Gone Girl: The Modern Marriage Commentary

The stories within a story of my life are endless. Take, for instance, my mother’s decision for us — my father, her, and myself — to go see the movie “Gone Girl” at the movie theatre for our family night activity together. I haven’t been paying much attention to pop culture lately so I didn’t know what the movie was about other than a wife’s disappearance. My mother had read the book so she had “a clue.”

If you plan to see the movie and/or read the book, spoilers ahead, fair warning. So the plot pretty much starts out with a woman and a man who supposedly fall in love at a time in their life when they’re young, self-entitled, horny, and everything is going right for them. But then the shit of life hits the fan – parents get sick, recessions crumble the economy, people lose their jobs, trust funds are tapped into – and the two lovebirds realize that they aren’t in a relationship with the person they wanted to be in the first place. The prenup just adds to the jealousy and drama once the perfect relationship falls apart. Because, as I took it, all of us are faking who we are when we’re dating and all of us say we’re not going to end up like those horrible married couples that nag and bicker at each other and have sex like route routine vs with passion and many of us do. Then one cheats with something newer and younger and more like the fantasy that they originally married, the other feels hurt, angry, and wants vengeance. For a moment they may even want the other partner to greatly suffer for the rest of their lives.. And there you have the plot behind Gone Girl, or at least the rational for it.

Well, going to see this movie with my parents, for those of you who follow my blog and understand my relationship with my parents and their relationship with each other, is a bit of a farcical plot line to begin with. Add to that attending the movie in one of those  newer “luxury” cinemas with the comfort seating and recalling chairs, and both my mother and father for large chunks of the movie falling asleep and beginning to snore quite loudly, and their golden commentary on the film afterwards, I couldn’t help but find myself cackling inside.

After the film was over my dad could in no way shape or form hide his disgust at the film. With my father there are no opinions that matter but his own. This time around I mostly agreed with him (it was a dumb plot line in terms of what actually happened and the constant elevator music to, I think, add a state of creepy and coldness to the film, was annoying as fuck, though I appreciated the social commentary.) Yet when my father has an opinion, he takes it personally. He even gets a bit angry or at the least annoyed – like, how dare anyone create a movie that’s so stupid that other people like that he has to see.

I must admit my favorite review from him of the evening was his frustration with the detective being female, as, and I quote, “that’s just not realistic.” He apparently has been annoyed for years with all the leading female detective characters souring the reality of his favorite shows like Law and Order. This conversation, of course, led into my mother noting that it is like how there are too many gay people on television these days – not that she has a problem with gay people – but there “just aren’t that many gay people” and that too isn’t realistic. I asked her to note a specific show where a gay person was written into it where it didn’t make sense (I’m waiting for her to tell me about some show in Rural Georgia where there’s a flamboyantly gay person who never gets threatened or shot, and perhaps that I could believe as unrealistic) but then she goes on to tell me she doesn’t watch a lot of TV these days so she can’t name a specific case, this is just in general.

Oh, my parents. At some point you just have to accept the crazy that is. My favorite part of last night was after the movie when we went to a cafe for dinner. Following our crepes my father ordered a pecan tarte. I asked if I could have a bite and he said ok. I noticed that there weren’t actually many pecans on top and tried unsuccessfully to secure one with the tiny piece I took off the site of the tarte. My mother then asked my father if she could have a taste. “Sure,” he said, as if it was rude of her to assume he might say no (but heaven forbid she just take it without asking, that would start a shit show.) My mother, knowing that any cut she takes will be horrible in the eyes of my father, asks him to cut her a piece. He, again in some sort of offended manner says “you cut your own piece.” She noted out loud that if she did he would say “she took too much.” He continued that she can cut her own piece and he wouldn’t get upset.

Ha.

She then initially takes a tiny bit of the tarte only to cut further into it about half way to get a piece with one of the few pecans on it. It does look like she took half the tart but I could see clearly that she just wanted to get the pecan. My father, of course, throws his hourly temper tantrum by saying something along the lines of “what the hell” and grabbing back the piece she cut with the pecan on it and leaving her with the original tiny piece she had cut. He then, as a peace offering, and to retain his belief that he’s a rational person, took a tiny pecan and put it on top of her tiny piece of the tart.

In reference to the film, I can’t imagine how my parents ever were the type of people who were young and in love. Was my mother just so beautiful and youthful when they met (she was 17 so maybe) that my father looked past her lack of ability to empathize with others? Was my father so stable and successful that by the time they got married my mother just looked past the fact that he smacked her glasses off her face on their honeymoon and broke them? I don’t know how these two were ever in love. Like the characters in the film they’re extremely self-absorbed people who instead of working together on communicating just make up their own stories, live their own lives. My dad was always opposed to a divorce — because it “hurts the kids” — while my mother was to scared to leave as she didn’t want to have to “work” another day in her life.

