Today, for the first time in so very long, I am breathing a bit better than I have. Today (Thursday), I received a call I’ve been waiting for: I start a new job on Monday. I went to the office today to sign documents and pick up the Office Manual to re-introduce myself to the work.
The work itself is insignificant for the purpose of this post. What is important, is that I am finding my footing somewhere between elation and anxiety. I’m not one to publicly display my fears any deeper than voicing a minor concern. And there are circumstances that prevent me from divulging certain aspects of what has been going on around here.
I lost my job on Monday, July 11, 2011. Since then, we (myself, Dot, and the rest of my family) have struggled with keeping the household running. Struggle is a good word, yet not good enough. There have been many times I felt strangled. Many times I felt the cosmos was playing dice with my life. I am thankful this last season did not include any health ailments or accidents, as I’m prone to collect those like baseball cards every few years.
It’s not been easy. And unless you truly are in the midst of poverty, you can’t understand what it’s like. There are many jobs I can’t do. Not won’t do. Can’t do. Through no fault of my own, I’ve been in ten car accidents in 25 years. These have left me with consistent left hip, back and neck muscle/tendon issues. On a good day, I can walk. I can’t ever run. And on a bad day, I can barely get out of bed. Applying for a part-time cashier or retail position has never been an option for me.
There’s a common perception with employers that if you’ve been unemployed for any length of time, it must mean your unemploy-able. For over a year, I’ve been able to land many interviews. I just haven’t landed the jobs.
This last month was the hardest. I found myself trying to make such decisions as what to sell and when to sell it. Whether or not I should move, and if so, where? Michigan keeps calling me back. But so does Minnesota. I’ve always wanted to live in New York. Or just down the street.
There’s only so many ways a person can cook white rice without getting tired of it. There’s only so many times I can rake the leaves off the dirt yard to stay busy. There’s only so much pain a person can take.
Last Friday I couldn’t even get out of bed. I rolled over after Dot said goodbye on her way to college. When I knew the house was empty and no one could hear me but God and the cats, I screamed. I screamed loud and long and then I screamed some more. I thought it might help, but it didn’t. So I sobbed.
I’ve been exhausted for months, hiding behind this facade of a happy person fully trusting in God to take care of us.There’s a difference between being taken care of and barely getting by. I thought perhaps I’d reached the end of what I could take. And I sobbed even more.
I can’t fix the noisy toilets without help. I can’t pay for help. If something happens to the car, we can’t afford to fix it. I have to choose between cat litter and a gallon of milk. It will take more than a few months to repair my credit. I’ve made my payments, but not always on time. And as soon as I get fully current on my bills, something has happened to upset that apple cart. Sometimes it was just life getting in the way. Sometimes it was bureaucracy.
I can’t explain the agony that comes with poverty. How painful it is to choose between driving to a friend’s house or saving the gas for church. Some friends stopped calling. But others have blessedly been a great source of comfort and dialogue. It’s not fun having to refuse invitations to go out because I can’t afford it; but neither is always being the Charity Project of the week.
I’ve been labeled. That’s the worst. There are people I know/knew, who have labeled me as Unemployed. Emotional. Needy. Without truly finding the depths of me, they have labeled me with names that scream Poverty. Poor. and Problematic. I’ve been unable to reach out to those I once trusted, because they see me now as only a financial burden or emotional wreck.
I have lost the ability to be ME.
I’ve done my best to keep these influences away from Dot. Of course she understands we’re in dire straits. She’s well aware that there’s not as much food in the pantry as there used to be. But she’s in college. She’s driving herself around town. Her happy life is just beginning, and I won’t let this negative season weigh her down any more than it absolutely has to.
And I feel guilty. Oh-so-guilty. Because I’m alive. And my friend’s brother isn’t. Because I’m healthy, and a girl just had life-changing surgery. Because I still have a roof over my head, gas in the car, a very smart, dedicated, healthy, Godly daughter, a wonderful relationship with my family and many friends. And I’m tired of eating rice.
Last Friday, I sobbed and screamed for hours, until I exhausted myself enough to just be quiet. I was too tired to even sleep.
And here it is, six days later, and I’m okay. We’re okay. We’re gonna be okay.
I woke up this morning not knowing what the day, week, or month would bring. Not knowing if the child support would be paid. Not knowing how these bills will be taken care of. And something happened.
I had no more money in my account than I did yesterday. The bills still aren’t paid. But I was breathing. I was awake. Healthy. Sheltered.
And today I understand the meaning of Daily Bread.
God doesn’t care that my bills aren’t paid. He cares about me.
It doesn’t matter that it’s rice we’re eating. Because we’re eating. It doesn’t matter that the child support stopped. Because we’re gonna be self sufficient.
It doesn’t matter why I haven’t worked for so long. Because I finally have a job.
I’m so afraid it won’t last. I’m so concerned the economy will continue to fall or even stagnate and I will once again find myself back here.
What matters is that we’re still breathing. And we’re still together. I didn’t have to choose between my daughter in California or a job in the Midwest. I’ll be back on my feet in a month or so. And I’ll be okay.
For all I’ve gone through; for a better understanding of those who truly struggle with poverty; and for the blessing of a new job,
THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY.
And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!
This post has been linked up with Shell at Things I Can’t Say for POUR YOUR HEART OUT