Lack of money limits choices. It’s so easy to focus on what I can’t do or afford that I often forget that I still have a choice as to how I chose to act.
Lately, I’ve been a grump. I felt sorry for myself, frustrated, limited, lacking.
When reality would come knocking and life was showing me that compassion with myself and others would be the better choice, I tried my best to ignore it. Wearing misery like an ugly old sweater pulled up against a hostile world got to be a real drag. So when I found an ugly sweater that I loved, I “decided to rock the ugly!”
Now, I lost track of “rocking the ugly” between then and now about half a dozen times but “rockin’ the ugly” is a choice and it sure beats letting life weigh too heavily. I’m old enough now to know “that this too shall pass.” No one can take their money or possessions with them when they die and as much as I’d like to leave a physical legacy for my children, they aren’t going to be taking it with them when they go either. In the end, all the money and stuff in the world won’t matter. What matters is how I chose to live my life and how I made the best with what I was given.
I’m going with the flow. Here’s to “rockin’ the ugly!
Having downsizing forced on us isn’t all bad. I’ve started going through things in preparation for a big garage sale this spring. I need to liquidate as many assets as possible. Getting rid of clutter is liberating. Part of me is enjoying it, albeit from a distance. The enjoyment fights with occasional flashes of victimhood that are grossly unpleasant. There are a lot of memories and dreams wrapped in with the stuff of our lives. It can be hard to let go.
I would prefer the down sizing to be a conscious choice. I’ve spent the last few years fascinated by the Tiny House movement, Minimalists and the people that love them, and those people brave enough to live an alternative lifestyle disconnected from popular consumer culture and based on simple values.
While that life calls to me, I have sat in my broken recliner watching mindless TV more than I ever want to admit. Escapism calls me in many forms. It’s easy to lose oneself in someone else’s drama i.e. the love of TV. I also know the power of the cupcake or potato chip to hold the fear temporarily at bay. Chocolate -covered cinnamon bears are my new guilty pleasure. I am not proud.
I am honest and I know what areas of my life are demanding attention. I also know I need to get serious and deal with the challenges ahead without breaking no matter how tempting that option may feel at times.
Recently, a wise mentor has told me that I need to find my joy. Getting through a day was hard. Fun was so elusive it all but disappeared. I felt grumpy, angry. Tears were never far away. While I’m still in transition, I realized that despite input to the contrary, I did deserve happiness, joy. Joy is good. It doesn’t have a price tag. It’s free for the taking.
It is possible to be poor and happy. Not that being poor doesn’t increase problems exponentially but those problems don’t have the right to crowd out everything else.
Yesterday, as I drove to work, I looked at the sunrise in the east as it painted the sky a gorgeous pink behind Mt. Hood. This display was so breathtaking I can not describe it in words. It was free and the opening to my day, a simple and pure gift that for a few moments gave me a great peace and hope and even joy. Wordless, priceless, joy. No one can take that from me.
“There is something to be found in what we have lost.” — Mastin Kipp
Admission: Lately, I’ve felt really lost. I haven’t wanted to write about the realities of my life because I felt like it was a reflection on me: a mirror of failure. More importantly, I didn’t want to be candid and receive advice or worse yet, judgment.
I don’t want to be fixed. I want to be loved.
Lost and wrapped in fear, I haven’t written. If I can’t write about the realities of my life how can I write about anything?
I began to realize that maybe writing about what I lack, what’s wrong and the specific challenges I face, might be the most meaningful writing I’ll ever do. There might be other people like me who don’t want to feel isolated and alone. My being honest might be a gift to some one, a gift so valuable that it’s worth risking criticism.
So, here goes.
Once again, we are in foreclosure. At some point, we will lose our home. At this time, we do not have an alternative. I don’t take home enough to qualify for an apartment. Our credit is abysmal and it’s been over 3 years since I put our name on the local low-income housing authorities list. We have yet to be notified of any openings. We have and do follow up.
