BEST IDEAS AND BETTER TIPS
When Bad Stuff Happens
Our old life was destroyed in one moment.
And just like everybody else... We never thought it would happen to us.
We'd just returned from a wet camping holiday. I felt unwell. Our tent was drying out on the driveway. I was making dirty clothes into piles from opened suitcases spread across the floor ready to wash. The place was a mess. And I needed to shop because we had no bread, milk or fresh food in the house for the kids to eat.
Then in amongst the chaos a mate brought my husband home from the surf. He'd been injured.
When the ambulance took us, I had no idea we were beginning a terrifying life journey and my husband and I would be tested to beyond what I ever thought possible.
We went from a double income, to no income at all. Me being taken out of the work force to care for him.
My husband was deemed legally blind and remained so for many years.
And then it got worse...
At a time when our finances dwindled, our medical bills soared. Just the gap for one specialist visit every week was more than we were bringing in. And we visited him, every week, over months.
We had private health insurance but the gap for just one specialist for one surgery was over $3000 (which was huge 19 years ago) and that didn't include anaesthetist fees. But then I was told my husband was facing multiple surgeries over many, many months.
We were financially haemorraging. I was afraid we'd lose our home unless I could somehow pull a golden rabbit, out of a non-existent hat.
I Learned I Still Had Choices. I chose to:
Act today to do at least one thing to improve the situation, rather than focus on the problem. E.g. What alternative income sources can be created when we live in a society obsessed with funny cats, our life's maddest edges, obscene levels of wealth and COVID 19. Be creative. What is your skill set?
What did I have that I could immediately sell? (I sold my car for $2000 and our old caravan for $1000.) What do you have that others may want?
Look at what I could still do to earn or save money? e.g. currently: mowing lawns, cleaning, stacking supermarket shelves, delivering groceries for older people, driving trucks to keep food supply chains working, technical positions testing for COVID 19 etc.
I believed the situation I was experiencing would pass and with time we'd be back on our feet. And I did every thing I could to ensure this happened.
My husband and I planned together and worked as a team. Disagreeing wasted our very valuable energy and it was a luxury we couldn't afford
Being kind and thoughtful with others cost me nothing but made a huge difference to our world. We had one rule in our house and that was cooperate. And it applied equally to the adults. It may sound cheezy but we genuinely worked together for the good of all of us.
And like some of you are going through at the moment, for the first time, I lined up in the Centrelink queue. I still can't explain how desperate I felt. After being in phone cues for over an hour and a half and then standing in line with other desperate people I was told they couldn't help us.
I recall weeks later, after numerous frustrating attempts to gain help, how I stood at the counter late one afternoon and teared up. I asked "Isn't there someone in this place that can help us?'
The girl looked at me, at the clock, then back at me. She shrugged."You can see the social worker if you like. There's an appointment available in three weeks."
"I'll take it," I said.
Then going forward many months later we experienced cruelty, incredible deception and bullying because of my husband's disability. It was a shock. And while I thought I'd been bullied a few times in my life I realized I'd never experienced real prejudice directed at us before. It's like there's a perspex box around you made by others perceptions, limiting what you can do.
I cried and wondered why, when I'd always tried to help others, why this had befallen us. I was crushed at the unfairness of it.
But I reminded myself sometimes life isn't fair. Sometimes you get a whammy you never ever expected or deserved. And I'm sorry if that's what you're experiencing at the moment because it hurts a lot...
And I get the fear. I was terrified. I was so scared that I might not be able to keep it all together.
But I learned to let the fear drive me...
And now its my experience that I offer, because I've been there. I was a young mum with two kids, a huge mortgage, no money and a newly disabled husdand. I knew I didn't have the luxury to fall in a heap. But with time not only did we survive, we learnt to flourish.
And although I know it's hard trying to get a job when there's a pandemic looming and so many are unemployed I get it. It's a bit like trying to get a job at any time... if you're blind.
So what did I do that worked?
I tried as much as possible to filter what our children were privy to. It broke my youngest son's heart that his dad had been blinded. He began to read the same book to my husband as my husband had previously read to him... And it still makes me tear up as I remember it.
I began to use money very sparingly, living off between $40 to $70 a week to feed a family of four and use everything I already had in my pantry sparingly (Go to the recurrent menu planning section to see what strategies I put in place. This seriously saved us heaps of money over years.)
I learnt some people hurt us because they've never been through what we faced. You may also be going through something similar at the moment. Some will advise you out of ignorance. Some will be apathetic about your situation. You can either learn from your experience what not to do to others in the future or let it destroy you, and some of your friendships.
Now is the time to learn what you're really made of. It's possible adversity can build your character. You can come through this as a kinder stronger person. Let adversity feed you. After this is over you'll likely have a greater depth of character. I know in my case I couldn't voluntarily go back to the levels of ignorance I operated at prior to my husband's accident.
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