The Oppression of a Child

My baby cries tears and asks me why and I ask myself: how can I possibly explain injustice to her when I, myself, cannot understand? How can I comfort her when I cry and am in need of comfort? I feel so helpless. How do I explain injustice to my child and how can I comfort her?

My daycare assistance was terminated and will not be recovered ONLY because when I faxed in the papers for redetermination, I didn’t save the confirmation letter. I usually do. I didn’t. Don’t ask me why. It was Friday. I wanted to go home. The paper said it sent. I was not thinking. I did my part. The government failed me. A system set up supposedly to help people like me shifted my entire world. 

For redetermination, clients can make more money and their weekly copay will raise. However, initially, upon first applying, the person has to make incredibly little for their gross monthly income. Because they claimed they never got my paperwork, I had to reapply. Because I had to reapply and the library had given us huge raises to try to be fair, the unfair government decided between my part time job and my disability check (even the new, lower amount as it too had been cut because of the raises) I barely overqualified and was denied childcare benefits. 

The letter came in on my birthday. I went straight to my church and into my pastor’s office and began to sob helplessly. It was the start of a 5 day vacation that I had been looking forward to. Now it felt like hell and I thought for sure I would have to quit my job and that thought was too much for me to bear. I sobbed painful, angry, completely helpless tears. We prayed, I left, but the tears never stopped. 

I love my job. My coworkers are the only reason I am doing as well with my recovery as I am. I doubt I would have ever made it a year without cutting if it weren’t for them, let alone be closing in on my fourth year. I get judged so much for my invisible illness and social awkwardness everywhere. I don’t really know how to not speak my mind, but I never mean to be rude or hurtful (though I’m told my compliments are unique…I guess complimenting someone’s shiny arms or Waldo-like glasses aren’t normal compliments, but it’s what I observe; I am always observing). When I tell my coworkers I had my pastor anoint my rock that spoke to me that I carry around, they simply smile and joke my rock is more holy than they are. They don’t judge me. They don’t try to change me. They don’t try to make me blend in. Instead, they allow me to stand out. They support me. They celebrate my differences. When I’m scared and need to be reassured of my safety, they always do kindly. When I feel disconnected from reality and need help figuring out what’s real and what’s not, they help me. When I am at my limit and break down and sob, even my branch manager has been there for me reassuring me of my strength and ability. They might frustrate me sometimes and I know I can drive them nuts too, but I love them. They are my support.  They are my family. When I thought even for a few days I was going to lose that, I couldn’t cope. My invisible illness suddenly engulfed me and all I could do was sob. 

I prayed too. I prayed non stop. I prayed alone. I prayed with my pastor. I prayed at church. I prayed at the park. 

The day after I had gotten the letter, I was at my private place at the park and anger and frustration over the injustice overtook me and I began hurling rocks into the water. I chose big rocks that I had to thrust with all my might. Again and again. Until I was exhausted. I began to pace the water’s edge until I noticed a beautiful small pink flower that had somehow managed to push its way through the rocks and bloom despite all odds. I found this so beautiful so I decided to build an altar around it to celebrate its beauty. It was then one rock in particular spoke me to, the aforementioned and later anointed rock, and I knew it was meant for me to keep. I set it carefully aside and finished my altar with extreme care. 

When I finished, I stood beside it and prayed again with all my might. It was in that moment a large buck jumped from the river bank only a few yards in front of me, stopped, looked directly past my eyes straight into my soul knowingly, and then two more jumps disappeared on the other side. I cried over the beauty of the moment and over the instant wash of relief I felt. I knew somehow this would all be okay even though I didn’t know how. 

I told my friend and neighbor what happened. I choked on tears trying not to think about what I might lose. She was angry over the injustice. I simply felt defeated. She is a single mother to three beautiful children and has been through hell but like me is a fighter. I’m so blessed to have her as a friend and it was through this equally struggling person God used to answer my prayers. 

My friend is the assistant director at the daycare next to our complex. It’s a small, private daycare run by an angel familiar with the system and its injustice. My friend wanted so badly to help me and pleaded my case to the director and this incredible woman agreed take my daughter and only charge us a little over $15 more per week than what we were paying even though she’s taking a huge financial loss on us. Because of my friend and this angel, even though it seemed impossible, I don’t have to leave my job. My helpless tears turned to tears of humility and gratitude. I do not take lightly what they have done for me because I know so many people aren’t so fortunate. If I had quit, I would not have looked for another job. My spirit was crushed and I spent a month being degraded and humiliated by government workers and chastised and ignorantly advised by people who don’t understand the system or how hard and painful it is to work with and how contaminated it is with injustice. 

Injustice. 

