Sunday, October 07, 2012

Truth.

I'm going to tell you a story, a true story, one that I've never shared before.  With anyone.

I was married at 22 and divorced at 26.  My husband cam home one day a week before Christmas, a few days before my son's 3rd birthday, and filled a black Hefty garbage bag with his belongings and then walked out.  Lu was four months old.  I was not working and we were left essentially penniless; he left on "pay day" and he didn't give any of that money to us before driving away.

I remember those days leading up to Christmas as a hazy blur...I remember making mini cinnamon rolls from Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and watching hours of Thomas the Tank.  I remember the way Lu's head smelled, powdery and sweet and the way she buried her face in my  neck.  I remember wondering how I was going to buy stocking stuffers for G's stocking on Christmas Eve..the first Christmas he might actually "get it".  

I remember tying one leg of a springed riding horse to the door handle of my bedroom, and the other to the leg of an antique desk, so I had enough leverage to attach the springs and put the thing together before G woke up.

I remember sitting on the carpeted floor, staring at it in all of its insanely cheery western glory when it was finished. I probably cried.  I don't remember that part.

I remember my baby girl, brought home early on Christmas Eve from a visit with her dad, because she wouldn't stop crying, and how this time she smelled of cheap perfume and cigarettes.  And how she got sick later, because they kept feeding her, stuffing the bottle in her mouth to get her to shut up.  And how both babies slept with me that night.

That was the night we three became...what we are today.  The three musketeers.  A team.  Fierce.

Together.

I had to go on public assistance for a while.  People told me not to be ashamed, that that's what it was for, people like me.  But I was.  Ashamed.  I was embarrassed and sad and I drove an hour away to buy groceries so I wouldn't see anyone I knew.  And they wouldn't see me. 

So no one would see me.

When I would buy groceries, I made sure we were clean and pressed and neat and tidy. I suppose I hoped our outward appearance would be proof to those who might judge my form of payment, that I was the one who...needed help, but wouldn't take advantage of it.

It didn't matter, in the end.  One day, after ringing up a cart full of groceries and swiping my state card, the cashier sneered at me, telling me I didn't have any money on it.  Which was impossible...I was insanely obsessive about calling to check the balance before I went shopping and I only went once a month. I literally could not handle the trip more than that. I wouldn't sleep the night before, the weight of the dread crushing me with its hopelessness.

I asked her to try again, nervously ignoring the four or five people stacking up in line behind me.  She swipes again and announces loudly to the line that I don't have enough money, it will be a few moments.

The man behind me, smiling kindly, touching my elbow, asking if he could pay for me.

The cashier, scoffing, teling him I'm on food stamps, not to bother.

The people staring, the...the everything.

I don't remember getting to my car, but I was in my car next.  I sat in the parking lot, babies strapped in their carseats, no groceries. Nothing.  I remember crying this time.

I drove back towards home, across a bridge, but had to pull over.  I couldn't see. 

I sat in a parking lot next to the lake, the war in my head between the desperate need to hide, to burrow deep and never come out, and the simple fact that there was almost no food left at home.  I found a pay phone.  I dialed the card number and checked the balance.  Of course it was full.

Of course.

The kids, they had been so good, a full hour in the grocery store, at least to fill that cart.  The stopping and starting and stopping again while their mother fell to pieces and then tried to stitch herself back together again, to be the adult, to be the strong one.  They were so good...never fussing, happy, smiling babies.  Kisses, hugs.  I drove back to the grocery store, unable to face going to a new one, starting over from scratch.

My full cart was at the front end desk, in the process of being "returned".  They were annoyed. Until I explained and had them check the card, one more time.  Then there was pity there, and sorrow and remorse, but not enough. I don't think there is enough remorse for what happened to me that day.  

I made it.  I made it through that awful, awful day. And a thousand more nearly as bad, but not quite.  Nothing will ever be quite as bad as that day.

Last week I had an interview with a nonprofit organization for a volunteer position that, quite frankly, I'm underqualified for. The experience was both bewildering and humbling.  And since then, when I have felt small and inconsequential, and fearful that I am pursuing something that I am not meant to have, or not meant to be, I remember that 26 year old single mother, and that awful, awful day.

Nothing can be as bad as that, and I have come so far.  So far.

I remember the man who offered to pay for my babies' food.  I remember the pure anger I felt for the cashier who so callously threw me to the wolves.  And I know...it doesn't really matter what my qualifications are, or are not.  It matters that I am talented and eager and a hard worker.  That I have compassion.

They don't teach compassion in college.

They should.

My niche is waiting to find me, and I it.  We'll get there.  For once in my life, I don't have that panicky feeling, like I should hide and let the fear weight me down, hold me back.

I'm free.


34 comments:

  1. PRAISE GOD for freeing US. There are many, many others who have experienced similar situations - some of us worse. When I look back at the AWFUL beginnings of my adult life I can see just how far I've come with God's help of course. Although it doesn't seem like it when we are "going through", our experiences come to make us strong, compassionate for others, and wiser. Congrats for your endurance, my heart goes out to you in reading this post!

