The Overdue Library Books

Comments 51


I’m coming unraveled.

And I’m angry.

At myself. At my ex-wife. At my life.

But mostly, it’s just me.

Own your shit.

I make bad decisions. And when you make more bad decisions than good decisions, the net sum is a shitty life.

And make no mistake, my life is shitty. And it’s my fault.

And I have two library books sitting on my passenger seat right now which represent just how ill-equipped to be an adult I really am.

The two books are Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, and Your Money Ratios by Charles Farrell.

I borrowed them from my local library several months ago and never returned them. They’re books designed to help me make better choices about my life.

I haven’t read either.

I got a bill a while ago charging me for the books. Replacement charges and stuff.

I haven’t paid it yet.

I see the books every day. And I just leave them there. Like a masochist.

I get phone calls from unknown numbers on my phone. Maybe a collection agency wanting me to pay the $50 for the books. I have the money. I should pay them.

But I don’t. And I don’t return them either. The library is nine blocks from my house. I drive by it at least twice a day.

A Bit of a Mess

That’s what I am. I’ve admitted to it here and there—talking about how I now let dishes pile up in the kitchen. How I let my laundry pile up in my bedroom.

But it’s really worse than I let on.

I haven’t vacuumed up the pine needles from putting up my Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. I haven’t organized my son’s room from the chaos that ensued after his mother moved out on April 1.

I haven’t completed a project for one of my very best friends. It should have been done six months ago.

I left the office a half-hour early on Friday and drove straight home. I didn’t leave my house—literally—until this morning to come back to work. A job and a life with which I’m growing increasingly dissatisfied.

Because this can’t be what life is supposed to be.

The Daily Grind

I wake up every day at 6:30 a.m., sleeping in because I don’t work out.

I take a shower. I stand in there a little too long. Maybe I shave. Maybe I don’t. I don’t really care.

I get dressed. Many times, I have to go down two flights of stairs to my basement laundry room to get a new shirt because I don’t always put my laundry away once I’ve hung them up in my laundry room. It’s not uncommon that I have to re-run the dryer for several minutes to eliminate wrinkles from my shirts I left in there overnight and refuse to iron.

Business casual. Always, business casual.

Half the time, my son is home. I suck at getting us both ready in time to leave at 7:50 a.m. which gets us where we need to be stress-free, even if there are weather or traffic issues.

I clock in like a chimp between 8:15-8:30 a.m., writing copy that sells stuff for other people.

I don’t eat lunch because I don’t have time to pack, and I want to write here, so I don’t go out for food, which is good, because then I’d really waste a lot of money.

I’m generally a little lightheaded when I leave around 5 p.m. every day, because I haven’t eaten since 7:30 a.m. and because I stare at two computer monitors all day—three, if you count my phone.

Then I drive home, half the time picking up my son, and the other half coming home to the quiet, empty, disorganized house.

I sometimes make food. Sometimes, I get takeout.

I take care of the chores I can’t ignore—all the ones related to “owning” my house. And then I go to bed and start it all over the next day.

What the Hell am I Doing?

I’m serious.

I need someone to explain to me the merits of what I’m doing here.

Because I make more than 150 percent of the median household income in my town, and I, quite literally, can’t afford to do anything besides pay my bills and eat food and drive to work.

I do this shitty, depressing routine every day. The only reward is my paycheck. And I spend my entire paycheck on all of the stuff I “need” to maintain this lifestyle I don’t even like.

A house. A car. A mobile phone. Daycare for my son. Food. Gas. College debt.

I spend 40-plus hours per week in a cubicle so I can do this same shitty routine every day for the next 30 years, when I might be able to retire and maybe just have enough money to maintain this standard of living for as long as my tired old bones stay together—assuming the market doesn’t crash and wipe out my life savings.

There’s got to be more to life than this.

There’s got to be better choices I can make.

There’s got to be a better way.

The Daily Practice

I’m rereading James Altucher’s Choose Yourself.

He’s the only person I know of that has felt worthless and horrible and couldn’t get off the floor, and then found a way to pick himself up, and then tells the story so other people can try to follow suit.

He employs something he calls The Daily Practice.

And I’m thinking it’s time to start baby-stepping my way there. It’s too big of a bite to chew all at once. But I have to take some kind of action.