So I don’t have to leave the people I love but my daughter still does. She has to leave her daycare that has been such a huge and important part of her life since I started working again three years ago. They coparented with me. They potty trained her. They taught her to talk and write. They fixed her hair when I sent her in with it a mess. They have been family and while I am so sad to lose them, my daughter is hurting worse. 

As an adult and parent, I am aware she will be okay. I know she’ll make new friends and the teachers will love her too. I get this. What I also get is my daughter is sad and hurting. What I don’t get and can’t explain is when she asks me why she has to leave. Thus my question: how do you explain injustice to a child? She may be crying because she has to leave daycare, but her tears are the same as my tears. They are the tears of oppression. 

Do not reason and rationalize this. I refuse to tell my child this is okay. I don’t comfort her by telling her it’s okay and that sometimes things happen but we move on. No. This is wrong. It is not fair. It is not just. It is not okay. What I do tell her is I will find a way to change this one day. My child is being taught the world is unjust but also that she can change it. I will continue to speak out and share my story and educate not for myself but because I am fortunate but so many more aren’t and no child should be forced to cry the tears of oppression and injustice. If you can’t justify something to a child, it’s not just, and if it’s not just, it needs changed. I’m not going to wait for someone else. You can help by listening and educating yourself. The system is wrong and unfair. Us poor people need help to change this. We don’t need drug tested or forced to work; we need compassion and understanding. We need our stories shared and our voices heard. We need our pain and anger validated. We need more people to fight with us and for us because so many more are fighting against us. Help us free our children from our oppression. 

The Least of Us

The Bible has good news for people like me; people who are sick, oppressed, poor, and/or persecuted; it says we have many blessings in Heaven and we will be first and our enemies last. And churches like mine, middle class and white, love to preach on this to humble the members and whatever else. Like this past Sunday, preachers tell inspiring stories of a “least of us” who were persecuted but rose above and was God to someone not the least in the face of adversity or persecution. People leave feeling humbled and try to act more like this person, one of the Least of us’s.

This week, however, when I left, I felt an instant disconnect from my church and my faith. Rarely in church is my struggle ever preached about because pastors preach to their audiences and in my church, an emotionally disabled, impoverished, single mother is just one member in an ocean of double parent, double income, college level functioning families. Once my pastor preached on the story of a woman giving her last two pennies and Jesus said she gave more than the rich people because she gave all she had but they had much money left. My pastor focused on the other people. In my poverty, I had asked later what about the woman? What about her suffering? My pastor humbly admitted they were focused on prepping the congregation for giving Sunday and hadn’t thought much but said it’s a much discussed topic why Jesus didn’t address her poverty. My focus, though, was on that woman. She was the one I could identify with in that story. I’ve been that woman. I am that woman. I’ve put change, the only change I had left to my name, in the offering plate in hopes of a miracle. But I’m not one of those people who the pastors lift up in their sermons like this past Sunday. That’s not the type of Least of Us I am. 

Whenever I’m struggling financially (pretty much always but now is particularly hard as I face my car getting repoed, utilities getting cut, and bills backing up all because my assistance got unexpectedly cut) I hear that voice in my heart remind me “blessed are the poor” and you know what? My response is not peaceful or loving or inspiring like the pastors always preach about. My response, like now, is so what? So what? Who fucking cares? Oh yes, I swear. And as I sat in my pastors office asking for help (which I later changed my mind about) I literally sobbed “I hate being poor.” I HATE it. Blessed are the poor? So what?

And my pastors talk about how kind these people are and giving but that’s not me either. I get angry and frustrated and I snap. When I spoke to someone from the government agency and he treated me like a waste of his time and humiliated me, I didn’t rise above. I didn’t stay calm. I didn’t act like someone who is blessed. Instead, as I hung up, I cussed him out and thought I hope that ass hole heard me. 

What blessing is it to be poor and oppressed? Okay, so I have the gift and blessing of being grateful for every single thing I have. I look at others who have so much and take it for granted or worse, complain about not having enough, and I’m dumbfounded. I want to shake them and wake them. How many people thank God for their beds and truly mean it? I am SO grateful for my bed. After sleeping on couches, in cars, and hard hospital beds for so long, I will never take my bed for granted. How many people cry with joy and gratitude when they somehow struggle and manage (usually at the expense of not paying something else) to have a fridge full of food? Yet the few times a year this happens, I do cry and a fridge full of food is one of my greatest joys. I will kneel and sob over the abundance and give thanks to God. Literally. 

Okay, but so what? So what? I HATE being poor. I want a fridge full ALL the time and usually I’m at my fridge crying over the lack of food. I acknowledge my time in poverty has blessed me but I’m so over it and I get angry and annoyed and snap sometimes at people who have so much and complain about having little. I don’t rise above. I’m not always empathetic. And I’m told my face often betrays my thoughts which I swear I am able to cuss with. 

