Thursday, January 23, 2020

It's like this. I am poor. And it IS all about money.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have made an astounding discovery.
Guess what?
It IS all about money.

Here's my evidence so far:

-- NPR presents an article on how difficult it is to summon the courage to pick up the phone to make an appointment for mental health counseling. They list a host of reasons that include fear, shame and lack of time, and fail to mention that an overwhelming majority of Americans cannot afford it. Or counselors won't take Medicaid because getting reimbursed from the government is a bitch. Or there are no therapists in their area taking any new patient. Or they simply can't afford it. Oops.

-- My Jewish professional colleagues are urging everyone to vote in the World Zionist Elections, which is some thing about how progressive organizations get to spend their resources bringing about progressing change in Israel, a place Jews are supposed to visit but which many can't ever afford to get to. And on top of that, while ANYONE can vote in this thing, it seems, there is a surcharge. You have to PAY to cast a vote. It's not a lot of money, but it's the principle of the thing. Paying to vote. Think about it. Oops.

-- Legal experts tell us it is actually possible for some folks to file bankruptcy against their outstanding student loan debt; but that to do it you have to (a) find a lawyer willing to take on the tons of extra work required to do that, and (b) it costs a lot more billable hours for you to get a lawyer to do that. So yeah, maybe your students loans can be reduced or forgiven, but it will cost you -- right -- more money, which you already don't have because otherwise why are you thinking about filing bankruptcy? Oops.

-- Back to the Jewish world -- yeah, I know, I'm biting a lot of hands here but honestly I can't take the hypocrisy anymore -- Lots of cool learning and certification opportunities abound that would open up lots of new horizons for people who are otherwise on the margins of Jewish communal life. But guess what? They cost a crap metric ton of money, and if you want to inquire about scholarships you have to cut through generations of communal shaming about how asking for help is a shanda, a scandal; and then they tell you, well, no there's not really much scholarship money and we save it for folks under 25 beacause they really need it (and, by implication, someone over fifty shouldn't need it at all because why haven't you made a rip-roaring "success" of your life by now, for heaven's sake? Come ON, get with the program here.)
Oh, right. Sorry, wrong number, I won't trouble you again. Oops.

-- My parents kept telling me I could do anything and be anything I really wanted if I just worked hard enough. And if I had been straight and femme and pretty and rich, perhaps that might have been true. But I'm none of those things, and "anything" simply hasn't worked out for me.
I mean, I have done a lot of things I love and care about, but they don't get respect in the world of Middle Class People With Money And Security, so none of them have paid especially well. Or even enough to really live on. I don't regret my choices. I have been true to my Self, and my skills and talents in the world, and my passions. But I've done these things in a world where they are not really respected, where I am not really respected. And so I've done them knowing full well that I would not be secure, or healthy or comfortable. That is the world we live in, where some kinds of people will always be valued more than other kinds. My parents really wanted me to believe their myth, because I think they really wanted to believe it for themselves. Mom and Dad, I'm really sorry that the myth wasn't true. Not for me so much as for you, for your hearts, and for whatever dreams you had for us. And I'm glad you're not here to see how bad it's become today for me and so many other people.

Here's the thing, and it's high time I was honest about it, even if it crashes and burns my little bitty career to the ground.

I am tired.
I am poor.
I have to stay this poor in order to qualify for any sort of government assistance, for stupid-expensive drugs (currently $20,000 per dose) that keep me alive, for the food I eat and for subsidies on some of my utility bills. I have to dumpster-dive and dig through Free boxes for clothing; and take two-hour naps in the middle of the day and use the restroom ten to twenty times a day because my body can't work a 9-to-5 anymore; and I have to sometimes just sit in my bedroom and curl up under a blanket because the depression kicks in and I just cannot get out of bed right now but get back to me later, okay? -- but I'm not close enough to death to qualify for disability.
So I, and tens of thousands just like me, hover on the edges, gamely straddling cracks we don't want to fall through and disappear between.
I work on bikes for people even poorer than me because frankly it's a way to stay a little less crazy and to keep at least some of my dignity -- and when I get too fatigued (which is like every couple of hours) I can sit down and rest without some boss lurking over me wondering why I'm slacking.
I weigh 180 pounds now, because my food stamps go a lot farther when I spend it on processed foods my Crohns'y body can digest, and because I don't have the mental or physical energy to ride ten miles at a go like I used to, because my body has conspired against me to rob me even of the enthusiasm for riding a bicycle that I used to know. Now if I take a walk outside it's something. I am NOT doing my part to keep us housed and fed, except by being close enough to the ground to qualify for the paltry help that passes for concern from our government, which actually does not give a shit if I live or die.

