Hard Choices

Once again, I am finding myself trying to make decisions where there are mathematical impossibilities that I have to somehow make work.

I bring in, after taxes, $822 twice a month. My current rent is $1200, my utility bill is $565. Yes, you read that right. $565. I don’t even know how it got to that point, and I can’t see the breakdown of the bill, thank you, Gainesville Regional Utilities for your lack of transparency in your online billing. (Our bill includes electricity, water, gas, and trash pickup. We cut WAY back on everything BUT gas last month, but somehow our bill shot up an additional $50.)

So, I’ve been trying, on my day off, to see if there is any way to get assistance with this. Catholic Charities – Nope. They’ve already helped as many people as they can help. Community Access? They are not making any more appointments. Call back the next business day. When is that, exactly? I called at about 9:15… Gainesville Community Ministry only helps people if you call on Mondays between 8:00 and 8:30. Since I am at work during those hours, alone, as a dispatcher, there is no way I can make that call. So that system is rigged against people who work, or at least those who work who can’t take breaks.

I make “too much” with my family of five to qualify for cash assistance, by the way. Let that seep in for a bit – there are people out there who are SO much worse off than I am.

Many people in my position would blame the people who don’t work. They have all the time in the world to make phone calls I can’t make, to get help paying their utility bills.

I know better, though. I know that we’re all in the bottom of the pool together, trying to swim to the top, struggling, while being pushed down. I know that part of this is that salaries didn’t keep up with inflation. I know that part of it is the result of “trickle down economics.”

I also know that part of this is because certain politicians made their choices, and those choices included cutting safety nets. Thank Bill Clinton and the Welfare Act of 1994. Also, the Personal Responsibility and Work Act of 1996. Thank you, Hillary Clinton, for those Hard Choices™ that you made, the ones that classified women who needed assistance as moochers living off the hard work of others.

Thank you for your underlying dialog of judgment that I placed on my own head while being a stay-at-home mother. It’s something I am still trying to work out of my internal dialog as I beat myself up over the fact that, up until last month, two thirds of my income was child support. It was something that made me feel woefully inadequate as a stay-at-home mother with a law degree. It’s part of the reason I struggle with depression and anxiety and low self-esteem, and see myself as a failure because I couldn’t pass the Florida Bar Exam (twice!) after taking a 13 year hiatus to raise three kids so my ex-husband could have his dream career.

So now, I have hard choices of my own to make. I have to find ways to make $1644 stretch into about $2500. Somehow. Do we really need electricity? The cell phones? Food? Which of these things can we live without?

Bearing in mind, of course, that our “landline” has never worked, because the Cable Company/Internet/Phone bill of goods we were sold and have been paying for doesn’t work well enough for the landline to actually stay connected.

Somehow, we will find a way to make this all work. But one choice I don’t regret: voting for Bernie Sanders in the Florida primaries last month.



One thought on “Hard Choices

  1. That is one steep utility bill! But never fear – just stop eating and showering/flushing and do everything else by candle light, and you should be just fine. What’s that you say? Candles are too expensive now that they are decorative items? Maybe you could just move into the car in the driveway – you won’t be able to go anywhere since gas is also too expensive, but at least you would have a roof over your heads.

    I don’t mean to make light of your situation (no pun intended). I totally emphathize – my paycheck doesn’t stretch far enough, either. At some point, the powers that be decided there would no longer be raises or bonuses, but yet the price of everything else has gone up, my mortgage has gone up due to the increased real estate taxes, and medical expenses have risen due to chronic illness. Like you, I make “too much” to qualify for any kind of aid, while several of my able-bodied but apparently lazy neighbors work the system. It sucks to be in the middle class.

    Liked by 1 person

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