I’m not going to lie. I mean, why start now? I’m honest to a fault, even when the truth is less flattering than it should be. Or I risk painting myself in a different light. As a human, to which bad things (beyond her control) can happen.
I don’t take help easily. For anything. You see, I am the person that will protect people, help them, roll up my sleeves, and dive in when you need me. I have references. Don’t take my word for it. I am definitely the girl in your corner if I know you, like you, and care about you.
I’m the girl that never takes help. But not for reasons of pride. That’s not the reason. It’s partially because I hold myself to a vicious standard. If I have my sh*t together, I shouldn’t ever need any help, right? I’m an adult, damn it. I should have my act together.
But there is another part to that. One that I don’t talk about often, or to other people for the most part. Except for Diane, who could write a biography on her weird best friend. She knows all the dirt and the hurt. And the reasons why accepting help is so hard for me.
Bad Things Happen to Nice Hardworking People
I have been the woman to watch your toddler, while you study for your nursing exams. Projectile vomit and baby diarrhea inclusive. If it matters to you or helps you overcome an obstacle, I want to help. It’s in my DNA to give a sh*t and do what I can for good people.
In the past twenty years, I have learned some really hard lessons. But it was the past ten years I would say that represented the most adversity I have faced in my life. And the past four years particularly, have taken me down to my knees. Not that I told anyone (or showed signs) that was the case.
For the past four years I fought against:
- Three near-death experiences in the ICU (2018, 2019, and 2020).
- Infidelity in my marriage.
- Correcting a clerical error with immigration (and resultant threats of deportation).
- Underemployment and financial irresponsibility of my former spouse (including the development of a gambling addiction).
- Development of serious hard drug addiction by my spouse. He could write a book on hiding a meth addiction because honestly, I never knew until AFTER I moved out in May 2021. If I had, I would have left sooner.
- Losing my Godmother to cancer in 2020.
- Losing my beloved Aunt (mother figure and best friend) in 2021.
- Commencing my divorce in February 2021.
- Moving to Austin (where I knew no one) in May 2021.
- Living alone for the first time in eight years. And adjusting to life without my beloved step-sons in my care. We’re still in touch. The love never changes. I miss them terribly, after helping to raise them from age 5 to 15.
- Being a single mom of too many dogs which fit just fine, when I owned a house. Renting? Not so much. But giving them up would feel like the last piece of my soul would break.
So, there’s that. And losing my Aunt whom I was closest to, killed me last year. She was my advice, and my rock, and my cheerleader. I am not a snowflake, but she was the iron in my spine. And we had to watch cancer take her slowly and painfully. I kept every email and voicemail. And every message she sent me on Facebook. And sometimes when I miss her most, I read them to remember her strength, and be inspired by it.
Bad sh*t happens to good people. But did you die? No. I did not. I’m glad about that. And I know there are many people who walk through circumstances far more than what I have had to navigate. I am not a martyr. I am not a self-pitying kind of person.
But I am tired. And while I thought 2022 was going to “be my year!” it started in chaos. Another tsunami of sh*t I had to surf, and swim. Trying to keep my head above the water. While maintaining that composure I present to many people. Unless you are in my inner circle and know how I was actually feeling.
Giving is Easy: Receiving is Scary
If you give everything all the time, it feels nice right? You feel good about being the kind of person that helps your friend or family paint. God, I’ve moved people so much I could start my own moving business! I have helped friends renovate. Dropped off or had groceries delivered to friends and family when I knew they were struggling.
We have this one life. If you can with your two hands, facilitate some kind of support to someone? That’s a victory for the Universe. Because good people sometimes need help. And help can be hard to come by.
Giving makes me happy. But there have been many times that generosity has been exploited. Ask Diane! See how I defend that? I allowed myself to be exploited repeatedly. Sometimes by people I loved and trusted most. I guess I thought I could show them love and loyalty by example? It kind of didn’t work out that way for me.
Over time, when you give and give and give, you learn to reject reciprocity. Instead of expecting it, you flat-out reject it. Because with few exceptions, when I needed someone to “return the favor” in terms of support or help, it never arrived. The proverbial lifeguard that had intervened to rescue so many, was left to drown on her own. Even when she quietly asked for help.
I learned to give but not accept in return. Because if I anticipated reciprocity and didn’t receive it? Well, that felt worse. Like loving someone so hard, and not getting a teaspoon of love in return. It stings. So much, for someone who values relationships like I do.
Somewhere along the line, I decided I would neither ask for help nor accept it. Because at least I wouldn’t be disappointed or let down when the love wasn’t returned to me. It was a strategy to control or at least evade, heart-shattering disappointment in others. And confronting how little I meant, to people who meant the world to me.
The Hits Kept Coming This Year
My Mom knew I was struggling. Not for any reason of my own doing. The job loss tanked me. I was supposed to go with the new company (and it was virtually promised). Hence the reason why I didn’t go looking for another job. I was excited about migrating with the company during the M&A. It didn’t happen. I found myself unemployed, with one day of notice and no severance pay.
Next came two months of nail-biting unemployment. I had some luck! Some project money was owed to me before my unemployment benefits began. That helped me scrape by February until the paltry unemployment payments started rolling in. Which was about $900 less per month than my bills. Not including groceries.
Having no money and being unexpectedly unemployed in January? Fun! The cold dip in weather also presented another surprise. A $400 electric bill for heat in January, and again in February. The maximum bill I received was $250 at the peak of the 2021 summer for air conditioning. Low on funds, this was a blow to the knee caps. Again.
