygagging on both our parts about projects outside the scope of essential housekeeping or work-work tasks, the reality is our lives are full of commitments and responsibilities we desire to pursue or are part of the continuity of our lives. The projects on our lists will get done, eventually. Or we will relent and throw money at the problem and hire it out, something M is loathe to do if he himself can eventually get it done. In my impatience defense, I only suggest hiring out things he likes doing less than others, or that would take him on his own an extraordinary amount of focused time. Painting the exterior of our home immediately comes to mind. While M could most definitely do it and do it very well, I’m not sure our marriage could survive it. For such a big, time-consuming task, I would much rather there be a licensed contractor overseeing and doing the actual work, because when I reach the point of screaming because it’s not being done right, they are not showing up as promised, or it is taking too long because of the first two factors, a contractor can skulk off and escape my wrath at his own home. M, not so fortunate. I see this as a win-win as well because M, with his perfectionista tendencies, can follow along behind our painting contractor and either point out what he wants changed or touch-up to his heart’s content.

The point pounded home to me again and again, all this stuff means less than a hill of beans where grief is concerned.

This heartache is fresh, raw, and hurts dreadfully. Yet, even down here and squirming in the trenches of the freshness of pain, I know it will pass, heal over, scab and then scar. Life does go on, no matter how awful it seems in these moments.

I am not now nor will I ever be one to compare pain or wounds with other people. We feel what we feel in the ways that we feel it, and we are each unique beings. Talking about pain or happiness or other emotions is comparing apples and oranges, and I nether win nor lose any coveted prizes for hurting more or less that someone else experiencing loss. Loss hurts. Grief sucks. And life continues as if nothing of any significance happened in the world at large.

Such is my reflection of the smallness of my life. Someone significant in my world died, and I am learning to navigate this new normal. It has not turned me more cynical, dark, desperate, or depressed me into paralysis. I take it as a reminder that life is precious, our expiration dates unknown, because the future is not promised. All those cliches and platitudes designed and deployed to try and make us feel better about a fact of life we cannot change are true and yet they do not make me feel much better.

Mine is a hopeful reality. I love and lost a dear friend, and it hurts me deeply. He was among the first folks I would always want to share good news, on speed dial when I was troubled. Our email correspondence is epic, and like me, he seems to have saved every one ever exchanged. It’s precious to me, and even the mundane, day-to-day reporting leaves me feeling a little lost as to how I adjust to a world without my best friend in it.

Thing is, I will adjust and life continues. I still smile and laugh and extract full measures of joy in my days. And how quickly, how easy it still is for me to forget he’s gone, and when the thought flitters through my mind of how I will frame the funny moment or tiny victory, I feel the ice pick in my heart as I remember he’s not here to share with anymore. And all over again, it hurts and grief sucks.

The life I have built for myself, the world where I personally dwell is a beautiful and amazing place. It was before he passed and remains because of the zillions of memories  created. And going forward, I still see a lot of beauty, life, brilliance, humor, and love.

It’s a fresh, new, raw wound, one that may take a lot more time and resources to heal than I can presently predict or imagine. But I think mine is a long view, mixed with a dash of something akin to faith that we will meet again. For now I am living my life, feeling my pain, enjoying my joys. Hopeful realism at its finest.

Gone KonMari crazy with a little weep

For about the last 18 months, I have been on a mission to declutter. I mean, it seems like I am always decluttering my closet (that infinite space that reproduces even more crap the minute I close the doors). But I’m more serious this time. I’m even openly attacking Mark’s clothes, albeit rarely worn dress clothing that was once worn by the much bigger man version of him. Really easy to tell him he’s absolutely NOT wearing dress clothes he wore when there was almost 40 lbs. more of him a few years ago.

My friend C told me about her volunteer job – a thrift store boutique that specializes in high quality, exceptional condition and very gently used donations. I had been in a quandary as to what to do with my stuff, because it felt like it was too nice to just drop off at my local Goodwill. I could have tried selling it online, but honestly, it does not seem worth the effort to me. If I were still doing eBay selling regularly (something I did during my last major purge a few years ago – handbags alone netted me over $2,000) I would probably be more inclined. I rarely to never even look on eBay for anything, and for clothes the FB group sales will consume my available time and generate a disproportionate amount of resentment. Nope, C’s mention of her volunteer job is a perfect solution. I do believe my donations are a close match to what they are seeking and this stuff will soon be out of my house.