Otherwise, I’m just going to die sad and alone with no friends and a son who can’t respect his father.

The Daily Practice is hard. Really hard. I’m highly unlikely to be able to do it all in one day once, let alone every day. But if I can knock out 75 percent of it, I have to believe my life will be infinitely better than it is now.

It’s going to start today.

I’m driving to the library as soon as I leave the office. I’m going to walk in and explain what a bad person I am and apologize. Hand them their books. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Most likely, I’ll have to pay them about $50. I probably own them now.

I could buy Rich Dad, Poor Dad today for $6.83, and Your Money Ratios for $11.39 from Amazon, which would have saved me more than $30.

If I don’t make a change, I’m going to die. Or I’m going to want to, which is basically the same.

I’m wasting my life.

It’s time to stop.

51 thoughts on “The Overdue Library Books”

  1. <3 You can stop. We can all get out from under those overdue books, I have faith. Stop letting those bad decisions own you. You have help right here. All these people are WILLING you, with every read, like and comment, to meet your goals… Because if you do, if you can, maybe we can too! You inspire us, Matt.

  2. When I felt overwhelmed by all the things in my life that needed to be better, I adopted the mantra “change one thing.” It was helpful. Trying to change everthing all at once runs the risk of setting your up for failure, but if your goal is to make small, incremental changes on a daily basis that is more do-able. And if you take the change in bite-sized pieces, you get the reward of your bite-sized succeses along the way. Forty years ago my mom quit smoking be telling herself only that she wasn’t going to smoke “today,” Those “todays” went on for years.

    1. Yes. The plan and process must be achievable and sustainable.

      I appreciate you saying so. It’s true of course. One little thing at a time. Then, one day, that’s a big pile of good.

      Something to look forward to.

  3. Matt, I have to go to work right now and can’t even gets my thoughts in order for a decent response, but just know I hate you’re suffering like this. I know things will not always seem like they are going the way you need or want them to, but this too, shall pass. You CAN change. Things will get better. It just takes time….Hope things go well at the library! I think that’s a wonderful baby step. =)

    1. Thank you. This is all my fault.

      I’ll fix it.

      The alternative is giving up. That seems like a poor choice.

      Appreciate your concern. I’ll be okay. Probably. I just needed to get this stuff down.

      This is all bullshit if I don’t tell you about the bad stuff too. And I don’t want it to be bullshit.

      1. I know. And you honesty is what makes your blog is so special. But my mom instincts just want to kiss it and make it better!

  4. I am going through the first holiday season without my kids, without a home, with a divorce on the horizon. I am in a huge pit of grief and despair, even though I am lucky to have family that has taken me in which I am thankful for and a part time job that is actually not too bad in retail. Still, holidays and navigating the new land of divorce-hood, sucks in more ways than one. I can tell you that living on auto pilot is the best I can pull off this month. Maybe this option is better than the other… my former coping technique involved vodka until I passed out. Forgive yourself and carry on.

    1. Kindred spirits, you and I.

      Thanks for note. I’m sorry you’re doing it too. Very sorry.

      Appreciate you writing the You’re-not-alone note. Those are always nice to get.

    1. I’m asking myself some really hard questions about how much I need my house and cable TV and whatever else.

      What I know for sure is that going to work every day (even though I like my job and the people as much as any I’ve ever had) JUST so I can barely pay for shelter, transportation and a few luxuries, doesn’t make sense to me anymore.

      Something’s got to give.

  5. What I’m about to say will probably not come off as uplifting, but I think it’s worth factoring into your current state of dissatisfaction. You are still adjusting to being in a single-adult life. Before, there were two adults in your home, presumably sharing chores and responsibilities. You were each probably responsible for different tasks…maybe you cut the grass, took out the trash, and paid the mortgage and your ex emptied the dishwasher, did the laundry, and paid all the utilities. You had each others’ backs and you were also accountable to each other.

    And now, it’s just you. ONE person doing everything that TWO people used to do. It’s overwhelming, it’s not fair, and it’s exhausting. There’s no one there to remind you, nag you, or guilt you into doing anything. In a way, it’s liberating. But in another way, it can be paralyzing. Because that person who made the chores worth doing, who thanked you, who was grateful to you for easing a burden…she’s not there anymore.

