Monday, December 05, 2005

Malaise

“How’s business?” my favorite bank teller asked me today.

“Business is great, now if only I can get paid for my work,” I sighed.

Because of the erratic nature of how and when I get paid, I’ve been near breakdown for the past few months from the sheer stress of working nonstop while trying to make enough money to pay my current and past bills and, God forbid, attempt to get ahead financially. The words of a dear friend who used to encourage me to work smarter not harder are ringing in my head and I want to ask: “How?” Can't seem to see the forest for the trees.

I’m sickened when I think of all the late charges and service fees I’m paying because I can’t ever seem to get ahead or get checks in the mail in time to avoid late charges. And my credit? I can’t even go there without surpressing the urge to vomit.

My stress, which manifests itself in a sharp pain in my left shoulder blade, reached a pinnacle Saturday afternoon as I sat sobbing, physically and emotionally drained from working nonstop and finding another weekend without a much-needed and anticipated check in the mail. Can there be anything worse than putting in major time and waiting another 30-45 days to get paid?

Danny was heartsick about my distress and doing a fair job of hiding his panic (because we need my income). He let me sob on and throw my hands up on the air, wondering aloud whether being on my own is worth the struggle, and how I’m so damned tired and just once I’d like to get a good night’s sleep, how Christmas is coming and I’d love to get started Christmas shopping if only I had some money and how Danny’s birthday is today and how I’d love nothing more than to take him to a nice dinner and how I feel as if I’m spread so thin with my work that the quality of the product is suffering and yet I’m just trying to get ahead financially and so I take on whatever comes my way no matter how unrealistic and ….

Well, anyway, that’s the thread running on continuous mental loop. You get the picture. Wish I could change the channel.

I have no answers because to not be on my own means I have to find a job. And that opens up so many other questions and unknowns. What would that job look like? Is there anything decent available? Would we consider relocating? What do I even want to do? I’m a pretty autonomous person and I’m not very good at tolerating office or newsroom politics. I like variety in my work and that’s something I can be fairly assured of as an independent. I'm a big-picture thinker and prefer not to be another member of the rank and file. So where does that leave me? Am I being too cynical in not thinking about possibilities? I do miss being around people. (Admittedly some of my despair is because I’ve been with myself too much, but I’ve not had the time to do the social stuff because deadlines are invading like the Allied Forces on D-Day -- there’s no break in the action.)

But working outside of my home opens up a whole host of other questions:

What do we do with the kids after school? With two kids in middle school, it’s a blessing to be home after school. (After all, educators and researchers keep telling parents that after-school hours are when middle school mischief occurs.) Everyone is doing well academically, but that’s because I’m here to answer homework questions and listen to Michael read and teach Patrick skills to help him with matching tests and to make sure Ryan tries to complete the math extra credit.

I worked outside the home with kids in school and I never got home before 6. At the time Danny worked five minutes from our house and would get home earlier to make dinner. But we don’t have that now.

What about summers and school vacations?

My car is not running well and I’ll either need to sink some serious cash into repairs or get a new one. Where are gas prices headed? Why are hybrid cars so much more expensive? I’d buy one in a heartbeat if the price point were $10,000 lower.

And then there’s this committee I head for SPJ, seeking to make things easier for other freelancers. Sometimes I feel like such a hypocrite, unable to implement my own suggestions to others. I keep preaching balance and yet I feel so unbalanced, teetering on the brink and desperately hoping there’s a safety net (preferably cash) below.

Alas, as I read this over, I’m whining. I hate to sound like a whiner. Time to suck it up. I’m sure a few paychecks will cure me of my malaise.

4 comments:

Greta Garbo said...

Wendy--
Yes, I still read your blog regularly (and a few other linkers), even though you basically don't know me but have so kindly allowed me such glimpses into your life. I root for you as a freelancer, because I want to know that such a thing can exist, even if it seems to intrinsically have pitfalls built into it. I hope autonomy is worth it, although I know that doesn't help pay bills...hope payments come your way very soon.

Wendy Hoke said...

Greta,
You're so very kind and your comment made me smile. Today is another day. I thank you for reading.
Best,
Wendy

Amy Green said...

Wendy --

Rest assured you're not the only freelancer who feels this way. Your story about Danny's birthday sounds a lot like our wedding anniversary this year. But I am a big believer in the old saying, Do what you know you're supposed to be doing, and the money will follow. Take care,

Amy

Sandy Kristin Piderit said...

Wendy,

I hope that things look better within 30 days, and that your clients pay you more promptly in the future!

There aren't any good openings that I know of at the university, but you are certainly overqualified for the Research Assistant II position in Psychiatry, enrolling people in research studies... it's part-time, so it would give you room to continue freelancing and to be home when the boys get home from school, hopefully. If you're feeling really desperate, here's the link:

http://www.cwru.edu/finadmin/humres/emp/research.html

I really hope that you get to continue writing for publication, though, because your recent pieces about Ms. Miller were fabulous!

-Sandy