Monday, April 28, 2014

Conjuring Up Animal Spirits

Psychic Entropy (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991)
information that conflicts with existing intentions or that distracts people from carrying out intentions
Over the past several months, I've been finding myself visiting and revisiting in a dark emotional space. It is not despondency. All is not lost. I still have enough perspective to know there are many in the world who are enduring much worse than me.

No, the specter that haunts me is that loss is accelerating with time, and with that there is little renewal or recovery. My resources for coping financially and emotionally seem to be on an irreversible path to exhaustion, and what scares me is what I will do if I reach that point.

Yes, I keep the bills paid, and I haven't fallen behind on anything. Still financial hits keep hitting, depleting me of my savings, and I don't ever seem to have much room for replenishing savings.
The biggest hit by far was having to replace the roof back in September. That wiped out close to two thirds of my savings. I took another hit in October when I had a drain clog. The installation of a cleanout cost me $750.

The severe winter stressed me out because I was worried about the furnace giving up the ghost. It seems like every couple of years, the igniter has to be replaced at a cost of a couple hundred dollars, and the last time the furnace tech was out here, he said that it was probably time to get the heater and central air replaced. Fortunately, the furnace didn't die, even in the worst of the bitter cold from the polar vortex. To be sure, I kept the thermostat as low as 61°F, and I had to fight the temptation to listen to the furnace every time it ran for evidence that there were problems.

At the end of February, I started having slow drains and burbling toilets whenever I drained the sink or washed clothes. The first plumber who responded said I had raw sewage coming into the crawl space and needed to have a restoration service come out and fix things before they could look into doing any repairs. He said at a minimum they would have to replace the cast iron pipes and relay part of the line out to the sewer, which would start at $3,700.

Opting for a second opinion resulted in a less severe diagnosis. They rain the drain cleaning and found roots. That cost me $250, and I know that I will need to have the pipe redone because the house is 50 years old. I need to get estimates for that, too.

My brakes needed work done in late March, which cost me another $430.

I not only lost a coworker to meaningless gun violence at the beginning of the month, I was the one who took the call from his father-in-law trying to find someone at work to notify as they went through his cell phone records.

My older dog had a stroke over Easter weekend.  At the time it was happening, I had no idea what was going on and was almost certain we'd have to put him to sleep.  He has recovered, but still has some wobbliness when he walks.

The tooth that I had a root canal done on last year needed to be pulled last week when the gum in the vicinity started to swell.  It turned out to be a fractured root.

One thing that has kept me going has been my relationship with my girlfriend, with whom I've been together for just about three years, but even that has been subject to challenges. Our weekends without kids have been aligned so we've been able to have time to ourselves, but for the last month, her ex-husband has been cancelling out on his weekends, claiming he doesn't have enough money, so we haven't gotten to see each other for more than a couple hours at a time.

I haven't been living extravagantly. When I changed jobs at the beginning of 2013, I knew that I'd have to curb expenses, and I have done well keeping fixed costs down. But after taxes and support (still at the same level as my old job) take their bite, I'm living on about 46 % of my gross income. If you take into account that X has been asking me to pay for piano lessons for the past six months, it's probably less than that.

I hit an emotional trough by the beginning of April and arranged to get some counseling through my EAP, which provides six sessions. The counselor is having me try to come up with some activities I could participate in to get me out of the house. I've been looking over things to do at, but I haven't seen much that I could see myself doing.

I am pretty sure I am fighting depression, and it's affecting my ability to see how things could get better. Keynes wrote about the idea of animal spirits as a driving force in humans, the urge to do something rather than nothing, based on something other than rational calculation. To take risks, making leaps of faith toward the future, without dwelling on what could go wrong. My struggle is that my mind keeps seeing wrong turns and risks everywhere I look.

The constant loop of concerns wears me down, distracts from from focus, and leaves me feeling more helpless.  The term psychic entropy seems very fitting.

On the upside, I have been getting approached by recruiters who have been interested in whether I've been interested in making a change. If I could find a job that paid better and didn't require a death race to work, that might be the first step to getting past this horrible rut.