So, thus far 5 large shopping bags of clothing. Due to my physical person downsizing, beloved workout capris, leggings, tops, sweatshirts, and light jackets have been neatly folded and now bagged. There are also skirts and dresses I have saved and maintained well but now find are too big for my evolving frame. I’ve also packed up some of M’s slacks, dress shirts, even ties. In another bag there are handbags, wallets, gloves, knit hats and scarves. If they accept them, I also have several pairs of worn once or twice (or not at all) running shoes waiting, plus athletic bags of various sizes that I had tucked away in a box and forgotten. I also have more dress shoes to sort out if those are something they could find useful.

A lot of stuff I have worn, loved, maintained well. It is good to pay it forward and let it go to its next owner and perhaps generate some income for a good cause.

But I am far from done with my decluttering. Next I am back in the kitchen and will be ruthlessly weeding out items we no longer use. Tomorrow, perhaps. Today was all about clothing and accessories.

I cried while doing a lot of this activity. Not at all about the items I am releasing to others so much as grieving the loss of my friend. My heart seems to shatter again each and every day. It’s hard learning to accept the finality of such change, a lesson I must learn, relearn, learn again daily. While it’s only been a week, the leaden weight is so heavy it feels like months and years.

I am grateful for any and all distractions, including going through all my stuff and seeking out that “spark joy” feeling. While I feel broken and sad inside, I am a master compartmentalizer and so much of life still sparks joy. Frequently tiny sparks build into something bigger, and in this, in the aftermath of loss, I have no choice but to be patient and wait for events to unfold. In the meantime, it gets tucked away in its box through day to day demands and responsibilities and taken out so I can bawl over a functional sun hat that I do not even like very much and am actually delighted to be shedding.

This process reminds me again that my needs and wants are actually pretty simple and continuing to filter and simplify as I mature and move along. Yep, still have a drawer full of clothes for the gym, but as it’s my new hobby-obsession, it feels relatively justifiable and almost required. The rest of my closet is FINALLY looking like I have decluttered. My business clothing closet is manageable, my supply of jeans, shorts, and weekend casual tops still quite flush with things I wear all the time. I do have my next clothing purge in the planning stages, though, because I think there are some jeans and pants from winter that will be too big this year. But when it’s hot outside, even in the comfort of my air conditioned home I do not want to be trying on flannel lined jeans, wool slacks, sweaters of any weight.

For someone who is not much of a fashion follower or clothes horse, I have a lot of clothes. Since I am not a slave to fashion or the trendy sort, pretty much everything I own has simple lines and is consider classic pieces. All good, as I believe it makes reselling relatively easy as well.

I won’t miss a single item that I have bagged or boxed for donation. I probably will not think about a single thing in any of those bags or boxes after I drop them off. But my friend has become as much a part of this home as the foundation and the house itself. I miss him terribly and I resent his death and the rollercoaster of emotions it has unleashed.

M and I went to his pod late yesterday, allowing ourselves only an hour to gather some specific, personal bequests to pack and ship to other friends. It is a bittersweet act for me, but one I take seriously and feel compelled to complete as quickly as possible. It’s written down, on a list, and I want to get it resolved as quickly as I can. I recognize the actions as something within my control, versus everything else well outside of it. Idly, I wonder how I am going to feel when the list is cleared and there is nothing left for me to do. Will I feel better? Worse? Relieved? Still angry?

Unpacking and repurposing stuff – it’s part of life, I suppose. The adventure is sorting out the emotions attached to the experiences as I move through it.

It is a challenging balance. Decluttering is good. Grief sucks.

The thing about life … and death

I lost a friend Sunday, probably my very closest and best friend. While he had been seriously sick and recovering for the better part of a year, he was improving. He was able to travel and come home. We had 5 glorious days of talking, laughing, arguing like siblings, just being. While there is no blood relation between us, whatever mysterious ingredients create the dynamic that begets family ties, it was us.

And now he’s gone.

As I finish this post, it has been a few days since that fateful Sunday. Whereas before I could not imagine a world without him somewhere in it, my new normal is painfully uncomfortable learning to cope with that reality. Our guest room still has the bed he slept in, his clothes neatly stacked where he left put them, the hamper with his clothing to be washed still has items in it. I see his shoes where he took them off, cherished books on the table by the bed. Only his laptop and phone have been disturbed so I could get the notifications done.

