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.