February is nearly over. Hard to believe I’ve been in France three weeks. There is much I am grateful for including steady doses of laughter, tiny daily triumphs, and a cozy home to hide in when the language and bureaucratic shit becomes too much.
This week, Stuart discovered that his bank account here was frozen. Turns out it was a €400 tax bill due at his old address. Ironically, the bank zeroed out all his accounts to make sure it was paid. Why they didn’t just freeze the amount of the tax bill, I will never understand. In addition, they charged over €100 for the privilege of making his money turn to ice. Apparently, this is a regular occurrence in France. It’s called an “avis de tiers détenteur” or ADT. To fix it, you have to pay whatever the outstanding bill is (if you’re lucky enough to discover who made the request) and get a “main levée” from the creditor in order to unfreeze the account. This is then processed by the bank in their own sweet time. We’re still waiting…and accruing charges!
Imagine if you will… It’s the end of the month, and having just moved, you’ve spent a small fortune in deferred debits which will be due in a few days. You have the money. At least you did. But you can’t access it because you haven’t paid a mysterious debt. The sweat is pouring off you as you realize it is Friday and the end of the month. Is it a big bill? Little bill? If you can’t get answers today, come Monday, you’ll have other bills to pay like rent and electric. Only you have no idea if those bills will get paid because you see only zeros in your online account and can’t get answers to your questions. You post on forums and beg for help. You send off panicky emails. Nice people respond, and you get the idea this happens all the time. There isn’t much more to be done, so you decide to enjoy the sensation of being cut off from your money. Isn’t this fun? (Anybody want to buy a book?)
In addition, I’ve been having a time of a time getting access to my own credit here which I anticipated would play a role in the financing of our move. With the exception of my debit card, none of my credit cards are chip and pin (the European standard), and every time I try to use one here, the transaction fails. I contacted my favorite card and asked if they could upgrade it to chip and pin. Sure! Sometime by 2016. They explained to me that anyone accepting Visa HAS to accept the card and gave me a long list of how to proceed with the transaction. Try explaining that over a language barrier to a cashier with a long line! (How ’bout a nice coffee mug?)
To top off this financial sundae, we discovered some other unpaid taxes relating to Stuart’s business. Bless the man’s heart; he’s a painter, not an accountant. And somewhere along the line, he lost track of things. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the organizations in question failed to communicate with one another to update his address change last year…which he did indeed submit. This discovery came the same day, so we have had a few days of some very intense, nerve-wracking financial anxieties.
I know all this has been a test for me. There’s always been way too much fear in my life over money. It’s a useless waste of energy. At one time (a month ago?), I would have been hiding under the couch crying, but not this time (and not just because we don’t have a couch yet – lol). I simply refuse to cower anymore to the voice in my head that says I won’t survive…the voice that cries, “You’re gonna drown!” though I admit I feel like I am. But I don’t have to take on what isn’t mine, nor can I “take on” things I can’t control. If I can stay objective, I can be strong and supportive rather than overcome. And I can change my focus to something positive and creative like working on my T-shirt line until I can start my healing/meditation practice here…assuming they let me stay given the fix we’re in. (Anybody want to buy a T-shirt?)
For Stuart, it’s been more of a wake-up call – to stay on top of his own finances as well as the departments that are supposed to be staying on top of him. It made him quite ill for a couple of days, but I think he finally gets it; ignoring things doesn’t make them go away.
Our situation will take time to unravel (more than we’d like). We are at the mercy of so much, but we now have someone on the case writing letters on our behalf. We’re going to try and work out some kind of payment plan with two (possibly three – still waiting to hear on that) different agencies. I hope they work with us; they won’t have much choice, really! (Anybody want to buy a painting?)
We both talked about whether this post was too personal or too revealing. In the end, we figured it might help someone else. We all face difficulties from time to time. We all have our challenges. What is the use of feeling shame or embarrassment over what happens to us when what happens to us is what makes us stronger? Why hide when there is no question we are ALL going through something and being open about might just be the key to moving through it with more ease? Hiding and pretending all is peachy just creates more illusion to live by and up to. Truth is, things are really, really intense out there for the whole world. (Wouldn’t a pillow make you feel better?)
This whole situation could have taken us down; so far, we’ve been managing the emotional waves we each go through. We could have argued; we could have crumbled in fear. What good would it do? We can’t make it go “poof!” either. So we’re doing the only thing we can; we’re staying proactive, supportive (in a wobbly way as we each deal with our own inner demons), and positive to the best of our ability. We’re focusing on and still enjoying what matters most while keeping an eye on cleaning things up, staying creative, and moving forward.
Now to see if the powers that be will play nice… Keep a happy thought for us please!
Now to talk Stuart off the roof so he can read this.