So here we are. Neither of them tried to frame the other for murder, though I wouldn’t be absolutely surprised if one day the result of my father’s explosive anger seriously injures my nagging mother. I’m surprised it hasn’t so far. Oh, there have been bruises and other pains, but nothing deadly. They seem to work together some how in their home of narcissism. One fight after the other after the other. It really is not pleasant to be here. I come back to spend time with family because logically I think that is what I should do. With my father dying and my mother getting older I don’t want to regret not spending the time with them – and I enjoy to some extent being in my childhood home for the few years left when it’s still in our family name. The rest of the visits are usually painful if not viewed as a sitcom and watched with an internal monologue of canned laughter.

I do worry about my own relationship and marriage – if I am to get married – and how that will play out in life. It’s easy to say that you won’t be like that, not a spiteful, angry couple, but as Gone Girl points out maybe we all turn into that a little bit. We’re so caught up in ourselves that we forget to care for the other. When times are good and there’s money and there’s security we can get through it, but then when the hard parts of life strike things start to crumble. I don’t want to be that way with my partner. I already hear the nagging going on in my head, we have our arguments, our moments of tension. I try to remind myself the value of the relationship is in the love itself, in the comfort, the partnership, the security. I can’t imagine a person in the world who could be a better fit for me and I’m pretty sure he feels the same way about me. As long as I focus on building the financial life that I want, and to save the money now versus later, to get to a point where with the exception of a major financial meltdown in the markets, I don’t have to worry about his career.

That’s why I’m so neurotic and crazy about my saving. I don’t want to ever rely on anyone else to support my happiness or security. It’s the moment we rely on someone else to do this when love cannot be the center of a relationship, it’s money – and when money is the center of the relationship that relationship will undoubtedly fall apart.

 

 

 

 

 

Why I’m investing $400 a month in an ADHD Coach

Despite wanting to believe I’m capable of being a highly-functioning adult on my own, data has shown that this is not quite the case. While I manage to pick myself up after every fall and keep going, each time I fall the cut is a bit deeper and harder to recover from. This isn’t the first time I’ve sought help, but this is the first time that I felt that I desperately need it.

There are so many different kinds of “help” one can buy. Psychiatrists seek to uncover a chemical imbalance to explain your shortcomings and treat you with costly medications. Psychologists use talk therapy to help you approach situations differently, largely looking at your childhood and how that has affected the current scripts your replay over and over again in your mind. Acupuncturists poke and prod you to reduce stress. Hypnotists claim to be able to help you achieve your goals through mind control. And coaches, well, help you with practical advice and ongoing support so you can determine and then reach your goals.

ADHD coaches are unique in that they focus on helping people who are driven to distraction, as they say. The reality is that so many of the simple tasks that high-functioning individuals can do without batting an eye present a huge challenge to the ADHD mind. I dislike jumping to conclusions that my mind is somehow different than the norm, yet anyone who knows me at all and believes ADHD actually exists would say obviously I have it. I can check off every single requirement in the DSV.

That’s why I’m splurging this year on a coach. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on therapy and what has it got me? Maybe I’m a little more aware of the scripts I play in my head that aren’t really rational, but that hasn’t helped me avoid losing my job (multiple times) or fix my relationship (which is great except for the fact that I’m a huge mess and my boyfriend can’t marry a girl who can’t keep her house remotely clean.)

If you don’t have ADHD or know anyone closely who does, it’s easy to say “just clean your damn house” or “stop losing your job.” It’s not that easy. Ultimately people with ADHD have issues with their temporal lobe functioning properly as well as a lack of dopamine to drive proper task-oriented motivation. Tie this with years upon years of beating myself up for my challenges focusing and staying organized and I end up wasting so much time lost in anxiety and failing to accomplish anything – until it’s late at night when I should be sleeping and only then can I start to hyperfocus and get my work done well.

This clearly isn’t a sustainable model. Now that I’m in my 30s I even feel my body starting to break down. I can’t pull all-nighters anymore. I’ve been sick three times in the last three months. I’m pretty much driving myself batshit and I need help.

In selecting an ADHD coach I wanted to find someone who has worked with ADHD individuals – especially adults – over the years. I want someone who can share tips and tools that have worked for others with similar minds. And I want someone grounded in reality, not someone who is going to try to flatter my ego (one woman kept saying that people with ADHD are brilliant so it’s clear I must be brilliant. While I briefly enjoyed the flattery I need more tough love than some ego boost.)

