La, LA la la, wait ’till I get my money right

First of all, I should say that it would seem that Yeezy still doesn’t quite have his money right, so is there really any hope for me?

I am so, so glad to be back in NY. I am also so, so broke. But this is nothing new…not at all.

I am 47 years old, and I have never had a salary of more than $50,000 at any job. I’m currently at $10,000 less than that, and still reeling from my year of unemployment followed by underemployment followed by a 10% rent increase. In a few years, with scheduled pay increases, I will finally be doing…sort of okay. In a few months, I will be able to start my seasonal job, and in theory I will be able to pay down some debts and begin to dig myself out of this hole.

Today, however, I’m so limited by living one paycheck away from financial disaster. And there are so many seemingly “simple” things that I want to do that I’m just not able to because of my financial situation. I am afraid that friends and family members who have extended invitations to visit think I am blowing them off, when really the $100 or so that a rental car would cost is beyond my reach. One of my dearest friends is now only eight hours away from me by car, instead of twenty, and yet I’ve only seen her once or twice in the year and a half that I’ve been back in NY.

Worst of all, I am facing the very real possibility that I might not make it to Grand Rapids for Elijah’s birthday in September.

I’ve never missed his birthday. When I left Grand Rapids, I promised Mona I would always, always come back for his birthday weekend. I have some possible overtime coming up at work, so I may be able to swing it, but I am also (at least in theory) weighing my options in terms of paying my rent late so that I can be there for his birthday. Since my single biggest fear is being homeless and having gross feet, this should give you an idea of how much this matters to me.

Then there’s another one of my best friends who has a milestone birthday coming up in October. I would really like to be there for this as well, but the possibility seems just as bleak.

(I have written about this before. I get so sick of rehashing it, and yet I feel like I should be doing something to change things. But is it really a moral failing? I just don’t know. I also think that in a financial sense, being single brings its own challenges, but that’s another topic altogether…)

I’m determined to do what I can to climb out of this pit, even as I dream of some kind of windfall that could wipe the slate clean, free me from debt, and allow me to spend as much time as possible with the people I love. I pray for money from some random source, and instead God gives me a second job, overtime, opportunities to work and continue to earn money.

I still wish it were easier. I still wish I made more money, that I could feel like I was getting ahead, that I could visit the people I love whenever I wanted to.

Choosing to live in NYC means that I am choosing to continue in this struggle. It also means, however, that I finally have the potential to make more money in the future.

Maybe I’ll get myself together after all…in the meantime, all I can do is hope that the people I love can forgive me for not being able to be with them at crucial (and maybe even the not-so-crucial) moments.

I want things to be different. I won’t stop praying for a ridiculous miracle, but I also know that I need to do my part. I don’t want to miss another birthday of Elijah’s…I want to be able to go visit Donovan for his birthday, and to someday bring both of the boys to New York for a reunion. I know that the past can’t be recaptured, but I would love to see them renew the bond that they had when they were small.

I have to find a way. I have to get myself together. Maybe it will happen before I turn fifty…but we will have to wait and see.

La, la, la, la 
Wait till I get my money right
La, la, la, la 
Then you can’t tell me nothing, right?

– Kanye West, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing

 

I found a treasure!

So I had completely forgotten about this. The funniest thing is that I have no idea how to get back into it because I don’t know which email address or account I used to create the blog. BUT I had painstakingly transferred all of my snarky Duggar posts (including the one that gave me the most hits EVER on my site) to this other blog, out of some misguided attempt to…I don’t know what. A friend told me that perhaps I should delete the posts if I was feeling sheepish about them, and for several years now I thought that’s what I had done…so to me, anyway, this is a treasure. Or maybe I’m just not a nice person?! Yeah…that too.

Anyway, enjoy the snark…if you dare!

http://antiduggarology.blogspot.com

Far from poor, but never enough

I approached the gate agent and asked, “is there any chance…?” I had volunteered to be bumped from my flight, and all I could think about was a voucher…a voucher that would give me more opportunities to visit people I love. When she said, “I think we’re okay”, I am sure she was bewildered by the crestfallen look on my face.

(I’m embarrassed to say that I am sitting at the gate holding back tears as I write this. Trying to pull myself together. I am guessing that the tears are more about the good-byes in my life than about a travel voucher, but still…)

I first have to say that I know that I am nowhere near anything that could even resemble “poor”. I stopped using that word to describe myself a few years ago, instead replacing it with “broke”.

I am blessed. I have a job that, although it pays less than I would like, is enjoyable. I don’t dread going to work, which is perhaps as great a blessing as having a job to begin with. I have a nice car that runs well, even if I can ill afford it. I have a roof over my head and a washer and dryer in my apartment (those who have had to share laundry facilities or schlep to the  laundromat understand this!)

