Coming Clean

So many thoughts percolating this morning. Things that need to get out of my head.  Do I share them here? These are private matters, I think. No good will come of this . . .

A friend posted an article on his Facebook feed this morning titled “This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense.” In the year since it originally ran on Huffington Post, some people have called shenanigans on the author, while others have called shenanigans on those calling shenanigans.

I’m too tired to care. This is not an attempt to validate or disprove Linda Tirado’s tale of what goes on in the lives and minds of the poor. This is my tale. Where I’m at right now. In my life and mind. The article merely got me thinking . . .

We will probably lose our house soon. I am several months behind on both mortgages, one with the USDA, and one with a local lender.  We got our house through a government program that subsidizes the amount we pay based on income. What seemed like a good idea at the time has been a disaster for us. I knew I was not fit to own a home, but I caved in to the “you need a home” mentality and told myself it would all work out in the end. This sort of thinking is usually bullshit. Maybe this will be a good thing in the end. Maybe we can go back to renting. Move closer to town. To the schools. To work. So commuting back and forth as much as we do won’t be such a burden or time suck. Maybe then we’ll have a landlord that will fix the shit I can’t seem to manage.

I am a shitty homeowner . . .

I am a diabetic. I haven’t been to the doctor in a couple years. I know what the doctor will tell me. I know the risks. I also don’t want to know how bad things have gotten. Things are bad. Yet another hole to climb out of, if that’s even possible anymore. Maybe too much damage has been done. I could die. And I don’t have the strength to face it. Maybe it isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe all I need is a tweak here or a new med there or some more vitamins I can’t afford. Maybe it will be painless. Or at least quick. I need to see a doctor soon. 

I am a shitty diabetic . . .

We are down to one car. My wife’s van quit on her while she was driving down the freeway. At 70 mph, she lost everything. No acceleration. No power steering. She managed to get to the side of the road, barely. And, unlike previous breakdowns, where whatever is wrong is obvious or makes sense, this time it is a mystery. The code reader doesn’t work. It could be a fuel pump. More likely some control module thingy, but no one can say for sure until they get the car in the shop. It will be expensive to fix. And I don’t have the money to do it. Maybe I can go and get a newer car. At one of those places where they’ll give anyone a car. Sure, I’ll pay too much in the end, but what else is there to do? It’s how I got my Honda last November. A 2003 Honda that gets us around and takes a percentage of my paycheck that would make most people say, “Wow! You got fucked!” In the meantime, I’ll just have to swallow my pride and keep mooching rides from coworkers and family members for all our vehicular and transportation needs until the compassion wears out. Which it most certainly will. 

I am a shitty car owner . . .

Student loans.  What fucking idiot takes out as many student loans as I did and doesn’t finish his degree? I tried, but when you work at a job where you don’t have the same days off from week to week, taking classes on campus is not possible. And most classes are not offered online. Especially higher level English/creative writing and philosophy and religious studies classes. Even in 2014. Who majors in that shit anyway?! And it was so easy. Just sign here, digitally even, no actual pen required, and you’re set. The money did help us stay afloat. And times have been such that I have been able to qualify for forbearance. But that will all end soon, I suppose. They’ll want their money back. Maybe one day I’ll find a way to finish. Maybe I’ll do some program for busy people, where classes are extremely flexible, short, and jobs are practically guaranteed if you believe the hype. Maybe. If only I didn’t feel so stupid. So past my prime. Like I’m losing it up there in the attic of my mind and the cheese is falling of the cracker. Like my mind can’t hold a thought or string together anything that looks meaningful or productive.

I am a shitty college student . . .

My dogs have fleas. I watch as they slide around the house, or the much coarser driveway, on their little dog butts in a comical yet heartbreaking attempt to scratch away the critters eating them alive. I yell at them to stop, even as I feel their pain and am unable to afford the prescription meds and veterinarian visits required to get rid of the fleas for good. So we resort to home remedies. OTC bottles of stuff that are the very definition of the axiom “You get what you pay for.” They look at me with their sad, rheumy dog eyes and I know they hate me. Maybe we’ll have to get rid of them if we move. The kids will hate that. I will hate that. But then maybe they’ll get new owners who will take care of them property. Give them the kind of respect and care even animals deserve. I’ll miss the way they snuggle with me when I sit in my broke down rocker. How they dance and spin when I give them a special treat or table scraps. But they’re dogs. They’ll adjust. At least my cat seems relatively unscathed.

