That’s All I Ask

[Hey, everyone.  I’m reposting this blog since a friend asked me to do it for other people that might feel the way I did, and let me make one thing quite clear – I DID feel that way.  Now that I have a good living situation, some security, and a much better belief in myself as a person and as a human, there’s a lot here I would change, but to honor the request, I won’t change any of it.

It was impossible at the time to be an optimist of any sort, and I admit I was scared, angry, frustrated and at the point of being homeless by choice, of learning to live on the fringes of life and never find any peace at all.  Truth is, peace wasn’t what I found.  Instead I did something that now I consider almost superhuman: I fell apart, shuffled the deck, drew some new cards and got myself busy learning to like myself just a little.  And each day I do at least one thing, no matter how trivial or small, no matter how seemingly meaningless it is to others, and I put the fact that I overcame my fear long enough to do that thing – hey, I put it in my emotional bank and watch things grow, get better. have meaning.

My friend feels that this blog speaks right now for her, that it matters and that it illustrates her current emotional state very nearly.  But if you feel that way, if you read this and you say, This Is EXACTLY how I feel, do yourself a favor.  Sit down and make something: a card to yourself, a valentine to someone you like, an application for employment – something, Anything, that leads to a choice, a decision or a good emotion on your part.  It works in the long run.  And if you want to talk, get in touch and I will talk to you because when you least expect it, you’re suddenly going to realize something both frightening and wonderful:

EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY and THE WORLD IS BETTER WITH YOU IN IT.

Read on.  And thanks.

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Some people would read this simple list and think, What’s the big deal?  The truth is that for some of us the job of simply surviving life is remarkably difficult.  It is not whining to state that life is difficult; it’s an established fact for the vast majority of us.

What is remarkably difficult is to survive the constant fight against the situation in which we find ourselves, against our painful past, against insanely difficult circumstances we did not encourage.  That means hoping for something that no one seems to get or give anymore — a chance.

jobless

There is a ‘domino’ effect that every situation has at the core.  One thing happens, and other is created, and there you have it — the ball rolls down the hill, knocking everything else down, smashing everything in its way.

I’m going to use my own situation as the example because that’s the only one I can use and of which I have any real knowledge.  [But at the outset of this post, let me say this: I am NOT weak, far from it.  If you think I am weak, you have no concept of what it means to ask others for help and to accept it, or to work toward overcoming a mental illness.  Admissions of this magnitude are anything but weak.]

My example isn’t all that different from the experience of some; I had an illness and as a result lost my home, my partner, my job.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault, not even my own.  It happened.  The road toward recovery took an inordinate amount of time and work just to get to the point where I was ready to reenter the world in a positive, meaningful way, and able to re-engage fully.

But as to work, I have found something that is both hideous in reality and maddeningly oppressive emotionally and financially: there are no second chances.

The attitude of not allowing others to progress because of their perceived ‘mistakes’ has become the prevalent attitude that employers — and just about everyone else — mistakenly foster.  It seems that if people believe an attitude is ‘right’ long enough that attitude somehow magically becomes ‘fact’.

People like myself have proven time and time again their capabilities and talents are not only ignored, but relegated to the trash bins of society due to the myopic attitude of those who hire personnel.  It seems that nowhere is the concept of a ‘second chance’ to be found, and this heartless attitude now is the norm.

Make a stupid mistake as a kid?  Now it follows you everywhere, often with an accompanying video on You Tube.  Having a psychological problem as an adult?  Expect no mercy if your boss finds that you suffer from depression or another illness.  Expect no mercy, period, regardless of your mistakes, whether those mistakes were willingly made or not — or even if you made ‘mistakes’ at all.

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What happens when you’re talented, able, willing, ready, have overcome the worst of your past and are gung-ho to get back in the saddle — and no one will believe in you?

Nothing happens.  You become paralyzed by your circumstances.  You are branded, you are deemed worthless because you made a ‘mistake’.  Your perceived ‘personal issues’ are reflected in everything you do and say.  You become your disorder, your disease; you illustrate it; you become the poster boy or girl of everything that is ‘wrong’ with a human being.  You’re just no damn good.

You, my friend, are now considered detritus.  Trash.  And so are your hopes and aspirations, your joy, and your future, too.

Your dreams are lost.  Evaporated.  Vaporized.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

Lao Tzu

I have worked tirelessly for years to overcome my bipolar disorder and how it affected my past; I have made every attempt to get back to a sense of ‘normalcy’, whatever that might be.  As a matter of fact I went back to school just to prove to potential employers that I still had what it takes; I took a year-long course for a certificate and finished it with a perfect score in a single semester.  That’s how important it is to show that I am still quite capable, vital, up-to-date and ready.

And as it turned out, of course, no one cares about that.  I was out of work for too long.  The past 30+ years of outstanding work became invisible.  All of my experience, effort, remarkable results and accomplishments counted for exactly ZERO, all because I was out of work just long enough for potential employers to believe me to be irrelevant.

Lost dreams.  Simple dreams now all but impossible to achieve; dreams of a small apartment to call my own, a piano to play, some art supplies, food for me and for my cat.  Dreams of being able to go to a restaurant once in a while, of buying a book, or finding a beautiful field and making paintings of that landscape for my home.

