It feels like a lifetime ago. It was a lifetime ago. I was living alone for the first time ever and newly single. Street parking was tight, there was a shared laundry room that took quarters only, and no storage to speak of, but my little apartment was so cute. I was proud that I did it on my own and living alone was pretty neat. Like a lot of places, there was no central air. It had a wall AC unit, but it was sufficient for cooling the whole place since the whole place was essentially the size of a room. I was on the upper floor, so when it was hot, it was hot and there was no escape. I don't know how I sat there sweltering, when I could have had relief with the flick of a switch. The tower fan would have to do, because the wall unit was to be used ONLY while I worked out, and sometimes not even then depending on just how hot it was. Those were the rules. I went to bed in stifling heat some nights and woke up to damp sheets. During the day I holed up in the library or went to the mall when it got too bad. I took two showers a day because just breathing was enough to make me sweat, but upon pain of death I would not touch that wall unit.
Those were the rules.
And so many rules there were back then because life demanded it. I could only buy clothing if I absolutely needed it and only from Walmart or Target. I wasn't allowed to eat after six. To cut down on gas I couldn't go too far from home most weekends and stops at 7-11 for 99 cent coffee was only allowed once a week.
Those were the rules because money was tight and discipline of utmost importance.
Diet soda was allowed daily. I had one every day with "dinner" to help me feel full. If you could even call it that. Three slices of thinly sliced lunch meat ham, slapped between two slices of bread, a 2% Kraft Single, and the thinnest layer of mustard was the main dish with a side of exactly one serving of pretzel sticks. I counted. The cans were rinsed and stored in the dishwasher and taken to the recycling center monthly where I would receive my CRV in the form of a grocery store credit at Ralph's next door. I parked in between the two, so I could haul my cans to the recycling center and then walk to the grocery store where I would painstakingly select each item after carefully scrutinizing the nutritional information.
The thing about it, is that my electric bill was so cheap. I still don't know how it was so cheap, but it was only about $35.00 per month. Allowing myself some relief and turning on the wall unit every now and then would have made me much more comfortable, and how high could my bill really get? Not very high, as I would find out later, but I was too caught up in my own suffering and sadness to find out. Everything had to be controlled to the maximum level possible. I didn't allow myself to splurge. Ever. On anything. I embraced hunger, the stifling heat and all the things about my life that was difficult without resistance, but it wasn't just about the money. It was proving to myself what I had already come to accept at that time. Life is hard and I wasn't meant to be happy.
Then I met MJ.
I lived there for five years. He lived in that little studio with me for the last six months, and you better believe that when it got hot he didn't hesitate for a second to turn that thing on. He couldn't understand my logic. Why suffer, when you don't have to? I mean, if you have no choice that is one thing, but when you have a choice, why not choose comfort? It's usually worth it. Space was limited and sometimes the clutter made me cranky, but it wasn't just me against the world anymore, and that cold air circulating through the studio felt like a small miracle. It was pure magic, and my oven which still pristine after five years of very little action was finally getting put to good use. The girl who didn't want to eat had fallen in love with a foodie.
When we moved into our house I tried to make us both suffer. Our expenses were high that year between the new house and the wedding. Old habits die hard. "We're fine," I'd say. "It's not that hot," because I was used to sacrificing comfort to save a dime, but MJ wasn't having it. He went crazy cranking up the AC at just the slightest hint of warm weather, and I went along with it until we got the bill. I taught him the value of a savings account and he taught me to live a little. I gave in a bit, so did he, and we've found a pretty nice balance over the years.
I shake my head sometimes thinking about how my life has changed since then. All for the better, and I am so thankful. We own a home with central air, we take trips, I don't think twice about stopping at 7-11 for coffee, and I have an Amazon addiction. My meals are nutritionally balanced, I have an awesome husband, and I no longer look for any excuse to martyr myself. I'm happy.
Why suffer when you don't have to? The answer is, you shouldn't. Air cooling is a wonderful invention. I am truly humbled after being without it for six hot days and can't wait for it to be fixed next week.
Disclaimer: This post was brought to you by our broken air conditioning unit and the wonder that is air cooling, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.