My Money Mantra and Big Purchase Hesitation

Last week my husband surprised me by taking me to Best Buy. He wanted to get me a new laptop. It was my birthday, but also he wanted me to have something smaller and lighter. I was so surprised and didn’t know how to feel. It was so sweet and so there was the good surprise, but I was also taken aback and maybe even put off because a laptop is a lot of money and I don’t spend a lot of money impulsively or even because I want to – it’s out of necessity. (For the record, it was not impulsive for my husband who had researched models and done all the legwork, but since it was a surprise, it felt impulsive on my end.)

I’ve never purchased a computer unless my previous computer died. Not on its way out, but actually dead, meaning I would go a few weeks without one – period. And my current laptop is not dead, and while it’s four years old, hopefully it’s not even on its way out. Some of the computers we were considering were nearly two grand (though I have found other options a couple hundred dollars cheaper). It’s not because we were looking at anything fancy (I’m not a gamer, my computer use is basic and practical) but because nowadays it’s the light and small that drive up the cost – not the hardware size and graphics capabilities. I just kept thinking, “Is this really necessary?” As alluring as a new computer is, the practical, frugal part of me is pumping the brakes hard. I just don’t know.

Technically, there is a very practical reason for a light and small computer. My current laptop is huge and heavy and I travel with it a lot, so lugging it back and forth on my back – it certainly isn’t ideal. And lately this not ideal situation has kind of had a spotlight due to some medical stuff that has come up. Kind of evasive, I know, but that’s as good as it’s going to get in this post. Point is, while my husband thinks this is a smart idea and important, I am struggling with the question, “How important is it?”

I think I’m this way because everything I have, I have had to work my ass off to get. I was on my own since I was a teenager, still in high school. I started working at age ten at the church rectory answering phones. (Of course, now I see how awful the Catholic Church was, putting ten-year-olds to work answering phones for five hours for only twenty bucks a shift – exploitive much?) I pet sat, I tutored – whatever it took. In high school, I wrote love letters and poems (mostly sonnets) for guys who wanted to do something “mushy” for their girlfriends. At ten bucks a pop – I was doing okay. Because I had to afford food, and shelter and high school costs, because even public school is never really free. I had to survive.

And that’s just it. I know how to survive on three dollars a week. I know how to hustle. I know how to save money. I know how (not) to spend.

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Absences

For a long time my neurologists and neurosurgeons have argued about whether or not I have epilepsy. Yes, argued is appropriate because when you have eight neuro people in the room, getting heated and waving their arms around – it not only constitutes an argument, it constitutes a scene. It’s always been 50/50 too, not really leaning one way or not, a constant back and forth.

My original neurosurgeon, who I will always regard as the gold standard, thought I had epilepsy due to a neuro exam and backed by an EEG. My parents described absence seizures (then called petite mal seizures). Apparently, I would stare off into space, my eyelids would flutter, and they couldn’t get my attention. But it wasn’t daydreaming because even if they touched me, it didn’t register. I would stop speaking midsentence, stop moving, whatever I was doing except for standing. (I really don’t know why standing is the exception because if I was walking, I would stop walking, but not fall. I only fell if I was in the middle of a step or on stairs.)

But these seizures lasted two to five seconds. The time it took to say no more than four words. So were they really happening? And if they were, did I actually have Epilepsy? (Just because someone has a seizure, does not mean they have a seizure disorder.)

Arguments For

  1. My EEG Results showed seizure activity and patterns found in people with Epilepsy.
  2. Parents, relatives, doctors and teachers witnessed what they believed to be seizures.
  3. These “seizures” would make me stop whatever I was doing, and I had no idea what was happening. When I would come to, it would be as if I lost time, not being able to recall anything that transpired during said seizure.
  4. I have Hydrocephalus, a history of brain bleeds and traumatic brain injury that often result in developing Epilepsy.