    See? Not exactly uplifting. But I see a lot of hope in your post. Your anger and disappointment with yourself…that’s a sign that you’re coming out from under the fog. Your ex isn’t there to share the burdens of life anymore. So, you have to pick and choose those that are most important to YOU and focus on them first. If you can get to the rest, that’s great. If not, the Earth will still keep turning. Cut yourself some slack and slowly start doing things that will make you feel happiness and pride when you look at your surroundings. You must find a way to hold yourself accountable for all the details of life, WITHOUT making yourself crazy.

    Most of all, you should know that the way you are feeling is very, very normal. You are still healing. Still adjusting to your new reality. Be patient with yourself. Be kind to yourself. This isn’t who you are. It’s just who you have to be right now to survive. And that’s perfectly okay.

    1. Thank you for this. For understanding.

      I don’t want to throw up my hands and act like this is okay. Like this is “normal” and I should just accept that my house is going to be less organized and I’m not going to be as responsible as I should be.


      I love that you get it. Because everything you just wrote is exactly right.

      This may sound pathetic. But a lot of what ails me would go away overnight with someone to look and feel good for, and to do housework for.

      1. That does not sound pathetic at all. Different people are motivated by different things. You find happiness in doing things for others, especially for those you love. That’s a beautiful thing.

        I’m going to say something really corny now, but you know how they say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have? Maybe that’s applicable in this situation. Start being the guy you would be if you were in a relationship…and perhaps that will help bring a relationship your way?

        Gawd. Did I really just say that? Where did I put that xanax… 🙂

        1. It didn’t sound all that corny, lady.

          Sounded wise.

          I can always recognize wisdom because it feels the same each time I hear or read something that makes me realize I’m not doing a bunch of things I should be.

  6. Oh Matt….you are so very very normal. I hope you know that. Your life took a shift you never planned for. It sucks. It sucks cause what you want to be doing is not a possibility because you don’t have the life you planned on.
    You will get out of it I have no doubt. Read, it helps. It inspires. Even if you don’t read, you will get out of this because you will get sick and tired of living this dull life. You will wake up and climb over those clothes and decided enough is enough.
    You will also be here again…only not quite as bad as now. Each time you get out a little quicker than the last but you get out.

    Matt…you are normal. And you are in good company. 🙂

    1. I’m not sure whether to feel relieved that this is considered normal, or appalled that so many suffer.

      Regardless, thank you.

  7. Oh yes, you have joined the unfortunately huge ranks of those of us who have been blindsided by life, but buck up, Matt, it’s not all shit and it doesn’t last forever. As long as you don’t let it, anyway, and with your attitude it’s clear that you won’t let it last forever.

    As for your house and cable and all that stuff, maybe you don’t need it, but give yourself a little time before you make any major decisions. That first year for me was a blur of ups and downs (mostly downs) and too many major changes to deal with for both me and my son. I’m glad I waited to make big changes, they were made with a clear head and happier heart.

    I agree with the others, cut yourself a little slack, but just a little, then get your ass in gear and take care of little, easy stuff. Did you take the books back? There’s always tomorrow if you didn’t.

    xo, BB

  8. When we lived in Maryland, we would go to the library every week. When we left, it was kind of a flurry of “shit, I forgot to do this”. Library books was one of them. My roommate said he would drop them off. Needless to say, he didn’t. Now I owe Baltimore Public Library $300. Great.

    1. No way to shakedown your old roommate for $300?

      That’s a pretty big library fine. ? <— that face.

      Mine ended up being $26.60.

      I deserved it.

      1. Yeah he’s a giant pos. I found out later that he caused an accident using my car, which caused my insurance to go up $40 a month too. Unfortunately, no shake down is possible. He died shortly after we left the state.

        1. *exhales loudly and makes the Holy Shit face*

          Somewhere in this world, there’s an appropriate response to that.

          I am not finding it.

  9. I, too, have had overdue library book problems in the past. So now I rarely borrow books from the library. If I visit the library and find a title that I truly want to read, I go online and purchase it. Then if it goes unread for three years, who cares? Recommendation: They have both hard cover books and paperbacks, and the cost is ZERO if you exchange another book of yours that you no longer need. And they have a lot of stuff that your local library probably doesn’t. It is a win-win situation in a big way.

