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By the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and What to Eat When You’re Broke
Colette recently wrote an article about how she’s saying “Good Riddance!” to 2023, and I thought I’d finally write about my own Year of Suck.
I always try to keep a positive attitude when it comes to the ups and downs of life and finances, but this year made it rough. I’m going to try and write this without sounding like a whiner. It’s really hard for me to share my problems. I’ve always been a stiff-upper-lip kind of person. I’ve always powered through. Heck, I’m supposed to be someone you can take advice from, yet here I am, having the Year of Suck.
But I guess it’s important to share and to say, “It can happen to anyone.” And also, to remind you (and me!) that a year that sucks doesn’t mean your life sucks.
So, here goes.
It began, as years do, in January.
Right before I was to leave for Europe, where I had planned to relocate, I tweaked my left ankle. I chalked it up to being no big deal and powered through the last of my packing, selling, and storing with the help of my daughter and one of my besties. I felt like a lazy bum when they made me sit down with my foot up and direct, but grudgingly, for the sake of my trip, I behaved myself.
I got a big immobilizer boot and managed the trip over without too much difficulty but when I arrived at my apartment in Greece, my ankle hurt so much I knew I couldn’t take another step for days. So, I used workarounds and ordered groceries via delivery and had a few restaurant meals delivered as well. My apartment was down one flight of stairs – not fun but manageable.
After being in Greece for a week and not being able to leave the house to explore, I finally booked an appointment with a physical therapist. I was still convinced that my injury was minor and that I just needed to do the right exercises and push through it. My PT guy was fantastic and really did help me become somewhat more mobile.
But something was wrong. I couldn’t walk very far – only a mile or two and only every other day. I’m a person who loves the pedestrian life – walking to the market, visiting little shops on foot, exploring my neighborhood, and going to see tourist attractions. I’m more of a 3-5 mile-a-day walker, and I couldn’t even build up to the bottom of my personal scale.
I figured that I was just out of shape. Sadly, I slashed a few day trips off my list that would’ve required extensive walking and climbing and tried to focus on all that was going right.
I visited two more countries on this trip.
I went to Bulgaria and Romania while I was still in Europe. The days I had to travel really took it out of me and ramped up the pain levels. Bulgaria was nice and flat, at least in Sofia, where I spent most of my time. The downside was that I couldn’t easily order food or grocery delivery there, but I managed to find places close by, and taking a car service was really inexpensive.
Then I did a day trip in Romania that really pushed my limits beyond my ability to handle it. I visited three old castles in one day. They were tall, glorious buildings, each from a different century. I went up and down dozens of flights of stairs that day. The pain in my foot and ankle by the end of the day was indescribable but I kept pushing through it because there really wasn’t an option when I was at the top of Bran Castle. I had to go down this rough stone spiral staircase with tiny little steps that required me to set my feet sideways to fit on them.
When I got back to the vehicle, I was done. I didn’t even get out when we stopped for gas and bathrooms.
I got back to my apartment and learned that my daughter and her partner had just broken up. They’d been together for years, and she was devastated. I knew she needed her mom.
I sent some money to help her get settled into a new apartment. It was time to go back to the US, support my daughter, and get this injury figured out.
I booked a flight.
The trip back was utterly hellish. My nice watch was stolen when I went through security. Each flight was late, causing my layovers to be very short. My layovers were so distant – literally opposite ends of the airport. I had to hobble-run through them to make my flights. The TSA in Chicago was the worst I’ve ever dealt with. I haven’t been treated so rudely in all of my years traveling, and I swear they were just amusing themselves, making me hobble around to different lines for different things.
I love to travel, and I’m generally patient at airports. But it all just felt like too much.
I usually am so sad to return from a long trip, but this time, I could’ve kissed the ground. I was in pain, I was stressed, and I just wanted the convenience of being back in the United States and amidst people who spoke my native language for a change.
Then things got worse.
My daughter had been looking after my beloved Jeep while I was gone. She wasn’t driving it because Esther (the Jeep) had been sputtering and acting funny. I had her take it to the shop right before my return and dropped over $2000 to repair it.
The first time I took it out after returning, things were okay. It felt weird to be back behind the wheel after nearly a year of not driving. But the second time, I didn’t even make it out of the driveway when the Jeep began actively misfiring. I stopped it immediately and had it towed back to the shop.
I got a ride from a friend and went to look at a nice little apartment with utilities paid, not too far from my daughter. I applied for it at first sight. I adored the landlady, a woman about my age with kids about my kids’ ages. It was a beautifully finished above-ground basement, and I immediately signed on the dotted line.
Later that day, the manager called me.
My Jeep needed a new engine.
This Jeep wasn’t terribly old but was old enough to be well out of warranty. I still owed some money on it. And the repair was going to be…wait, are you sitting down?
SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.
I said no. There was no way I was throwing more money at this Jeep.