Given the current condition of our home, living in the van might be a healthier alternative. A leak under the kitchen sink is ruining the floor in two rooms. We’ve witnessed some pretty weird fungus growing out of our carpet. It looks positively other worldly but smells like old rotten potatoes. I haven’t opened the cabinet doors hiding the “zone of destruction” under said sink because I don’t want to get a visual on what we are breathing in on a daily basis. I can’t close a door on the stuff growing in the carpet. (Insert full body shudder here.)
Having dry weather this winter has been a blessing. It keeps some of the mold down. When it does rain, their are two leaks in the living room that require buckets to collect the rain water. We use old tee-shirts in the bottom of the bucket to soften the staccato of the rain.
Meanwhile, we pretend to be middle-class, which is pretty hard to do when you are really living way below the Federal Poverty level. Almost daily, I hear some one make a flippant remark about poor people and if they’d only get a job, or stop expecting hand outs or. . . .It gets really old. My opinion is a poor one. My perspective is even poorer. I rarely object although I have perfected a look that should at least burn someone with my invisible psychic mind laser. Not one of my victims has ever reported this, however, and I’m too ashamed to ask if they felt the burn. But, I can hope.
I know I’m not really a loser but I some times feel like one. I have a job. I harvest what I can from our years of accumulation and from forays into thrift stores and sell it on eBay or Etsy for a small profit. I’m a Mary Kay Consultant. I have three jobs right now. Yet, I have to keep looking for a job that pays more because three jobs aren’t enough. I’m a veritable wizard with the stretching of a dollar but you do have to have enough dollars to stretch or things starts snapping like the elastic in my aged underwear.
The fact that there is no safety net in my life, nothing to catch us when we finally fall, actually terrifies me. Almost every night I dream about losing our home and having no where to go. When this all started, there were times when I couldn’t hold back the tears at the thought of losing our home, a home I’d grown to love. I’ve had several years to get used to the idea. I know there will be tears ahead but I have had a long time to process this, to live with panic, to live with impending loss, to struggle, to lose.
Last weekend, I finally hatched a plan. It came to me suddenly upon awakening after another night of being a nomad in my dreams: I need to find an old motor home, one that is drivable and livable and find a RV campground nearby so that we’ll have a place to sleep, a hot plate to cook Top Ramen on, and a roof over our heads when the time comes. Just how I’m going to do all this, has yet to be determined. Lately, the Universe/God/Higher Power/the Force hasn’t seemed to be cooperating but this is the best plan I have at the moment and common sense is telling me I’ve got to aim for something.
Between that alien mold life form stuff, judgments from and by the clueless, and the exhaustion of working hard and gaining so little, life is hard. After the pain of disappointment sloughed off, I have been more than a little angry. Poor and angry is not an attractive combination. Poor, angry and depressed is down right ugly.
Imagine how vexing it is to begin to accept that maybe all this resistance is futile and that instead of feeling like a victim in a ridiculous melodrama maybe all this is an opportunity. At first glance, seeing all “this as an opportunity” feels as crazy or crazier than that psychic mind laser.
Up until now, I’ve felt like I’ve been tied to the bumper on the car of called “Life”. (This is one old and ugly car. Some one has glued a bunch of scary gargoyles to this hideous ride and spray painted it to look like Predator just vomited jungle all over it.) We’re not on the smooth highway. I’ve got the gravel in my thighs to prove it. This has got to stop. . I have to get in the driver’s seat, metaphorically and literally. Gravel thighs aren’t good for any one especially an elderly, overweight woman who has been careering after the Predator mobile. Please forgive my digression. A vivid imagination is one of the few rich things about me. That and character!
Between now and 3 minutes from now, I’ll probably cycle through a lot of emotions ranging from despair, panic, to zen-like serenity. Most of these emotions will arise from the fertile ground of my thoughts and not an actual reality in that moment. I guarantee you that in the next 3 minutes, we won’t be evicted and all the worry, panic and despair will only rob me of more serenity. I’ve known a lot of worriers in my life and I spend a fair amount of time being one but the only thing it has ever gained me is high blood pressure and a stomach ache that’s lasted 45 years.
It’s time to take a stand. To be perfectly clear, I’m going to repeat what I want from life and from the people I choose to share my life with:
I don’t want to be fixed. I want to be loved.
