By Wendy Burnett
Before I say anything else, I want to thank those awesome people who have been helping us out by clicking the “donate” button. I know that helping us means that there are things they are doing without, and I want them to know how grateful I am.
I also want to thank those who have reached out and offered encouragement, understanding and support. Your words have been a blessing and have brought me hope in a place that seemed hopelessly difficult.
As I said in the update at the end of my last post, Starting Over is a B**tch, we do still need to move, but the roommates are giving us more time to manage it (they’re pretty darn wonderful people, and will never really know exactly how grateful we both are for the sanctuary they gave us when we had nowhere else to go.) If it wasn’t for their kindness, we would have been living on the street for the last 5 years, and we’re fully aware of how much more difficult things would have been for us without them. (Yes. hubby too, although he finds it much harder to let them know how he feels. I guess it’s a guy thing . . .)
Speaking of hubby, he’s been doing MUCH better. He still has his downs, but he’s working on getting better and dealing with his issues. It’s very nice to have him “back” too. The guilt, depression and stress had turned him into someone I barely knew and wasn’t very sure I liked; and he’s coming back to the person I fell in love with instead of the mean, angry stranger I’ve been living with for the last few years. He’s even looking into finding a way to manage his ADD, which I think will be a huge help to him. A big part of the guilt he feels is because of his difficulties holding a job or finding another way to bring in money, and if he can find some treatment options that will help him focus I think it would lead to a major improvement in his self-image.
There have been a few promising developments on the earnings front, too. I’m ghostwriting an e-book for someone I’ve been doing articles for, which should bring in enough to get our car back on the road (it’s been parked for almost a year because we couldn’t afford to renew the registration or pay insurance on it, and we won’t drive it unless it’s legal.) I’m also almost finished with a small e-book of my own, that I hope to self-publish as an inexpensive Kindle book soon.
Things have been really bad, but really good at the same time, if you know what I mean. I’ve learned what a real friend is, and how strong I am, and have cried almost as many tears of joy and gratitude as tears of pain in the last few years. I’ve learned what real struggle is like, and how “needs” have a tendency to shrink or grow to match the amount of money available. I’ve learned to save money where and how I can, what I can survive without, and what’s really important to me.
I’ve learned to be more compassionate and understanding, and less judgmental. I’ve learned that what you see on the outside can have very little to do with who a person is, or what they care about; and I’ve learned to understand that even the tiny choices that seem not to have any relevance to anything else are part of the huge web of choices that shape our lives and make us who we are. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be a “Mother Theresa” to make a difference in the world, and that our smallest action or most random comment can have a huge effect on someone else’s day; and I’ve learned that no matter how bad my life seems at the moment, there is always someone else who has it worse than I do.
I’ve learned the hard way that homelessness and poverty are not caused by laziness, but by a lack of opportunities; and that “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is as much a matter of luck and the right help showing up at the right time as a matter of hard work and determination.
I read a book called “The Hiding Place” many years ago, by a woman named Corrie TenBoom. It was the story of how she and her family hid Jews from the Nazis, and were sent to a concentration camp when they were caught. Her sister was constantly thanking god for everything in the camps, even the things that the other prisoners thought were horrible (like the fleas in their barracks.) I loved it when I read it (all 10 times,) but I didn’t understand the gratitude “thing” until recently. One of the biggest things I’ve learned through this experience is that gratitude is the key to having a life worth living, even when it seems that there is nothing to be grateful for. For the prisoners in the concentration camp, the fleas that they hated so much kept the guards out of the barracks and protected them from even worse atrocities than they already had to bear; for me, chronic illness and loss have led me to lessons I wouldn’t trade for all the money in the world.
I spent a lot of years playing “woe is me, my life is so hard;” putting tons of energy into thinking about all the things that were “wrong” with my life, and all it did was make me more and more unhappy. Since we lost so much, I’ve learned to put that energy into looking for the things that are “right” with my life; and it’s made me a happier person.
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