Sunday, October 19, 2014

Can't Find My Way Home

Today feels like an overwhelming defeat.  It would be nice if there were bluebirds singing sweetly, while racoons and chipmunks help me wrap up all my belongings, and place them in boxes to put in storage.  It would be wonderful if all my friends came by to drink wine, listen to music, and chat while helping the birds and small mammals pack up (the sweet little things lack the opposable thumbs necessary to work the tape dispenser) - the mood might even be festive, if a little weird for the wildlife helpers.  With a bank account full of scratch, there wouldn't be any of the looming pressure of wondering where the cash for the storage space would come from, or the means to get the boxes there (including getting the boxes).  The made-up imaginings of what it might look like to move in some wealthy, well-connected person's reality slide across my mind, and it seems positively dreamy - one decides that one's current living situation could stand some improvement, so a suitable alternative is found.  One then has a 'moving party' where food and drink are in abundance as one's friends and acquaintances happily wrap and pack (along with bluebirds and several small, furry creatures...possibly a groovy Pict) until the job is done.  Then the hired help comes in to do all the heavy lifting, safely transports everything to the new location, and unloads it with care.  Voila - moved!  All that's left is to unpack at one's leisure, and enjoy decorating the new space.  Seems marvelous, no?  Of course, I have no idea if that's what it's really like, as for the past 25 years, my moves look more like a desperate leap from here to wherever I land.  Sometimes it works out great, other times...not so much.  But for better or worse, that's how I choose live my life.

"Why on Earth would you make that choice?" you might ask.  There are a great many reasons, some of which include the stories of my personal demons, some have more to do with family history or genetic memory, others are more about fleeing discrimination, or some other form of personal danger.  Sometimes, I just don't want to live anywhere, but travel around and see new things every day - and yes, that is a valid lifestyle choice, in my opinion. Just to clarify, though I say 'choose', it doesn't always feel that way, but I can't negate my own responsibility in failing to provide for myself what most folks call a stable living situation.  Don't get me wrong, I pay my rent, keep my house neat and tidy, am a good tenant, and always leave a place cleaner than I found it - I just don't usually end up staying in one place much longer than a year.  This pattern began as soon as I started living my own - having rented my first apartment for about a year, a friend living in another state wrote to me (remember letters?) to say his roommates were all moving out, and since he knew my lease was about up, would I come move down there with him so he could keep his place.  Sure, why not?  I had no special ties to the town I was living in, no close friends I couldn't bear to leave, no true community, I went to experience something different.

Then came that particular friend's financial issues, which, while I was in a position to help him out, I wasn't in that good a position, and we ended up moving out just about a year later, and returning to our home state, where we had a better support system, and knowledge of the area - so much the better for finding work.  So, with a pocketful of money, and a head full of the images painted by a talented fiction author, I soon decided that I had to live all the way across the country in yet another state, because it felt like a better fit for me based on what I had read - and off I went.  I had a hard time finding work out there, so I left my apartment after less than a year to live in a more communal space where many young people down on their luck gathered together to pool our resources and help each other survive.  We weren't homeless, exactly, but we were living pretty close to the bone, with some of my friends residing in a 'bus village' in the local woods.  We were safe and happy, and tied together by our ingenuity for survival outside the mainstream, and things were pretty good there for awhile, on the edge of what most people would consider okay (my mother would have gone around the bend, had she seen the conditions we considered acceptable, but isn't that part of why we test ourselves in these ways while we're young?).  In any case, I decided that while the fiction writer had his points about the locale his writing drew me to, it wasn't really for me, and that I wanted - for several reasons - to return again to my home state, and try something new in someplace old.

Renting another apartment in another sketchy community (but one I knew from having grown up in proximity to), I decided to stay put long enough to finish up a two-year degree I had been working on for about five years, opening up an opportunity for me to travel overseas, which I jumped on immediately, while making plans to land in a different state than the one I had started out from, on my return.  I was really getting the hang of this moving around and seeing lots of different places, and I liked it quite a bit!  My friends thought I was incredibly brave and intrepid - I felt expansive and well-traveled, like I was some kind of modern day explorer, seeking out adventure and knowledge in exotic locales, while most folks I knew stayed in one place, doing the same things.  If I had to guess, I'd say they were planning for their futures, while I only planned for the next day, or at most, maybe six months forward.  When I got back to the States from overseas, I took my few belonging with me and moved to the next state on my list to do some more schooling, and had to live on campus, according to the school's policy.  That was a tough semester - living in a dorm after having been on my own for so long was a bit of a shock to my system, but it was a small school, and there were only nine of us in the building, so it actually turned out okay, and we mostly all got along.  When three of the guys moved out, it was even better.

