AMBER LOVE 04-FEB-2015 This week has been a prime example of what life has been like since losing my job last August. If all you saw of my life is this past week, it’s a pretty good representation.
I CAN’T EVEN GIVE THEM MONEY I’D RATHER KEEP
I had to find my own health insurance now that I’m no longer on my employer’s plan. I was pre-qualified then rejected for the ACA Marketplace – something people insist can’t possibly be true, but swear to all the gods, it is true. I was declined after being laid off. New insurance eventually became feasible during open enrollment where I had to put in my income which, at the time, was my unemployment benefits. Those have now run out in my second month of ACA coverage. So now I have this rather high rate to pay every month with no steady income yet. I socked away my freelance writing checks and not having to commute saved me a ton so I’ve got some liquid for a little while, but this whole thing feels incredibly wrong to me. Mind you, I have social media friends in Canada and the UK who routinely shake their heads our “system” as much as I do.
I was tempted to not get covered at all and just pay the stupid fine for being uninsured. I don’t go to doctors much because all they care about is how my weight is my problem for everything – yet none of them will help me with weight; they’ll only address symptoms like high blood pressure. I was “fired” by my ob-gyn office that I used for nearly 20 years because I was considered non-complaint for refusing blood pressure meds. They cared not that my mother has had a history with adverse reactions from meds I’d rather not risk for myself. There’s a Planned Parenthood nearby, but last time I went there, it was actually expensive; I had the job so I didn’t really care. I was comfortable that my payment to them would help other people less fortunate. Now, I’m one of the less fortunate.
I ended up making peace with getting the coverage because I kept seeing crowdfunding campaigns for people who do have good careers yet are in need of medical assistance. And we all know insurance doesn’t cover crap. You need it, but you need a cache of funds guarded by a dragon too to keep you from ever tapping into it until necessary. I don’t want to end up like Norm Breyfogle, Tommy Castillo or any of the other freelancers who get stricken down by something serious, aka. expensive.
The plan I ended up getting is run by a mega corporation. One of those monstrosities that’s been around forever and has merged/acquired others throughout my lifetime. Yet, they outsource their payment processing to some other not-mega business called Princeton eCom. I had managed to get my first payment for the month of January to go through back in November. Then I paid February’s payment on January 19th. All seemed fine on my end. Yesterday, I got a notice that my payment was “reversed for insufficient funds” and that I’d have to send a money order or certified check. Uh, fuck no. I was suffering from back pain that had me immobile for days and my driveway was at least three inches of solid ice. Fuck no. I wasn’t going to my bank to scurry for a payment that company should have gotten electronically weeks in advance.
As I said, I’ve stash away all my freelance checks. There’s money in my account. I then tried to get through to both the insurance company and the bank to troubleshoot this nightmare. My bank does not have a live chat. I tried calling their number on their website. Oh great. The number is wrong. I sent off an email and tweets asking what the hell am I supposed to do – I needed help ASAP. I got tweet replies and DMs with instructions where one of their reps launched a live chat for me. Okay, that worked. They found absolutely nothing wrong with my accounts. Everything is fine. Never got low. No notes on it to show anything was rejected on their end.
I tweeted a battery of screenshots to the health insurance company. I left a message for the one human being that worked there who helped me before when their portal wouldn’t allow me to add my doctor as a PCP. I tried to research the processing company, but was suspiciously given a warning screen that their home page is malicious. What. The. Fuck. I googled of course and searched to see if the processing company had a Twitter presence. The only thing about them I found were Wall Street Journal articles talking about what a great service they are and then bad reviews on Yelp and Twitter. None of the customers I saw had anything good to say about them. Based on my own experience of having errors, timeouts and other failures on both sites, (the “pay my bill” site and the health insurance site), I can confidently say that the reason my payment didn’t go through is because they have no idea what they’re doing in the IT department. How this happens in 2015 when any person with a bank account can send and receive electronic payments, I have no fucking idea. They are clearly inept.
BESIDES “ILLNESS” CARE
Before this bullshit, my father had to take care of my car too. I had some Christmas money to at least go towards a new battery which he installed. He covered the difference and then bought some gadget that plugs into the lighter so I don’t have to start it every other day to keep the engine moving in the freezing temps.
I’ve been invited to a few events like my closest friends’ having milestone birthdays. Not only do I weigh the cost of modest presents (I know they don’t care about those kinds of things but it’s something you just do regardless), but I think about the gas, the tolls, the possibility that I’ll have an accident on the way there or back and the bottom line is, I’m too terrified to risk my car. I have a paying modeling job next week and I told them that if there’s any snow or ice at all, I won’t be there. I can’t risk my car for a $50 paycheck. I will need my car for “that day” when I finally get a real/non-freelance job again. I can’t face losing a car, even if paid by insurance, and having to get another that may not be as good as this 14-year-old sedan.
So what do I get my friend when today is her birthday? I couldn’t guarantee anything, but I thought, why not try to get an artist she admires to wish her a happy birthday. I tweeted the picture I love of the two of us from Free Comic Book Day 2014 in our all white formal gowns based on Adam Hughes’ “Women of DC” poster. He did tweet back wishing Kate a happy birthday. She loved it and posted about it on Twitter and Facebook. I know that my friend, who regularly shops at thrift stores, understands my situation. I still wish I could do more like go to her celebration and give her any kind of physical present.
