I Am That Girl Now

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This looks to be a travelin' year

Money, I have to say, sucks. Our rent just went up $35/month, which on top of our electric bill doubling and the price of various groceries going up (meat and milk particularly) is causing a certain amount of gnawing anxiety about the future. It doesn't help that our company just fired six people today; according to our president that's all the staff cuts that'll happen, but since my Hub and I are both employed by the same company it really does remind one at moments like this that having both one's employment eggs in one basket is possibly not the best idea. Too late to really do anything about it now, at any rate; with the economy going south, it's not a good time to switch jobs-- and I'd feel bad about possibly taking a job away from someone else who really NEEDS the work, you know?

Recessions are scary things, I tell you. This is my second while in the workforce, and it looks to be a lot worse than the first. We're continuing to pay down the student loan like mad, which is probably stupid-- if we were sane people we'd be making the minimum payments and socking the rest into savings to keep us afloat in case next year there's another budget deficit in our company and one of us gets laid off because of it. Our credit cards are almost free of any lingering debt (mild problem with my Hub's card, but it should be taken care of by mid-March), my medical bills are paid (or will be as soon as the bastards finally apply the check), our taxes for the year will be paid tonight or tomorrow, and I figure that if worst comes to worst, we'll have enough money to pack our possessions into a U-Haul and drive back to the old homestead to live with my parents for a year. It's been done before-- and this time, at least they have high-speed internet, which is frankly all we need to sustain our lifestyle. Well, that and occasional access to sushi and Thai food, which is problematic in the small-town Midwest, but oh well.

Must admit that I'm looking for corners to cut. It sucks to be my Hub right now because he is JUST starting to get a handle on his spending (I really need to stop enabling him when he goes on one of his "I just need to get out of the office, so we're going to go out to eat" jaunts) and now I'm eyeing his parking expenses and all the times he buys extra food. Poor boy. I can't help it; if there's any way we can sock money into savings again, I intend to do it.

I've just been working on the budget again, specifically in this case hashing through the travel budget. We throw in $70 per month, which used to get us airfare to wherever my family was gathering for Thanksgiving or Christmas plus car rental for Christmas or Thanksgiving for my Hub's family, who live closer. (We trade off; one family gets us for Thanksgiving, the other Christmas, alternating by year.) After a tense situation with the travel budget last year when airfare skyrocketed, my Hub got over his intense dislike of long car trips and, last year, we drove the 13-hours-each-way journey to my hometown not once, but THREE TIMES.

This year looks to be no different. The budget thus far looks like it can handle two or three trips out to see my Hub's family, and three or four trips to see mine. This does not include the possible trip to go see my sister and help move her from one side of the country to the other, which I am considering, but which would need to be funded by me alone. (On the one side, it might be kind of fun, and I love my sister and would rather not have her drive the whole thing alone. On the other side, OH MY HOLY GOD that's a lot of driving.)

We have five trips planned already, four of which are necessary; one is extra. There's the trip (which needs to happen pretty damn soon) to visit our nieces and nephew and, incidentally, my brother-in-law and his intended. The trip home for my sister's wedding. The trip home for the great outdoor music festival. The trip out to ye olde homestead (quite literally; my mom's family farm) for Thanksgiving. The trip back to the in-laws for Christmas.

The two extra, thus-far-unplanned-albeit-much-bandied-about trips are starting to look like trips that would involve Doing Things. New things. Camping and hiking, on one; roller coasters on another. I am dubious of all these things.

I am not typically an outdoorsy girl. My sister and my dad go on camping trips out in one national park or another every summer, and it sounds like this year will be no different-- except for the part where they've invited me and the Hub along. Mom will not be coming, since she hates camping quite a lot, and my sister's fiance' (who will be by that point her husband) is stuck with work, but apparently they want us along.