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  2. Angie, you are awesome! Thank you for sharing your story. Cheering you on as you step into your power and discover where it will take you and how you will use it in this world.

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  3. What a heartfelt post. That experience, though painful, made you strong. Strong enough to raise your children by yourself. Strong enough to become a very accomplished woman. You will find your niche, and it will be exactly what you're supposed to do.

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  4. This is an amazing, inspirational story. You are an incredibly strong woman. You will find exactly what you are supposed to do in life, your niche.

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  5. I am glad that you had to live through that experience. It helped to make you the strong, compassionate and loving person that you are today. Your children are so fortunate to have you as a role model. I am lucky to know you.

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  6. Incredible, heart wrenching story -- thank you for your candor. My hat's off to you and everything you've overcome. Your children are very fortunate to have you in their lives.

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  7. This is beautiful, Angie. Thank you for sharing.

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  8. You have an amazing story, and have come very far. :-)

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  9. Thank you for sharing your painful but uplifting story. You are a fighter and you and your children will reap the rewards of your courage and strength. No one has the right to judge others and I try my very best to always show compassion and acceptance to all people, no matter their financial situation. Money is not the measure of a person's worth.

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  10. Thank you so much for sharing your story -- I'm so impressed with your strength and the message that, no matter how cruel people are and how sad the situation you may find yourself in, it does get better. It also reminded me how important it is to be kind to the strangers we meet in our daily, busy lives.

    Thanks again!

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  11. thank you for posting your story - it is touching. I felt like I was right there with you. WarmHugs.

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  12. Anonymous4:55 PM

    Deep gratitude for sharing your story. Your courage, resilience, compassion and sense of charity are gifts to your family, friends and the world. Thanks!
    Cynthia

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  13. OK really. if you keep making me cry every time you post, I'm going to have to stop reading your blog.

    seriously, you've just proven what I always tell you: your kids are so incredibly lucky that you are their mom. you set an amazing example for them, and it's paid off too. you are tough, girlie, and smart and strong and kind and thoughtful... and a whole bunch of other things that so many people just can't say about themselves. that job wasn't the one for you. you'll find the one that is. because you don't quit.

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  14. Thank you for sharing your story. I remember going down that road myself with my twins. It takes great strength to keep moving forward. Keep going & you'll get to where you're meant to be.

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  15. Thank you for sharing your story. It's amazing and so are you. Congrats on making it and being strong. g

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  16. An amazing story, beautifully told. It could be my own, and I feel like you were compelled to tell it for me. Thanks for being inspiring and comforting all the time.

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  17. I'm having some of my own challenges and your story touched me, humbled me and inspired me tremendously. Thank you. Your courage and good will shine through every word.

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  18. I love you. You amaze me, with your strength, your talent, your sense of humor, your intelligence, your generosity... So glad to call you a friend. Thank you for sharing.

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  19. I'm sure that your story touched many of us...some who've experienced some of the same things and others who just understand the pain of divorce. As others have said, your story just shows how your journey has made you the wonderful compassionate woman that you are!

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  20. I have to give you a virtual hug and thank you for sharing such a touching story. You made it through it girl, you made it through it.

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  21. Thank you so much for having the courage to share this with us. Your courage and grace are truly inspiring.

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  22. You overwhelm me with your kindness and thoughtful comments, all of you. Thank you. :)

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  23. Truth. We are made to be so much more than circumstances. You so poignantly point out a problem in our society today. We judge people by what they have or don't, where they live or don't, where they went to school or didn't, what they have on.We were all made to bring joy and celebrate each other but we choose not to. You, Angie have chosen to bring your joy and your triumph over adversity to us today. Thank you.
    May we all be a little kinder today for having read your words.

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  24. I've been thinking about this since you first posted it, and I just want to say what an amazing woman and mother you are.

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  25. Anonymous11:17 AM

    That was a beautiful post and heart wrenching story. You are a strong woman and your children are very lucky to have you as an example.
    God Bless and hang in there. There is nothing that can knock you down!
    Mermie

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  26. Thank you for sharing this story. I read this yesterday, and it's stuck with me. I hope that the cashier learned to treat all people with dignity.

    Rose in SV

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  27. Thanks for sharing. Your story is such an inspiration to me. I'm a divorced single parent as well, and recently laid off. I'm looking for my niche too. Thanks for giving us strength. Through your story, I've gained some.

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  28. Maya Angelou's famous poem comes to mind: PHENOMENAL WOMAN. That's you.

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  29. A man could never have done that!!!! Women are strong, resourceful and perserverant. Congratulations on overcoming. Always remember because others are following.....that is what influences my vote and I think is truly "the Christian religion applied"--not just lip service.

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  30. thank you so much for sharing this with your readers. you are so inspiring. <3

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  31. Can I give you one tight hug??? I just broke down reading about that day.

    You have so much strength in you to go forward, to give, to teach, to share... What an amazing woman, you are!!

    You'll soon find the right job/volunteer position that will be the BEST fit for you! Keep at it! I'm rooting for you.

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