“There is something to be found in what is lost.” It’s time to rise to the occasion. This is my life: poor, raw, messy, moldy, and yet, interesting, challenging, full of blessings which are some times so well hidden, they are almost impossible to find. If any one can find them, I can. Once lost, I am beginning to find my way.
Choices. There are too many of them.
Overwhelmed, I avoid making any. I try and fool myself into thinking that I don’t have many choices but that isn’t true. The smart part of me knows it.
Lately, I avoid writing to avoid understanding. Confusion feels familiar, almost necessary. The idea of lifting the veil and seeing what is behind the curtain is too much.
Yesterday, in Fred Meyer’s an elderly woman on the toilet paper aisle needs to talk. I see it in her eyes, in her posture. She is lonely. Naturally outgoing, she seems lost in a sea of strangers and reaches out to me to make a connection. I listen and smile politely aware of her great need, happy to fulfill some function, to be that friendly face in the crowd.
Suddenly, everyone in the store decides they must come down this same aisle. The elderly woman isn’t finished talking. She is unaware of the crowd pressing against our space, a space that isn’t ours, one that we must share. I try to steer her to safety but she blocks my path eager to talk, needing me to listen. Impatience pushes in behind me. A woman gently nudges me with her cart. I am annoyed and understanding all in the same moment. Like her, I would feel impatient if someone was blocking my path. I would not bump my cart into them. This level of rudeness bothers me.
Worse yet, my elderly woman is telling me of an old trauma. The woman used to work in a grocery store, actually owned one with her husband until the big corporations forced them out of business. She continued working as a clerk until she was 75. She stands before me with more energy and vigor than I. She must be hugging 80. Over 20 years ago, an unpleasant encounter with a person of a different ethnic group, impacted her so strongly that she still needs to talk about it. I’m torn. I hope no one will hear. I understand how she feels. I also know that the nationality or race or religion doesn’t matter, rude people come in every shape, size and flavor i.e. like the woman using her cart as a battering ram. I want to be any where but there trapped by the toilet paper, kleenex,adult diapers and limited humans.
For a split second, I consider gently telling my elderly acquaintance, I’m not comfortable with what could be perceived as bigotry. It might be the right thing to do. It may not be. It won’t change her view. She’s invested years in harboring the injury, in blaming a nationality for the transgressions of the few. Injustice was done years ago and it continues to be done by the victim who has unfairly judged others from that day forward.
The woman behind effectively pushes me aside with her cart. Her sigh is almost a snort.
“PLEASE, get out of my way,” she huffs.
I apologize, automatically. I don’t like the fact that I am blocking others. My intention wasn’t to block or delay. I, also, don’t like being rammed by the cart and for a split second I consider telling her so but why cause a scene? I wanted to listen to a woman who needed someone to validate her, to accept her and all her biases. It was what I was called to do. The woman behind me had no idea what was in my heart and that I was blocked by women of limited awareness on all sides. The more impatient one did not comprehend or perceive anything in me other than a road block. I was unruly furniture, a problem to be forced out of the way.
My discomfort rose when I finally parted from this tangle. The incident haunted me. At times, I am both of these women. Bias often limits my perception. I can be impatient with strangers. What can seem justifiable and right might often be only a reflection of my limitations, my limited perspective. My head spins. I long for peace in a world that struggles against it. I long for peace and my own soul often fights against it. Opposition, conflict is easy. Fairness, compassion, love are not.
We live in a horrible paradise. Beautiful roses have thorns. Wind and rain can destroy or save. Work is hard. We envy. Our lack, our limitations can make us mean, thoughtless, brutal and harsh. Facing our limitations can open a vault of despair. Acts of kindness can get us in trouble. Progress can run us over. Worldly success can pass us by. We ache, we cry for all that we are not and blame others outside ourselves for the darkness that lives inside each of us.
We forget who we really are. We forget that in a paradise lost, there is also a paradise regained. We fail to understand the wisdom of opposites. We try to harvest them from our minds and hearts so that we can indulge in the illusion that we know better. We reap what we sew. We lose contact with the Divine Spark, with Love, with God. We want to understand something we can not and make ourselves miserable in the process. We convince ourselves that we are victims of the darkness. We fail to choose the light.