Yeah because I cuss. A LOT. I’m poor, emotionally disabled, and oppressed but NOT perfect. I’m not a role model. If you want to be Christlike I’m a very broken example. I have moments of giving and rising above but so what? That can be said about anyone. We all have moments of Christlike perfection and moments opposite of bad days and sins. Why are the poor more blessed and why should I care?

I find myself asking myself a lot, too, does God know I’m sick? Does God know I’ve been abused and have permanent scars? Does God hold me to the same standards as someone whose mind hasn’t been injured? When I get into a flashback and lash out from an alternate reality, does God know I couldn’t control it and didn’t mean to? The Bible says blessed are the poor in spirit which my pastor said means people like me. People whose minds have been injured, their spirits hurt. Once again I’m blessed but once again, so what

I hate my PTSD and scars from self injury just a much as I hate being poor. Some people are inspired by me and see me as a blessing but I still struggle every day and will always fight wars in flashbacks no one else can travel to or see. Yes it’s a blessing to be able to bring hope and inspiration to someone so maybe that’s why the Bible says it’s a blessing but so what? All I did was sob yesterday after nightmares and flu like aches from a quick bug made me too weak to fight and find hope and light. Too physically compromised, all I could do was sob over my poverty, the exhaustion from my nightmares that woke me, and the memories of my past. 

What’s worse is sometimes I am humiliated, oppressed, judged, or condemned for my “poor spirit.” Many Christian believe people who commit suicide go to hell. Would God really condemn a sick and suffering person who lost their war? No. He couldn’t. Would he? Some Christians (probably many) would tell you my years spent cutting my skin was a time of great sin in my life. Doesn’t God know I was being abused and didn’t know how else to cope? Doesn’t He know I did the best I could to try to survive? And I did didn’t I? Yes. I did and He does and he’s turned my scars into blessings to bring hope to others suffering but so what?

The sermon I heard Sunday left me feeling so horrible and defective. Not because there was anything mean or offensive about it; there wasn’t; my pastor preached a beautiful and inspiring sermon. It just wasn’t preached to the least of us and the Least of Us that was mentioned rose above their hardships and succeeded in the face of their adversity which isn’t me. I felt like I was failing at being last in line which is a ridiculous sentiment. Like I am so poor in spirit I am failing at being poor in spirit. And I already feel like such an outsider in my own home, my church, and that gap seemed to expand into a chasm. I don’t fit in with my church members because of my poverty and I don’t fit in with the person in poverty in the sermon because I’m not strong enough to rise above my adversity. I’m not sure where I fit in at my church or if it’s even possible. 

My other pastor told me once their  pastor friend from a wealthy suburban church, even more well off than mine, admitted people in poverty wouldn’t feel comfortable in their congregation because of the social income gap and that was just how it was. My pastor expressed something could be done, but I keep questioning whether that pastor was right? I feel welcomed and loved at my church but I don’t feel understood or acknowledged. I’m expected to adhere to middle class social norms, not the other way around. Poverty and life growing up in the psych system has its own culture that I honestly love and am comfortable and familiar with. I don’t feel it’s sinful but is just so misunderstood but no one really takes the time to listen and learn. And sometimes my well meaning church makes me feel more oppressed ignoring this and not recognizing this. 

It’s times like these that I miss the psych hospitals the most. It’s the one place overflowing with the blessed least of us’s where I have felt truly united with all people. Where all cultures could unite because we had nothing but our brokenness. My pastor told me once when I told them this that church should be more like a psych hospital but it’s not. It’s nothing like that. I wish it was but I’m not sure it’s even possible. And I feel so oppressed. 

My pastor preached the last will be first and the first will be last, so it shouldn’t matter I’m in the back right now feeling oppressed because one day I’ll be first, though. Right? Come on. So what?

My Impoverished Life

I’m here at the office for social security–standing–waiting to be seen. I’m number 459. They are on number 439. Finally, I think, only 20 more people ahead of me. Then I sigh. 20 more people. I’ve already been here 20 minutes. I’ve been standing for 20 minutes because this place is packed. I’m here, though, because they took $400 from my monthly disability check. $400! Friday, when my check went in, I couldn’t reach anyone because the lines were so busy and I had to work. Today when I called on my way to Job and Family Services (JFS) because of issues with my childcare (this gets better), I was told medical was no longer covered and they had to take out two months worth. “That doesn’t make sense,” I said frantic. “My medicade was just re approved.” The foreign operator gave me another number and told me to speak to them. I thanked him without emotion and dialed the other number. “I’m sorry,” an automated voice spoke, “but the person you are trying to reach is unavailable and the voicemailbox is full. Please try again later.” I began to cry–no sob–the rest of the way to JFS.

