How I Live Now

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I could have told you the exact amount of cash I had in my wallet, down to the penny. I’d wake up in a cold sweat, wondering how I’d pay my bills, or what on earth I’d do if I became seriously ill with no health insurance. For most of my life, I was about one flat tire away from utter homelessness. It was exhausting.

I learned to add rice to a can of soup to make it a meal. I was the coupon queen. I wore clothes until my meager sewing skills couldn’t keep them together anymore, and then I’d replace them at the thrift store. My shoes would all but disintegrate on my feet.

For entertainment, I’d play with my dogs, or take a walk, or watch PBS. I checked out mounds of library books. I knew when all the museums and galleries were free.

I’m not saying that all the joy in life is brought about by money, but life sure has improved now that the financial pressure has eased considerably.

I still keep a tiny bit of cash on hand for emergencies, but I couldn’t tell you how much. Mostly, I sleep through the night, and while I still avoid extravagant, unnecessary bills, I don’t worry about my ability to pay the ones I do incur. My health insurance is probably better than what most people have here in America. (Which isn’t saying much.) And recently I replaced all four of my tires at once without batting an eye. (Okay, maybe I swallowed hard for a second, but there was absolutely no eye batting.)

I still don’t eat at five-star restaurants, but I actually buy organic fruits and vegetables without considering them a splurge. And if I really want something in particular to eat, I figure out a way to get it. I can’t remember the last time I even opened a can of soup. I still use coupons, but I’m not ruled by them. I still shop at thrift stores mostly, but every once in a while I’ll get myself something really nice to wear. And my shoes are in good shape.

I have a lot more fun than I used to. I can afford to get out there and engage with the world. I eat out. I see the odd movie. I pay admission fees without perspiring, and occasionally donate a little extra to museums. I still love library books, though.

Sometimes I’ll look around and wonder how I got to this place. It was a long, hard struggle. It doesn’t seem real to me. I doubt it ever will. I keep expecting to wake up to another can of soup. And I doubt I’ll ever be able to retire. Because of that, I’ll always appreciate how I live now. I’ll never take anything for granted. I’ll always feel as though I’ve taken off a pair of shoes that were two sizes too small. For now, it really feels good to wiggle my toes!

Life. It’s so fragile, so precarious. Enjoy it as much as you can, while you can.

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Best Laid Plans

‘Twas a rainy Seattle morning, and I was looking forward to a nice quiet shift on the bridge. Most boaters would not be out in this muck. I planned to drink my green tea, write my blog, and just relax.

Then a maintenance crew showed up. I had forgotten they were coming. No big deal. They’re professionals. They know what they’re doing. They need very little help from me. I just need to ensure that I don’t open the bridge while they’re hip-deep in machinery. Easy enough. We have safety procedures in place.

Then I heard the skidding of brakes. That sound instantly puts me on edge. I looked out the window, and there’s a bicyclist lying unconscious in the middle of the street. Not good. In fact, very, very bad. A crowd is already gathering. Traffic is backing up. I call 911. The first responders arrive with lightning speed. Then I call traffic control to let them know the road is blocked. Then the paperwork begins.

All told, the situation lasted less than an hour, but I’m still rattled. Why is that? The woman is going to be all right, but from the looks of her, she won’t be eating soup for quite some time. She landed face first on the grating.

I’m sure part of my feeling is the aftermath of an adrenaline dump. That’s never fun. But there’s also this feeling of being uprooted. I expected to be in one place (a nice quiet control tower, with my green tea and my blog) and was instead thrust headlong into another (your basic SNAFU). I almost felt as though I’d been abducted.

In addition, my ability to plan and organize was ripped from me. I had no time to prepare. These are comfort zones that I dislike having to depart from.

I didn’t panic. Everything went as smoothly as it could, given the circumstances. And while I wish this hadn’t happened to that poor woman, if it had to, it went as well as it could.

And yet I’m still rattled. But I still have my green tea and my blog.

I think I need a hug.

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