In the midst of all the despair that we're seeing nation-wide on the economic front, I thought I'd dwell on the subject of fortune in my own life...
Years ago, before we were married, Hubby and I took a trip to France - Saint Malo for one week, then on to Paris for the weekend. We took literally hundreds of pictures (actual film/have-to-get-them-developed pictures!). More than 300, if I recall correctly. We couldn't wait to get home and share them all with our family and friends.
Then we got home. We took all the rolls to be developed. And we went to pick them up. And we were told that none of them came out. N.O.N.E. None. Our camera was broken the whole time and we had no clue. It functioned as if it was working the whole time. But... no. Nothing.
After our initial shock and sadness began to wear off, Hubby and I came up with an alternative plan. Hubby had previously lived in France - in the exact same place we visited - for some months during college. He had tons of pictures from then that we could pour through. We'd find as closely matched pictures as we could to the ones we remembered taking. And we'd work together to write an after-the-fact, day-by-day journal account of our trip. We'd make a scrapbook of our trip. It will be great!
And it is great. I absolutely LOVE that scrapbook. We found so many usable pictures from Hubby's previous trip. Exact locations where we visited together. Plus we had a friend who'd traveled to Paris a few years before us. She was so generous to allow us to have some of her own pictures of various Parisian sites we saw ourselves. And Hubby and I were able to recall, almost down to the minute, exactly what we had done each day of our trip. You'd never know that we wrote it all out after our trip was completely done.
In hindsight, I realize how fortunate we were to have lost our original pictures. We would have never created such an elaborate scrapbook - with detailed journal entries and all! - if we went with the pictures we "should" have.
Hubby and I decided at the very beginning of this year that we would not use our credit cards for anything this year. We would keep close tabs on our daily financial ins and outs. And we would work together to reign in our needless overspending.
Then, at the end of April, I was laid off from my job. A job that, combined with Hubby's income, never even allowed us to live more than from week to week anyway. Still - it was regular income.
However, I'm happy to say that - through it all - we have largely stayed true to our word. Save for my birthday dinner (which is long since paid off) and a couple of whole room heaters we just bought (which I know I'll be able to pay off when the bill comes in) - we have not used our credit cards this entire year.
Now I'm not saying that that status is likely to remain a fact throughout the remainder of this calendar year. The holidays are coming, insurance bills and doctors bills need to be paid and all that. Plus I'll be the first to admit that our debt is in no way dwindling as it "should" have been with our original plan. But at least, for now, it's not increasing either.
Of course, if we have to due to our circumstances, we will use the cards. I'm just happy that, at least thus far, we have kept them unused. I feel fortunate that, even given my (non) work situation... even given some unforeseen car trouble and health related bills.... we have not yet increased our debt.
Speaking of spending... I've witnessed a remarkable change in Hubby over the last several months. He is much more of a spender than I am. Granted, I'm told he often "needs" various new clothing and work related items (tools and such) because he labors hard and wears through them so quickly. I suppose I can't argue too much with that. But... Hubby is also one to get on tangents... new hobby related tangents... that have always required a decent amount of spending in the past. He's always been very skilled at arguing why it is he needs such and such in his life... usually saying that whatever purchase will ultimately make for less money spent down the road in some way or another.
That said... I feel very fortunate to report that Hubby has been very good this year about waiting to make purchases until he knows we can actually afford them. And if we discover that we can't afford something now or even in the foreseeable future? He let's it go. At least outwardly so. In the past he would have continued making his point about what greatness whatever product will bring into his - or our - life! On and on until I finally cave in. But not anymore. He's gotten much better about waiting, comparison shopping, and analyzing much more carefully what is an actual need vs. what is really just a strong want.
As for Christmas... It's no secret that Hubby and I have gone full out - at least on each other - buying all sorts of high priced, crazy things throughout the years, simply because we know the other person will love it. Even myself, who is in no way a true "shopper", cannot help but want to buy Hubby, Sweetie and anyone else THE gift that will awe and impress to the hilt. Who care's what the cost - the joyful reaction will be so worth it.
But, given this year's situation for our family, we're having to look at Christmas in an entirely new light. We have done varying amounts of homemade Christmas for extended family in the past. This year? It's pretty much gotta be a homemade Christmas all around.
The thing is... I think we'll be able to do it. And it will be awesome! Sweetie, for example, is going to get a homemade "magic" wand that Hubby has already started to create for her from a perfect tree branch from the yard. And she's going to be sent on some sort of magical treasure hunt, written by me, that will wind her deep into a mystical land. And we've taken a look at some catalog and store bought games and toys, figuring out how we can make our own versions from scratch. For instance, a story telling kit made up of 10+ small, random objects from around the house (ones she's never seen before) that will be collected into a small pouch, ready for her to make up tales and any other sort of memory game or what have you that she may dream of.
Extended family is well on it's way to being all taken care of too. And not in a cheapy, "sorry this is the best we could do because of life's jabs" sort of way. But in a quality, well-thought out, awesome homemade crafted gifts sort of way. That's all I can say about that, given who may or may not be reading this here post. But don't you fear - Christmas will in no way be lacking this year because of a lack of finances. In fact, Hubby and I truly believe it will be the most magical Christmas ever. And because our lives have led us to this path... we are fortunate.
I have applied for literally hundreds of jobs over these last several months. I have been very, very close to getting THE job of my dreams. I have been granted a high-status freelancing gig - which may very well have led to other, more permanent employment - and then taken off said project for, basically, getting in under more than I could handle in the end. I have seen so many hopeful, promising opportunities come my way, have had a few seemingly great first interviews, only to never again hear from those employers.
And just last week I saw two of my regular writing opportunities drown away. One was only for fun, but the loss of the other is yet another monetary cut. Ouch.
Even my second shift mail processing "long term" temp assignment is over. Only lasted a week. Due to a slowdown in production, I'm told. No big loss there, as far as I'm concerned. But stilled, another loss nonetheless.
Yet, I have gone from an attitude of "Onward and upward! Seize the moment for a better career!" To a much more relaxed view of "Sweetie needs me this year. We're okay. My professional career will return whenever it does." I'm still applying - Lord knows I am. But I refuse to freak out. We're all good. And I feel fortunate to have had the ups and downs along my journey to this place of peace and acceptance. It is what it is. And it is alright.
I've also realized over the months how much we take health insurance for granted. Until recently, I had never been without health insurance ever. Not having health insurance available to me was never even a passing thought in my mind. I completely overlooked it's real value and importance in my life.
Until I didn't have it. And no one would give it to me. Because of my pre-existing condition. What the heck?! Who'd have ever known how awfully difficult it could be to find health insurance coverage for a person with some health concerns... until it was so very difficult.
Today, though, I am finally covered. Not the greatest coverage, mind you. And, boy, did it take a lot of research and hand-wringing to find it. But I've got it. We've all got it. We three are on three separate plans, of course. But we're all covered. We are fortunate. Amen. Now - let's all hope we stay as healthy and accident-free as possible, m'kay?
Fortune is not all about what dollar amounts are printed on your bank account(s). Personal fortune is all about being true to yourself and your loved ones. It's about knowing what you can comfortably handle and doing your level best to make the most of what may not be an ideal situation. We have our health. We have a home. We have some income. We have love. We have family and friends. We have each other.
The way I see it, supposed financial fortune is capable of leading to too much of so many unnecessary things. Real fortune is knowing what you have, appreciating it to its fullest, and living a high quality life no matter what.
I know how fortunate I am. And I will not forget it.