Saturday, March 17, 2007

Over the past couple of weeks I've been spending a lot of time with numbers- numbers relevant to my ability to afford to move to the pricier neighborhood as planned. As long as I was already working on my tax returns, I thought it made sense to go all the way and figure out exactly where I stand financially.

The result stopped me in my tracks. In fact, it stopped my heart from beating. The ugly truth uncovered this week is that I can't even afford the house I'm already living in!

How could this have happened? Well, I hate to be money-obsessed, so I pay little attention to it. Some people call that "denial". I make sure I have extra padding in my checking account, and I have all my bills paid by automatic withdrawal from that account. No problem ever presented itself. Why worry? I had a vague awareness that during some months, I had unusual expenses and had to rely on savings, but that's why I kept extra money in my checking account.

I had used every online calculator available to figure out how much house I could afford. I'm sure that, on some level, I knew that the resulting numbers would be somewhat askew in my case because those calculators don't take into consideration things like babysitting costs, video games, repairs for 16-year -old Hondas, or beginning orthodontics. I score well on the calculators because I have no debt. (A mortgage is not considered a debt for some mysterious reason!)

But I grabbed those numbers and ran with them, all the way to my realtor's office. And, as some of you know, I spent the past 7 months attempting to attain my dream of living in a Victorian house near downtown. My current house has been for sale all that time. It was actually in contract last August, but the buyers backed out after changing their minds. I did insist on selling first before buying- at least I had that much sense.

So the ugly truth revealed during my recent financial fact-finding mission is that I've been spending more money than I earn since my child was born. (I guess I should be thanking my lucky stars that I had savings before he came along!) I had ought that was happening sometimes, some months, but I never realized the extent of it until now.

The Law of Attraction states that we should NOT face reality unless reality is exactly what we want it to be! I'd love to flamboyantly embrace that declaration and use it as my motto, thereby justifying continuing to try to sell my house. But I can't. The new neighborhood is more expensive. I'm already overextended financially in this cheaper house. My choice has been taken away.

When I called my realtor to tell him this, his response was unexpectedly gracious, considering the amount of money he would have gained from my move. He mysteriously said something about having a feeling that something would work out, and said he'd just remove my house temporarily from the market. He was probably just trying to ease my pain, or maybe he was trying to hook up my dream to life support.

Since then, I've experienced many different reactions, from utter despair to gratitude, then back to despair again, then to imaginary bargaining with the universe. Then I'll go back to those online calculators and run the numbers again. And again. I can't bear to visit the desired neighborhood anymore.

Friday, March 16, 2007

We Meet Again

It's not everyday that you have the chance to meet up with an old high school flame(!) so I was understandably nervous. (And remember- I have shunned men since my child was born, so this was truly a BIG DEAL.) John had sent me an e-mail out of the blue, then we talked on the phone, then made plans to get together. He's still living in NYC, and his accent sounded just as I remembered it, although I had forgotten how fast he talked. Sometimes my brain had trouble keeping up, although I don't remember having had that problem back when we were "an item". He is now a successful attorney; all I could envision was the handsome, endearing teenager I had known so well for one memorable summer.

I was extremely surprised to hear from him because of the ways things ended. Everything was great when we were together at summer camp in upstate NY- couldn't have been better. We never even argued, which is unusual for me. In fact, that brief relationship may well have been the best one I ever had.....

But when he came to visit me at college, I had stupidly moved on. I was well ensconced in my new one-sided love affair with a guy who turned out to be gay. I blew John off, totally incapable of giving up even one precious moment with my new love interest. I did feel kind of lousy about it, but I was young, inconsiderate and unwise.

I tried to make amends with John later, but he wouldn't respond. I'm sure he was crushed by my unexpected turnabout during his college visit.

Imagine my surprise when he contacted me recently. Forgiveness takes time, depending upon the people involved and the nature of the offense.

Once he e-mailed me, I began obsessively indulging in the sweet memories of that summer. He had picked me out on the first night of camp, when we all sat around a huge circle and introduced ourselves. Good thing he didn't waste any time (he came over to me immediately and made his intentions known) because we got right to it, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire duration of camp, from the first day to the last. Everything is more fun when you have a boyfriend, as I vividly recall.

