Friday, April 23, 2010

A Week in Review

It’s been an extraordinary week – remarkable, life changing. Would you like to hear about it? I’ll tell you with A Week in Review.

Who Knew?
As most of you know, I have an old car. If it were a horse it would have been shot years ago. But because I can’t afford a car payment I’ve been piecing it back together every time it falls apart, and then giving it a reassuring pat on the dashboard and asking it to please keep going. The truth is – I am bad with money. I’m even worse with credit cards. There, I’ve said it. My name is Angie, and I am in debt. I have for years spent every dime I’ve made, and then charged the rest of what wanted until I had myself buried in such a hole that I could barely see the clouds in the sky. When I do see them they look pretty dark and foreboding. Thus my inability to buy a new car. The irony is that every time my poor Honda breaks down, I have to put the repairs on credit, which makes it even harder to get out of debt.

I’ve been very, very stressed about the whole situation for some time. I’ve thought about ways to make more money, even to the point of clicking on those dumb ads that are always along the side of Facebook and CNN news, “Mother earns $5,000 a week working from home!” I don’t think anyone is really making that much money posting Google ads online.

Anyway, I simply could not find a way out of my mess, not without intervention. Intervention from where I didn’t know, but I needed something, so I started praying for help. I didn’t have any idea where help could come from, I just asked for help.

A couple of weeks ago I sat down to figure out my taxes. I usually owe some money, but the last few years it hasn’t been much, so I wasn’t too worried. I got to the end of my federal form, did the final math on the calculator, and what? I owed $500. I left my desk to go cry in the bathroom, but was too shaken even to cry. So I went back to my desk, stared at the forms for awhile, and then my mom. Not to ask for money but because a girl needs her mom when she’s hurting. I told her what was going on, and then I cried, and apologized over and over again for being such a mess. She, with all of the compassion that a mother can give, she said that she and Dad would help me. I had mentioned to her before that I was having financial trouble, but never in any real detail. She told me that when they got into town (this was before they were here), they wanted to sit down and look at everything. All of the credit card balances, my income, everything, and we’d figure out a way to take care of it together. My first reaction was terrible guilt. My parents have worked very hard all of their lives, and are at an age now when they should be able to relax and enjoy what they’ve earned, not bail out their irresponsible daughter. I told her as much. She reassured me that this is just what parents do.

So when they were here I laid it all out on the table for them, literally, and my dad said, “You’re in trouble Angela”. Yes, indeed. We talked about ways that I could be more frugal. And then Dad said that it was time to start deriving my enjoyment not from frivolousness and spending, but from making progress toward a goal. I’ve thought about that over and over since, and I’m sure he’s right. Working toward improving my life will in the end feel much better than throwing money around ever did.

It’s unusual for me to be able to take instruction from my parents. I have acted like I’m about 15 years old since I was about 15 years old every time they’ve tried to critique what I’m doing, not very mature for someone who thinks of herself as a smart, independent adult. But this time I knew two things, that I was in no position to be stubborn, and that their council came from an honest concern for me, because they love me, because they’ re my parents. Maybe the fact that I don’t have children has handicapped my ability to appreciate what a parent feels when a daughter is unhappy? I’ve always been defensive when they’ve wanted to talk about things. But not this time, and it was good to be able to talk openly, and in the end it set me on a path that will help me take care of my debt.

This is getting to be a long story. Let’s skip ahead. While they were here, Dad spent some time working on my car, of course. The car always needs help. On Monday, after they were home, Dad called me and said, “Angela!” because that’s how he always addresses me on the phone. He said that he’d been thinking about my car and was convinced that it didn’t have much life left. He’d found a 2003 Ford Taurus for sale, not too many miles on it, and he wanted to buy it, drive it out to Utah and give it to me. WHAT?! I was seriously stunned speechless. I had no response. He was planning to take it for a test drive and then would call me back. I spent a few hours feeling dazed and confused, just sitting and staring at walls. He called again and said that the car was just like new. I asked them both if they were sure that they’re ok with this, and then I said ok. I’m getting a new car. My parents bought me a car. Actually, I’m looking at it more as me borrowing the car from them until I can buy one myself, and with my new financial plan I should be able to do that – someday. And then they will take this car back. But in the mean time, I get a new car.

I’ve talked to Mom again a few times since, and she told me that Dad’s worry about me driving my car was obviously weighing on him. He was quiet for days. And then he found this Taurus and devised a plan and was a happy man again. I still can’t believe that any of this is happening. I have some guilt over accepting something so huge from them. But I’m grateful, too, more grateful than I can say.

I’ve remembered many times, over the last couple of days, those prayers for help. I never expected that it would come from my parents. Who knew? But now it all makes sense. Who better? I think that after all of these years of being on my own and living so far away I just stopped thinking of them as a support system. Loveable parents, yes, but loving from a distance. When it came down to taking care of all of the day in day out work of running a life I felt entirely on my own, and too often all alone. That’s different now. I don’t feel alone anymore. I’m independent by nature, and stubborn about doing things my way, and I don’t expect that to change. But I’ve discovered a safety net, one that has probably always been there, in the form of two people who love me. It’s changed how I feel about my life, my whole existence, and it means more to me than the car.

Although I am pretty excited about the car.

Oh, and in the end I found a credit that shaved $400 off of my tax bill. What a relief.

I think that’s it for today. I’m not going to take the time to proof read this, so please forgive me for the mistakes. Maybe I’ll go back and catch them on Monday.

Thanks, as always, for reading my stories.
You are loved.

4 comments:

Tiffany said...

Angie, this was incredible to read. I applaud your honesty--with your parents and yourself. I am sure it was humbling (I think of myself much the way you do), but I'm also sure that they are happy to help.

Remember Ann (of Ann & Harold)? She told me once that a parent never feels happier than their saddest child. So true. What a relief it must be as a parent to help ease your child's burden. I think you'll both be blessed for this experience.

Sure do love ya.

Kelli said...

Angie,

I loved this post. I am also the same independent and proud type. I like to be the rescuer not the rescuee.
I have also felt the absolute relief of having someone else know exactly what is going on in my stressful life!
What a great answer to prayer and I love that you realized that it was a natural way for a prayer to be answered!
You are amazing! Good luck with the financial plan.

Melissa said...

You have great parents!

Tauna said...

Your blog is so cute! I loved this post. We just recently got a "free" car also...except it was from my husbands grandmother....We are now the youngest Buick owners in the country. :)