Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Here's Why I Haven't Bought a Blanket

You all nailed it in the comments to the last post. Anxiety, loss of control, stress due to a series of life-altering events (thank goodness no one died!), need for a get away to get a good night's sleep. Need to just buy a goddamn blanket.

Still, I don't buy the blanket. Normally, in my real life, I would; but, you see, I have a problem in going ahead and buying a blanket, or joininig a gym, or doing whatever it is I need to do to make here have some of the comforts of home or to address whatever silly thing annoys me or do just damn well do what I would normally do as an adult to have some sense of control over my own environment and person. The problem is that these things often take money, and money is one of the main sources of anxiety.

Here is what buying a blanket means in my depression-addled brain.

I have five or six comforters back at home. If I buy a comforter here and bring it back, then I am buying something that I don't need and have more than enough of in my real life, so the purchase is a waste. If I buy a comforter and leave it here, then I feel also as if I've wasted the money by purchasing something disposable. I suppose you could argue that a comforter is something that I need because I need it right now because what I have is so inadequate. Thus, the spending is not actually a waste. Still, it seems like a waste because I actually don't have any money, and the price of anything seems much more dear than in my real life.

I have savings and checking accounts, sure. Those, however, are finite at the moment and, in fact, dwindling because I do still have to pay student loans for the road not travelled and for my car insurance and for the privilege of having a checking account and all of the other sundry things that, as I said, don't take unofficial sabbaticals. I'm covered for these, so they unto themselves are not a source of anxiety.

For most of my adult life, I wasn't saving and was working to make ends meet and, at one shameful point, living on credit cards -- a situation that led to the big red B on my credit history (which, now that I think about it, has a birthday right about now -- last week, in fact). The past few years have seen the first since that time between high school and college when I have actually managed my money like a responsible, growing adult. Heck, they've been one of the few times in my adult life when I've had that luxury or made the smart decisions that gave me that luxury. It's not as if I've ever wanted to own a home or anything big like that; but savings represents safety and peace of mind and a certain degree of autonomy to me. It also represents hard work, it represents maturity, and it also represents lost time that I have to recover. Seeing what I have in savings and in the checking account -- which I always ran at as much of a surplus as possible -- diminish feels like a regression.

If you have a job, and some months you find you have spent more than you intended for whatever reason, you can hope to make up the loss in the coming months because you have paychecks replenishing your account. If you don't have a job, then every dollar you spend is gone. You feel the worth of that dollar, the work and effort to get it and to save it, and that is gone too. Wasted if the purchase is something silly like a comforter that is not an absolute necessity and that is ultimately disposable.

Furthermore, there is the immediate issue of my own money. The Irish banks won't let us have a joint account and they won't let me have an account myself because of some complicated stuff that I don't fully understand or remember but comes down to new regulations and fear of money laundering. (Jeez! If only I had enough money to bother laundering!) That means that I have two options should I actually choose to purchase anything.

The first is to use my U.S. bankcard, which means that I'm not just spending the price of whatever I am buying, but I'm also spending the fee that the bank charges to convert my theoretical dollars in their computer system to the merchant's theoretical Euros in the computer system of the merchant's bank. (I use the term "theoretical" because, essentially, isn't that what they are? It's all transferring the idea of cash rather than actual coins or notes.) That means that anything I buy costs more than it actually does because of that fee, even when I use my own bankcard.

Banks are nasty muthafuckas, aren't they? But that's another rant for another time.

The second option is to ask the Gentleman Caller to buy the thing for me or for cash to buy it myself. You can imagine how that feels after living your entire life in control of your own money. I feel like a child.  Don't get me wrong: the Gentleman Caller hates this as much as I do, and will get or give me whatever I need. He hates that this situation makes me feel so infantilized and does everything he can to alleviate my feeling that way. This is not him. This is my issue and my situation.

My situation is that, to simply address something annoying like a tiny blanket or shitty pillows or more turtlenecks or an allergy attack or a migraine or the need of a trashy paperback to distract my addled mind (or even an electronic download for the Kindle because all of the e-books are checked out of the library -- ALL the e-books, I swear), I either have to face the fact that whatever I am spending will carry an extra charge and that both represent an absolute negative in my account, which will not be restocked at the end of the month; or, I have to put myself in the position of asking someone for whatever I need (and put him in a paternal position that he does not want). That means that I endure a whole host of stupid things that add up and wear me down and make me feel as if I were a child or like I did back when I was making $15/hour in That Place -- back when I learned that the road not taken was not taken for a reason.