I remember one day toward the end of camp, when we were just hanging out in a grassy field. He was a dreamy kind of guy, with a James Dean look about him. He said,"Let's get a motorcycle and ride off into the sunset, just you and me against the world!" (Do teenage boys often say things like that?) Maybe he knew it was the last time we'd be together, and maybe we should have ridden off into that sunset.

But not to worry- last night we actually DID meet again! Thanks to John's effort to reconnect, we were able to arrange a reunion while he was here on a business trip. (I told him I wasn't likely to make a child-free trip to NYC for a few years!) When I saw him for the first time, my heart stopped- he looked remarkably the same- very good looking, very sexy, with slightly wavy dark brown hair and that knowing smile that says, "I know what what's going on with you, and I like it." I was speechless.

But not John- in fact it was his smooth personality that had always made him utterly disarming. He was quick witted, fast talking, intense, charming, totally at ease in the world, just as I remembered.

Both of us descended from Irish immigrants who settled in NYC and Long Island, so it was appropriate that we decided to check out a St. Patrick's Day festival. Like a breathless teenager on a date, I tried to focus on the sights, but had to keep glancing at him to see if this was really happening. It was as if the years between now and our summer together had vanished. Last night was simply the next night after our last. We had aged but a day. We did attempt to catch up on what we'd each been doing during the interim years, but the past had a powerful hold on us, and that was just fine. It was an incredible dream come true.

As we walked together, smiling, sometimes holding hands, I wondered why I had let this one slip away. No other boy or man suited me so perfectly. When we stopped walking, he put his arms around me and kissed me just as he had done in the stairwell of our camp dormitory so long ago. The re-living of the precious memory brought tears to my eyes.

When my alarm went off, I was stunned, absolutely crushed with disappointment. The tears eventually dried as I absorbed the harsh fact that John had not really been with me. He really was my boyfriend long ago, and he really did contact me recently, but the rest.....

But I keep thinking: Who's to say it didn't happen? Why couldn't it have been a striking example of time travel? It was so realistic, and we seemed to be 17, despite the awkward talk about our current lives. How is this different from reality? I have a clear memory of it. I have emotions associated with it. The only thing I don't have is the ability to stoke this rekindled romance. And I might not have had that anyway.

Monday, March 12, 2007

on a mission

Leafing through one of my many notebooks this morning I came across a certain prescription for joyous living which I had jotted down a few months ago. It's from the trendy Law of Attraction movement. What it boils down to is the suggestion that all we have to do is simply look for things to appreciate. It's that simple.

For starters, I appreciate the simplicity of that suggestion. Looking for things to appreciate is doable, is it not? Granted, the retraining of focus from chronic fault-finding to constant scanning for good is a major shift, but the directions are easy!

One glance out the window provides plenty of fodder. It's a spring-like day with pleasantly cool, moist air. My partly Irish origin is very comfortable with the overcast sky. The birds are revving up for their spring flings- hints of new beginnings float in the air. I admire my handiwork of the weekend: extensive pruning of the bushes which had hidden my house from the world.

Even the Chihuahua conspires to make this day work. Instead of his usual yapping, he is playing contentedly with a stuffed lamb, seemingly sensing that I'm on a mission. A call comes in from the real estate office- they want to show my house the day after tomorrow. Yippee! I have 2 1/2 days to prepare for this showing, and all the active "chi" of the bustling birds and animals around my house might just sell it. And if not, I get to stay here and enjoy it. It's a win-win situation.

Later I have business down in the neighborhood I wish to move to. I'll take a little time while I'm there to walk around, enjoying the urban energy of the large city park in front of the house I want. I haven't spent much time there lately, so I'll relish the reminder of why I like it there.

Today I'll make time to visit a friend who's back in the hospital. He says I bring the outside world in to him when I visit. I appreciate being appreciated. While I'm there I'll be glad for modern medicine which can save the lives of the profoundly ill. And I'll thank my lucky stars for my own good health, which I'm sure I'll be perpetuating with my positivity.