His final requests were simple, yet painstakingly described in a matter-of-fact, step-by-step descriptions including specific sources and contact information. In life he was an accountant, an auditor, and his sharp attention to small details defined his death and what came after in his same clear and direct manner. He wanted no funeral, no memorial service. His body was to be offered to a specific medical facility for research and if they declined, a local medical school. Failing that, he wished to be cremated and scattered somewhere peaceful. No public tributes on social media, which he abhorred and avoided.

He always enjoyed when I blogged about him, and I know he’d understand my methods to process my seemingly endless well of grief.

The list of people to contact was long, 38 people, and those 38 had similar lists of people they would be contacting to ensure his many friends and acquaintances would hear he was gone. It has been hard for me, because of those names I knew or have met less than a third. The rest – a bunch of awkward and uncomfortable and emotional conversations. But I got them done as quickly and efficiently as possible, then the follow-ups and the reaching out communications. It’s been overwhelming in primarily good and positive ways. But my compartmentalization has its limits.

Thankfully the initial shocking communications and halting, stilted conversation, the emotions are scaling back to manageable levels is fading now. There is still a lot of questions, few answers, and so much emotion attched. I admit – I am so mad at him for this circumstance, for leaving me with all this administrative paperwork and not being here to let me verbally rail on him about it. I have cried silently off and on through my solo practices at the gym and may continue to do so, the most unfettered time where thoughts and memories sneak in and take my breath away. I am not sleeping well.

It’s hard. Grief sucks.

The thing for me – life goes on. As much as I want the world to stop spinning to let me catch my breath and just be infinitely sad, the day-to-day business of living my life continues and persists. I have deadlines and commitments to clients, I am determined to continue with my better health quest, our fluffy-butted kit-cats would not understand why the food ceases to appear on schedule and treats are not dispersed at usual time periods. So I’m sucking it up much of the time, while being grateful for enough life to fill up the empty space and good reasons to push my sadness aside and keep plowing ahead.

Managing his possessions, his stuff, and specific bequests starts for me today and for M and I this weekend. There have been several generous offers from friends to assist, but until I get the very specific items and very specific bequests fulfilled, I am reluctant to accept their kind and generous offers. My reticience – for me, it feels like a sacred trust and will leave me with deep regret if I falter or fail. There are moments when I’m grateful for my hyper-responsible proclivities; I am not 100% certain now is one of them.

I know there is time. I know I am in good health and less likely, hopefully, to be maimed or injured or die myself before this portion of his requests are completed. But I want to get it done, off my own very long to-do list, and receive some respite from the shade that cloud of responsibility. While I know it is not all on me, a great deal of my sense of self is my reliability. In these final tasks and requests from my old friend, I know there is a great deal of comfort and joy and feeling good about myself in my ability to see them through.

So I’m sad. And I’m mad. Mostly I’m glad. A life well lived is to be celebrated, but the light and spirit that has left this world – it is hard to accept that I will not bask in it again.

In with new, out with something else

It seems I am about to get a different car yet again.

First and foremost, M and I are not frugalistas; we have zillions of ways to waste money and probably do so routinely without giving it a second thought. However, we are also very responsible with money. Big things like savings for retirement, HSA-funding, future spending goals (home and car maintenance and repairs, vacations, birthdays and other gifting events, kitchen remodel, replacement car, etc.), secondary emergency fund investment account all get funded before we start spending each month.

That said, from a purely financial point of view, it makes no sense to sell my 2013 Rav4 and purchase a brand new 2017 Camray. We take care of our cars, and my Rav has less than 35,000 miles on the odometer after 3.5 years in our household and looks pristine. It’s serviced per manufacturer’s schedule and would likely be fine for another 10 to 15 years at the rate it gets driven. Plus, I LOVE that car.

Unfortunately, it has no trunk. The windows are tinted and it is not a simple glance to see whatever I might have in my car (usually nothing but my reusable shopping bags and the plastic box I keep them corralled in when full), but every week I drive and meet with clients and have both personal and business financial documents in my possession. Recently I walked up on a guy trying to break into my car while my work box of files was in the back. I have no idea if he was actually planning to try and steal my car (it has an alarm) or if he was after its contents, but it freaked me out to the point that I now carry my box around with me to meet with other clients.

So there is that.

