I wrote 3,000 words yesterday and left them in the draft folder. Mostly I spent the day focused on babysitting and cooking and just being with my kids. The thing about cooking soup while the baby naps is that it leaves a lot of time for thinking. His mom was sick so his dad dropped him off with a chicken and I made soup for everyone while she slept. This I can still do and do well.
There’s no room for shame with babies, nothing is too silly or too serious. No room for shame. No need for shame. And this is a lesson I already know. Life is too precious, too sweet to waste it pretending, hiding, living a lie. But of course, actually hitting “publish” and “share” on a brutal truth of being in the midst of suffering is another matter entirely. Sure enough, there’s plenty of people who don’t want to know or who offer ridiculous or even hurtful advice. And there’s a few really excellent people out there who Get It. The lifesavers. I learned a new term, “situational depression,” from a friend. This makes sense. It’s the phrase I need. And I discovered what happens when someone flags your post on Facebook. First you get logged out and have to log back in and confirm your identity twice. Then you get blocked from the site until you’ve been shown links to hotlines and given the suggestion to message or call a friend. And then I found my feed was filled with ads for alcohol. Not.Fucking.Cool Facebook, not cool at all. One thing I am absolutely sure of is that a bottle of whiskey is the last thing I need right now.
Whiskey and hotlines. No, I’m nowhere near that unstable. Feelings, and even fantasies, are a long way from actions. These are some of the trustiest tools in my box, to sit with the feelings and let the fantasies play out all the way to the gruesome end. The gruesome end of all those scenarios is me, on my knees, begging to live. No, I won’t be picking up the bottle, the dope, or the noose anytime soon. But yes, I had better be honest about thinking about these things. Having feelings won’t kill me. Hiding the truth, dishonesty, pretending very well might. So I write and write and write. I write to live.
The kids leave for school and I have an hour to write before getting ready going out into the world and Seeing People. This is terrifying. Real, live adult human beings made me commit to meeting them today. It’s exactly what I need and it scares the snot out of me right now. Reasons to shower and put on clean clothes and brush my teeth and hair. Something to hold on to. People who come in this tunnel with no light at the end and bring flash lights. It’s not so scary with lights and ropes.
I remember that hiring often picks up right after New Years. Hopefully there will be more opportunity soon. I do, after all, live in the state with the highest unemployment and poverty rates. New Mexico isn’t exactly well-developed and thriving. Thousands of other people are also in this boat with me.
I want to say a few words about suggestions to go apply for assistance or visit the food bank. I have long years of experience with these programs. Even getting a box of canned goods requires proof of income and eligibility forms. And I have no check stub to prove that I have no job. Getting paid in chicken to cook doesn’t have a space on the form. I also traded one knotted string bookmark for a bag of string to make more bookmarks and there isn’t a form for that either. I know people mean well with these suggestions but it shows that they haven’t tried to apply for these programs anytime in the last 20 years. Remember Bill Clinton and the whole “welfare to work?” Yeah, well, I am one of the people who gets screwed by those ideas. Y’all so worried that somewhere someone is going to “bilk the system” that me and many, many people like me are now locked out of the system.
Thank you for everyone who passes on leads for openings. I appreciated it. There’s this cycle that comes with the endless rejection of long-term unemployment. Someone tells me of an opening they heard about. I get all excited and dash to the computer to check it out. Then I see that they want someone with a master’s degree and 3-5 years of experience. And I don’t even try because I am so far away from even the minimum qualifications. If I was close I would go one and take the long shot. But I’m not even close so I feel a little more like a failure, a little more pathetic and useless. But then I hear about another opening and the whole cycle repeats. Or I see an ad that looks promising and go get the details and they want nights and weekends for $9/hr and there’s no way I can pay, or even find, childcare for those hours. Even if there was night childcare I’d still be losing money to pay for it. But I keep over and over I keep reading ads, asking for referrals, turning in resumes and applications. These are the ones that kill me, submitting all my forms and letters, checking everything three times, and, at most, getting a confirmation email and then hearing absolutely nothing. I don’t even know what I’m doing wrong to improve for the next time. I started turning in apps for retail and food service and that about kills me. I’ve done a lot of that over the years. And again, it’s probably that they want nights and weekends so when they see that I fill out that I prefer weekday hours mine goes right in the trash in favor of someone without family responsibilities. It was easy to pick up work waiting tables when I could take a graveyard or swing shift and work every weekend. But I’m a single mother with two school-aged children who aren’t yet old enough to be alone all night, every night. They are really good kids and did OK alone for a few hours in the evening when I had class and couldn’t come home and get them and take them with me. They did good with that, too, coming to school with me and sitting in the hall or the back of the room quietly.
And, in a few minutes, I need to hit the publish button and go take a shower. This is something to hold on to, my cold little hands hang on tight to these small promises. I said I would be there so I will be there, no matter how scared I am. I’m in a pretty desperate, dark place. I have no clue what I’m supposed to do or how to figure it out from here. And it means the world to me to have these few people bring ropes and lights for me to hold on to. This shit really sucks, I’m not OK. I’m failing and falling and the fog my mind has become makes it really hard to find hope or ask for help. But at the same time I did pull my own cover and I am functioning well enough to have made that checklist to brush my teeth and take a shower.
The mean, nasty voice in my head hasn’t yet had the last word. She might be a cruel bitch telling me I’m worthless and nothing but a failure but the survivor voice knows that the only way to shut her up is to make her say it publicly and out loud. She thrives on shame and secrecy and dark, lonely places. Getting dragged out into the world and put in front of a microphone sends her scurrying off in silence. Just being seen, being heard makes a world of difference. It’s still a shitty place to be but it’s so much better just to be in the open about it. I’m shivering in my shoes scared to be physically out in public actually showing my face to people who know I’m not at all OK. But I’m going to go to it. And I’m grateful for it and grateful for them with their lights and ropes and hands to hold.