NaNo Bites the Dust and Other Seasonal Thoughts

I’ve come to the conclusion November is the wrong month for NaNoWriMo. I mean, I don’t know about others, but I’m not so perfectly organized that I lose all Seasonal Anxiety long before Christmas. In fact, the opposite is true.

santaFar back in the days when office work was my life and my family was an unimportant detail – sorry guys, you know it’s true, but you still love me – I used to be ready for Christmas by the end of August. I used to know what my kids wanted with some degree of certainty, and when I didn’t, I could just sit by their sides when they wrote the letters to Santa and… um… influence point out advantages of toys I’d already bought, wrapped, and stashed in a friend’s attic for last minute collection. Santa always agreed with me.

I’m not proud of how I acted but, in my defense, I was young, confused, and had been raised to believe a good career was the topmost priority for the modern woman.

No wonder I was feeling so displaced!

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the days when I was chasing career advancement at (almost) any cost are long gone, and so is the nice income and security for what tomorrow would bring. You see, once I got a couple of my clients to communicate to my management how impressed they were by my quality of service, I knew I wouldn’t lose my job, unless I quit.

hamster wheel
Me, in my corporate days. Picture the hamster in a pin-stripe suit.

And quit I did, one day, when I realized I knew more about my work colleagues than my own husband and kids, and that team-building events were being organized outside work hours. It dawned on me I had become a willing slave.

So I changed the status quo. I began working for myself and taking in what my kids were saying (my husband will confirm I continued to ignore him, so he didn’t get a much better deal). I had far less disposable income, but I had time with my family. I had contact with the people who mattered to me. And we were happy.

The recession hit and I still considered myself lucky, because I was in control of my own life, and I was living it right, though in an unconventional way, if you judged it by society rules. I was there to teach my children how to cope with the day-to-day living, how to budget, how to save, how to cut back, and how to care.

In time, we sold the business on and I welcomed the chance to do something with all my unfinished writing. I found a publisher and kept writing. I volunteered at the local theater, built props, made costumes, even wrote a play. I found time for myself and began learning to play the piano – another childhood wish I’d never found time for.

grabbing handStill, the costs of living rose and rose, and there seemed no end to this hike. We learned to live on little. And then I found self-employment carried severe risks. No, not in the way you’d think. I’ve never NOT had work. The opposite: I’ve not had more than a few days off since the beginning – less holiday than I was getting in the damned office. I had all the work I could do, and still it wasn’t enough. One minute, we had enough to live on, the next some other tax appeared that would draw our bottom line closer to absolute minimum. The Christmas presents became scarce, and I remember one year when all we had were ‘promises’ we made each other. We still have each other, and that’s a win!

The hit that flattened me came just this week. At the time i thought I still stood a chance to finish my NaNo project this month, and have it out by Christmas. Now, I’m sure I won’t. I just can’t get into it right now, because inside I am in shock. I’m sure in time all this will get sorted, and everything will return to some sort of normal, but that rational thought only occurs when the shivers stop. Illogically, I still hope bad things only come in threes.

A working family tax credit failed to materialize into our account. No matter, we said, we’ll talk to the right people, write to them. Response time: fifteen days. Ok. We need to be careful with what we spend for fifteen days. We can do that. If necessary, we can draw some funds from the business paypal account.

On Friday, Paypal sent me a notification saying I exceeded some EU-imposed threshold and therefore I couldn’t withdraw money from my account until I provided some paperwork. Paperwork which doesn’t exist in the UK, I might add. Any attempts to provide enough information to satisfy the bureaucrats in Brussels have so far proved to be unsuccessful. (As an aside, I had already spent five weeks fighting – and ultimately winning – this same battle earlier in the year. What changed? Who knows? The ways of the bureaucrat are intricate ones.)

So now we only had my husband’s pension to live on. Not ideal, but do-able, just, for a limited time. Only on Saturday morning we noticed his state pension didn’t get paid into our account. Blankness was the only thing in my mind at that particular moment. Complete blankness. Perhaps a glitch. Perhaps a trainee employee pressed the wrong button. Perhaps the planets have lined up wrong. Perhaps this year was just set to test us. I can honestly say it was my lumpiest, so far. But I didn’t let it get me down. I got up, dusted myself off and went on with life, hopeful things would get better. Now… Now I’m not sure I even want to get up anymore. Inside, I know I will. I always do. I’m built on some sort of bounce-back DNA not yet cataloged.

Whatever it was that caused this would be fixed, given enough time and finding the right people.


But what happens in the meantime? Whichever way I look at it, the glass is empty.

And since I’ve had a lot of ponder-time lately, my mind keeps coming up with questions. How can it be possible, in this day and age, to leave a family of four people with two dependent children with no income? Let me repeat that: no income. None. How is it acceptable to give no notice when doing something like limiting an account? I guess there is a good reason for setting your European branch in Luxembourg, Paypal. What gives you the right to sit on my money, Paypal? And dear UK Government, how comes you find it fit to stop a pensioner’s only income – the one he worked for all his life – without notice, or at all, in fact? It’s his money, not yours.

Why does the choice to live your life with and for your family feel like a mistake?

My only hope is that tomorrow, when the ‘offices’ open for business, we find a real person to talk to, someone with a brain and who is capable of rational thought. And that it won’t cost us more than the credit we have on our phone. Otherwise, when the cupboards are bare and the last penny of our savings has fizzled out… Well, this could be a Christmas to remember!

~ Despite the rant above, it will be business as usual in my office. I have some editing to do and some authors to support. And I have a family to love, who loves me back. ~

broken baubleElla’s letter to Santa

Dear Santa, I could do with a real miracle right about now…


12 Replies to “NaNo Bites the Dust and Other Seasonal Thoughts”

    1. Thanks, Carrie. I’ll be ok. It’s just one of those things. The timing makes it worse, but this time next year I’ll probably be looking back and laughing. Sometimes (I’m told) I just worry too much. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Emma. As I said, we have no idea what is going on. We’ll have to call all the relevant offices in the UK but, of course, they’ll all count as international calls. Paypal’s number, too. This is a living nightmare! *sigh* We’ll get through it… 🙂

  1. Ella, welcome to the nonsensical bureaucratic world we have inherited. Both sides of the Atlantic pond share much the same problems. It has my writing stymied. You know what I write, well darn it I can’t come up with fiction that outpaces the realities of living in America today. You can’t dream the crap we call reality up.

    Enough! I truly hope your issues are rapidly resolved and put behind you. Best wishes to you and yours. Ron

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Ron. Really appreciate it. Well, I didn’t expect it, but that doesn’t mean I’m beat. Not rolling over yet. In fact, it’s only more fodder for my future books. 😉

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