Too Close for Comfort

Have you ever had an experience that after it happened you knew you would never be the same? I just went through something that has made me question everything I know to be true about myself, and my life.

Some things in my life I have taken for granted on a daily basis. That’s over. This stage of my life is over. The blinders are off. I am well aware that life is about change, anyone that doesn’t know that is in for some upsets. I have worn many hats in my life and some of them fit much better than others. This last hat was so uncomfortable, so out of character. I know I am never going to be the same. I walked around shell-shocked that something so seemingly unfair could happen to me. Me!

But really, what the fuck made me think I was so goddamned special that it couldn’t happen to me? In this area of town I am surrounded by poverty, real poverty. Everyday I see people rummaging through the garbage in my alley. This was quite a surprise to me the first time I witnessed it. No shame these rummagers don’t flinch when people pass them by. I can remember thinking, “How bad does it have to be to rummage through the garbage of strangers?”

I have joked about living on the edge with four kids. But really our situation is so precarious. Fragile even. We walk a fine line between real poverty and just barely making ends meet. It all came crashing down last month. Bad luck and a wrong move in this piss poor economy and I couldn’t find a job. The average person is only 2 paychecks away from homelessness. Somehow even being surrounded by poverty I was sure in our situation we were somehow protected. Why? Because I have worn so many hats. Because I have four kids and will never end up going without. Because really nothing this bad has ever happened before.

I was wrong. So fucking wrong.

I am working now. We had to make some real cuts in our lifestyle. Things I took for granted. I should feel shame right now, but I just feel like a survivor. It sucks that no matter what happens with my new job(s) I will never have the security of knowing I can just get another job. (Not that this is what happened last time. I was laid off, no fault of my own.)  I have no shame in my new job, even though I am overqualified. This is probably just temporary.

I realize this may sound really bad, but I am so grateful for this temporary poverty. It has made me realize that even good people who do the right things can end up here. You don’t have to be stupid, or uneducated, or lazy to end up without basic services. You don’t have to burn bridges to end up without a hope for help. It can happen to anyone, even me. Maybe I should lie to people to try to get help, but what does that say about me as a person. How do I tell my kids not to lie when I do it myself. I am more impressed with their resiliency than mine, they count on me to do the right thing. My honesty got us here, but I am holding out hope that it will not be for nothing.

I kinda feel like I can’t go back to just being me. I realize that some of you may be wondering why I would even say anything here about it. Because I need to say it. I can’t pretend that this never happened. I am shell-shocked and things that were really important to me four days ago, are even more precious to me now that I can actually enjoy them again. Right now I am grateful for the electricity I can enjoy inside my house. Six hours into living with no electricity and I was thinking how it sucks that public bathrooms don’t have plugs anymore. I was thinking about places I should ride my bike instead of take the car, just to save on gas. After the first 24 hours it didn’t feel any better, but I realized I am not alone. Reaching out for assistance I encountered agencies that could not keep up with the need for help. It is sad. Worse than I ever thought it would be. Help arrived from an unlikely source on the second day for us from a family member. There are lots of families still waiting.

I was thinking about all of this and now I don’t feel so disgusted when I see those people rummaging through my garbage. How far am I from that? Hopefully really far, hopefully you are too. I am grateful that this was just temporary and not a permanent thing. For many people going without modern conveniences is a reality. I am very grateful, but I don’t think I will ever be the same.

10 comments

  1. [...] to take a minute to let you all know how things have really turned around for us since I posted Too Close for Comfort. That was almost a month ago, but it seems so fresh in my mind. I took a job way out of my field. I [...]

  2. crazyhomebodygl says:

    love the blog post! i really feel you. i live with my family and i do feel we walk a tight rope and are one or 2 paychecks away from being out on the street, which worries me sometimes. luckily, we always make it through.thanks for sharing.

  3. Oh Karen, I’m so glad that you’re well enough to be able to make this post. I know how absolutely terrifying it is to start losing everything and not be able to see how far away the bottom to the spiral is.

    3 years ago I lost my job that was paying me over $75,000 a year. Unemployment didn’t pay enough to make the mortgage payment, and my wife didn’t pull in enough to help. We paid the bills as the house fell behind, and her swings between emotional abuse and neglect became stronger. When I left her 6 months later (and our two kids, who I thought had more short-term stability with her) the foreclosure proceedings were beginning. In the year that followed while I tried to find a job I lost my house, lost my car, got divorced, and got hit with child support to the tune of $1000 a month, all while unemployed. Mrs. AP and her (soon-to-be-ex) husband helped as they could, but it was all we could do to keep a decent roof over our heads.

    I took a job that is well outside my IT background just to be able to pay the support and contribute to what few bills I could. Then Mrs. AP’s husband lost his government contract job and we were struggling all over again, all while he was pulling away and spiraling deeper into some medical issues that he still refuses to face.

    8 years ago Mrs. AP worked for Bank of America’s Business Banker division handling contracts for Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies; she pulled in 6 figures a year, owned a house in downtown St. Pete, and bought her cars with cash. Her boyfriend at the time (and father of her 2 youngest) convinced her to stay home with the kids once she got pregnant with their second, and his jobs never could pull in what hers could. Not that it mattered, since BofA canned her division while she was out on maternity leave anyway, so she had nothing to go back to once she delivered. They rolled through her savings as he bounced between jobs, and once her husband entered the picture the three of them stabilized but never got back to where she had been.