Dreams that most people don’t even see as ‘dreams’.  Dreams that, without employment, I may never see.

Idk

When you take away the dreams of a human being, how can they possibly culture a sense of self-esteem?  On what basis can they even believe in a future?  After losing the fight, what do they do to win the war?

I’d like to believe in all those wonderful ‘self-help’ kinds of sayings, but they all fall flat:  Life goes on, and you just have to be patient and wait for the right opportunity.  Good things come to those who wait.  Time will take care of it.

Bullshit.

Or how about these: Opportunities don’t make themselves.  You’re only as good as you think you are.  Get going and do it.  Don’t worry about it, just accept it.  Do the right thing.  Have hope for tomorrow.  Prayer works.

More bullshit.

Sometimes good things do not come, whether you are waiting for them or not.  Sometimes being an optimist is not being a realist.  And sometimes prayers go wanting.

Sometimes there is no apparent remedy even after years of seeking one.  And there are times when the most difficult thing a person can do is to go on surviving in spite of it.

I have no idea where I’m headed, true, but I won’t give up.  I still get up each and every day with a hope, however small, that a miracle will happen, that I will find an answer to my problem.  But as one very wise man said, the very definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  And please, don’t speak to me of miracles, as they’re impossible to come by.

I guess that’s faith for you.  My faith in myself might be insanity but hey, that’s all I have.

you-never-know-how-strong-you-are-until-being-strong-is-the-only-choice-you-have

And so there is the crux of my situation.  Hoping, wishing seem useless.  The only way to get through this is to hang on by the skin of my teeth.  All I can do is keep searching and hope that someone, somewhere, will buck convention and see past what my disorder did to me and instead focus on how I managed to overcome those problems to the point of being seen as worthwhile.  As a person worth hiring.

But that takes a leap of faith and I cannot force someone toward that leap.

i need a hug

It’s been ten years since the horror began and with one exception of a job in California that failed (and not because of me, thankfully), there has been nothing.  Of course, it’s only been five years that I’ve been able to look for work.  But that’s FIVE YEARS.  Five years of constant seeking, constantly being told I’m not worth hiring, or being dismissed as overqualified, underqualified or simply not worth their attention.  Five long years of failed dreams, of beating myself about the head because I believed myself unworthy somehow.

But I’m not incapable.  I’m just shunned.

I really, really, really need a hug.  But more than that, I need a chance.

That’s all I ask.  I don’t think that asking for a chance to live a better life is asking too much.  I don’t believe that being diagnosed with a disorder means that you ARE that disorder.  I have proven myself time and again.  I have asked myself why a thousand million times and the only answer I come up with is I Don’t Know.

Yes, I need that hug.  Sometimes searching for a reason why just leads to burnout.  Looking for answers to unanswerable questions is moot, useless.  Digging deep within for more patience or more resolve gets harder and harder and just makes everything feel worse.

So the time has come.  Searching for traditional employment is useless and I have to admit it.

You may think it overly dramatic, but I’ve decided to make the effort to obtain all the camping gear I need in the event I become homeless.  That way, my chances of survival have a statistical minimum of success at the very least.

Perhaps I must now learn to become an urban nomad, someone who lives on the fringes of life.  Hell, I’m almost there.

But to be frank I’ve never been good at camping.  I don’t know how to be homeless.  I’ve never felt centered without a home in which to thrive and I am completely unstable without a mission, without a plan of action.

I’m in danger of losing what little I have left in the material sense because you can’t put a an Ikea desk or an oak dresser in a knapsack.  Not that I need those things, but these (and some clothes and small personal items) are all that remains of my belongings  But loss is loss after all and losing the last of what you have certainly changes one psychologically and contributes to an overwhelming sense of impending doom.  For me, that impending doom has lasted for ten long years.

There’s an old World War I song that goes, ‘Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile’.  Well, maybe my troubles are all I can fit in that knapsack.  But then again, perhaps not.  I think there might be just room enough for one small hope of survival in that sack, too.  I’m hopeful that my bag will be roomy enough and it just might be because the dreams I used to have aren’t going to get packed.  There’s only enough room for an extra little bit of hope in that bag.

The old dreams are gone; the few hopes and dreams that have replaced them have little or nothing to do with security but they have everything to do with survival.  Those dreams are a lot smaller and easier to pack, and they’re also much more potent; it’s sobering how one perceives the difference between imagined security and real, actual and hardcore survival.  Survival is definitely the more fearsome.

“Don’t matter how much money you got, there’s only two kinds of people: there’s saved people and there’s lost people.

Bob Dylan

Given all this it’s no big surprise that I feel lost.  I’m not alone and I know it, but sadly that is of little comfort to me.  And as time goes on and I cannot resolve this conundrum it becomes a heavier millstone around my neck; I suppose I should smile and be an optimist but I don’t think so.  Today I must be a realist and while I may hate my situation, that’s all right; everything is, after all, temporary.  It’s okay not to like what’s happening to me, and that’s my prerogative.

But it’s not okay to despair.  It’s not okay to completely give up.  I could despair, I could give up, but I won’t, I can’t.  I will not.

I won’t give up survival if in the end all I have is a tent to sleep in, or if I have to bathe in a freezing lake and eat peanut butter every day for the rest of my life.  After all, that’s more of a dream than some humans ever have.

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