(Look out, he’s verbose!)
It’s nearing 1:30 a.m., and I finally finished balancing the checkbook and paying bills. That I find myself listening to music that could hardly be characterized as uplifting and pounding on a keyboard for a stream-of-consciousness, likely lackluster piece for America’s Right should tell you exactly how it went. That I find myself at the computer not really enjoying two ounces of good scotch only because it arrived as a 30th birthday gift back in October should provide insight enough as to how I feel about it.
But why not put pen to paper, as it were? Certainly, our situation, as unstable and borderline unsustainable as it may be, is an absolute dream to so many people out there across America. Surely, there are thousands upon thousands of American families who cannot remember the last time they paid their mortgage on time, as I did tonight (though, admittedly, I used every second of that darned grace period). My goodness, there are families like mine preparing for another night in a shelter, in a friend’s basement, on the street. And therein lies the rub.
Sleep will not come easily for me tonight. Undoubtedly, I’ll stare at the whirling shadows cast by a ceiling fan lit by a streetlight outside our window. Inevitably, I’ll run through in my head the not-so-short stack of bills that didn’t make the priority cut tonight. As always, I’ll wonder where the next dollar will come from, where we can make changes, what we can cut from our life and our daughter’s life another so-called luxury in order to ensure that ends might possibly meet next month, if not this one.
Paying bills is never easy for me for a number of reasons, over and beyond that, simply, we’re just not rolling in money. It’s a time when I kick myself for making bad decisions in the past, it’s a time where I freak out about finding a job and making the right decisions in the future, and it’s a time when I naturally fall into a “woe is me” funk, only to later once again kick myself, this time for being so gosh-darned selfish.
Yes, I’m thirty years old and have less in the bank than I did when I was twenty-five. Yes, I work my posterior off both for free—here—and not for free—at my day job—only to watch more than two weeks’ pay go directly toward our monthly mortgage payment, a side effect of many of those aforementioned poor decisions, only to see that a whopping $197 of that payment actually went to paying down the principal on our loan. Yes, my student loan statements and the knowledge that, come Christmastime next, year, the deferment on the payments will have passed, is enough to make me think about jumping out the window of my home office – a closed window, no less, just for the extra pain. But I have a pillow to rest my head upon, I have a roof which shelters me from the rain, and come daylight I have a wonderful family to awaken to.
I think that’s why I feel so compelled to spend so much of my limited spare time here at America’s Right. I can’t say that the site is anything too remarkable—just reading the writings of people like Mark Steyn and Victor Davis Hanson and Byron York and even Ann Coulter reinforce how far I still have to go before even coming close to “remarkable”—but I can say that I know what it’s like for so many Americans out there. I know what it’s like to look first for a possible shut-off date on a utility bill before looking at anything else. I know what it’s like to pay for milk in quarters, to put four dollars and fifty cents of gasoline into a gasping and wheezing tank. I know what it’s like to look at that checkbook and rob Peter to pay Paul, to water down 1% milk into a little girl’s sippy cup, shake it up, and hope that neither she nor anyone else catch on. I’ve been there. Hell, I AM there. When I write about the families stretched so gosh-darned thin that any moderately significant increase in energy costs or income taxes could be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back, I understand it because that’s my family. That’s our situation. That’s our daily struggle.
And that struggle is the source of my frustration. Every once in a while, I’ll stare out my window at the South Philadelphia neighborhoods passing by in a blur as I make my way downtown on I-95 and wonder what it would be like to once again be blissfully ignorant, to take each and every bump, hurdle and roadblock at face value. But, just as I’d rather see the muzzle and the eyes of the man behind it when I’m before the metaphorical firing line, I’d rather lose the blindfold here too, and know full well exactly how my government is making an uphill battle even more difficult by lacing up rollerskates onto my aching feet.
In truth, I’d hate to be blind and ignorant to it all. Because I see what’s going on, I appreciate my family even more, I appreciate my job more, I appreciate the opportunity presented to me through my continuing law school education. Because I see what’s going on, I also see an American people that will not let America down. And because I see what’s going on, I can do everything in my power to guide other Americans like myself, people who also lose sleep over that elusive next dollar, people who cannot recall the last time they ate brand-name cereal in the morning, people who find more value in hugging their child or children than from anything with a dollar sign next to it.
I wouldn’t do it, either, if I didn’t think it could be done. I don’t know how much of an impact that America’s Right has on the daily discourse here in this vast nation, but those occasions when a light bulb suddenly illuminates above the cranium of a disillusioned liberal during an everyday conversations makes it all worthwhile. And, at the end of the day, I think my family’s current economic situation is a microcosm of that of our country: Things aren’t good, but they could be worse; working toward sustainability and prosperity will take a focus on restraint, responsibility and sacrifice; core values are paramount, family is irreplaceable.
Because I know we’ll make it, because we always seem to come back from the brink due to sheer determination, hard work, or even a little bit of luck and good fortune, I know this nation, too, will once again be prosperous. Everything is cyclical, and just as we have good months and bad, America will once again move from famine to feast.
That’s the “use.” To ensure that we spend more time in the latter, and less in the former. To ensure that we never lose sight of what matters most – our principles, our values, our family. And to ensure that those people who are not as fortunate know that, together and with hard work and determination, we will all prosper.