When The Rug of Life is Pulled Out from Under You
I believe we all walk a line between the person we think we are and the person we really are every day. Sometimes that line becomes fuzzier and other times more clear. Few people get the opportunity to step over that line and see themselves clearly, even for just a minute. I got that chance the other day when I stepped into the local Department of Economic Security. I was not there because I wanted to be, I was there because I had to be.
I was raised in a middle class family with an ultra-conservative father. When I turned 18 I identified myself with the Republican party. I graduated from high school, obtained my Bachelor’s Degree, got married, had a beautiful baby girl and then completed my Master’s Degree over a span of 16 years.
I have worked full time, part time, telecommuted and worked as a mom. I have been under-qualified, over-qualified and totally terrified. I have been a Type A personality and a Type B personality. Neither label ever made a difference. That is my life in a nutshell.
I am your mother, sister, niece, daughter, aunt, neighbor and friend.
I was brought to my knees 5 years ago with the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was in my 30s and had no idea what was to come. I thought I could not fall further than my knees until I was diagnosed with 20 additional conditions, all while facing divorce.That knocked me right on my butt. I now lay down at least twice a day in order to gather enough energy to get back up and do the things I need to do to care for my lovely daughter and contribute to our household. Millions of people out there, maybe you or someone you love, faces similar struggles.
I am unable to work, have no health insurance, my daughter has a chronic illness and we are living with my mom. I am now almost 40 years old. My mom cannot afford to support us on her income, nor should she have to. My one day to be ex-husband is doing his best to help us out while trying to support himself separately as well.
All inner demon and self esteem issues aside, my daughter and I are barely scraping by. My mother’s Golden Years are now more of an Avocado or Burnt Umber.
The DES office was a big room lined with small plastic chairs, all filled with people. It was hot and the walls were incredibly dirty. I kept wondering, "Why don't they paint the walls a darker color?" It would camouflage the dirt. I don't understand why the walls were so dirty.
This was one DES office in the State of Arizona. Just one. There were so many people there waiting for help. How many millions of people are sitting in DES offices across the country, asking for help, in this, the richest country in the world?
Each story is different, but basically the same: Chronic pain, job loss, abandonment and illness. There are so many of us who are lost; so many who just cannot make it.
I am willing to bet that not one person wanted to be there, but they had no choice. They - no, we, all have children, spouses, siblings, parents or other loved ones in need. The room was filled with people of all shapes, colors, genders and sizes. We were all the same. We needed help. I sat there with my Master’s Degree, while my waiting room buddies sat there with their Associate’s Degrees, Bachelor’s Degrees, life experience, retirement, PhDs, and their infants.
There were not many smiles there, but there were some. The employees looked tired, but they kept calling names, calling people into the back office to try to help. They were wearing Hawaiian clothing for an office celebration, so their clothing was bright. Their faces were not. They had cake in the office and one employee told me that they never finish a cake when it's brought in. I thought that was weird. Usually offices are full of human locusts who descend and devour anything edible. Not here though. They just weren't hungry.
I waited for about 2.5 hours until my name was called. I have waited longer to see a doctor. I followed my representative into her cubicle. Her desk faced the back of her space. A chair sat behind her meant for me. She faced her monitor the entire time and not once looked me in the eye. She was polite, but I wondered if her work area was set up that way on purpose. Perhaps to avoid prolonged conversation or maybe it's just too painful to see people struggling every day.
I neglected to bring the paperwork she needed to complete my interview. She asked me why. I felt like a boob answering, “I’m sorry. I guess I did not read the instructions well enough.” She explained the importance of following directions as I held my hands in my lap and tried not to feel like a wayward child. My real answer, the one I could not say aloud was, “I am desperate and scared. I don’t know what I am doing. I can’t remember to wash my hair, much less find documentation I no doubt put somewhere safe where I may never find it.”
Why are so many of us struggling? I am online a lot, I watch the news, and I see and hear many fellow Americans talk about how the “lazy and useless” people are sucking the life out of our economy. I don’t know all of the facts and figures. They are just numbers to me. Before my life changed I was Republican. Now what am I? I am one girl out of millions who has lost many of life’s battles.
I refuse to label myself any longer. I looked around that large, unflatteringly lit room and saw myself in every person there: man, woman, black, white, brown, limping, able-bodied, young, old, client and employee. I was helped just as surely as the woman sitting next to me and the man sitting next to her. The employees did not leave that office until every person had been seen. They do that every single day.
We all stood on equal ground then and there. We all needed help to live. Not one person wanted to be there. Every person had to be there.
If you have read this far your question may be, “What is your point, woman?”
At one time I was a healthy, intelligent, motivated woman with hopes, goals and dreams. I am no longer healthy, but I remain an intelligent, compassionate, motivated woman with hopes, goals and dreams. They have changed drastically simply due to fate’s role of the dice and unexpected circumstances.
No one is safe. No one is immune. No amount of energy, education or preparation can protect you when you are slapped upside the head with tragedy or unexpected event.
The world would be a better place if all humans would open their eyes and recognize that we truly are all the same. We are all vulnerable. Our battles could be more effectively fought if we would withhold judgment and realize that every one of us is one unfortunate circumstance away from DES, one circumstance from hoping and praying we can get the help when we need it, along with compassion, understanding and respect.
Many of us are losing battles each day, but that does not mean that with the understanding and compassion of others, we cannot win the war. It is not a war of monetary or professional success, but the war of ultimate survival; basic security and the knowledge deep in our hearts that every single one of us counts. We all deserve compassion and we all should give it freely, without restraint.
Any one of us may be walking into DES tomorrow. I gave my cool bottle of water to a woman waiting in line with me – not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I learned something about myself the other day. My view of myself became suddenly clear when I realized I could not save anyone in that room with me. Heck, I cannot even save myself.
What I did learn is that heroes are everywhere; the 75 year-old man standing behind me saving a place in line for his ailing 50 year old daughter, the exhausted desk clerk who greeted me with a smile and called me "sweetheart", and the smiling baby in a very tired mom's lap who brightened the day of all those around her - they are all heroes to me. I also learned that without a doubt, compassion is not the answer to all of the world’s problems; but it is a damn good start.
Need Help? Useful Links For You:
- Online Fundraising to Help with Medical Bills | GiveForward
GiveForward provides personalized online fundraising pages to help with medical bills and is one of the easiest ways to support a loved one in need.
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