I am facing the hard realities of moving back to Washington later this spring. I had considered staying in Florida to be available to my mother for another year but enough things have happened recently that I am now firm in the decision that I am going home.
But it is a pretty scary scenario. I am 55, have all my stuff in storage, have no car, have no job, have no place to live, have no money, and it is the worst unemployment since the 1930’s depression, plus I am trying to redefine myself professionally. There are days when the voices get pretty loud and discouraging. I am worried. I am frightened.
But, I am also me.
By “I am also me” I mean that I am not destitute in the soul. I am not someone who has given up hope.
When I wrote that sentence I went looking for this famous photo from the depression. Next to the photo was this quote:
Millions of unemployed and poor Americans were without basic food and housing, and were suffering the sense of hopelessness that comes with extreme poverty.(emphasis mine)
It is that sense of hopelessness that I have not allowed in. There have been many a time in the dark days of this journey that I felt like I was in a big wide black vortex getting sucked down but fighting to get out instead. I am not out yet, but I am closer to the edge now. I cling to the possibility that I will get all the way out.
What does getting out of the vortex look like? Getting all the way out means getting financially on my feet and having a home that is mine; a place where I can finally unpack and stay. In other words it means a sense of stability on which I can build a solid foundation and then slowly begin the rebuilding process of the rest of my life.
The thing that scares me is how many people who are truly “down and out” never expected to find themselves there? I know there are people who were raised into the “down’n’out” mentality. I know there are many homeless people who are mentally ill. But I also know there are others who are homeless, jobless, and hopeless who never in their wildest dreams would have imagined they would find themselves there. Nanci Griffith has the following lyrics in her song “Down’n’outer” that says it all:
I once was a lot like you
We share a dream
I couldn’t make come true
I was a child who wrote my name
Across a frosted window pane
Can you spare the time?
Can you spare a dime?
Can you look me in the eye?
And I am lonely
Do you ever think of me on Sunday?
No, I don’t live across the water
Hey, I live right here on this corner
Just a bank account away from America
Now, you call me down’n’outer
If there’s a way out
I’ve not found ‘er
I only want to earn my piece of America
Any sense of entitlement, invulnerability, and “happily ever after” have been stripped from me. I know I am vulnerable. I know that there is the potential of not succeeding.
There but for the grace of God go I right now. I know I am right on the vortex edge. I am frightened of the vortex. I am afraid that the vortex will win and I will just get sucked down into hopelessness and endless destitution. It truly could be a possibility.
It is not a possibility I am willing to accept. I will die fighting it! I want to succeed and I still think I can. But I have no illusions about anything in life being “for sure” anymore.
I need to keep working at improving my capability and my faith in myself. And, I need to surround myself with people who aid me in that. It is for that reason that I cannot bring myself to move into low income housing even though I do qualify and it would make economic sense. I feel that I would be around more people who have bought into hopelessness and resignation – which is something I do not want to be around.
How I carry myself and behave matters. Though I cannot fill in the TBI years with anything stellar in the job area because of being unable to work, I can still carry myself and present myself as a winner, as a person of worth.
I think that a quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow gets to the core of this topic in some ways.
“We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing,
while others judge us by what we have already done.”
That is the crux of the matter in many ways. And therefore, I claim hope.