ADHD coaches are also often very expensive. This is largely because parents – many who have disposable incomes – are convinced their children have ADHD and are willing to send a ridiculous sum on coaches so maybe their kids can do well in school and make it to an Ivy League. And it happens – kids with ADHD, taught the right strategies and put in the right educational environments—can do very well academically. So maybe it’s worth it for parents who have the money.

However, these big-spending parents inflate the cost of help. I wrote to quite a number of ADHD coaches online (many of who do their coaching via Skype so location is not an issue) and one literally responded to me that “if cost was a concern” I would be better off talking to someone else because she charges more than others due to her “years of experience.” When I responded to ask exactly what that meant she didn’t respond. I assume she was in line with another organization I talked with where ADHD-specialist psychologists and psychiatrists charge anywhere from $300 to $500 per session.

The woman who I found is not cheap but she’s not ridiculous. I understand that coaches do this for a living and thus their expertise is worth a reasonable rate. The more standard fees I found were in the $150-$200 per hour range. Some coaches refused interactions between meetings while others – who clearly understand how ADHD works – note that they allow emails throughout the week as long as they don’t get excessive.

I’m meeting with my ADHD coach for my first 90-minute session. She already sent me an intake form and an anxiety/depression questionnaire which I had a strange kind of fun filling out (man, I am SO ADHD.) I am not sure exactly what to expect from this project but my primary goal is to learn how to be better at time management and organization… and ultimately not lose my job (or boyfriend.)

The plan is to invest in the $250 intro session and then three months of $390 worth of sessions (3 45 minute sessions.) We’ll work intensively on very tactical strategies while I’m sure discussing options (not included in cost) to resolve my problems further through the use of medication ($$$.) I’m going to try to solve them with coaching and willpower alone, but if shit starts to hit the fan I’m going to head back to a psychiatrist and see what they think would help this crazy little mind of mine.

That is, it seems to be I have Bipolar II co-morbidly sharing the space of dysfunction with a solid case of ADHD and a touch of anxiety to top it off. Mental illness is real even though I’m the first person to try to avoid labeling my issues as being anything more than just some personal crazy. Yet at 30 I have a pretty good view of my life thus far and these are the reasons for what is going on in my head and heart.

I’m not self-diagnosing either, I’ve been officially diagnosed with these issues (as well as others) but these three seem to make the most sense. I’m going to be entirely open with my coach about this too – and I already have been (bipolar/depression/anxiety are often found co-morbidly with ADHD, so this isn’t going to throw her for a loop at all.) I’d really like to make significant progress and fast. It is certainly worth $400 a month to remain gainfully employed and highly productive. At least for the short term until hopefully at some point I can sustain such “normal functioning adult” baseline on my own.

 

Financially Planning for Parenthood

Given that I’m going to be an older mother — turning 31 next month and not married yet let alone pregnant — I’ve done a bit of spreadsheeting around how I can afford to have a child. This puts me a little more at ease given that I can live frugally while earning a reasonably high income, save a lot, and put myself in a much better position to have children.

In my chart I noted how much I plan to save each month and have a column for lower average annual interest rates (5%) and higher ones (10%) from age 31 to 40. The chart otherwise includes the following expectations:

1) I will save $5000 per month between now and the time I have my first child (3/1/2017, give or take)

2) I will take 3 months of unpaid leave after having my first child and save $0 per month over those 3 months.

3) I will return to work full time and continue saving $5000 per month (buying less stuff for myself to offset stuff for baby) until baby #2

4) baby #2 will be born 1/1/2020. At this time I have reduced my monthly savings to $0 per month. I may want to work at this time but I want to plan to allow myself to not work and have enough money in our family to afford this. I want to be able to then afford to live off of my husband’s salary while my savings can grow for our retirement nest egg. We’ll probably have to move to a cheaper state at this point.

Based on these 4 constants and the compound interest variable, the range of my networth at age 40 would be $856,634 to 1,271,596 (*not counting my partner’s savings.) And baby #1 will just be turning age 7 or so, which is when babies become kids and start to get expensive… just in time for me to go back to work.

So this all seems rather do-able as long as I keep my head down and focus on the 58 months of saving $5k a month — so 4.8 years, give or take, or $280,000 of savings over that time period (which is a lot… but seems at least somewhat possible.) Given my potential annual bonus is anywhere from $0k to $40k after tax, I could actually get to that amount much quicker if I do my job well. Let’s just say I obtain a quarter of my annual bonus for those four years — $30k per year — that actually gets me to the $24.1k $280k goal much quicker.

