There’s a famous line, “remember, remember, the 5th of November.” I don’t mention it in order to wander off on a history lesson. I do mention it for the sake of how ominous that line is. I am sure not to forget the 5th of this November. On that very day, while dealing with my own stresses at work, my husband lost his job. So indeed, the fifth of November will likely have some significance for us for some time to come.
You never know when life’s unpredictability will affect you. Life had already been stressed. Despite my medication my seasonal depression was already creeping in. I had been stressed out by matters at work that were of course out of my control. And then, upon reaching home, I could sense that something was different with my husband. He was somber, a quality I don’t usually use to describe him. Not too long after settling in, he broke the news to me. I went silent. I thought that my heart had stopped but I’m sure that was just me making the moment more poignant. I sat for a moment, not believing that what I heard was true. We had been so blessed for the past year and now it seemed to be crashing down.
Like many Americans, we live paycheck to paycheck. It’s something that we have tried not to do but with medical expenses and our sometimes seeming inability to stop eating out, it just is what it is. I was looking forward to this month. November would bring for him three pay periods and with the extra money we’d have no issues with buying Christmas gifts for the number of family and close friends we have. But in that instant all of that was gone. I felt as though I was falling. We had two medical bills that I needed to pay plus the vehicle registration on both our vehicles were about to come due. With one income stream immediately disappearing, my already stress-filled state of mind was at a breaking point. I wasn’t sure what we’d do.
We’ve always tried to live on one income. For the most part that worked. However, as we all settle into the expectations that come with having a two-income household our standard of living increased and so too did the amount of necessary expenses there came to be. It’s funny how you can be completely fine one moment and in despair the next. That very night my wheels were turning as they always feverishly do in trying to figure out a way to make sure our bills were paid. Upon hearing the news I decided that the best course of action was to go to sleep.
So often I think that we feel that everything needs to be answered in that very moment, that we must always act with a sense of urgency. Sometimes in doing so we make missteps and act on emotion when cooler heads need to prevail. At 10pm that night there was little that I could do except to take in the information and try to get some rest. After all, tomorrow is, as Scarlett O’Hara would put it, another day. That night I made sure to hold my husband. Despite my personal disappointment about the situation I needed to think about how it must be affecting him. Things like this can cause rifts in relationships. I made the conscious decision for it not to cause a rift in ours. We were in this together. I woke up the next morning feeling better prepared to take on the following days.
In the end, and with some help, we were able to have a plan in place within a day or two. Some of the things that made it easier to manage included the benefits of my OCD. We have a monthly budget and so it was very easy to go in and make line item cuts and edits. We use a basic Excel spreadsheet and the budget doesn’t generally change from month to month. Most of our bills including telecommunication, utilities and so forth are fixed amounts or based on trend estimates. So that was the first thing we did. We also decided to make lemonade from what appeared to be ill-timed bad lemons. We’re carpooling, he’s applying for jobs and volunteering his time.
Even with the Christmas holidays coming up it wasn’t until this happened that I realized just how wonderful family really is. We have never felt pressure to give gifts (even though we always have) and this Christmas, I don’t even care for any. Sure, we’ll scrounge up enough money to get something for the kids. However, outside of that, we’re just appreciative of the time we’ll spend together with family and loved ones.
Losing a job can be any number of things including a hidden blessing. I hate the financial strain of it but I love that I’m at a point in my life where I am beginning to appreciate life and its imperfections a lot more. Does carpooling with my spouse annoy me? Yes, to no end. But what’s most important is that this isn’t going to break us. We’ve decided that there’s so much to be thankful for outside of a job. We’re thankful that we can share in the experience and support each other in all the other ways that count the most.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 11/13/13 issue of The Union-Recorder.