I am a shitty pet owner . . .

Remember Tyler Durden’s “fridge full of condiments and no food?” Yeah. I’d take a picture if it would help you believe that I’m not kidding. We have half-whatever bottles of salad dressing, honey mustard, honey barbeque sauce, some Miracle Whip for bologna sandwiches, some of that lemon juice that comes in a cute little squeezable container shaped like a lemon, and some teriyaki sauce that we used for something once that I can’t remember. These things linger. Not milk. That shit is gone in the proverbial blink of an eye.  We could literally buy milk every day of the week. Because it’s good for you, mostly. It’s substantive. Like the loaves of bread or the rolls of hamburger. We buy these things when we can. My wife works for Kroger, so we get our share of deals and discounts. But we have no real budget for groceries. We just pick up what we can when we can, often one meal at a time. We visit the library and check out cookbooks filled with Crock Pot recipes and really tantalizing color photos and then look at them over yet another Hamburger Helper or tuna melt or $5 deli pizza. Sometimes we eat out just to mix things up. Dollar menus rock, and a large sweet tea and a double cheeseburger split two ways is a steal. The others just have to fend for themselves. We are not starving. We are not healthy. We have weight issues because we don’t think about it, we just eat to keep on living another day. Eating right takes time and money and planning and persistence and knowledge. Maybe one day, we’ll sit down to a good meal, all of us crowded around the table and laughing together, with nary a care in the world. Where the work of preparing a good meal is appreciated and feels rewarding. Maybe something good for us will one day taste better than pancakes and syrup makes us feel. 

I am a shitty provider . . .

I could go on. Being all witty and self-loathing. About how my kids will only ever go to college because our income qualifies them for a program where they get to go to a state school for free so long as they stay drug free and get good grades and we stay relatively poor. About how my daughter was too embarrassed to ask me for a new pair of shoes when hers got a hole in the sole and she knew that buying new shoes would be an issue, that maybe we could afford them this month or maybe not. About how that last sentence was so bad, but I’m too tired to think it through and write it better. About how our overpriced internet service will probably be cut off again soon and thank God for the library. About how cell phones are such a time suck and maybe losing them wouldn’t be so bad because thank God for the library. About how maybe they’ll eventually stop picking up our garbage and we can just stack it in the garage like we did a couple years ago and thank God for winter. Boo hoo.  On and on.

Linda Tirado made an observation about smoking. I am a smoker. And I get that part of her article. Sometimes I smoke just to feel something. To keep the heart going even as it all is supposedly killing me. Also the part about spending money on foolish things just because you sometimes need to be foolish and things are not going to get better anyway so damn it all while you can. I’ve never impaled roaches, though. I don’t get that part.

And I hear all the objections and admonitions and whatnot. About how my life isn’t so bad. About starving all over the world and true poverty and how the consequences of the decisions I’ve made are mine to bear and so suck it up, you weak and stupid little man. Or, more crushing, will be things left unsaid. The looks. The shaking of the head. The pity that isn’t really. I’ve done that. Felt that. Been disgusted by that. I get all that. I will never blame others for the mess that I’ve made. I plowed this field and I’ll reap whatever sprouts. Maybe things will get better once the bottom falls out. That happens, right? You wake up and see things for how they are and you live on despite the circumstances? Maybe that’s what I’ve been waiting for. But I see only the negative side of things. Failure means confirmation that I am incapable of living a life that makes sense and ends well and looks like hope. All I see is failure and misstep after misstep and a gradual loosening of the reins or of hands thrown in the air, abandoning it all to the wind. I hide behind a veneer of togetherness. I bury my head in books and hobbies and other things that are apathy in pretty clothes. I am stuck. And moving is hard. And I am tired.