    Reassessing your priorities is a good thing. Houses tend to be money pits and mortgages can go underwater before you say Holy Foreclosure! We have opted to be lifelong renters. Despite what the financial experts will tell you, it really is the best way for many people.

    1. Cool suggestion with the book swap program. Really appreciate that.

      And yes. Homeownership in the 21st century is not what it was for our parents and grandparents.

      Real estate is much more like the stock market today. You have to have the initial capital to make money, and a lot of it is speculative and good luck.

      I may not live here a year from now. And that’s a little sad. But it doesn’t make it dumb.

  10. Perhaps, just perhaps, a good place to start is a nice deep breath…
    Then, you should read those books. Really. If your intention was to read them as a way of helping yourself then do yourself the favour (Canadian English there!); give yourself the chance, give yourself a break. It is okay to step back for a moment and just observe…
    My husband lost his job 3 years ago – the day our son turned 1 – and it nearly destroyed him; when I read this post his voice was in my head. There is a lot of pressure put on men these days and unfairly so. You guys aren’t allowed to have a ‘pinch’ moment, society has taken away your right to emotions and open struggle.
    And, you’re right about home ownership – we sold my husband’s childhood home a couple of months ago, because we could no longer afford to live in the ‘big city’ where he had for nearly four decades, and where he could not get a job, and moved to a smaller area with more job prospects. It is a risk. It has been a trying ordeal – a tidal wave of emotions.
    Maybe a change of scenery is what you need.
    Whatever you need, I hope that you find it, and if it is only a few moments to yourself to regroup, take it…at least that is a chance and an opportunity to make a change.
    Bests 🙂

    1. Thank you for this nice note this morning. My options are extremely limited as I’m unwilling to abandon my kindergarten-aged son.

      But I’ll get it figured out.

      No choice.

      Thanks for the breathing reminder. I always forget to.

  11. “Because I make more than 150 percent of the median household income in my town, and I, quite literally, can’t afford to do anything besides pay my bills and eat food and drive to work.”

    When you factor in the value of government benefits like subsidized housing, daycare vouchers, SNAP, subsidized or free medical, they are probably making close to your salary. Crazy, huh?

    As for library fines, my husband is always racking up ridiculous library fines, enough that we could go to the bookstore each month and buy some new books. He explains that he doesn’t let it bother him because he views it as a charitable contribution. So if the library does make you pay up, maybe try to see it as a one time donation to the greater good.

    As far as takeout, it’s arguably cost effective if you’re buying for just one person, since it can be hard to cook for one person without some waste, plus you have dish cleanup. So I wouldn’t give yourself a hard time for that one, especially if you’re buying cheaper stuff like chinese food.

    1. It’s the new middle-class trap.

      I’m not a big fan.

      My choices:

      1. A more minimalist lifestyle.
      2. Make a lot more money.

      Maybe both.

      We’ll see.

  12. When I was in the early stages, I heard people say, “It gets easier.” I wanted to punch every one of them in the face. Are you serious? It gets easier? That’s what you’re going to tell me?

    Now, here I am, three years post-separation and two-years post divorce, and oh. Yeah. It got easier.

    It’s going to get easier. Not because “time.” Time is neutral. Time doesn’t give a shit about you or your healing, and it isn’t going to change anything about the punching bag you’ve stuffed your ego into or the contents of your bank account or your ratio of misery to joy.

    Things will change because you will haul yourself up and out of the morass once in a while. When you’re out blinking on dry land, you will force yourself to speak the pithy little affirmations you know are good for you, go for the two-block jog, send a kind letter, learn the new program at work, ask the neighbor to join you for a lunchtime walk, answer the phone when it rings, iron something. Vacuum something. Pay someone back.

    Because you will decide to do one thing differently today and you will stick with it (after failing at two dozen others) until it becomes a habit.

    Then you will have that habit. And you won’t have to think about it.

    Then you’ll do one other thing differently until it becomes a habit. And you won’t have to work so hard at that one, either.

    And then you’ll be two years post-divorce and you’ll find yourself facing some other crisis or heartbreak or job loss or whatever, and you’ll realize you’ve got these good habits already in place. You won’t be so angry. You won’t feel so upside-down. You’ll feel ready.

    You will be stronger than you ever thought possible.