I didn’t wait too long in the blue painted room designated for childcare. Maybe only 10 minutes, record time. When I went up, I knew what to expect but I tried to hope for better. I explained I had faxed in my recertification papers and it was confirmed but my daughter’s daycare said my benefits expired Friday. Yesterday was labor day so everywhere was closed so herein was Tuesday. I took my daughter to daycare knowing I would have to pay out of pocket if I didn’t get re approved that day.

“There’s nothing in the system. Do you have proof you faxed it in?” I didn’t and admitted this dejected. It was stupid. I knew it was. I should have saved everything. This is how JFS works. This isn’t the first time. I have no excuse other than I thought it would be okay. It wasn’t okay. I had to reapply for benefits, am responsible for paying out of pocket for sending my daughter to daycare today, and have to wait up to two weeks to be re approved. Therefore for the next two weeks I need to find someone to watch my daughter so I can work. I fought my tears burning behind my eyes. Don’t cry here. There’s too many people. I thanked them without emotion and asked where I could find out about medical.

In another room down the hall, I was able to talk to someone immediately. She pulled up my account and confused said everything was approved and good until June 2018. Why then did my doctors office say they couldn’t find my insurance? And why did social security take out $400?? They said it ended June 2017. She printed me off a letter of proof and instead of calling back, I drove here–sobbing the whole way–and now here I am.

At least I have a seat now. Someone got up. I decided to blog again for the first time in months to distract myself from the $660 I owe on my car. The $78 I’m now responsible for daycare. The need for a sitter for free for the next two weeks. My gas and electric bills which are two months behind. My oil change light that’s on and past due. My gas tank that will not last to next paycheck. The two months of monthly offering I missed because money has been tight. My tags that need renewed for my car. “If people only knew,” I texted my friend also on government assistance, “then maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to judge us,” so I write.

I’m back in therapy. My pastor talked to this lady I’ve named Yoda (except everyone but her knows, but she’s so old and short and wise; you know, Yoda) who is retired but still sees clients sometimes. She agreed to see me for free since my insurance made it impossible to find a qualified trauma therapist to deal with a past like mine. This came a week after two back to back flashbacks less than a week apart one with my doctor and one with my other pastor, two very trusted allies, where I was so deep in the flashback, I didn’t know who they were and yelled at both. It’s what sparked me to start being very disaplined with my yoga again and take care of myself. I’ve been working on forgiving myself and meditating and I’ve been doing really well. I’m in such a better place mentally. Thank goodness because these financial burdens are crushing me. I try to stay calm and trust God is in control. What else can I do?

They’re serving number 441 now. 18 people left ahead of me. It’s 11:11. I read somewhere this was supposed to be a magical time. Nothing feels magical about this moment.

Last night the world felt right as I sat next to our fire bowl on my patio with my new good friend and neighbor and other good friend and neighbor and the first’s three children, the youngest of whom we joke is my 5 year olds boyfriend. They’re so cute together. They all roasted marshmallows and the adults talk. We are all on government housing. We all live in poverty. I’m one of the very few white people in the neighborhood but this is where I belong. We talk about places we can get free clothing. I tell them how much I love my church’s food pantry I use each month and vent about needing to reapply for food stamps. I was going to today but $400 is missing from my check and I need that money. We talk about my friend’s bother in jail who she loves and I hurt for her. He won’t get out for another 10 years. Her children will all be grown. My brother is deployed but at least he’ll be home soon and I can hug him. We talk about having to teach our babies to fight because fights happen in this community. While other parents are thinking about what clubs to put their children in, what vacations to plan, what college their children might go to, we sit and discuss finding clothes for them to wear, food for them to eat, and self defense knowledge so they can stay safe. We don’t want them to fight, but living in poverty, we’re always fighting for something.

442. I’ve been here an hour and still have 17 people ahead of me. I’m tired, physically and mentally. I’m hungry and wish I had applied for food stamps. I bought some groceries instead of paying for other things and I partly regret it. However I can’t wait to make beans and rice. It’s nothing fancy but I’m so hungry. I did eat today though. It’s just getting closer to lunch time.

Friday I took a photo shoot with my childhood best friend who was in town. She’s an amazing photographer. I asked her a while ago if she’d help me do a photo shoot showing my scars in a beautiful way. She was in town and asked if I wanted to. I was excited and we went to the park and shot strong yoga poses in revealing clothes. The collection I’ve titled, “Don’t be Afraid to Let Your Scars Show.”

My physical scars are healed, but the scars from my poverty are sometimes gaping wounds pouring blood that no one can see and so many, in ignorance and insensitivity, judge and belittle and condemn. I didn’t choose this, you know. I didn’t choose any of this. Sunday is Suicide Awareness Day. Suicide was the path I had chosen multiple times but survived miraculously every time. I must believe it was for a reason. Right now, I’m still not sure why. Right now I’m still not sure waiting here will result in anything. Right now I don’t know if I’m getting that $400 back or how I will pay any of my bills or who will watch my daughter. Right now I just know I am not going to be afraid to let my scars show because I believe if people only knew they would have more compassion and love. I believe if I have courage to, someone else might too. I believe I have suffered enough and I will not be afraid to speak out. I believe I create the universe around me so I will look at it with love instead of the fear that had been casting a shadow for so long. I believe the darkness helps us understand the light and if I share my darkness with love, light will shine.