I have just enough. I can pay my bills, and I somehow manage to stay afloat even when I make bad spending choices.

I have more than most of the world. I need to remember this.

But I also have less than many people I know. I struggle more with the basics than some of my friends do.

A travel voucher could mean the difference between getting to see friends I love and having to rely on conversations via email and Facebook sound bytes to stay connected.

(On the plane now, crying again. Must not scare seatmate. Who is smaller than me, by the way, and not a talker. Another reason to be thankful.)

Some people’s lives are just easier. I am a traitor to my purported allegiance to Jesus when I say this, but it’s my reality. I hate what capitalism has done to me. I hate that I am so bound to “stuff”. I know that the love of money is the root of all evil…only I don’t love money-I hate it. Hate that it consumes so much of my time and energy. Hate the envy it invokes in me.

Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?” ’Or I may become poor and steal,and so dishonor the name of my God. – Proverbs 30:8-9, NIV

But some people do not struggle this way. Some people are somehow not chronically under-employed. Some people’s parents help them pay for college, or are there to help them out in a pinch.

Some people start off with more and earn more and have more. Some people don’t need to put an $80 piece of luggage on a credit card, and don’t have to nervously count the days until their next paycheck.

And because I live in America, and have been shaped by the ridiculous values this country embraces, I am filled with envy, and I get tired of having to limit what I spend, of working two or more jobs, of struggling, always struggling, as I watch rent and car insurance and bills increase. Of drowning in student loan debt because for too many years I could not afford to pay enough to even touch the principal, and the interest just continues to snowball. Of watching a $2000 IRS balance refuse to budge because I am paying $200 a month in fees and interest, and I just do not have a way to access that amount of money all at once.

I am tired of having to limit my travel plans and to struggle to work out even the smallest excursion with other friends who are similarly struggling…or worse, to try to keep up with my friends who don’t have to worry about every penny they spend. The shame I feel-the comparisons-how is it that they have found financial success while I have not?

It doesn’t help that I was a lower-middle-class kid in an upper-middle-class high school, or that I was in honours classes with a number of extremely talented people. People I graduated with are AP photographers who attend the White House Christmas party, financial experts who are regularly interviewed on TV, and even people who are creating TV, attending awards ceremonies that I will only ever see from my couch. I have friends who never attended college, yet make three times what I make. It’s hard not to compare and to find myself lacking.

But I don’t necessarily aspire to any of that. When I play the lottery (or, as a friend puts it, “pay Stupid tax”), I don’t want the big winnings…I just want enough to get out of the hole I’m in, to be able to say that I can get back to zero. I just want to be able to not have to struggle so much. Mostly, I want to be able to travel to see friends who live too far away, and to have some confidence or certainty that I will  be able to move back to New York someday…

They say that if you can’t change your situation, you should work to change the way you view it. Problem is, I still have not figured out how to do that…

Resisting arrest

It was maybe ten years ago that I was in my apartment complex’s pool with a friend’s young daughter. She was not a good swimmer at all, and was reluctant to go into the deeper end of the pool without my help. At one point, I can’t remember exactly what we were doing, (I do have a habit, even to this day, of letting kids use my back as a surfboard in the pool. Note to self: just because you’re in the water does NOT mean it is not going to hurt like a @%# later.) but whatever we were doing, she was either on my back or on my shoulders. We crossed over the point between the shallow and the deep end, and in her panic, she was holding on to me more and more tightly, pushing me down underneath the water.

With my head under the water, I could not explain to her that she needed to let go so that I could get my footing and thereby get us both to safety. I have very little understanding of fear of water, having spent my summers swimming in my grandmother’s backyard pool since before I could remember, but I can understand that it must be terrifying. Her panic was palpable, and yet, in order for me to regain control of the situation, I had to wrest her hands away from my grasp.

It was probably a mere 15 seconds, and I don’t really think that we were ever in any serious danger, but it frightened me nonetheless.

My friend’s daughter was like any other human. When faced with an immediate threat, real or perceived, her mind and body reacted, and her only instinct was to stay alive. It’s an instinct all of us have. It’s what keeps people going in the face of almost impossible odds…it’s why we refer to people with cancer as “fighting bravely”…it’s what makes suicide more difficult than people who haven’t been in that place can imagine. We are human, and our instinct is to stay alive.

Which is why I am so, so tired of people saying, “well, if _______” (insert police brutality victim of the week here) “hadn’t been resisting arrest, they wouldn’t have had these problems”.

