Cathi’s Comments for October 13, 2012

I am writing this from a whole different frame of mind. The reason is I’m free. My last day working was Sept. 28, 2012. After 31 years of public service I took an early retirement (in fact, at the very earliest age you can retire) because after finding out what my pension would be now versus 5 years from now, the difference wasn’t all that much. Add to that that I’m below the age threshold where they are starting to make it harder to retire, cost more and wind up with less I figured that I didn’t have much to lose. This last year, I have to say was the absolute worst time in my career, which says a lot because I’m been through an awful lot, some of which will likely wind up in a fictional story (novel or series of short stories, haven’t decided) about the weirdness that is the Federal Government.

Never did I ever think that accepting a long term assignment would wind up with me in dire financial straights because of 3 months of pay screw ups this time last year, then the indignity of having to pay back part of my salary over a two month period because I had volunteered to move to a new Department when they were ready to take me on and neither department wanted to pay my project pay beyond a certain date, even though I actually was doing the project – I continued to get paid until the pay people went, “eek we overpaid you, you have to pay us back”. Anyway as I mentioned in an earlier update, that put me on the brink of bankruptcy. With advice from a financial advisor that the only answer was to sell the house, I saw my whole world fall at my feet until I realised: that’s part of the answer; the other is using severance pay to pay the overdue bills, then sell the house, then pay the rest I owe. How I came to that decision was simply that if I had to move, then damn it, move I would! All the way to New Brunswick. So that’s my plan.

The final few months at my last Department were horrible – a 4 to 5 hour commute each day, one month spent sharing (literally) a desk and a phone, reduced from a module lead to a glorified clerk, but the worst of it all was that between two Departments, neither one cared that they had destroyed my life. The lack of sleep and the stress of it all meant I was getting panic attacks, migraines and asthma attacks frequently, and I was terrified I’d drive off the road during my 75 km daily drive because I was so very tired. I never got more than 4 hours sleep, partly because I left at 6 in the morning and got home around 7:30 or 8:00 in the evening. What life I had I was rapidly losing to depression – I literally spent the month of July in tears, but during my vacation in August I worked out my escape and thankfully, after this year of hell this one thing worked.

These past two weeks have felt a lot like vacation, but in a more refreshing way. The last day of work I turned off my alarm clock and haven’t turned it on since. For the first time in years, I am sleeping my natural rhythm and amount. Yesterday I started a short story that I hope will be good enough to submit to the CBC Short Story Contest. My mind is twirling with ideas for Nanowrimo. I’ve been singing and making jokes, working on house things as the mood arises (which hasn’t been often but I will tackle the house clean up soon). I have raked leaves, mowed the lawn, walked the dog. For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel like myself again.

There may be people who will hit the roof when they find out I’ve taken early retirement, so I’ve been waiting until my mental state is back to normal before I deal with the reaction, however what others say has no bearing on my life because unless they can help me fix it, they’re part of the problem and I literally couldn’t continue working where I was, it was killing me emotionally and potentially physically, so there we have it.

It’s a little scary this new phase I’m embarking on, but I do believe that my gifts were being wasted and this is my time. Whether I’d stayed or not, I’m still broke, lol. Well, until I publish that best selling novel, lol. At the end of the day I decided we need to live simpler, not caught in the wheel feeding the beast that is the credit card companies and the banks. So we’re in the process of doing exactly that, and I am very happy to say that Jim is behind this all the way because he saw what all this was doing to me, and to us.

Today I was looking at the epublishing process, and yes, I Ching Jukebox will be a Kindle edition as well as a paperback. Off-Air will be published, I’m thinking as a paperback and ebook first then a hard cover. I’m still thinking of a book of short stories and beyond that I will be busy fixing up and dejunking the house, possibly working part time to tide us over until the house is sold. Where we’ll be is likely in the Fredericton area, and the where depends on how much we have left after all the bills are paid (with moving costs factored in). So lots still up in the air, especially since we don’t know how long it will take to get the house in decent shape for showing and how long it will take to sell. My guess is we’re here until late spring or early summer. A lot can happen between now and then though, so it really is anyone’s guess how the next few months will play out.

Whatever else, I can’t possibly describe how good it feels to have my life back. I’d almost forgotten who I was after all this nonsense. So for my closing statement, it’s simply: welcome back, Cathi.

À la prochaine,

Cathi …..

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