The price I pay

Last sunday I drove to torquay to see my Mum for her birthday.  Alone in the car I listened to RRR's Radiotherapy program.  They were talking about avoiding alzheimer's and doing things that challenged your brain. Not doing crosswords to keep your mind sharp, but doing difficult things, challenging things, hard things.  For example, learning an instrument (if you've never played anything before), using your mouse with your other hand, learning mandarin etc. Things out of the ordinary that are totally removed from anything you've done before.  Think neuroplasticity.

As they spoke I was thinking about how I had been avoiding new things.  Going new places seemed utterly terrifying.  And as much as it would be lovely to have adventures, tackling the newness of a situation seemed out of my reach.  An exercise in anxiety.  Dealing with ongoing stress has meant we have hunkered down and retreated.  We do some nice thing.  Simple things.  Known things.  The thought of challenges was too exhausting to contemplate.  Between work and trying to sort out our financial situation there was no room left for new things.  No space for adventures.  Survival was all I could muster.

After recently thinking we would have to sell our home, I've been trying every single thing I could think of to ensure this didn't happen.  I asking for advice about real estate agents on Facebook and  friends and family reached out to me. Offering suggestions and kind words of understanding and support.  We've seen financial counsellors who are free and can act as advocates. I negotiated with our credit union and consolidated another debt into our home loan - they locked us in at a lower rate  for 3 years, giving me a little breathing space.  We've set up payment plans with our body corp and I'm working on one with the council for our rates.  Just as we thought things were sorting themselves out a last hurdle appeared.  The Commonwealth Bank had sold Peter's credit card debt to a collection agency.  It felt like a kick in the teeth.  We both felt sick as these agencies can make your life hell and force you into bankruptcy. But after eventually getting another appointment with the financial counsellor they negotiated a payment plan.  We were both a bit numb.  Had we finally managed to put out every spot fire that threatened to engulf us?  I also found out that through my inability to fill out forms properly, once I paid off my HECS debt I ticked a wrong box.  This meant paying more tax than I needed too.  This has just been sorted out.  Exhale.  **Looks nervously over shoulder expecting something else threatening to come hurtling at us** Exhale again.

All this has taken months to juggle on top of work.  It's all the energy and brain space I had.  I realised recently when friends asked me how I am, I answered with a status update on where things are in the long list of crap to sort out.  I never actually said how I was except that I was tired.  But that's all I felt. Exhausted. Numb. Nothingness.

As the radio show finished I popped on a CD.  I was taking a trip down memory lane, listening to Billy Bragg's 'Worker's Playtime'. His lyrics seemed to punch me in the chest.  Particular notes on his guitar or piano had me in tears.  This line in particular has been running around my head for days:
"That virtue never tested is no virtue at all".  It hit home as I have often felt over the last six months that I was at breaking point. I didn't know if I could go on. Life was too hard and maybe this was a sign to chuck it all in.  Everything. But here I was...exhaling. I've had stressful times in the past (see the blog posts around mid 2009 covering the messy and simply awful breakup with my ex).  But the financial pressure of the last 2 years was all encompassing.  It threatened to take away where we lived and how we lived. People have commented in the past that you never know how strong you are until you're forced to be strong.  But I've honestly felt like a crumpled piece of paper for so long I've almost forgotten what 'normal' feels like.

"That virtue never tested is no virtue at all".  It's also felt like a massive test of my relationship with Peter.  All this pressure has affected us both.  We've normally been good at banding together through hardship but the last 18 months of pressure has been chipping away at our armour.  I've been contemplating what a really huge ongoing hardship does to your relationship.  And Billy again provided a lyric for the occasion:

"I love you so much that baby it's such, I'd walk a mile with a stone in my shoe
And that's the price I pay for loving you the way that I do"

More tears.  Life and relationships are hard.  Put under pressure you can forget the basics.  Thank goodness for the people's poet Billy Bragg to remind me about love.

"I love you so much that baby it's such, I'd walk a mile with a stone in my shoe
And that's the price I pay for loving you the way that I do"





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