As far as the Chinese zodiac is concerned, I am considered a “tiger”.
Interestingly, 2022 is also the year of the tiger. From the little research I’ve done, 2022 is supposed to be a time of professional elevation, and while a few bumps in the road may present themselves, it will be my so-called natural tiger tenacity that gets me through this.
From the way this season of my life unfolded, the predictors at least got half of this right.
As I prepare to enter another birth year (thank you to all the Geminis out there), I will say loud and clear that the past six months have kicked my butt in every way and direction I could think of. I can think of – especially professionally and financially.
On December 22, 2021, while I was having my eyebrows waxed, buying new bras and minding my business, I received a text from one of my landlords to call him .
When I called him, he told me there had been a fire in my unit.
From the way he was talking, I thought he meant my stove had caught fire and they put it out in time. But when I got there, there were eight fire engines and a myriad of firefighters cutting the roof off my townhouse – later I would learn that I had lost 95% of my belongings.
It was so unbelievable that I did nothing but ask the fire marshal to confirm what caused it (it was an “accidental electrical fire”; no shock there because my owners hadn’t serviced my HVAC in the seven years I’d been there).
After pointing out the general vicinity of the CVC, I let everyone know that I was going to pick up my already scheduled pedicure.
When I came back a few hours later my other owner (it’s a father/son team) laughed at me and made a joke about the mess inside.
When I said, “Yeah, that’s not funny actually, I could have died”—a fact the fire marshal also confirmed—my landlord casually replied, “Yeah…well .”
Good…What? Some people can be real jerks. I said nothing. Instead I tried to salvage what had not been destroyed by fire and/or water and/or fire extinguisher foam and booked a hotel reservation until so that I can find something else.
Holidays aren’t really my thing, so spending Christmas alone in a hotel wasn’t exactly traumatic. The stress was trying to figure out where the hell I was going to live for the next few days, as hotel room rates are sky high and house hunting over the holidays isn’t exactly ideal.
I wasn’t too stressed because for the last two times I needed a place, Craigslist always served me. I found a ground floor apartment that was once an Airbnb in one of my favorite parts of town.
A few days before New Years 2022 I moved into the small things I had and expired, thinking I would have some time to recover from the fire as I went through the surreal experience from walking into Walmart to get things like a toothbrush and deodorant.
Fast forward to a few weeks in January and another doozy has arrived.
But first, some background: I’m a freelance writer, marriage coach, and doula.
The main writing position that had earned me a steady, decent salary for about four years had hired a new editor. She didn’t really “fire” me. She just didn’t take one of my pitches. So now, in addition to a house burnt down, I didn’t have a stable gig either.
So came the colossal mess I am in now.
The flat I moved into is owned by an older woman in her 60s who initially seemed nice enough – until I realized she interviewed me for the place with her crazy dog in the back from the house: A breed of German Shepherd who came from the shelter with a bag of anxiety medication, literally barks at anything that moves, digs under fences to attack random neighbors and even gave the owner a hemorrhage cerebral by dragging her down the front stairs of her porch.
Anyone who’s a writer knows that an indoor dog barking all day is ridiculous. And when I pay $1,500 a month, it’s super ridiculous.
Now get this. As I handed her my rent check for June in May, she casually said, “We need to talk. I’m not renewing the lease. It’s nothing you did. My daughter has trouble with her partner and…”.
So on top of the drama with the dog, she basically didn’t keep her word, which means that now – while I’m still trying to figure out how to make ends meet financially and still crying about losing my place in the fire — I also need to find a place in less than 30 days in one of the worst real estate markets in the country.
What the hell, what the hell…what in the world? Who is TikToking me right now because what kind of year of the tiger is this?
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Someone recently asked me if I saw a silver lining in all of this.
Well, that is kinda crazy that in the middle of it all I bought a new (used) car. After driving a 1990 Honda Accord for over 20 years, I was able to get something else in February and the way it showed up is pretty wild.
The writing gig I mentioned earlier? They were so behind on my bills that when the new EIC arrived, she wanted to clear all outstanding payments, and as a direct result, I received a lump sum check.
As for the engine, my Honda Bestie was still in pretty good shape, but since I had absolutely no idea when I would see a check like that again, I bought a newer Honda and it was a bright spot in the middle of all the chaos.
Other than that, I had to dig really deep to find this liner, because when it comes to tenacity, I’m a little short on vapors at this point.
However, here is what I take away from my house burning down and losing my job in two months:
1. I learn to control only what I can control.
I’m a control freak in recovery. I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s mainly because my lineage is filled with lovely but super controlling people. So much so, in fact, that I had to step away from most of them a bit to break the habit. And boy, am I glad I did.
Because if this disaster had happened only three years ago, I probably would have had a nervous breakdown – and a big part of the reason would have been because I tried to control areas that are out of my reach. .
I can’t control my owner. I cannot control the EIC which stopped accepting my presentations. All I can do is take a deep breath, exhale, and a) look for a new place and b) look for writing opportunities with people who have a lot more character and integrity. And then process the lessons I should learn from this situation.
A common thread for me right now is, “Don’t let a lack of character in others uproot the basic goodness that is within you. This gives them far more influence and power than they actually deserve. Words to live.
2. I have mastered the art of taking things one day at a time.
Another thing that recovering control freaks tend to realize about themselves is that they are obsessed with time. The future. Weeks or months in advance, to be exact. And that’s what can trigger so much anxiety and even fear in us because when things don’t go our way, we imagine worse scenarios in our heads.
Not only that, but we can get so caught up in what could Where strength happen, in three months, that we are not doing our best here and now.
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Instead of thinking, “What should I do today with excellence? or “What should I do as an act of self-care since I’m freaking out right now?”, we succumb to our unbridled imaginations which can sometimes paralyze us. And all it does is set the stage for other potential future problems to arise.
So now more than ever, I’m learning to be aware, to do my best when I am, and not to run too far ahead of me.
3. I break generational curses.
Two of my uncles and my father committed suicide. All were wonderful men. All came from abusive parents. All have struggled with drug addiction. All of them wanted a break from the stresses of life because they didn’t know how to handle the pressure properly.
And you know what? Because I carry their DNA within me, I actually understand suicide in a way that I think a lot of people don’t (or at least choose not to) understand.
I understand that a lot of people don’t necessarily want to end their life – they just want a break from the constant struggle and pain they go through and they often see no other option.
I’m going to be honest with you: the thought has crossed my mind as the relentless and relentless pressure is…only that. Yet there was a “fight” that arose within me: my father only had one child, I chose not to have children and so the responsibility ends here – and I have to m ensuring that our legacy ends well.
Something also speaks to my mind and says the seasons are just that and like Dylan McKay’s mother from Beverly Hills, 90210 once said, “Like everything, even despair runs out.”
Something else pops into my head that says, “If you woke up today, you have a purpose to fulfill. Don’t give it up. The generational curse of despair is breaking. And even though I didn’t volunteer to carry this banner, I am here.
I don’t have a happy ending for you. At least not yet. Because sometimes that’s how life is — we don’t move forward because we are sure of the end. We just hold on for life hoping that we will either get what we want or everything will turn out for the best. One way or another.
So as the craziest Year of the Tiger continues, I will release even more control, stay even more in the moment, and master how to fill myself with even more hope. Hey, at some point, life has to kick me out of this class, right?
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Shellie R. Warren’s work has been featured in The Good Men Project, Laila Ali’s lifestyle blog, wedding sites (including Wedding Chat), and the spirituality blog BeliefNet. She also writes for Tawkify, a professional dating website.