The people I love tell me they love me. That they are by my side no matter what happens. Like I am somehow worthy of their love even as I turn away and hide my face and take that love and grind it down to a nub of nothing. I am grateful for my true friends. The ones who make life bearable. They listen to me and help even when it’s hard. And it must be hard. My counselor tells me I spend too much time thinking for others, filling their mouths with ulterior motives and hidden agendas, things for which there is no supporting evidence. I belittle myself on behalf of others and darken their light. Yes, I have a counselor. She rocks. She also thinks I need to see a doctor. Maybe I’ve fucked my body up so much that it is now fucking me back. I simply must be depressed.  Maybe a pill can help me. I began seeing her after Robin Williams killed himself. Because if he can lose this battle, then I have no chance at all. It’s all I’ve thought about for years. Because living another minute is just another minute to fuck things up even worse. I see no minutes ahead of me that aren’t loaded with further and deepening regret.

But I want to hold a grandchild one day. I want to see what becomes of my kids. I want to meditate and get up feeling not like I’ve wasted my time but that I’ve fought and won. I want to look at my wife and hold her hand and put my head on her shoulder and hear her talk to me. I want to feel again. To see San Francisco. To say a proper goodbye to my father in law amidst the redwoods. A bucket list of things that will seem silly to most people. I want to read what Yann Martel writes next. Even if it sucks. I want to see U2 in concert. I want to sit with a small group of friends and say things that are helpful and feel like I’ve contributed something. I want to listen and not be distracted. I want to be there for you when you need me. I want to see you smile like you mean it. I want to hang decorations and buy a real tree and trim it with popcorn on a string and celebrate like it all means something more than just going through so many motions and grasping for meaning. I want purity and simplicity. Little things. Things that take planning and saving and hope for a future time when little things will seem like possible things.

I can’t see it from here. And I don’t know how to get out of here.

Blah blah blah.

Carry on . . .

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12 thoughts on “Coming Clean

  1. I’ve been where you are, at least mentally and emotionally. At a few points, even the financial part of it. I’ve also thought about suicide, more than once. At one point it was a blogging friend that stayed up on IM with me all night to keep me from hurting myself. At another point it was not wanting to do to my family what my brothers did to their families when they ended things for themselves. I’m still here. Things are better. For now. I don’t know how I’ll be or if I will be in a few months or a year or two. I’m diabetic, too. I haven’t seen a doctor in eight years. No insurance. I can’t afford what the “affordable” premiums are ($842/mo) so I go with no medical care and there are other medical mysteries going on inside of me. But I’m still here. We have to hang on, Brian. YOU have to hang on. Things will get better even if it is “only” you mental state. That would go far in making you better. When so much is going wrong, it is difficult to see that anything will make a difference but it will. Get yourself through the depression. That’s the first thing. Everything else is material and it will get better as the depression improves. But hang on. Above all else, hang on. I know it’s not easy, but it’s important. Hang on, Brian. Hang on.

  2. Your situation isn’t uncommon, and it’s no wonder you feel stuck when life is grinding you into the ground. Your circumstances would be overwhelming for someone in the best of health and you’re not in that place, mentally or physically.

    But I see something beautiful here: “I want to sit with a small group of friends and say things that are helpful and feel like I’ve contributed something. I want to listen and not be distracted. I want to be there for you when you need me. I want to see you smile like you mean it. I want to hang decorations and buy a real tree and trim it with popcorn on a string and celebrate like it all means something more than just going through so many motions and grasping for meaning. I want purity and simplicity. Little things.”

    Those things you want are the true measure of your character and your humanity and say so much about the Good Soul at the heart of this narrative, not the “Shitty” one. Those simple things are attainable. They are within reach.

    When all that you’ve been fighting so hard to hold onto falls away, I suspect you’ll feel an odd peace after the initial panic. When the worries of losing things becomes the reality of loss, you’ll be less anxious about what *might* happen and be free of some of the fears of the unknown. It sounds like you’re exhausted and overwhelmed by the battle, it sounds like many people are standing with you. It sounds like moving to a new place, even under trying circumstances, will give you a fresh start.

    This is the darkest time of the year, outside our windows and inside our minds. Everything conspires to turn up the volume on the voices in our heads that tell us we are failures. All those “shitty” adjectives! As Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) says time and time again, “Depression lies.” It creates a narrative that is NOT our story and plays it in an endless loop until we forget it’s not true. With your counselor’s help, medical help, and maybe some medication, you can survive this. Things will not magically get better, but you will be in a better place to cope and find your way to the good things you want, one step at a time.