I am not a big spender. I am frugal. I have been diligently working on my financial goals for the last year post-separation. The cost of moving, paying off some medical debt, and $10k in emergency dental (it sucks to be a diabetic) ate through the funds I received after selling the house. It cost me $5k to move and get into this place last year. And buy a few things I needed to set up house (as I left almost everything with my former).
Life happens. You deal the best you can. And I did. With all of it.
Allowing Others to Help When You Need it Most
My Mom wanted to make a gesture. She is not a wealthy person, but agreed to loan me some money to help with the double deposits I would need this month. I got my first paycheck since January 21st, on April 8th. After working three weeks in my new job.
So, the bank of Mom stepped in for the first time ever… in my life (not kidding) to help. And I was so embarrassed that I needed that help. But I did. And my Mom wanted to do it. You see, over our lifetime together, I have saved her more than once. Including halting foreclosure on her house. It was important to my Mom, to return the favor.
But the dollars and the timelines still didn’t add up. Rent for my unit is rising from $1145 to $1800 base rent. Big jump huh? That’s the reality in Austin Texas right now. I have seen cheaper rentals in NYC. NOT KIDDING! And roommates are “the new black” in ATX now. Except, no one really likes chihuahuas, let alone five (5) of them.
Tightening my belt even more to zero spend, I was crying for the past two weeks. The unexpected stress of the new job (our Director quit today after being abusive with our team again). My performance has been aces. I also put in about 70 hours of overtime in the past two weeks. And I was exhausted. Glad she is moving on. I have named a new ulcer after my former Director.
I was deeply grateful for my Mom’s help. In tears over it, in fact. And all along I have been sharing my plans and efforts with my boyfriend, Brent. Careful not to overwhelm him. I think he is someone I want in my life for as long as possible. My problems are not, however his problems. I don’t let anyone else carry my crap, except me.
But I was at the breaking point when it came to moving my stuff. From my old place to the new apartment, on May 1st. Which just so happens to also be my 49th birthday. Don’t worry. I never have a good birthday (no self-pity there just straight-up fact). Something apocalyptic always happens on my birthday. It’s a curse maybe.
A Life Preserver Out of Nowhere from Kind Hearts
Balancing the numbers like a neurotic accountant, things were going to work. Except, for the cost of movers. After years of medical struggles and debt, there weren’t any savings left. Not that I found being the main breadwinner in my marriage offered much opportunity to stash cash. I was too busy paying for 99.9999% of every need, catastrophe, celebration, and essential in our marriage.
That defensiveness is brought to you by “YES I SHOULD HAVE SAVINGS”. I tried. I used to before I moved to Texas in 2014. Things changed here. My husband did not contribute to rent or the mortgage one single month, since he imported me eight years ago. Not once.
I even wrote a poem about it: “Your ATM“.
And then something beautiful happened. And if I am being honest (which I am) I have been crying about it for the last hour.
Brent reached out to his friends. Explained the situation. I did not know he was doing this. But my boyfriend had listened to me ruminate and try to create a strategy to deal with the cost of movers. There wasn’t enough money in the short time frame, to make it work. And I was both stressed, and afraid. Also humiliated that I couldn’t resolve the problem.
His friends agreed to come to help me move. People who only know me a little, but love their friend, agreed to give up their time on a weekend, to literally, rescue me with kindness from an impossible situation. One that was making me lose sleep. It’s not hard to lose weight, when you are so stressed you can barely eat. I broke 188 lbs. this week.
Brent: “I know amazing human beings. Good people. And when I explained what was going on, and how you needed the help so badly, they volunteered”.
Me: “No Brent! Your friends don’t owe me anything. I can’t let them do this. They barely know me…”
Brent: “Would you help someone like you, in this situation?”
Me: “You know I would.”
Brent: “Good people recognize good people Lori. And they want to help.”
And then I lost it. The tears started. A combination of relief, and embarrassment, humility, and appreciation. The detoxification of so much stress this month (including the problems at work with our defunct manager) and so much more. My shoulders dropped, and I sobbed on the phone with my loving boyfriend.
The band is attending a big music festival in North Carolina in May. After I stopped trying to reject the help and the imposition on his kind friends, I took a deep breath.
Me: “Brent, please tell your friends thank you. They have no idea … I mean you have no idea too, what this means to me. No idea. It’s been a long time since anyone helped me like this.”
Brent: “I know babe. But you deserve it. And you would do the same for them right?”
Me: “In a heartbeat. Please tell them I will donate XXX to the GoFundMe for the music festival for the band. Please. The first paycheck in May, I’ll be paying my Mom back, and making that donation to help you guys with your fundraising”.
Reluctantly, he agreed. And at that moment I realized something I already knew about my boyfriend. He understood me. All of it. The fear and the frustration. The disappointment of experiencing a hard time despite working so hard to cope with the adversities presented in my path.
Good people are still out there. I am in shock still at 9:48 pm (and still working). Deeply in not only awe but proof positive that people who have the same kind of big heart as I do? They exist. And by extension from his social world, they now exist in mine. And that healed something I don’t fully understand, in my weary heart.
The band gets a donation to take them over the top on their fundraising. But that wasn’t the motive. Kindness was. Unadulterated, altruistic kindness. And they may not know it yet, but this kind of moment lasts a lifetime in my heart. And I never ever forget to repay a kindness. Particularly, one that saved my a$$ at the 11th hour.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. All of you. Know that this help and kindness mean everything to me. And while we haven’t known each other that long? I WILL be there for you when you need me. Anytime, and anywhere.
Thank you for bringing me into your village. At some point tonight, I’ll stop crying long enough to ask the Universe to bless each one of you, who shines such genuine warmth and goodness out of the goodness of your own hearts.