Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Taking Some Time Off

Fresh when it gets here from Julie Barrett
Friday, December 9, 2016

I say this every December, but mean it this time. 

Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy post.

I knew 2016 was going to be hard for me, but I had already made plans to start stepping back from commitments. Ten or so more months, I told myself, and then I could step back. 2016 had other plans. 

This pickle I'd gotten myself into was mostly of my own making. I don't work a standard 9-5 job, and so I figured I could rearrange my schedule to take care of some things. Help some people out. Well, some people looked at that and decided that I could rearrange my schedule for them, too. And I let it happen. Why? Oh, several reasons. It didn't seem like a big thing at first. And sadly, I'm one of these people who need approval. Gosh, maybe people would like me if I stepped up. (Yeah, I was bullied in school. What can I say?) I also took on more things that I really wanted to do, and those things led to other things and people working on projects dumping more stuff on me because, hey, I have a flexible schedule!

So yes, it's on me. I let it happen.

While I tried to juggle family, fannish, and professional things, the professional side slipped. Part of it was the economy. I've always bounced back from a recession. This time, not so much. I watched my income - and my self-esteem - dwindle down every year. When your professional life is tied up in creative work and that stuff isn't happening or isn't paying, it's easy to take it personally. 

So I decided that things would change in 2016. I was going to back off on some commitments so I could concentrate more on the family and professional aspects of my life. (Hey, I'm still trying to find the top of my desk!) Well, 2016 definitely had other ideas. It was a brutal year for several of my good friends, and I stepped in to help because I could, and because I hate to see my friends suffer. 

At the height of all this my mom went into the hospital. I was running a convention, taking up slack for some other people, and spending three or more hours a day on the road, at the hospital, and running my mother's household. I'd come home, stop at the grocery store, grab some food, fix dinner, and collapse - until it was time to do the next task. I'd go to bed and sleep fitfully. People I'd stepped in to help earlier in the year stepped in to help me. Sometimes payback is awesome! Other friends stepped in, too. It was enough to keep me from totally losing it, but my schedule was still just brutal. I love my friends, but they couldn't sit at my mother's bedside. They couldn't pay her bills, take my sister shopping (no one lived that close to her), go vet rehab centers, and do what few professional things were still on my plate. I had also made some commitments, and intended to keep them. It all damn near did me in.

Most of you know my mother passed away at the end of October. This is another very long story, and maybe something for another post. I'm executor of her estate, and it seems things aren't going to be so simple. I was executor of my dad's estate. When he passed away in 1993, my mom took care of darn near everything. She got the death certificates, she met with the attorney and the accountant, she cleared out Dad's stuff. I helped with the inventory, showed up at probate court, and signed papers. 

Mom did a lot to try and make it easy on us, but these things never go as planned. It's been six weeks or so, and we're still trying to get a death certificate. She willed her body to medical research, and the people at UT Southwestern have been great. But no one can get a doctor to sign off on the piece of paper. As a result, Social Security was notified late, and they just now got around to taking back two months of benefits. (I knew those would be going back.) She had put a lot of things in a strongbox in the home office, but I'm still trying to find information on some things. And getting my dad's pension plan notified was a total pain. Even with Google, it took me two weeks to find the correct phone number. Oh, yes. The phone number the company had plastered all over their web site went to a contest line. You'd think a pension plan would like to stop paying benefits to someone who died, wouldn't you?

I was so stressed out and things came to a head a few weeks ago. It was time for my annual eye exam and I'd had a rotten morning. Several things had gone wrong. Then I got in the car and discovered the gas tank was empty (had forgotten to fill it the day before). I barely made it in time for my appointment. My blood pressure may have been a few miles outside of Stroke City, Arizona. I had only seen it that high once, and that was after an asthma attack. When they eye doctor told me that finally, they had found a way to get the insurance to cover cataract surgery on my right eye, I broke down and cried.

So, I get evaluated for eye surgery next week. I can't see (if you'll pardon the pun) any scenario where I'll have the surgery before the end of the year. I suspect a lot of people schedule cataract surgery for this time of year so they can recover over the holidays. When I had my left eye done four years ago I had to go without contacts for two weeks so they could get accurate measurements for an implant. I assume that will be the case again. I anticipate surgery will be sometime in January. After that will be time to recover and then I can go back to my optometrist for any vision correction. And I will need it, because I'm not dropping $2500 on a multifocal implant. I will drop the money ($300 last time) on a procedure to reduce my astigmatism. It's not covered by insurance, but when I look at what I've spent on vision correction in the past, the procedure will pay for itself. 

I am doing ConDFW in February. In fact, I plan to have a dealer table there this year, so I have to get busy making stuff along with everything else.

And on top of it all, I just need to rest. And find the top of my desk.

Filed under: Life            


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