Getting Claire's Life Back on Track

It's killing me to type this, and I know I won't be able to get through it without crying, but at least you don't have see that. (If tears do start coming out of your computer screen, we've got a bigger story to the tabloids!) :-)

There. A little levity helps.

Over the last week or two, a lot of people have been asking me, either via online messages or in person: "What's going on?" I've apparently been failing miserably at hiding it. Well, I've been slowly sinking from a financial standpoint for months, but over the last few weeks, everything has finally imploded. 

How did I get here? At the beginning of this year, I decided to try my hand at freelancing, and was fortunate enough to get a couple of clients who had enough work for me to keep my head just at the water line -- sometimes going under, but able to recover my breath quickly enough to stay alive. In the spring, a proposal came my way for a large project (collaborating with a photographer on a blog and potentially a book) that might get underway towards the end of 2017. I thought that if I could tread water until then, I'd have a clearer vision of where this freelance career was going. 

The large project has been indefinitely put on hold due to the photographer's health, and it may never happen. My other regular clients have had no or very little work for me the last three weeks. It has just been an unfortunate coincidence of timing for it all to have dried up at once. (I have a potential new client I'm meeting with this Friday, and a phone call scheduled later today with another; fingers crossed!)

Is this my own damned fault? Yes. Should I have hustled for more clients, and tried to find more work than there were hours in the day to do? Yes. I have no one to blame but myself, which is what makes reaching out for help REALLY difficult. Do I deserve help? Not any more than millions of other good people out there who are hurting. I try to be a good person and treat people as I would wish to be treated, but that's about all I can say in support of myself.

14 months ago, I left a good job with a decent paycheck and benefits. While that was a psychological and spiritual victory (Who among us hasn't wanted to chase a dream and leave behind the 9-to-5?), it was a financial disaster. Was it a mistake? I suppose it was if money is what rules us, but it's not a choice that I regret. Nevertheless, here's where I am:

My health insurance has been cancelled, due to my being a couple of months behind on my premiums.

My credit union is threatening repossession because I am a couple of months behind on my car payments.

I ran out of propane two weeks ago, which means no hot water and no way to cook. (Don't worry...cold showers still get you clean, and toaster ovens work on electricity.) But the propane company is coming tomorrow...YAY!

A small storage locker containing 75% of my belongings has been padlocked due to my not having enough money to pay the most recent monthly installment.

My bank account has $39 in it, and I was only able to bill $30 for work last the next hit to my account (e.g., automatic car insurance payment) will wipe me out. I am basically unable to make the next payment on ANYTHING. I use public wifi to do my work, so at least I don't have a home cable/internet bill to pay, but my phone and my car (a 2013 Honda Fit with 170,000 miles on it already) are the other two vital pieces of equipment I need to do my work, and I need to ensure I don't lose them. 

Why am I asking for so much money? I need to (a) make back payments on everything so I can salvage things like health insurance, my car, my phone, car insurance etc., (b) pay off new large bills like the heating oil that was delivered last week, the propane that is being delivered tomorrow, and (c) prepare for the next month or two of all the regular bills.

Last Sunday, I was with some friends when I experienced a severe dizzy spell that prompted them to call an ambulance for me. The paramedics checked my blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and oxygen levels and said I was OK, so I waived the opportunity to be taken to the hospital. The last thing I need is another hospital bill. I am sure I'll get a bill for the ambulance being called in the first place, and with my health insurance currently suspended, I'll have to pay that out-of-pocket. What was the issue? Well, it had been many hours since I'd last eaten, and that was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I have been having peanut butter for two of my daily meals for about two or three months now), so they suspect I was just weak from not eating. I daresay that the stress I've been feeling didn't help. 

Geez...I guess I needed the therapy of getting all this out of my system. 

I'm going to try to come up with some reward levels so that I'm at least giving SOMETHING back to people who are able to help me. But whatever I'm able to give back won't hold a candle to how grateful I feel. Thank you.

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Claire Natola 
Baldwin, MD
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