    In June we all split ways, with the ex-boyfriend moving in with his mother to tend to her in her slowly failing health, the husband leaving to seek his own way, and Mrs. AP and I finding our own place. We’ve downsized considerably for our apartment, with the 3 kids and us practically on top of one another at all times. We’re on food stamps because my net pay of $365 a week (if it were gross instead) would qualify for below the poverty line for a family of 3, but the gross is “technically too high”, as it doesn’t account for the automatic withdrawal of child support. We live paycheck to paycheck. Some weeks we hit 2 days before payday and have nothing left. We manipulate using credit instead of debit at the gas station to delay it hitting the account for 2-3 days. We’re borrowing the ex-boyfriend’s car until we can afford to get our own, yet have no way to save up for one. My work provides no insurance, but Mrs. AP and the kids at least thankfully get covered by Medicaid.

    We’ll pull out of this, but in the interim it’s like starting all over again, fresh out of our parent’s house and struggling just to barely scrape by. Her mother has actively refused to help us, and my parents and I aren’t on speaking terms since I left my ex-wife and came out of the closet in the same breath. Besides, they live in Oregon and can’t exactly swing by with groceries. We have only ourselves and whatever networking contacts we can use to pull out of this. We have a friends in Orlando who has graciously replaced Mrs. AP’s dead laptop so that she can resume her digital art and try to launch both an Etsy and Cafe Press store. I have an ex-co-worker who is giving me part-time IT consulting work that is promised to turn into a full-time position once the company can clear some hurdles required to be able to bring me aboard. We have long-term plans of being able to side-launch the blog into an entire website array of projects that should generate additional revenue. I’m in touch with some freelance erotica publishers to try to break into that market. It will be tough, but we know we can do it as long as we pace ourselves and don’t burn ourselves out.

    I’m proud to say I know we can pull through. I’m also proud to say that I know you will as well. I wish you and Miguel the absolute best of luck. I’m pulling for you. :-)

    Stay SINful
    Mr. AP
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    • BlueKaren says:

      That is part of our problem as well. The agencies that would be able to help us, only look at his gross income. They don’t take into account the double child support pmts that they are erroneously taking out (they are taking out for the same kids from two different states). No way to fix that problem without money for a lawyer. It is messy right now with me sort of working at a job I am embarrassed to even say out loud to myself. I do have a job interview for a real nursing position tomorrow, we’ll see if that gives any hope. We are actually thinking about moving out of state to get out of this mess. Miguel might be able take a promotional position and maybe the double child-support pmts will stop once/if we move.
      This can’t last, nothing really, really good or really, really bad ever does.

  4. Sunnie says:

    Im sorry your having hard times, it sucks, we have defintely been there before. I think it does make you stronger, especially when everybody comes out together. A lot of people give up when times get hard, like its going to never have hard times with someone else. It also makes you appreciate things and be more grateful. I hope it gets better soon.

    • BlueKaren says:

      S-t-r-e-s-s
      The strain this has placed on Miguel and I is incredible. We have been “tried” before in our relationship, with the me almost dying of sepsis and the birth of our 16 week premature son. I am especially grateful now to be able to reflect that our relationship was strong enough to survive that, I know we can survive this too! (this is only a temporary poverty, after all)

  5. Raine says:

    I am so sorry you had to go this stress, even with the lessons learned no one should have to face the fears of not meeting your basic needs. I hate when someone says ‘they know how you feel’, or they tell their story in a way that tries to out-do you, but i just want to say that the day my boyfriend of 11yrs & father of my 2 kids had a heart attack and died on my lap-my world didn’t just change-I became a completely different person. following that we faced evictions, had our power off and depended on food pantries. Its terrifying when you’re right on the edge. I have my amazing parents to thank for getting me where I am today, it’s not great-but secure. Thank you for posting this, many people would feel embarassed and you never should!!! We’re survivors even though some days/weeks it doesn’t feel like it, and thank you for letting me share a little of my story. I truly hope everything keeps moving up in your life!

    • BlueKaren says:

      Thank you so much for sharing that. Really, it feels good to know that I am not alone here and that other people, folks I admire even, have/do struggle. We are making the best with what we got on a daily basis. A bit more grateful for the little things today. Again, thank you!

  6. I am grateful for the financial struggles i have had and continue to have sporadically. It’s like learning a secret. A gift of gratefulness. Truly appreciating things people take for granted. My favorite…fresh fruits and veggies. A warm fuzzy blanket, toiletries, not being hungry. When i’ve gone without food all i could think of is how awful it is that children go through that. Do people even know that being hungry physically hurts. sorry to be a downer, but this post has really touched me. So few people get it. When i’ve had periods in my life that i was what i would consider well off i did give more. i made charitable contributions. now i find myself giving more often, directly to those in need, even though i’m able to give less. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you and your family have gone through this. I hope you never have to again and i know you will always hold on to what you learned from it. the understanding you have gained.
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