  3. Oh, man. Laying it out like this takes guts, Brian. And if you have the guts to write it, you have the guts to do the other hard stuff.

    I’ve seen how you love your wife and children. It shows. Of course you want to see your grandkids. That is a life-affirming desire, and one that makes me hope on your behalf.

    Take baby steps, and soon enough you will find that all those baby steps will add up to one huge kick-ass step.

    I feel privileged to know you, and knowing you as I do, I also feel confident that you will get through this.

    Lean on your friends. They will gladly support you.

  4. Parts of your narrative rang the ground underneath my feet, parts of it are “by grace of God” territory for me. I can offer no magic bullets, only an empathetic heart and a wish for you to endure, friend. It may seem far away, but solutions will present themselves in time. I’ll carry a candle in my heart for you and yours.

  5. How are you doing? How did your blog get out of my feedly!!!! You have no idea how much I relate to this post. Maybe not all of the specific situations, (some of them — the money, the work. the fear the lack of those two things bring). What you said about Robin Williams. When he died I was headed into a dark depression. I hadn’t bottomed yet, but I was getting there. When I heard he died I just thought, “God bless him, he fought for so many years.”

    I seriously mean this: I will be praying for you and I will be sending love and good energy and all of that to you.

    Life is hard and vicious and mean. You are a beautiful person. Keep writing. Please keep writing.

  6. Yeah, slowpanic, it vanished from my feedly too. Just found this today. Brian – what the other commenters said is true. Depression lies. Fake it until you make it. Go through the motions. I started regaining my optimism when I started eating better and exercising (but it took years for me to start). Don’t know what might do it for you. Try something. Try something else.

    And as far as being “worthy” of anyone’s love, one of my favorite lines in recent years came from a wonderful, ridiculous novel by a soap opera writer. A woman, full of resentment toward her father, tells him, “Sometimes you love people who don’t deserve it.” He counters, “What other kind is there?” That sentence right there lifted a load off my heart. I know *I* don’t deserve anyone’s love, but that’s simply not an issue. I love people because I love, not because I count their worth in some kind of balance. You don’t have to deserve it. You just have to accept it.

  7. went out looking for this after seeing your post on fb, and i’m glad i found it. it took such incredible courage to write this — and you have already accomplished one thing: going to the doc to see what your body “code reader” is about. that is an important step. and you did that.

    the gal that was coaching me for hiking, trying like hell to get me through my paralyzing fear of heights gave me some good words when i was frozen. “one. small. mindful. step.” and then one more… look carefully and plant your foot where you know it is steady. then stop again.

    as for losing the house? i know that’s gotta suck, but it may be a painful blessing. one less thing weighing you down. houses are a lot of work. a home? you can do that… it is built on love, and i’ve seen you with your clan and i know you have ‘home’.

    stay steady, brian… i think you contribute. your thoughts and words helped me so very much when my friend decided to end it for himself. you were able to help me get inside his head in a way that i hadn’t been able to… to see the pain and understand ‘why’. i was able to say ‘i miss him, and will never forget him, but i kinda get it, and am comfortable that he knew what he was doing…”

  8. Brian, my friend, if I lived closer, you wouldn’t want for a ride. You wouldn’t want for someone to talk to or a Christmas tree or popcorn to string. I found out about this post from your response to another person on Facebook. I don’t blog much anymore, since my life is now controlled by Facebook.
    I find myself wondering, “how can I help?” You see, I’ve been in your shoes as far as losing my place to live and even my job. I’ve slept in my car and washed my hair before the sun came up with gallon jugs of water we filled up at the pier. Im not just blowing smoke up your ass.
    I’m glad to know you saw the doc. That’s something you CAN control. Try to tackle one thing at a time. IF you focus on the big picture tonight (or any night), you’ll quickly become overwhelmed and then paralyzed.
    Please take it easy. A day at a time. Choose the wins. It builds confidence!
    I’m here to listen. Be well and follow dr’s orders!

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