Add to this that M also drives and AWD SUV, a 2008 Highlander, and it is the go car for us. The Rav commutes to the office, goes to the gym, toodles around town when I go to client offices, but the rest of the time, it’s at home in the garage. M and I are going anywhere, he prefers to take the Highlander.

The Rav has again become “too nice” to take out for a spin on the weekend.

This happened with the first Rav we had, a 2007. I owned it for 4.5 years and sold it with just over 40,000 miles on the odometer because M and I became paranoid about something happening to it. M far more so, but it was infectious. I wanted something older may with a few scratches in the paint to make me feel better.

A 4Runner and a Honda Civic later, and we arrive at the present Rav4. For awhile it was the go car, then we sold M’s older (silver) CRV in favor of a newer (blue) CRV, and in it’s plushy-ness became the go car. Then the Highlander became available, and as it had belonged to my former boss, I knew its entire history and knew it had been well maintained and kept in good repair. So the blue CRV was set aside in favor of it and went off to its next owner. M loves that hulking Highlander beast, so he is set for awhile. But our time with my present Rav4 is about concluded.

Entirely possible the Camray will remain “too nice” to take anywhere, but I doubt it. This would be the ride we choose for coastal adventures where we do not go boonie-crashing down gravel fire roads just because they’re there. And it has a trunk, so I can stash my crap out of sight. I would be really upset if my car was broken into and my gym bag stolen, but I’d be frantic if I lost client documents.

In my life, I have learned that sometimes purchases make no sense on paper or financially. This is another of those occasions. However, as in all things personal finance, it is personal. Yet my inner budget professor is scratching her head trying to make sense of this decision. To her I can only say, the emotional impact of finding some strange man standing next to your car with the slimjim is not to be underestimated. My own sense of personal safety is very well developed, probably overly so, and while this will not advance us financially in any way, shape, or form, it will also not set us back in dangerous ways. So I work another 5 or 6 months before leaving the paid work force, but for me, for us, it makes emotional sense.

On another matter, I have been sorting through photographs from my mom’s house. I’ve taken dozens out of frames and sorted them into me and my kid and my sister and her family. I don’t keep in touch with my nephew, no idea how to reach him, and will keep the pictures in envelopes until I get some motivation to find him.

There is one picture of my oldest daughter, her last school picture. I have dozen of the same photograph, but mom had a wallet framed and kept it in her bedroom. I cannot remove it from the frame and have no reason to keep yet another copy. I am not sentimental; I do not need the framed photo to remember my daughter or my mother. So after 2 weeks of vacillating and trying to decide what to do, I stuck it into the trash and threw it out.

I’m not sentimental at all, yet my stomach aches and I feel out of breath (in the bad ways) thinking about disposing of it this way. It’s not my daughter or my mother. It is simply a duplicate of something I already have and don’t actually need. As for my mom, our relationship was more toxic waste than warmly fuzzy. Thinking about her does not make me happy or sentimental or misty with nostalgia. Frankly, think about mom makes me furiously, irrationally angry, feelings and emotions I would really rather purge from my system and my life.

Even now, 21 years later, I mourn the loss of my child, miss her every single day, and shed a few tears throwing away this single copy of her final school picture, even if I have a framed copy in my family room and dozens of other copies carefully preserved in storage boxes. At the same time, it is one more step in the wall that separates me from my toxic family of origin and the truer horrors of my life.

Life is not fair, and rarely does it balance evenly. But for every bad thing in my history, there is something better, richer, more rewarding.

This week, there will be something new and different, a tool that makes my life easier and work better and strengthens my sense of safety. Out with something else that at once breaks and heals my heart simultaneously.

 

Death and financial train wrecks – different types of devastation

While the post title sounds like related issues, in fact they are two separate soundtracks running through my thoughts the past few days. Nothing pretty to see here, so if you are looking for my usual glitter-bombing unicorn outlook, this may be the post to skip.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours with my client who lost his 13-year-old son last week; the young man took his own life. While he is a client, most of my self-employment clients are people I consider friends as well, the business just another anecdotal box of experiences we happen to share. Understandably, he is completely broken, destroyed by what has happened. That little boy was the sun and moon and stars in his world, and now he’s gone. Interlaced with grief, though, is this intense, white-hot anger from the circumstances that may time will cool and bring peace. I am not an especially religious person; I offer no platitudes about better places and safe from harm. As a mother who has been through the grief that comes with the death of a beloved child, such statements tend to piss me off even as I know that my children are only on loan, they are meant to grow up and become independent beings well outside my scope of control and direction. But 12, 13 – it is way too soon. Please do not ever suggest to me it’s God’s will, or it’s part of a bigger plan, or they are happier in their place in Heaven. Fuck that shit. Our children – we are good parents; our children should be her on earth with us, getting awkward and hormonal, getting angry and screaming at us, assured in how little we know and growing up into people who again like and respect us for the mere mortals we are as they mature into adulthood and realized that their parents are imperfect, do not have all the answers, but try their best.