We have a little house. (Once upon a time when we were both younger and I was stronger and we could work a lot more, we qualified to buy a house; that seems like forever ago now.) It's not much and it needs work and we struggle every month just to make the mortgage. But now that we are more than halfway through paying the mortgage, if we have to sell before we're foreclosed on, we might walk away with enough money to find an apartment somewhere while we sort out what comes next. THAT is the state of the working class in this country. We are one check away from disaster, one bike crash away from homelessness, one angry depressive episode away from being cast out of synagogue communities or stores or community fairs that don't know what to with anyone who isn't comfortably liberal and middle class and therefore finds it easier to hold their shit together.

I can't afford to be liberal. I no longer respect the banks and bankers who colluded to make it impossible for me to go to college without taking exorbitantly-priced student loans.
I have no respect for a government that forces me to live on so little in order to qualify for basic health care. I HAVE NO RESPECT for Jewish organizations that want me to show up and make my music and make everyone happy while wearing my ill-fitting, worn-out Middle Class Costume, and then telling me they can't ask me back because they can't afford to pay me anything.

I am poor.
I am exhausted.
And I am tired of the charade.
So excuse me while I go and write some songs about burning it all down.
And while I don't plan to post a link to this anywhere, I expect a few people will read it and be horrified at my lack of gratitude, my inability to sustain my personal thankfulness practice for One More Day, always one more day.
I am not sorry.
Today is the culmination of a bunch of really hard, sad, depressed, angray days and I honestly no longer care about much of anything right now.
Perhaps after a nap I'll feel better, but I bet not. When I wake up the world will still be what it is and I will still be who I am.

This is my blog, and perhaps my next post will be lighter and fluffier. Hang in there in case it is, or stop reading and unfollow me. It's all cool. You do you and I'll do me. Now with more honesty than ever before. I may lose every potential gig I've lined up but DAMN it feels good to be able to tell the truth.

1 comment:

Eric in California said...

Hi Beth,

I've let your last post mellow in my inbox a bit before responding. It's very powerful and raw.

I recall the story about Siddhartha Gautama being raised secure in the confines of a royal compound, where he was supported and shielded and protected from the real world. One day around 29 years of age he left this bastion of privilege and began to experience the "real world", encountering suffering, disease, and old age. This shock launched him on his spiritual journey, which culminated with his enlightenment and with the first of the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism - "Life is suffering."

My journey can't compare with yours - I got a lot of good breaks in life, Being the son of a US Army officer and his German war bride, I was imbued with discipline, order, put on a college track in high school, and had the fortune of my mother's father helping me out with college tuition that an Army officer could not have afforded. So conscientious, educated, and debt free, I entered the corporate world as a hard working drone, it was a good life.

However, now that I'm in my 60's, and after a vigorous life of bicycling, hiking, running, kayaking, and 4 season backpacking, I feel my body and mind starting to slow down. Things don't run as well as they used to. I feel like the Buddha, my privileged life not having prepared me for the reality of life, the fact that we all grow older, age, and die, no matter how good we take care of ourselves. This is a tough adustment. I wish I had experienced a bit more adversity and difficulty earlier in life to prepare me for the great challenge that our mortality presents to us all.

In the end, we all exit life through that same narrow doorway, that great equalizer.

I don't know that this existentialism offers much solace to you and I, but I share these thoughtrs in the hope that they might offer some comfort to you - we are all in our own lifeboats, struggling with life as it gets dealt to us as best we can.

Thanks for sharing your rage and anger and upset - it's perfectly justified in the face of life's apparent inequities.

Hopefully you can gather your thoughts and continue to blog - I appreciate your thoughts on bicycling, religiion, and life.

To quote the Quakers, your words and thoughts "speak to my condition" as well.

Best regards, Eric