And then I didn’t have a vehicle.
So now, I had no vehicle. I had rented an apartment that was thankfully close to all the basics and walkable.
Oh. Yeah. The apartment was walkable, and I could barely walk.
I had to figure out how to handle all the catastrophes my life was throwing at me.
I got moved in by the grace of Uhaul, my daughter, and a pleasant, very strong guy named Ed who we hired off of an app.
I laid there amidst the boxes on a mattress I ordered from Amazon for the next three days, feeling my foot and ankle throb, unable to muster the motivation to unpack. I got some groceries delivered. I thought, “I’m sure if I rest, it’ll be fine.”
But at this point, it had been nine long months of dealing with this injury. I was not fine. Not at all.
I re-signed up for an insurance policy and had to wait 30 days for it to kick in. I managed to hobble to the store a few times and get unpacked but it came at a price in pain.
And if that wasn’t enough, now I owed the balance of my loan after returning my clunker Jeep to the lender. Thousands of dollars. I still believe returning it was better than spending thousands of dollars to fix it AND thousands of dollars to pay it off. My mistake was having payments to start with. When I got the vehicle, I was certain I absolutely could not survive without one, and I didn’t have the money to pay cash. I counted on the relative newness of the vehicle in that it would be reliable. Clearly, I’m proving right now that it’s not as essential as I thought, even though I’d prefer to have one.
Anyway, now my credit was in the toilet, and getting a new vehicle wasn’t going to happen soon. I’d just funded two moves complete with deposits, so my emergency fund was exhausted.
I was exhausted.
But you do what you have to do.
Yeah, I was worn out, but I did what you do in situations like this. I adapted. I adjusted. I pushed through.
I wrote down the amount I had been spending on car payments, maintenance, and insurance. This was my fund to manage without a car and without full mobility. I realized that I could spend a little extra (around 10-20 a week) to get groceries delivered via Instacart. I could order other essentials from Amazon with free Prime shipping. I could Uber to appointments but planned to spend the next couple of months mostly staying home and resting my beleaguered ankle.
It wasn’t ideal, and it was kind of isolating, but I had a strategy I could manage financially. In fact, I was actually better off financially for the time being. I probably never would’ve unloaded my Jeep if the matter hadn’t been forced on me but perhaps, in some way, it was for the best. It wasn’t like I could go wander through the stores even if I could drive there.
I finally got to the doctor, a really awesome foot and ankle specialist, who informed me that I had been walking around Europe with a ruptured tendon. I was put on bed rest (or couch rest) with my foot elevated, but since I’d already figured out how to deal with things like groceries and other needs, it wasn’t a huge deal. My daughter came over to help with tasks like laundry and hauling the trash can to the curb on garbage day.
I’ve now undergone three months of treatment on my ankle. There are some things that I have to pay out of pocket for, including a very expensive PRP procedure at the end of January. After I recover from that, I get to start seeing a physical therapist. There’s some light at the end of the Tunnel of Suck once the Year of Suck is over.
The doctor seems confident that a full recovery will be made, though, after an entire year of severe ankle pain, it’s hard to see that happening. But, as I have repeated to myself about a million times this year, “All I can do is all I can do.” I’m following instructions to the letter, and I’ve come up with workarounds for just about everything. And if the procedure doesn’t work out, I have some ideas for how to manage that, too.
There’s some satisfaction in this.
There’s some satisfaction in getting through a Year of Suck. I never expected to be in this place at this point in life. I didn’t expect to be pretty much disabled in my 50s. I never thought that I would be without a vehicle through no choice of my own – I’ve had a car since I was 16 years old. I didn’t imagine I’d be adding some part-time work to my plate to pay for medical treatments.
But I have gotten through it. I got to spend time exploring ancient places in Europe. If it’s my last travel hurrah, I have no regrets. I saw incredible places and learned incredible things. And now, I’ve landed a side gig that starts in January. I have a great relationship with my daughters, my landlady is a wonderful human, and I have a safe, comfortable place to live. I came up with creative solutions to the difficulties. I even adopted a kitty.
My emergency fund, yet again, saved the day. It got my daughter, and me settled into safe, comfortable accommodations and paid for some other unexpected expenses.
As for the money pit of a Jeep, well, credit, schmedit. It’s important to remember that the right thing for you may not be the right thing on paper in the eyes of the rest of the world. I made the best decision I could, given the situation life threw at me.
Have you ever had a Year of Suck?
None of this was to say, “Woe is me. Feel sorry for me.” That’s the last thing I want.
It’s to say, “Excrement happens.”
Will you use it as fertilizer for growth, or will you let yourself be buried in it?
Have you ever had a period of time when one thing after another went wrong? When everything changed through no choice of your own? How did you handle it? Do you have some lessons or wisdom to share from this?
Let’s talk about it in the comments section.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.