In a lot of real and direct experience ways, I am someone who understands. I listened and pretended not to notice when he cried. There are no words of comfort in these situations, and sometimes it is only human warmth that makes us feel less alone and lonely with our tragic losses. As I still think to this day, when there are no words, hugs speak volumes.

Into this profoundly emotional and poignant time with one slice of my life, comes all the bullshit and pettiness of small-ball problems. Comparatively speaking, anyway. There are no universal bandaids that remove physic pain and perceived injustice, and sometimes my patience with those who want to escalate petty grievances into something bigger, badder, much more complicated and time-consuming – let’s just say I’m short and dismissive. Every person I know who works or has any type of relationship with expectation of performance and results has similar stories of such disagreements and less motivated, less first-choice options for bosses, coworkers, worked hired out. So I know I am not the only manager at any level in the world having to deal with people and their problems. And I also know what is a Very Big Deal to them is smaller than small-ball to me. Most of the time, I try to deal with them professionally and compassionately, even while telling them to grow up and get real.

In other words, more drama in the office. And it is not that I don’t care – I care very much, particularly as it impacts perceptions about me and my performance of my job functions – but when you are dealing with a slice of pirated information (salaries) and without complete context, the leg you’re standing on is kind of weak and shaking. When it comes up, I will deal with it. Right now, my head is filled with thoughts of death.

And I hate it.

I hate that my client and friend is suffering so miserably. I hate that another dear friend is thousands of miles away and alone and facing a procedure on his brain. I don’t think it’s just me that gets nervous when people speak of brain surgery, and to not be able to be present and there at this time – it’s really, really hard. While telling myself thousands of times daily that it will be fine, he will be fine, I cannot get my mind to buy the reassurances. Sometimes being a “hope for the best, imagine the worst” version of Pollyanna does not work out all that well for me.

Truthfully, I cannot imagine my life without him somewhere in it. M is far more stoic than I am, thankfully, but even he has his reservations and concerns. It’s BRAIN surgery, and no matter how normal and routine it might be for the surgeon and the specialized team of doctors and nurses, this is someone we love and it is a world-class BIG DEAL to the rest of us sitting on the sidelines and metaphorically wringing our hands and trying not to be consumed with worry.

So yeah, head is kind of stuffed to overflowing out my ears with thoughts of death and what life is like imagining and trying to shut off the imaginings of life after the worst.

Ugh.

Another of my clients asked begged (his term, not mine) me to work with his niece on her finances. I thought it would be relatively straight-forward; after all, my client is very intelligent and sensible, his sister (the referral’s mother) seems the same in the times we have met. I figured at worse she would have student loan debt and need some help with her budgeting.

Oh my, I was so very wrong.

We met yesterday, and after 30 minutes of discussing the state of her life, I put away the green tea I was drinking and order the fully caffeinated, full-sugar version of a coffee-flavored milk drink to fortify myself. It is quite ugly.

She is a college graduate with degrees in chemistry and literature. Her parents paid for college so no student loan debt. Her home was gifted to her from her grandmother along with just over 6 figures in cash. She is employed in the local hospital system, which brings to mind decent wage and benefits. The car she drove up in a later model Camray – nothing fancy or flashy. While she is telling me all this, I am listening and nodding and thinking she needs a financial planner more than she needs a budget coach.

Then she pulls out the sheaf of check stubs, bank statements, credit card bills. I am still thinking, okay, everyone gets into trouble with credit cards; it’s almost a right of passage. I can help her, I’m sure.

It is with the documents that the real story comes out and why her mother and uncle asked me to talk with her and see if I can help her out.

This girl is 29, working at a job that pays about $42K per year, because she only works part-time (20 hours per week) by choice. There is a maxed out line of credit on her paid-off home, she has less than $500 in the bank, and an astonishing amount of credit card debt racked up in just a few years. On top of which – before inheriting her home and money, she had declared bankruptcy because of other credit card debt accrued in college.