    It’s going to still be lonely and weird and hard. But you will have a bounce in your step. You’ll have friends you can call and laugh with about how much it sucks. You’ll have activities with your boy planned out, books checked out of the library waiting for his arrival, a routine for returning them, the makings of grilled cheese and apples for dinner, a grocery list on the fridge, a lighter touch at work, a plan for the holidays with your newly configured circle of love.

    Your life will be yours. You’ll like the new you so-o-o much more than you can imagine.

    It gets easier.

    Feel free to punch me in the face.

  13. I’m embarrassingly terrible at returning library books, so I have to chuckle at that one. Avoidance is a helluva thing.
    I have no doubt that you’ll lift yourself up out of this. It’s definitely not easy (or fun) at first. But the little things will be like habits to you. Things like taking the time on a Sunday to pack freaking brown bag lunches for the week (what are we, ten?!). You need to eat lunch so you can feed that beautiful brain of yours! Take vitamins, too. A good amount of anxiety and depression and general mental health woes all stem back to making sure you shove some damn food in your gullet and take those vitamins, even if they’re your son’s Flintstones vitamins! Stop rolling your eyes. 😉

    1. I do take vitamins everyday. 🙂

      I’m sorry this post was so whiny. Yesterday was brutal. I’m coming out of it.

      I think.

      Thank you for reading and saying hi.

      1. It didn’t read as whiny! You’re allowed to have bummer days and write about them. I’m glad you’re taking your vitamins. Did you pack a lunch? 😉

  14. I have done almost nothing but read (and listen to) books since my separation about a year ago. I strongly recommend the writings of Martin Seligman and John Gottman.

    I also strongly suggest the Automatic Millionaire books by David Bach, especially Start Late, Finish Rich. I paid DEARLY (financially speaking) to extricate myself from my marriage and I have a lot of catching up to do. You’re younger than me. It’s incredible how time will take care of you financially no matter how little you can save.

    The Two-Income Trap is another great book that really helps you understand why things are the way they are. It’s very enlightening.

    I’m very sad for you that you’re struggling, I have been there, even though I’m the one who decided I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s not necessarily any easier for us. It does get better, but the days are so so so long. You’ve got to dig deep down and find just a speck of strength to tell yourself things are going to get better and you deserve better. Take your time to wallow, we all need to. But the day will come where you say “f this, i am NOT going out like this. i’m going to set a better example for my son. i’m going to f-ing DO THIS and not make the same mistakes i made that got me here.”

    Because when you have little ones, you just gotta keep going.

    1. Thank you so much for the reading suggestions. And yes. I’d never quit anyway. But my son ensures I won’t.

      I really appreciate you reading and commenting. Thank you.

      Lot of new readers today. Really embarrassing that everyone is seeing this self-pity stuff. Not who I want to be.

      1. It isn’t who anyone wants to be. Those of us who are reading and commenting know how it is and we want to help lift you up. Or I do, anyway. Maybe today is one of those days when the internets is a wonderful place. 🙂 Just know you’re not alone, that there is a trajectory to this, and that maybe you just have to ride it out for a while and do the best you can.

  15. The two most salient points I took away from your blog is that 1) you are fully aware of the symptoms and aware of the need to take action; and, 2) you are taking action.

    Make reasonable goals for yourself, like dropping the books. Give yourself the opportunity to experience small victories; even small victories will motivate you.

    You are moving in the right direction. Just don’t give yourself the license to quit. Follow through sounds like a critical step for you. You can do it. And you can always turn to your blog for support and a gentle kick in the ass for a jumpstart if you need it. 🙂

    And follow up on your posts. Tell us if you make your goal and if not, why you think you didn’t.

    1. Thank you. I did write this post, in large part, because I want to be held accountable.

      I try very hard to be self-aware. I know my strengths and weaknesses. That’s what makes my bad decision-making all the more terrible.

      Appreciate the note. A lot.

      1. I have dealt with some similar internal struggles. It is a whole new level of frustration when you can look at the patterns of your behavior, see they need changing, and struggle so much to make those changes happen.

        Not an easy place to be. I get it. Happy to help with accountability.

  16. Do you see what you’re doing here? You’re earning a commission from Altucher … almost. I read his little list and, although, they’re more extreme than I’d like, it just makes sense.

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