That said – I’m not accounting for IVF costs which will likely be needed and will likely be very expensive (I should account for $100k for two kids and it might not even work…)

Thus in order for me to comfortably have children, I must focus on my job — really over the next two years — and attempt to obtain at least 50% of my annual bonus.

Inputting my networth growth with 50% bonus (~20k extra per year) by the time I have baby #1 (3/1/2017) I will have reached my goal of $500k network — with $507k networth with the 5% interest and $560k with 10%. Clearly I have my work cut out for me. But I can do this so the rest of my life can provide what I really want — not “no work” — but choice and flexibility.

Here is my Mint.com goals which I’ve adjusted for January 2016 target dates. I will focus on tracking to these numbers hitting the maximum possible bonus possible to achieve my desired results.

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Focus, Time, and the Brevity of Life

There isn’t a day that goes by when I lack a sense of overwhelm and impending doom. That’s just my style. A lot of this is knotted up in a series of paranoid internal monologues that repeat ad nausem echoing off the corners of my mind.  Yet there’s some reality to the panic. Time isn’t a fake out. It’s this real, visceral, constantly moving stream of invisible life force which makes our bodies wither as the clock of the world ticks on with or without us. Time is the most real of all – because you can’t make more of it, once it’s gone it’s gone.

Today I visited two of my good friends who are both now parents and either my age or younger. A few friends back on the east coast have had their second children already. And I’m turning 31 in a smidgen over a month. The reality is that given my PCOS issues it’s going to be challenging to have kids of my own. Yet today I want them more than ever. The longer I wait the harder it will likely be. But when is the right time? My career is finally starting to take off. If I were to have a child now I don’t have the foggiest how I could also work my job. Well, it would surely be impossible to commute four hours a day and fly at a moment’s notice as a new mother. But would I even want that as my toddler grows from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, and enters his or her own childhood without a mother around?

Clearly I’ll have to work if/when I have kids. I never though I wouldn’t have to and it’s fine to be a working mother and all. I’m fortunate that my boyfriend is more than willing to be a stay-at-home dad. Still… I just worry about waiting too long. I know, I know, it’s not the end of the world if I can’t have kids, or if I only have one child… but I just want two or three children. Probably two though I feel like three is a good large enough family without being too large. And while that’s a nice thought the likelihood of it happening is shrinking by the day.

So my boyfriend and I should be getting married in spring 2016 when I’ll be 32 and a half. I mean… that’s getting old. Let’s just say I have trouble getting pregnant because I probably will. IVF clinics won’t even seriously consider you for treatment until you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year with no luck. So that gets me to 33-and-a-half. And who knows if I can get pregnant or how fast – even with the best treatment out there. And that treatment is expensive and can quickly burn through the savings that I’m working so hard to build up so I can afford what happens after I have kids.

With this scenario I’ll be lucky if I’m pregnant by 34 and have my first kid at 35. I really would like at least two kids if I’m going to have one. But then that leaves me at being a new mother at 35 going on 36 and knowing that I need to try immediately to have my second kid… all while being the breadwinner of the household and attempting to not only keep my job but grow in my career and move into a serious management position. I just can’t make sense of it. It all makes me think that if I actually do want kids – the logical thing to do would be to say screw “marriage” (which I’m not sure makes sense anyway due to the tax penalties) and just start trying to have my first kid now. I mean, that would suck in terms of work, but it’s not like I’d get pregnant tomorrow. But if I start trying at 31… that leaves me eligible for IVF at 32… and that timeframe just looks a whole lot better. If I have my first kid at 33 I can have my second at 35 or 36 and if I decide I do want a third then I have time for it, or at least I can just have two without feeling incredibly rushed.

I just think it’s so crazy how fast time goes by… and how judgmental I’ve been of all the girls who got married young and had kids in their 20s. That’s what the uneducated people do, I thought, brushing off their happiness with a reminder to myself that I’m getting my shit together first, saving up a good amount of money, preparing myself to be ready for kids. Well, it might not be too late yet but time is definitely running out. My 20s disappeared in the blink of an eye and my 30s will surely be equally as fast paced. With the amount I plan to work and focus on my career it will be easier to forget to focus on the things that matter in life and just running ahead blinded to the truth.

The whole marriage and wedding thing is just for show, what really matters is family… a family that I maybe already have waited too long to have, or at least one that is going to take a whole lot of headache and heartache to make possible. And I’m terrified of that journey that is to come.