443. 16 more to go…

**Update**

After 3 (yes 3) hours (and 21 minutes because I had the time I got my number on the slip) I was told there was nothing they could do about it on their end and I would need TO GO BACK TK WHERE I WAS and work it out with them. They had no control. So guess who sobbed once again and while making lunch once home and again after momentarily calming myself when calling work to say I needed off AGAIN so I could try to get this worked out. You know, though, it’s okay. Not on the outside, but inside. I fell to my knees sobbing after getting angry and throwing some stuff around my kitchen and prayed. In the past I’ve asked God to fix this, take away my poverty, give me more money. This afternoon I just had a sense maybe it’s not broken. Maybe God is fixing it. I’ve been on a spiritual journey this last month and I’m so sure of the path I am walking, so instead I prayed, “God I don’t understand and it hurts so badly but I won’t ask for money or for you to take this way. I trust You. All I am asking for is peace. Just please give me peace.” You know what? I’m not gonna lie y’all; I kind of feel at peace. I’m finishing lunch and going to go spend some time with the trees and then get my kiddo and keep going with love and light. The darkness helps us to understand the light when we walk in love. Namaste. 

**Another Update**

I spent 45 minutes holding for JFS and apparently I earn too much money between disability and a part time, entry level job to cover medical deductions. I disagree and so they are having a case manager call me which could take 48 hours. Huge shout out to my daughter’s daycare, who is letting me bring her and working with me throughout this mess. Also at least I don’t have to call off a second day. It doesn’t solve bills but it helps a LOT and I will keep focusing on the light and love in this darkness. The darkness helps us understand the light when we walk in love. I’m going to keep walking in this love. Namaste.

**The Final Update**

I got a call back 24 hours later by an incredibly rude and insensitive case worker who kept sighing and answering me very shortly and condensendingly. The short answer is I apparently make too much with my gross income from my part time entry level library job and full disability check for two people. When I tried to ask questions to understand (it’s what I do; I like understanding) he made me feel so stupid. He also made me embarrassed for how much I make. He kept saying how much I make grossly with the full disability check as if it was so much and I shouldn’t be upset. When I said I hadn’t gotten any notice and two months was taken out at once he brushed me off and said he didn’t do it and he was calling me back because I wanted to talk to a case worker. I am sobbing now again as I write just remembering how humiliated and embarrassed he made me feel. As horrible and counter to my nature it is, I hope he heard the cuss words I called him as I hung up. 

I have a real, diagnosed, government proved disability. Yes it is invisible. Yes my scars my hand made, but NONE of this was my choice. And right now I don’t ever want to get out of poverty because I NEVER want to become that and middle class seems to love to judge and cast stones at those in poverty because our scars are easier to see. Are our burdens not bad enough? To cast stones when we’re already at the bottom is the most socially acceptable inhumane act of cruelty that not enough people are angry about and fighting to change. I will fight it. I will use my voice and continue speak out until my last breath. You can humiliate me and judge me and rob me but you will never silence me. You cannot silence me. Namaste. 

~Elizabeth

No Longer a Victim (Original Song and Poem)

**Taken from my facebook page. Full blog entry to come soon.**

Well, everyone, I did it. I fought my way through my anxiety and fear from sexual abuse that happened over a decade ago and performed an original song at my church this Sunday. The video is below (skip ahead to 20:00 for the song or watch the whole service). Don’t let your voice be silenced and if you are suffering, remember: You are NOT alone.

Stay tuned for a blog post to come on what this experience taught me.
#ImFightingForYou #LetYourVoiceBeHeard #originalsong #survivor#ImNoonesVictim

if the word victim
evokes pity
the word survivor
should fill you with fear
i am not a victim
of my rape, abuse, and poverty
i am a survivor
and i’ve come back with vengeance
to fight the injustice
that led me here.

#poem#Ididit#youcantoo#sexualabuse#awareness#staywoke

 

To My Abuser (Poem)

to my abuser
what would i say
if i ever again
saw your face?
i’m no longer your prey
no longer a child
yet you still feel so
powerful over me.
i thought i forgave you
i’m not angry
i’m scared
how do you let go of fear?
it’s been over ten years
but i’m still so scared
i’m allowing myself
to stay your victim.
i want more from life
than this
i want to move on
and live,
so that’s what i’ll do
and here’s what i would say
to you
i survived.