Hence, I spend a lot of time feeling -- or trying very hard not to feel -- like I've regressed and like I'm a helpless dependent. I feel unable to address anything nagging or frustrating, and that only great emergencies (or embracing the vertigo) are suitable uses of the bankcard. That's part of why I tried to stretch my happy pills and why I had an anxiety dream about buying them when I didn't have the prescription card and would therefore have to pay full price.

This money problem is actually just the tip of a feeling that I am afraid to acknowledge because I can hear a chorus of voices chiding me for being a whiny, privileged, little twit. I am afraid to admit that I feel like I am in limbo, between two lives and therefore unable to do anything that either of those lives permit like being able to take care of myself. The worst thing about limbo, the thing that has me sobbing in the shower or on my jogs, is the feeling that everything that was mine is gone. Sure, I have things that will become mine in the future, and this feeling that all of my life is gone will be replaced by the new life, but that point is almost a year away and still an abstraction.

The thing that is concrete and real to me now is the profound feeling of loss for my own life, as if something has died. That's really the deep source of my sadness, even with the happy pills, and  the reason that I have bad dreams to the point where I don't even want to go to bed at night because I don't want to deal with them -- dealing with the anxiety while awake is bad enough. It's the reason that I feel like a fraud and wholly alienated from my own sense of myself. It's the reason that I've self-medicated and resorted to eating disorders since May. It is a huge cloud that won't go away and the reason that I sometimes want to go home (although I know I would regret leaving here) -- until I realize that I don't really have a home to go to. Then, I get even sadder.

So, I suppose what I'm going through is, in a sense, mourning. It's a bit like a divorce, maybe, or a widowing. I've left big parts of my life that were important to me, that, in a way defined me; but I haven't gotten to the new one yet. I'm lucky that I have that new one, that I know that it will be there and that things will, in fact, improve. Right now, I'm just in between, unable to enjoy the newness just yet and completely sad about the old one.

In fact, the funniest thing is that I can't see the things that pissed me off about the old life nor do I know the things that will piss me off about the new one. Both are idealized in my head. All I can feel are the things that make me sad right now.

Did I not say that depression was a stupid condition?


nicoleandmaggie said...


Feminist Avatar said...

I wonder if it would help to think less of yourself as a dependent than somebody who has invested a year's salary into their relationship. You have given up a year's salary, plus perhaps other benefits such as pension contributions, to move across the world with the GC. In turn, his investment in the relationship is covering your living expenses while you are here. Yes, that means you are reliant on him paying those bills and that makes you vulnerable. But at the same time, don't devalue the contribution you have made.

It may also be worth considering as a couple whether the GC should 'up' his investment and give you an income while you are here. This doesn't have to be a lot, but money so you can buy small luxuries without worrying about how to pay for it or having to ask for money every time you want something. And the key thing here would be that this is a sum of money given at regular intervals, rather than being tied to particular purchases, so you have 'freedom' of purchasing. I know this seems to reinforce the paternalism, but I am guessing that his covering your bills doesn't come anywhere near the full salary you have invested in this relationship.

Finally, one of the benefits of coupling up is that usually your household bills reduce. So, while you might worry about your depleting savings, it may well be that you can put more aside next year when you are working again, which will help balance this out.

Belle said...

It's a damned blanket. Don't invest so much in such a basic thing. And if it'll make you feel better - when you leave, give it to someone who needs it. That way, you're building good karma AND getting some sleep. But at the moment, stress is taking a huge toll on your being. Surely you are worth a lousy 12 quid. We think so!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

OK. This all makes perfect sense to me, which actually worries me a little bit, but if it's any comfort, I totally get this type of money-related independence neurosis.

But---there is a but. You still have current needs.

I like what Feminist Avatar suggested. I was going to suggest something similar but more independence-focused (though I really think her cost analysis is right, and therefore her solution is better). But FWIW, if you really can't see it that way, draw up a contract for an interest-free loan from the GC to you, to be paid back after you've been in your new job for a year, for something like $500 that you can get in Euros and spend on things like blankets.

Susan said...

This makes sense to me. And I like both FA's approach and Belle's. But in thinking about the life you have left, and the one you haven't quite yet got to, you left out that this year you are investing both in building a life with the GC, but also writing a book that will be an important contribution to scholarship. What you have this year, in other words, is your scholarship.

profacero said...

Just buy the blanket, or have GC buy it, or do any of the things suggested above. Or consider an under the table job???


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