MORE THAN MONEY
This week has been stressful and sad for another reason besides money. My ex’s brother’s wife Lisa died a week ago after living with non-primary cancer for two years. She tried relentlessly to fight that fucker off, that unknown disease. She is survived by a husband and 6-year-old daughter that I haven’t seen since she was one. Lisa kept a blog about her cancer and all the treatments they kept trying. My favorite image of her was when she posted a selfie on the day of the 2012 Presidential Election. She wrote something like she was hooked up to bags and still got out to vote so no one else has an excuse – something like that. It helped get me out the door because I often think voting doesn’t really matter; and why leave my house when I could stay safely inside these walls hidden away?
Throughout this fight Lisa had with cancer, she blogged. For the most part, the only part of herself she shared publicly was a positive, hopeful person. She knew it would get her. She knew cancer would win. She had a daughter to think about and I believe that made all the difference. She blogged, away from her daughter’s eyes, to sometimes let it all out. Leave it to me to take the one post where she let her depression be visible because 99.9% of the time, all anyone would have seen was encouraging and motivational messages from her.
“There are many days – most days – when I put on my happy face to those outside of my house, even though I do not feel the happiness inside. I have to. I have to do it for my own sanity as well as that of those I love. I cannot be constantly scared, depressed, disengaged. But the truth of the matter is a lot of the time I am scared, depressed, disengaged. I am not even 6 months into my battle and I have no idea how long it will last. I have no idea how long this treatment will work before I need a new one. And what scares me the most is that they don’t even know what I have.” Lisa Cochran Delaney, November 14, 2012
I looked back at my Facebook inbox and realized I hadn’t had a private email from her in over a year, but she would occasionally chime in on my wall. I don’t think Facebook’s “see Friendship” feature is quite accurate. I know she made comments to me but all it’s showing is me wishing her a happy birthday every year for the last three years. I know that’s not right and I know Facebook has bugs where it randomly deletes comments. Stupid Facebook. Yet, I’m grateful for Facebook because that’s how she would write to me.
Her last blog posts are a lot of “I went in for this problem, we tried this, it didn’t work, then tried this other thing and it didn’t work either, so we tried this thing and still no progress.” She spelled it all out and was far more eloquent but that’s the gist of it. Trying and failing over and over again. When Lisa would talk about how physically impossible going up a flight of stairs was and how she wanted to will her body into doing anything, she understood so much more than cancer. She could see every kind of struggle in life.
She said she didn’t have a bucket list. She had been to Disney and Universal, her favorite places, just a few months ago. It wasn’t being there that mattered. All she wanted was to see her daughter grow up and even two years ago, she knew that wasn’t going to happen. She called mental illness a daily struggle, like cancer. I’m not going to romanticize it and come off like we were best friends that talked all the time because it wasn’t that way; it was occasional, but more meaningful then when I was “part” of the family. “Quiet but standing beside you.” Sometimes that kind of small gesture makes all the difference in whether a person wants to wake up the next day. The day of her wedding, I was so stricken with panic and anxiety, that I only remember being in the church for one split second of it. I don’t remember anything else. I don’t have any pictures either. (That’s a long story).
She wasn’t a traditional Christian. She was educated, open-minded and accepting. She wanted marriage equality for all. She didn’t think God was a supreme controlling being, otherwise, that would mean, he was a being who gave people cancer. She hated sayings like, “God wouldn’t give you what you can’t handle” and “God works in mysterious ways,” because – fuck – what kind of benevolent god kills a woman that wants to see her kid grow up?
Getting back to how something as atrocious as cancer is related to being poor – well I think anyone who understands the American “system” (I hesitate calling it a healthcare system when it’s really a commercialized-illness system) can see that being sick is a rich person’s game as is caring for someone sick.
I spent a day thinking about whether or not to go to Lisa’s funeral today. Once again, I thought about the gas and the tolls and maybe there’d be parking meters in Philadelphia to pay. I thought about contributing to the memorial fund someone set up for her husband and daughter. I thought about making a donation to Fox Chase Cancer Center (I did tweet their donation page since it’s #WorldCancerDay). And I wonder – if I had more money to spare, would I send out big donations, and if I did, would it be to get the attention of the family that hates me or would it be for other people to help fight cancer? Maybe it’s ridiculous to have these thoughts. I don’t know. They’re the kind of thoughts I have. I’m skeptical of everything even when it comes to my own donations to charity. There was a FRIENDS episode where Phoebe told Joey there’s no such thing as a selfless gesture. She was right. If you feel good from doing something, that still kind of makes it about you.
I talked to my friend Vito yesterday and while he never told me what he would do, talking about it made me realize that if I went to the funeral, it would be for me. If I went, it would be a selfish moment for me to say goodbye, but in doing so, the family that ostracized me would have to see me and would have fuel to hate me even more than they do now. It wouldn’t be about saying goodbye to Lisa. Maybe that solidifies what a fearful coward I am. I don’t know. So I stayed home and when it was time that her funeral would be underway, I broke out the Irish whiskey and had my own private toast to Lisa.
Lisa loved writing. I know in my heart that she would love me to keep writing. While I didn’t reach my 1,000 word target today on my fiction, I just wrote over 2,400 words here. I’m pretty sure she would give me props for just getting out of bed today no less achieving any writing at all.