I Will Be There (Poem)

where there is weakness
i will bring strength
where there is fear
i will bring courage
where there is despair
i will bring hope
where there is ignorance
i will bring wisdom
where there is injustice
i will bring change
where there is adversity
i will bring a helping hand
where there is pain
i will bring comfort
where there is judgment
i will bring understanding
where there is hate
i will bring love
where there is darkness
i will bring light
where there is no one
i will be there
I am fighting with you. You are not alone. ❤

I Hope to be a Contributing Member

hope isn’t always hopeful
hope isn’t always glad
sometimes hope
doesn’t feel good
and sometimes hope
feels angry or sad
because hope is a light
that shines in dark places
and it is dark for a reason
so it’s hard to be aware
of what’s been hidden so long
it would be easier to turn
the light back off again
but to do so is to abandon hope
but as long as hope remains
even in the darkest places
that few want to see
with curses, judgments, negligence
the darkness will not overcome
hope always conquers all

     “Don’t you want to be a contributing member of society?” my manager friend at work helplessly asked as I sat across from her in her office sobbing because I was ready to quit and just live off my government assistance again.

     “No,” I said in between sobs, “because it doesn’t matter whether I’m working or not. People talk about people like me on government assistance the same whether I am working or not.” I let out a huge sob as I pressed my hands against my eyes under my glasses. “I hate people,” sob, “I want to be a tree.”

     Luckily I work with really wonderful people, and this particular person sat listening to me with sincere compassion and without judgment even though she technically wasn’t even on the clock and had work to be done. She stopped what she was doing when I asked if we could talk and as I closed her door and quickly depleted into a heap of tears, she was empathetic and compassionate and listened to me which means everything to me when people do that. Through her patience and kindness, I am still here at work. But because of comments from others everywhere, I still am constantly at war with myself between fighting my ass off to join a class of society that judges me and criticizes me and my people while struggling with all included with living in poverty that others ignore or say I deserve and the normal stresses from working, and just saying, ‘fuck it’ and quitting. I picture myself doing this often. I could go back to hiding from people which is so comforting to me. I could spend my days writing in the park, maybe finally put an art collection together to have on display at the local art gallery for artist in recovery from substance abuse or mental illness (Fresh AIR in Columbus, Ohio), or just pitch my hammock daily at the park and get lost in my daydreams. However, to do so would be to abandon hope.

     I wrote a blog post a week ago after one such comment from someone close to me really just ate away at my core. I had posted the link on Facebook and only put it on my Beloved Unlovables page instead of my personal page too because I was too ashamed to advertise my struggles too publicly. I don’t have many followers on my Facebook page; I think it’s only 8. Here on my wordpress blog I think I’m up to 60 or 70. Despite all of that, the last entry I made defending panhandlers, imploring others to be compassionate to them instead of use their words to cast stones, I had all of one person read it. I have no idea whom as I can only see the number. I know one person from Facebook read it. They didn’t like it. They didn’t share it. They didn’t comment on it. They didn’t private message me. At times like that when I so vulnerably confess to humiliating truths about myself that is so mentally hard to do and takes all of my energy only to see that only one person read it and didn’t even seem to care, it makes me question why I continue to write. Why is God calling me to write blog entries and speak out about hard truths and act as a bridge between middle class and poverty if no one even cares? It doesn’t feel like it makes any difference, so why put myself through something so hard that I literally cry over only to not have anyone care? I turned on the TV and briefly, accidentally saw a girl who is actively cutting herself and shows videos and pictures of her fresh cuts and she has over 50,000 followers. Here I am, over 3 years into remission with my self injury, 5 years since my last psychiatric hospital stays, three years longer than any time before, living in my own place, working, raising my child with nurture and love, and I have less than 100 people who have liked my page and on average less than 5 people read my entries that I put myself through hell to write. Why? I picture myself abandoning my blog and my mission. It would be so much easier. I wouldn’t open myself to criticism or be accused of looking for a free handout as I post about my dire financial situation and people with guilty consciousnesses feel like I’m indirectly looking for money. All I want with this blog is for people to listen the same way my friend did. The same way others have. I want people to hear my message of hope. I want people to see my vulnerability and dare to be vulnerable themselves. Vulnerability is the opposite of judgment. To abandon my blog, though, would be to abandon hope.