I asked her how all this debt came about and got some pretty vague answers about shopping and paying for a couple of fender benders to keep them off her insurance and travel and charitable giving. I asked what happened to her inheritance, and got similar responses, with the addition of … plastic surgery. Did I mention she is turning 30 in a couple of months?

Ugh. Financial train wreck? More like mushroom cloud of financial devastation.

While I suspected this was going to be a huge challenge, I valiantly tried to help her.

Does she have a budget? Yes, but she routinely runs out of money and has to use her credit cards. Okay, can she show me her budget. Well no, because she keeps it in her head. She does pay all her bills when she gets paid and lives on what’s leftover. Except with this much credit card debt, there is a whole lot more living going on than a single person should be doing.

Or so goes the judgmental budget coach in me.

I did not have time to crunch the numbers to even get a sense of where she was, so we set up another appointment for this weekend after I had a better chance to look through her stuff and figure out how truly bad things are for her. And after looking through all her stuff last night, it’s really bad.

Since I know quite a few people in her age bracket, I know it is not just an issue of financial literacy. Yet I cannot fathom how someone could go blow through a just over $100K in inheritance, take out (and then max out) a line of credit on a paid-off home, and run up enough credit card debt to owe just over $150K on a $42K per year salary. And yet, I have seen so much worse through the years.

I know and have heard all the arguments and sob stories about the evil banks and credit card companies taking advantage of the consumer. Bullshit. No one makes us take on debt, although I do know sometimes it’s an uncomfortable only option we have. My sympathy in this is primarily with her family, who – rightly – refuse to bail her out of this mess and merely try to find her resources to help resolve it.

The discord in this is that she is in such a deep, dark place of denial. The typical millennial mindset is stronger than average in this one (and I do apologize to all my very level-headed millennial friends who may be reading this vent).

Either way, she’s in a huge financial bind and it will get worse long before it gets better. I want nothing but success for her, but from conversations with her uncle and her mother, she is not listening to them and is unlikely to listen to me. However, I will do my best.

I think she sees herself as living a life of freedom, whereas I see a young woman anchored by debt and being smother by the increasing interest and monthly payments. She could sell her home – the only assets I see that she has – which would likely clear her debt. But I know already the idea will float like a lead balloon.

At a very minimum, she needs to request a full-time schedule and accept every single hour of overtime that is offered to make more cash. With some negotiation with her creditors we might be able to get her squeaking through each month and with a very strict beans-and-rice type budget.

Buuuuttttt – one of the first comments out of her mouth is that she is unwilling to work more hours. Her debt is a combination of shopping, world travel, philanthropy, and just plain deranged, out-of-control spending. Seriously, I cannot think of another way to describe it.

I cannot save anyone, except perhaps myself. For the sake of my client, I will do my best to create a realistic plan … that she’s unlikely to agree to much less follow through with. When I met her, before we began discussing her finances in detail, I thought she was smart, funny, interesting, and quite physically beautiful. We chatted briefly about fitness – she works with a trainer 3 times per week and does yoga religiously 4 or 5 times per week – and I briefly, VERY briefly, thought she should meet trainer J. Or one of the associates I work with.

No, oh no. I love and adore my trainer, I really NEED my trainer, and I simply cannot do such a horrible thing. And my associates, it’s important to me to maintain my professional relationships. My goodness – what if someone I happened to introduce her to actually likes her? No, just no.

I was actually relieved to find out she likes girls.

The bottom line, at the end of a difficult day on a multitude of levels, what I find almost sadder than the real life agony is this silly, silly girl with the great big entitlement boulder resting on her shoulder.

Some things, some choices, some events are so far beyond my understanding. Where I can help, I try my best to do the right thing and provide what assistance I can. Sometimes it’s out of my realm of expertise, and the eventual outcome is in the hands of others far more skilled and more knowledgeable than me.

I have my hopes for the people in my life – I want what I want for them, whether it peace of mind or recovering their health. When someone new wanders into my midst, if I can help I will try. If they refuse help, I can and will step aside and let nature take its course.

Doesn’t mean I have to like it much, any of it. Sometimes I just wish people did not have to endure so much hardship, and sometimes I just wish people would be realistic and make better choices about their lives.