Arguments Against

  1. My EEG results showed “spiking” activity, which many neurologists argue are different from epileptic seizure activity. Counter argument: Spiking activity is most common with Absence Epilepsy, which was the type of Epilepsy those “for” said I had.
  2. The seizures were so brief, no one could prove if I simply spaced out or had a true seizure.
  3. Epilepsy medication had no effect on me. They did not make my seizures worse or better.

I stopped taking my anti-seizure medication in high school because I didn’t see a point. And because absence seizures did not (often) result in serious injury, I never pursued it further. Every new neurosurgeon would want me to do an EEG, but then they would bicker with their colleagues over the results, and what it all meant.

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Back In My Life

For most of my life, I’ve been an orphan whose parents were still very much alive. I had to provide for myself, starting work when I was ten, bounced around and was even homeless because I was too young to sign a lease even if I had the money for rent (I did not get the paperwork for my independence finished until right before I became of age – ironic I know).

My mom was terribly abusive – physically, verbally, emotionally – she tried her best to break me and perhaps she did in some ways, but I’m resilient as fuck and came out the other side. My dad was different. He was a crappy dad. When I was strangled and dumped by my mother, my sides black and blue, and finger marks on my neck, he told me “you have a way of bringing out the violence in others” and would blame me. He told me I pushed buttons and shouldn’t make her angry. He also told me over and over how difficult I was to love.

I’ll be honest my mother may have screwed me up (in ways I have since overcome, I feel) but I feel like my dad actually affected me more. My dad was high functioning and a wonderful father to my three siblings. He wasn’t abusive himself besides these comments, he was more neglectful and abandoning than abusive. And that’s why his words meant more. His absence, not wanting me, telling me I deserved what I got, that I was unworthy of love or human affection. My mom was crazy. I may have been her punching bag, but she was miserable and did not play well with others – period. Her entire life was a lie that few people bought because she couldn’t keep up with everything. But I couldn’t say that about my dad.

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The Block

Lately, I have been frustrated because I am totally blocked. I’m not writing and it’s not out of laziness, being too busy or due to a lack of trying. I know why I’m blocked, but that isn’t helping. It’s like in 2009 when I was blocked because I had several strokes and grand mal seizures, which resulted in severe head trauma and neurological impairment (it took months to heal/come back from that but I did). I know what’s up but I am not in a position to actually fix it myself, and as long as I remain a human being and not a sociopath there is no way for me to “not let this affect me”.

What’s worse is that it’s a cycle that feeds itself. Like I might be juggling A, B and C and they together are creating my block, but not writing new pieces or submitting or working on a manuscript (which I realize, I have actually not, not done, in roughly twelve years) is making me more frustrated, more out of sync to actually create, revise, or submit.

I just want to write. I want to be creating new pieces. I want to be inspired. I want to be working on a book because it’s not only writing but working towards something that could actually allow me to do this full time while financially supporting myself. (It’s not like I’m looking to get rich from writing, please!) I want to be submitting. I want to be getting published. I want to work on other pieces that are close but not quite ready. I want to get out of this funk. I want to bulldoze through my block. I hate this.

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A New Kind Of July 4th

July 4th has always been the biggest-deal holiday in my family. It’s my father’s favorite and the one holiday when he really goes all out. He gets the BIG fireworks and really puts on a show. Growing up, we would go out of the way to all of these fireworks tents, getting (often-illegal) fireworks. My brother and I would have fun with snakes and tanks and party poppers and snappers throughout the 3rd and the 4th. We would be out in the driveway, just having a good time.

The night of the 4th, my dad would go all out and it was usually a big affair. It’s not like he did this in the middle of the city. We were at relatives in the country or at his house with permission from the neighbors (he was always very respectful about that, luckily where we lived most people are fireworks enthusiasts and did not mind). We were with my grandparents of step-grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles, maybe a friend or two from my dad’s work and so on. It was always a social thing and everyone, even those who had been with us in past years, were always impressed.

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