My Journey out of Debt

Featured customers currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Relief Plan, share journey to become debt-free; hear how they juggle family, finances, and more.

Life Interrupted

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It was 8:05 AM on an ordinary Wednesday morning. My wife had left for work, the kids had eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, and I had given them their usual morning review spelling test for school.  We had some time before the school bus came, so I was sitting at the kitchen table sorting through work emails, prioritizing what I needed to get accomplished that day.  With one phone call, my drive through life had taken a turn onto one of those infrequently traveled minimum maintenance gravel roads. 

My wife had received a call that her grandmother had been taken to the hospital the night before.  She hasn't been in the best of health for quite awhile, but her condition was deteriorating quickly, and we were told we should come quickly. The next hour was a whirlwind of notifying employers of the situation, finding neighbors to watch the kids for the night when they got home from school, packing a suitcase, and leaving town. 

As I filled the car up with gas, my mind started churning.  If you've been following my previous blog posts, you know that my family and I are going on a trip to Florida this month.  We are very tight with our vacation funds, and I couldn't help but start thinking about what an unexpected trip out of town would do to our vacation budget.  The extra gasoline and food costs would certainly add up.  I also started calculating the cost of this interruption with my job.  I had just started getting to a point of being somewhat caught up.  A few unexpected, inconvenient days away would certainly put me behind again.   

The 2 hour trip gave me plenty of time to continue to reflect upon the unexpected situation that my wife and I found ourselves in.  I started to think about what it is that I truly value in life, what I put most of my effort into each day, and if those two things matched up or not.  I came to the conclusion that they weren't even close.

I am not particularly close to my wife's grandmother, but as I continued my internal reflection, I could taste the saltiness of the tears streaming down my cheeks. 

My conclusion was that the single thing that brings me the utmost joy and happiness in my life are my connections to the loved ones in my life.  Emotions are part of being human.  They make up the very fiber of who we are, and they make life worth living.   However, I discovered that I am putting too much effort into the wrong things.   Making a complicated meal, fixing the computer when it isn't working right, and mowing the lawn are all things that I have recently done in place of spending time with my loved ones.  Am I making the right choices?   Is the lawn happier because I mowed it?  Probably not, but my son was certainly disappointed because I didn't play catch with him that night.  Did the computer thank me for installing updates and defragmenting the hard drive?  No, but my daughter was crushed that we didn't get to read another chapter together in her book that night.  I simply didn't prioritize correctly to cultivate those relationships that mean so much to me, and get the most enjoyment out of my life.   

Your emotions, attention, and affection are an emotional currency that you can chose to spend however you want.  The awesome thing about this kind of currency is that you don't have to budget it - you never run out.  Additionally, the more you spend, the more you get back.  What are the effects of spending all the paper money you have on a new fancy cell phone?  You get something new to put in your pocket and make calls with, surf the internet, or one of other countless other life changing applications (read with sarcasm).  What do you get if you spend your emotional currency on a loved one?  You may be surprised to find out that they simply give it back to you!   I probably spend more time staring at the computer screen reading Facebook updates each day than I do connecting with my own wife. Think about what the effects would be if you spent more of your emotional currency on your significant other.  Could you end up improving your marriage, bringing yourself more joy and happiness resulting in an overall more enjoyable life?   

Are you still not sure what is most important to you?  Allow me to pose a few questions.  Imagine your mother, father, or someone close to you passing away.  What is your reaction?  Sadness?  Would you cry?  Would you think something along the lines of "If only I could have told them I loved them one more time?" Now imagine if your TV breaks.  What is you reaction?  Annoyance and anger? Would you say "If only I could have watched Grey's Anatomy one more time before you broke?"   Doesn't that sound ridiculous? Which do you spend more time connecting with each day?  My TV can't wrap its arms around me and give me a hug, but my eight year old daughter can.  

Thinking more about our Florida trip, what would give me the most enjoyment?  A trip to a theme park?  Going out to eat?  Nope.  How about just sitting by the side of the pool watching the kids play, or jumping in to play with them? How about cooking an extra meal at the timeshare with my family - teaching them, enjoying learning about them, and interacting with them?  If we have to give up something on our trip in order to allow my wife to say good bye to her grandmother, to get closure on an emotional connection that means something to her, then I'm all for it. 

People end up in debt for different reasons.  I ended up in the situation after years of placing emphasis on spending paper currency to buy material things to try to make myself happy.  It didn't work, and it's easy to see why.  Money and debt are man made things.  They are in some ways unnatural and can never fill the hole in the center of your soul.   Emotional connections are part of who we are. We need and crave them.  Maybe we should be prioritizing spending our emotional currency and reaping the rewards instead.   

As we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I felt almost refreshed at my conversation with myself.  As we walked down the hospital hallway towards room 315, I smiled at what I had learned.  "Thank you Grandma Gladys for the lesson, and the interruption."  I think we could all use one every now and then. 

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  • Great blog post.  Makes you think about what is really important.

  • Thanks stillersfan, I'm glad you liked it.  An update.....The day my wife and I made the trip to go see her grandmother, she was awake and acting like "herself."  That evening, she became very agitated and disorientated.  She was given some drugs, and she slipped off to sleep...and has never really regained consciousness.  We were extremely happy that we got to spend the afternoone talking to her.  Today is her 92nd birthday, which was celebrated surrounded by loved ones as she continues to be with us.

  • Another great post!!  It is good to see that you were able to find something positive in something so sad.  I hope things start getting easier for you and your family.  Wishing you all the best!!

  • Thanks mdavis1964.  My wife's grandmother passed away last Wednesday while my family and I were in Florida.  They held off on the funeral until today, so we could attend.  May she rest in peace.

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