My Hub wants to go, rather desperately. One of the wacky things about getting him into regular contact with my family is that they influence him in strange ways, on things where I've always been the odd duck out. He encounters these things via my family and then gets very enthusiastic about them, so I end up getting dragged along and, here's the weird part, most of the time I end up enjoying myself. In this case: camping.

I associate camping with a lack of toilet facilities, possibly due to the girls-only camping out in a cow pasture at a friend's grandma's farm back in high school (one morning we woke up with a cow staring through the tent door, I shit you not), and while I am vaguely okay with doing that overnight in an all-girl environment, more than one night is not okay. So when this idea came up, I immediately called my sister to find out how the hell one peed in a national park. Happily, she assures me that when Dad says "camping" he means "car camping" (with daily loooong hikes to see pretty things) and so we would have facilities at hand. Which is a relief.

That said, there's still the rest of it. The outdoors. Lots and lots of hiking. Mosquitos and bears and lord knows what else. In the great tradition of my mother and her mother before her, I am spending some quality time freaking out about all the unknowns involved.

Part of my thing about unknowns (both "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns" as Donald Rumsfeld would say) is, I guess, a lack of assertiveness... which sounds weird, but hear me out. Known issues, I can plan for and work around. Unknown issues, I have to deal with on the spot, and either shut up and deal with it or-- a new option for me-- assert myself in order to take care of myself. Some stuff I have to ask for on the spot, like if I get tired and have to rest or am hungry and want to stop to eat (or have to pee and have to find somewhere to go), but some stuff I have to assert myself about earlier, asking questions and participating in the planning. I'm... really not used to that. To be honest, that part scares me more than the actual camping or hiking. Asserting myself as an equal partner in this stuff is a freaky concept. Having some control is a comforting thought, don't get me wrong, but doing the part where I actually speak up and take some of that control? Oy. Nerve-wracking.

I'm trying, I'm trying. I'm getting little practice sessions every day at work, when I have to poke someone about an e-mail that they still haven't responded to, or ask if they've finished project X yet. As they say in Intuitive Eating-- granted, in reference to a whole different thing-- each little instance of finding that you can do something weaves together, over time, into a structure that you can stand on, and trust, and feel confidence in. Hopefully that means that over time I won't be so scared of new, unknown things anymore, because I'll have the confidence to ask questions-- not to mention have confidence that I can walk into any situation and if I need to change something to suit myself, I will be able to ask and take care of it.

In the meantime, it's still nerve-wracking.

I'm continuing to work on recognizing my hunger and my fullness. It's odd, because while I can recognize the extremes (starving half to death and stuffed to the gills, respectively) the smaller levels on the way up are still strangers to me and I have to listen like crazy. For instance: today we had sushi for lunch because, seriously, had to escape the atmosphere of morbid paranoia at the office. My combo had three rolls. I stopped with six pieces still on my plate, listening to my stomach, and couldn't tell what the hell was going on because it was just plain quiet, so I split the difference, ate two more pieces, and left the other four for my Hub. Right now I feel slightly overstuffed, so apparently my initial instinct was correct. It's just so damn hard to leave food on my plate when I can't tell if I'm full or not-- and harder still to leave food knowing it will immediately disappear into my Hub's mouth. 'Cause then it's GONE. That's the scars of twenty years of dieting, right there-- that "fuck, if I don't eat it ALL then I'll regret it forever because I'll never have it again!" mentality. You'd think it would just be about sweets and junk food, but I have low levels of this reaction even for ordinary food like tuna noodle cassarole.

I'm trying to think of hunger and fullness along the lines of another biological need: having to pee. It takes a lot of time when we're little to learn to go before there's an imminent explosion, because the signs before that point are a lot more subtle. All of us learn to recognize those subtle signs eventually, though, so we take care of things long before the point of no return. We learn to recognize such subtleties in our bladders that we can gauge, when on a road-trip, whether we'll make it to the next road oasis in 23 miles or if this one, right here, is our best bet. Hunger and fullness can't be that different, can they? I learned one; surely I can learn the others.


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