Warning: the following is an acutely personal post. I usually try to keep things on the lighter side but tonight I’m going for honesty.
Things have not been going the best for us this last while. I’ve been trying to hold it together, but the cracks are starting to show. This week I left work early one day with a directive to take a few days to rest and work through some things. This is a lot easier than it sounds.
The truth isn’t pretty – we are in serious financial difficulty at the moment, and I’ve had some major health concerns as well. The entire family has been sick in turns for the last month – colds, flus, coughs, chest infections, throat infections, stomach bugs, tooth extractions, migraines. So far, insurance has covered nothing. We’ve had to fix things on the car. We’ve had massive bills due. Frank has not had any part time work in many weeks and has not had any luck finding permanent work in the year and half since we’ve been back. It’s a vicious cycle of looking for work but only finding jobs that pay too little to cover childcare or pay well enough but don’t consider people without A, B and C credentials or are a perfect fit but never even respond to applications. And the cost of living is set to go up substantially next year by some predictions.
Morale is low.
I am striving but struggling to keep the faith. I get up every morning and thank God for a new day, a new chance to have purpose, a new opportunity for things to change. I thank him/her for all that we have and try my best to praise the beauty and goodness around me. I try to encourage my family, and especially my husband, in this too. But more and more I feel like I’m burying my head in the sand to get through the day, to go into work with a smile on my face and a willingness to do my best, then get home 10 hours later and keep the smile on my face and maintain some kind of energy to show my kids I love them and help my husband with all the evening chores. But inside I’m breaking. And I’m reminding myself that God delivers and God is God and God will not forsake. And I’m wondering where the Hell is he.
And I think maybe I need to be humble, ask for help more. And so I do. But you see, maybe I’m not asking for the right kind of help. I don’t want a bandaid. I want us to be able to do this ourselves – to be able to be adults and humans who pay our own way, who work hard joyfully and feel the satisfaction of earning our own wages. I want to be able to know the peace of providing for these three children we brought into the world, with just a bit left over to help someone else. I hate that we’re always the ones who need a boost, because we’re willing to do the work, it’s just not there. And why is it not there for us?
Behind all this anxiety are the well-meaning comments and suggestions and judgements of others who really have no idea what our situation is like, or how bad it is, or what we really need. Sometimes I ask for help or confess to a friend and wish I hadn’t because the inevitable response only deepens my guilt and shame. I can feel them wanting to ask why we left our successful life in California, wondering why we’d be so irresponsible to leave all that behind? Confessing to family is even more painful as I unfairly mirror their perceptions with my own – do they believe I am inadequate? They never say so, and have many, many times helped me out of a scrape – but my heart gets heavy with the failure I feel every time I come back with hat in hand.
A man stood on a soapbox on O’Connell Street in Dublin the other day, blaring over a loudspeaker that “even if you have a good life, that doesn’t mean God is happy with you.” Geez, I thought. He must be really pissed off with me if that’s the case.
So to get back to the present, I’m home for the rest of this week. Evelyn and Shea were both in with the doctor this morning, miserable. I felt battered and exhausted down to my toes. We passed a quiet afternoon doing crafts and resting. Then Shea somehow got an excruciating ear ache. Nothing would console him. We tried painkillers and decongestants. We put a warm cloth on this ear. We cuddled him, gave him a lolly pop to suck on, watched TV to try and distract him. He went from bubbly tears to hysteria as the pain continued. He started to scream at us that no one loved him, no one wanted him, we were trying to poison him, to kill him, and it was all his fault. It almost would have been funny if it weren’t so sad and hurtful. And if I weren’t so beaten down already. I had to go upstairs because when it comes to Shea’s outbursts, I’m just not the patient and calm parent I should be. I start to get upset myself, which only makes him get more upset.
I went up to my bed and cried. Frank came in and told me to come down, that Shea was asking for me. I cried that nothing was ever going to be good again for us, we’d always be sick and broke and unhappy. I cried that I’ve been praying for help but no help is coming for us. No help will ever come. We won’t win the lottery. We can’t even live like responsible adults. Things will never, ever change.
Frank told me to pull myself together and go down to my son. He told me just to sit with him and let him cry if he needed to, but that I needed to be with him. I sopped up my tears and went down and sat with Shea, who still thought the whole world was against him. After another hour or so, his ear stopped hurting. We don’t know how or why, but it did. And he was back to his old self, snuggling up to me and telling me he loved me, jumping off the couch when he wasn’t supposed to, asking for bowls of cereal and laughing his head off at a movie.
When I tucked Shea in later, a mini light bulb blinked in my head. Maybe, just maybe, I’m like Shea. Maybe God has been sitting here with me, while I cry and rage and say horrible things. Maybe one day, for no particular reason, things will feel a lot better, will BE a lot better.
I still don’t understand why God would let us go through all this, though. Because if I could take that pain away from Shea, I absolutely would have. If I could have made him feel better instantly, I would have. I wouldn’t have sat there watching him if I knew there was something I could do. Now don’t go all preachy on me and start in about all that Jesus suffered on my behalf – I know all that. I’ve got 37 years of that under my belt. I’m just saying in this moment, as I spin around in yet another whirlpool desperately grasping at twigs, I don’t understand why he/she won’t put out a hand to help when it would be so easy.
The other truth, though, is that we’ve been here before. That’s what keeps me hanging on. We were in this place when we lived in Ireland before and our utilities were starting to get shut off and we had to go to St Vincent de Paul for grocery vouchers. We were in this place when we moved to Indiana, and Frank couldn’t find work, and then he did and we got hit with sickness and winter and a home invasion. We were in this place when we went to Seattle, before Frank got the job at Apple and we were living with friends and facing a $14,000 medical bill from my second bout of pancreatitis.
All along the way, there have been helpers. Amazing helpers who have given money, and food, and jobs, and so so so much love. Sometimes it’s really hard to accept that kind of love because you don’t feel like you’ve earned it. Or because you worry it comes with strings attached. But I know we wouldn’t be here without it.
So what are we going to do, you ask? I don’t know. I’ve got a list of fairly last-chance options to trawl through the rest of this week. I’ve got Thanksgiving next week, and even though it’s just for us I’m pretty determined that it’s important to do for this family because we have been so blessed, and in spite of everything we have each other. It might be chicken nuggets on a nice tablecloth, but I’ve got to try. I’ve got to keep on saying “Thank you God for a new day,” because I don’t know how else to keep going. And I’ve got to keep the faith that once again, we’ll get through the aches and pains of life to find the joy again.