     I was laying on my bathroom floor last night, once again crying. Nighttime seems to be when my math skills are their finest and I get paid tomorrow but I know my $350 paycheck won’t cover the leftover $250 I have unpaid on my car for the month, the $111 I owe to daycare, the $25 I need to pay to get a birth certificate for my daughter so I can enroll her in kindergarten. I can’t even think about the money I owe for gas or electric and instead thought about which one I would go without when I inevitably have to choose. Electric this time. Now that it stays lighter longer, we can do without electricity for a month or so. My water is heated by gas and we can keep the windows open for now. I can charge our kindles at work and use that for light and bedtime entertainment. It’s comforting planning this. This I have a bit of control over. I cried in between yawns of complete exhaustion. I’m on day 6 of a 7 day stretch at work after working all the past weekend. I held onto my stomach trying to ignore my hunger. We are going to the food pantry tonight, thank goodness. I envisioned all the food I’ll get and eating it all glutinously in my car before even getting home. I remember how I ate dinner at church much in the same fashion as my pastor was trying to talk to me and was embarrassed, but I was so hungry. I shoved food in my face by the large fork-fulls as she stood. I’m so pathetic I thought.

     I also thought about the comment my friend made while trying helplessly to be there for me two days ago in her office. “Don’t you want to be a contributing member of society?” She said it with complete kindness and compassion and I am not upset with her at all. She is a wonderful person with a wonderful heart and I am so grateful for her. However, this label, a “contributing member of society” is a common one, and the more I thought about it last night, the more I sobbed. I am a contributing member of society even when I’m not working and fully living off my government assistance. That homeless man I gave my banana to on my way to work yesterday instead of eating it myself is a contributing member of society. That drug addict that everyone hates and has made so many horrible choices and is a burden to family and friends and society is a contributing member of society.

     We live in a world that is governed by money. We have made money our God. We make political choices based on who promises the most money. We make moral choices based on money. We give statuses based on money. The United States is governed by money and money has become our God. When we see people as contributing members of society only if they are working and off government assistance, ignoring everything else they might have to give, and then, because as if that isn’t bad enough, we cast stones at them with our words of judgment and hate or indifference, we dethrone God, who showed grace to all, loved all, had compassion for all, and place money on that pedestal.

     As another friend at work gently told me as I was berating myself for being a horrible Christian, self aware my own words towards someone else were not Christ-like while being simultaneously upset with the hateful words another Christian coworker had said mentioned in my previous post, she said, “You know, something my pastor once said that really stuck with me was if Jesus wanted us to be perfect Christians, he wouldn’t have died for us.” Amen.

     So I will hold onto hope. Hope is what I contribute to society. The title should be read not as I assume you first read it, but as I Hope therefore as a way To Be A Contributing Member of society. My hope I will continue to hold tight to even if no one cares or reads what I write. Even if I am judged or criticized. I remind myself Jesus went from 70,000 followers to just 12 because people didn’t like his message. He still chose to die. I get to live and with this life I will choose to hope and I will continue to hope in the darkness. I will continue to share my story and be vulnerable. As 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 so beautifully states, “[The Lord said], ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This is why I do what I do. This is what I hope for. This is my hope for you, you beloved person. ❤

I Believe in You (POEM)

to the person with a story to tell
a voice to be heard
a message to share
a cause to fight
i want you know
i believe in you
you can do this
though it won’t be easy
and you won’t be liked
their rejection
is your validation
that what you are saying
what you are doing
matters
and needs to be done
because if everyone likes what you say
it probably isn’t worth saying
at all
it means many have said it
before
a message that’s new
that is important and needed
is one that stands apart
one that breaks a new barrier
and challenges the
social norm
it hasn’t been said before
it’s new to the lips
strange to the ear
and confuses the senses
so be brave
and take heart
fight this good fight
though you’ll be flying on faith
remember
just because you cannot see the wind
it will be beneath your wings
and filling your lungs
allowing you to breathe
and sore up to the sky
where no man
no woman
no boy
no girl
has ever dared go before
you are pioneer
an avant-garde
so dare to speak
without being heard
dare to travel to the star
no one believes you can reach
dare to be rejected
by strangers
family
friends
dare to be wrong
in a world that believe it’s right
i believe in you
dare to believe in you, too
say the words
that your heart is telling you
i believe in you.
You story matters and is worth telling. Don’t let this world scare you into staying silent. I believe in you. ❤ You are beloved.

 

 

 

A Vision of Peace

I had a vision of peace the other night. I was in a room full of people, people like me, people like Malala Yousafzai, Ishmael Beah, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others known and unknown who have faced extreme adversity for different reasons. I recalled how wonderful and freeing it felt to sit with a friend of mine recently and share my story and cry over my pain and to have her simply listen and then pray after. She didn’t judge me. She didn’t give me advise. She didn’t tell me what I felt was wrong. She just honestly, earnestly, sincerely, empathetically listened to my pain and hurt and struggles. This room in my vision, filled with all these people, each person had a turn to stand up and speak and one by one we shared our stories and the room attentively, earnestly, sincerely, empathetically listened as well. None of us listened to reply, judge, invalidate, contradict; we simply listened to understand and learn and we cried along with the speaker and our tears brought cleansing, and our tears brought healing. Peace came not from the absence of the pain, but of the acknowledgement and acceptance, and from listening to all voices while we remained silent with our own pain, knowing our turn would come and we would receive the full attention in turn and be just as validated.