These words are usually spoken by people who, even if they were in an encounter with the police because they themselves had broken the law, would never have to experience the abject terror that people of color – whether they have or have not done anything wrong – face every time they have an encounter with the cops.

As a white woman, being stopped by the police is an annoyance at best, albeit triggering in terms of my unresolved crap with authority figures. However, I can think of very few situations in which a random (or not-so-random) police stop would leave me fearing for my life.

I don’t know what it feels like to be a person of color in this country. I don’t know what it is to feel some unidentifiable combination of anger and terror at the mere sight of someone in law enforcement. And because I don’t know what that feels like, I am in no position to say what I would or would not do in that situation.

If you know anything about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you know that it can lead to a state of constant fight-or-flight hyper-alertness. I imagine that living with the trauma of so many difficult encounters with police over time, either in one’s own life or as a witness to this violence, might lead someone to act unpredictably in the face of this threat. It’s not even accurate to say that this is a “perceived” threat, because for too many black and brown Americans, this is a reality borne by experience after experience after experience.

When my friend’s daughter was pushing down on me in that pool, pushing me further into the water, she was not trying to “resist” my instructions, or my efforts to contain her. She was, rather, trying to resist drowning, to somehow keep herself from the threat she was facing. That threat was very real to her in that moment, and so she thrashed and fought back against my efforts to free her hands from my shoulders and flailed and shouted.

She thought she was in immediate danger of dying, and her body reacted. She did what humans do. She fought for her life.

So now imagine that you are facing an immediate threat. Perhaps you are angry, and you don’t watch your words as closely as you should. Like a child talking back to a parent (unsettling image, but the power structure is set up in such a way that I’m often reminded of the children’s book Matilda: “I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”), you open your mouth, or you move in the wrong direction, and you are suddenly and painfully aware that you have provoked the rage of this authority figure, and you may very well be killed.

Or maybe it’s a case of mistaken identity, and yet you are taken to a police station and repeatedly sodomized and beaten…or maybe you simply grew up in the shadow of incidents like these, both the larger cases that are publicized in the news as well as the ongoing narrative in your own community of confrontations large and small.

If you don’t know what it’s like to live in that world, then you ought not speak of “resisting arrest”.

What they are resisting is death. What they are fighting against is the generations of brutality and fear that are seared into the flesh of this nation’s history. However they are reacting, it is all they can do in that moment. When you have a police officer’s knee in your back, or his gun to your head, it is not the time for calm; it’s the time to figure out how to stay alive.

If you resist, they may kill you. If you don’t resist, they still may kill you. And the definition of “resisting” is ever-broadening and not easily defined. And if you are a young black or brown man in this country, you don’t stand a chance against these changing definitions. You certainly do not have the luxury of trying to guess whether this is the day you will die at the hands of the officer who is approaching you.

They aren’t resisting arrest. They are trying to stay alive.

And they are doing this because this is what humans do.

What if everything you’ve ever been told is wrong?

The churning I am experiencing means that everything I have to say will not fit neatly into a single blog entry. But let me start by saying this:

It’s not about what you think it’s about. Or rather, it’s not that simple. If nothing else, remember that. There is so much going on beneath the surface.

I have so much to say and it pains me so much to say it and it is going to take me a while. But let’s start with this phrase: “Implicit Bias”.

Got a minute? Take one of these tests. Or a few of them. Then ask yourself how you came to believe the things that you believe. The things that you don’t even *know* you believe.

This mess we’re in came from somewhere. We want to believe that we woke up one day with our enlightened, post-racial selves and that we are not carrying the baggage of our nation’s history. And why can’t people just get over it?
A poem by June Jordan, called “Jim Crow: The Sequel” is haunting me these days. It was written roughly in the Clinton era, and I think I came across it in an issue of Essence magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

But for two hundred years this crazy
land the law and the bullets behind the law
continued to affirm the gospel of
God-given White supremacy.
For two hundred years the law and the
bullets behind the law, and the money and
the politics behind the bullets behind the
law affirmed the gospel of
God-given White supremacy/
God-given male-White supremacy.

And neither the Emancipation Proclamation
nor the Civil War nor one constitutional
amendment after another nor one Civil Rights
legislation after another could bring about a
yielding of the followers of that gospel
to the beauty of our human face.

I know that the phrase “white supremacy” will upset some people, but please know that I am not talking about someone with a Klan hood in their closet. In fact, I am not talking about individuals at all. And I think that before I can go further, I will need to define a few things, will need to explain why I label myself a “recovering racist”. As disorganized as my rants may be, I would be so grateful if some of you would be willing to see through that and to join me as I continue to wrestle with these issues.