Renting an apartment off campus the next semester was a given, and between my work-study pay and a part-time job in the community, I didn't need for my boyfriend to move in, but I let him anyway.  When he graduated, I got another roommate, but I wasn't pleased with the people he brought over, so I rented a house with another friend just as I started dating a guy who was moving about an hour away for his job.  Well, as our relationship got more serious, the distance became too much, and as I was no longer in the school program and in need of employment, I moved in with the new boyfriend, and got a job where he worked.  That lasted until I got tired of being on top of a snowy mountain when it was Spring in the valley, so I said if he wanted to be with me, he'd have to follow me down into town, where I rented yet another apartment, and got yet another job.  Eventually, the relationship floundered, and we gave up the apartment to go our separate ways.  I took a less expensive place for awhile, but Mr. Ex-boyfriend didn't do so well for himself, and started coming back around looking to get back together, with the prospect of a really sweet living situation if we were willing to put in the cash, and a great deal of elbow grease.  Well, I kinda loved the guy, and had the same vision he did about the place he wanted to rent, so - off we went!  Once again, it was my money that paid for the place, if the elbow grease was mostly his.  I did my fair share of work, but he was the driving force in making that place great - and I stayed there for five whole years, even after I kicked him out.

Mr. Ex had some financial and familial trouble of his own, at that point, and I had a good job, so I gave him the sweet living situation and moved back to an apartment in town, which was a better situation for me, as well.  But - I overestimated what I could afford, and when business dropped off at my main job, and even taking a second job wasn't covering the rent, I had to move to a less expensive place.  Then I lost both my jobs, and not having any savings, I found myself putting all my things in storage and couch surfing at friends' houses - it also turned out that I was pregnant.  So here I was, without an income, without housing, without savings, without a partner or a plethora of supportive friends or family, without even the prospect of work (who's going to hire a pregnant, homeless lady?  not that I didn't try...), in the middle of Winter in a cold climate.  When there wasn't a couch to sleep on, there was the homeless shelter.  Thankfully, in my ninth month, I was gifted the money to rent myself a place, some kind friends brought my things over from storage, and I did the best I could with what I had to make the place ready to welcome my new baby who came one month after I settled in.  At that point, I turned to public assistance for help.

The State got me yet another apartment through their subsidized housing program, which was extremely affordable, but extremely unpleasant in the form of my neighbors, who were of a very different mindset than I was used to, and there was trouble from the start.  They hated me as a representation of a life they had never had, and resented my child for the benefits he reaped as a result of my education and experience.  The new baby and I were living a subsistence existence, even though I had managed to start and run my own home business, but the neighbors were harassing us, going so far as to vandalize my car by smashing out the windows, threatening us with physical violence, and throwing things at our bedroom windows at night.  I soon moved again, but here began a series of less-than-fortunate living situations facilitated by my new lack of financial resources.  After selling off my business equipment and not having enough money to rent an actual apartment, yet needing to get out of where we were living as soon as possible, I once again stored all my belongings, and took a weekly room at the local dumpy motel until I found an efficiency I could afford with the money left over from paying for the daycare necessary for me to work a part-time job.  The job was decent, but a bit of a hike, and I was spending more money on travel than I could afford, so I chose to move closer, got the little one into an awesome new daycare right near my job, and took on more hours.  And here, we settled in for a minute - just about about a year.

During that year, one of my close friends had a parent die, and as a result, he took over the care-taking of one of his deceased parent's properties while it was being put on the market for sale (he had also lived in the house, nursing that parent through his illness, and it had been his home for many years).  He knew that my job was winding down my hours as tourist season in my resident state wound down, and that as my baby was now growing past his toddling stage, I was looking into where I might want him to go to school, which would most likely mean another move for me, as the town I lived in didn't really meet the criteria.  Just as I found another job closer to my field of interest for better pay, in a town I saw as a better option for my child in terms of community and educational opportunity, my friend offered me an apartment in his house, which was near to the remnants of my family, whom my child barely knew.  And my grandmother was dying.  So, I took another leap of faith, packed up everything I owned, and moved back to my home state with a feeling of trepidation, and perhaps some small amount of hope that I might be able to get the help I obviously needed, because this parenting thing seemed to require more support than I was getting, and I was under the (false) impression that my family would be willing to assist me in managing it, because they said they would (they were not).  While moving in with my friend was an unmitigated disaster - he didn't get that being a parent requires one to give up certain 'party-lifestyle' elements for more mundane pursuits - I soon found an apartment right across the street from my new job, and the small child and I settled in to try and make a home, again.