After this vision, I thought how this would be the ultimate peace. If as a people instead of judging the Muslim, we heard their story and struggle, and just listened to understand and to learn. If as a people instead of judging that black man, we heard his story and struggle, and just listened to validate and love. If instead of judging this woman struggling with severe mental illness, covered in scars, you heard my story and just listened and cried with me for the pain I’ve endured.

I admit this vision was very much a reminder for me to take turns speaking. Sometimes I get jealous because the struggle to have mental illness recognized and destigmatized and validated is still a VERY strenuous fight. Those suffering from mental illness have their abuse from the justice system and healthcare system validated far more often than their pain and their struggles. This is wrong and it hurts so badly and sometimes in my pain, I get jealous of the voices who have made further progress in their fight. However, through listening, either directly, or indirectly in memoirs and other books, I can appreciate their pain and empathize and I see now how we can uplift each voice without silencing our own. We don’t have to pick who we support or order which voice is greater. We are equal. Our voices and pain are all just as valid as one another no matter the differences or where we are in our struggle to be heard. One person’s pain and struggle does not outweigh another. We’re just different.

I was feeling pretty good about this vision and myself, and was about to start advocating this message that we need to listen to each other’s pain to find peace until the recent shooting of a psychiatric patient in my city and then last night, on a brief preview for the evening news, a video of excessive force by another office in my same city. The pain and anger that boiled and burned my insides from head to foot, limb to limb, felt as if my entire insides were being dosed in an acid bath. My head was screaming. I wanted to fight. This is a very rare response for me, but this situation triggered it and I could feel it like a warm, angry death in each pore of my body. Then this vision of peace came back to me.

You see, in my original vision there were those people I listed and more, but these are people I respect and admire. These are struggles and causes (mental illness awareness, refugee awareness, black rights, woman rights, Muslim awareness, etc.) that I respect and support and admire and empathize with the struggles. In this new vision, the person whose turn it was to speak was a white, male police officer, and I’m not going to lie, I shut that vision down REAL quick, and I hugged my knees into my chest and cried angry, bitter tears and held on tight as torrents of flashbacks from my experience with police brutality drilled through my temples and crushed my skull and clinched my mind. In my weakest moments, when I was at the end, 100% vulnerable, the misjudgment and abuse of power on the part of an officer led to one of the worst traumas of my life as I was slammed to the ground and as my head lifted slightly, slammed again. In my flashbacks I could feel that cold, hard floor my cheek was pressed against. I could remember the momentary loss of consciousness. I could hear the officer shouting and cussing me out as he forcefully twisted my arms back and tightly cuffed them. I could feel the slicing of his words saying he should have just let me kill myself. My thoughts were invaded by all of these memories as well as the finer details that are too painful to put words to.

Flashes back to my peace vision came in between the torrents flooding my mind, though. It wasn’t just that officer in the room; it was others: male farmers, the 1%, others who in my mind are the enemy, the ones I vow to protect my broken, drug addicted, mentally ill, impoverished people from. However, I had to bitterly, and angrily accept that if my vision of peace was really true and correct, this is exactly what it would look like. I couldn’t cherry pick who was in the room and exclude others. These people are a part of the world and we cannot purge whomever we personally have judged as the enemy. However, honestly, I didn’t want to do this, and more honestly, I still don’t want to hear my enemy tell their story. I don’t want anyone to contradict my opinion of these people. I don’t want to feel empathy for them. I don’t care what they’ve been through. I don’t want to see them as human. I want to see them smote. I am Jonah waiting for God to smite Nievah instead of give them the same grace I have been shown because my pain and my anger are still so strong.

So here I sit, with a vision of peace well within sight, but just out of reach because of my anger and lack of forgiveness. No one can blame me, but I’m only hurting myself. So I leave this post without a conclusion. I leave it on a prayer that my soul can find peace and that I can release my pain and anger. I leave it also on a prayer that you can picture your own room and see who is in it and who you don’t want to be in it and look, really look at who has hurt you and how it is affecting you so that maybe one day, you can let go and find peace as well. Not to justify the cruel behavior, but that you can see how grace expands to all people and in that grace we can find peace.

One day I hope to be in a room with all of those people, including those who currently feel like the mortal enemy, and be able to listen, empathetically, sincerely, without judgement, without waiting to reply, and allow myself to cry with them and find peace because we are all broken and just as my pain is different, so is my sin, and I am not without mistakes as well. This is why Jesus died this week for ALL of us, not just for me and those I accept as my brothers and sisters, but for all of us, even those who have hurt me so badly, even those who have hurt you. Grace extends to all people, and peace can to. Never forget how beloved you are.

God’s peace.