Two years later, tired of the dead-end job, sick of the judgements and lack of support from my family, disgusted at the school system my child was enrolled in, frustrated with situations at the apartment pertaining to the landlady's mentally-questionable son who lived downstairs (as well as being told by the power company that I was paying for another neighbor's electricity), I was ready to run back to the state I had previously inhabited.  An old friend I hadn't seen in years resurfaced in my life, and she asked me to consider moving up to her neck of the woods before running back into the wilds of where she hadn't seen me for more than a decade, so I did.  Spending all of my savings, I moved us up to our latest community, and found a halfway decent job rather quickly, got the kid enrolled in school, and tried to settle in, but the State deemed both my apartment and my job were only marginally legal, and as a single parent, I didn't feel I could safely live that close to edge, so found an 'approved' housing situation, and quit my job in search of something on the up-and-up.  My kid stayed in the same school, and I promised there wouldn't be any more moving any time soon.  Sadly, I was wrong.  The landlady at that place decided she could charge more money for the apartment, and as I couldn't afford to pay more, I had to go.  Luckily (or so I thought at the time), there was a new housing project I was on the waiting list for, and we were approved to move in just in time for the previous landlady to kick us out, so here we are.

Work in this town is pretty scarce (it's rather a small town), and since my last job (two weeks at a local farm market which I was fired from the first time my kid got sick and I had to call in), I've only managed to pick up a few freelance writing gigs here and there, nowhere near enough to keep us fed and housed, but we manage as best we can.  The issue now, however, is that I once again find myself living in government housing, amongst people who live so differently than me, we have a certain amount of difficulty getting along as neighbors.  So much so, that I have been asked told to leave because the landlord has no intention of enforcing the rights spelled out for me in my lease, such as privacy, quiet, and cleanliness, among others.  When asked why this should be the case, I am told to 'get out, if I don't like it'.  Hmm...the lease says no loud music, yet there is loud music.  The lease says no hanging objects from the ceilings, or on the outside of the buildings, yet other tenants hang things from the ceilings, and on the outside of the buildings (I asked specifically if I could hang two matching wrought iron plant holders from my porch and was told 'no' while several other tenants have multiple tacky things hanging everywhere).  The lease states our belongings must be contained to our porches and not be left willy-nilly about the property, yet guess what?  There are bikes left in the street, and all manner of items laying about the property behind people's apartments and around their porches, to say nothing of the litter (candy wrappers, beer and soda cans and bottles, plastic drink containers, ice pop plastics, cigarette packs, napkins, shopping bags, sometimes a diaper or a bag of used cat litter) all over the lawn, and along all the trails that lead to and from town.  The children are loud, rude, and left to their own devices, abusive to one another - I saw the oldest of them instigating and encouraging fights between the younger ones, matching them up to face off against each other with bats and sticks - and are most likely experiencing a similar level of abuse in their homes.

Frankly, I've been looking to get out of here for awhile (been here about a year and a half), but my financial situation leaves a great deal to be desired, at this point, and I think it's fair to say that I am rather down on my luck, right now.  While my rent is paid up for the month of October, and I expect I will get my security deposit back - always leave it cleaner than you found it - I lack the funds to put down money on a new place, and find myself once again needing to put all my things in storage while I work out what comes next.  The child isn't so small, anymore, and needs to be ferried around to classes and activities that make working a 9-5 kind of improbable, but given my field of expertise, I'm kind of dead set on figuring out how to do enough freelance work at home to support us the way we need, in the form of food/clothing/shelter, and maybe a bit extra on the side for fun and games every now and again.  Doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it?  Well, guess what?  I'm asking.  I walk around with a smile on my face and a song in my heart just like the next guy, but I'm close enough to crisis at this point to say - "hey, I'm not okay right now, and I need some help".  Without anywhere else to turn, I do what I've always done, which is to take it to the page.  It not only gives me the time and space to work out what's whirling around my head in a panic, it also gives me the perspective to see that this isn't some kind of negative pattern of running away from problems I'm causing in my own life, but merely a way to be in the world.  There's nothing wrong with moving from place to place if that is what one so chooses, and I deny any negative implication to my doing so.  While I am at a point in my life where I relish the chance the put down some roots and see what it's like to just be, I'm also unsure as to whether or not I can actually live in that manner without freaking out or feeling the itch to travel.  Either way, I'd like the chance to find out.

If you can, offer us a helping hand.  Given the choice, the child would prefer a roof over our heads, possibly because I'd prefer to sleep out under the stars - and isn't that always the way of it?  For now, the child should have what the child wants, and I would like to be able to provide that on my own.  Until I can, I see nothing wrong with putting it out there that I am available for writing projects large and small, and anywhere in between, and my rates are reasonable.  And if you find yourself with a bit more than you or yours need flowing from your cup, let it overflow into ours.  My generosity knew no bounds when I had it to offer, so I feel no remorse in asking for some of that abundance to come back my way, for the sake of the small life entrusted to my care.  Thank you so much for reading along, and sharing this small slice of my life with me.  With all my best wishes, Selah ~