The Unbearable Silence of Being
I remember deciding, about a year ago, that the year I was 33 was going to be a big one. I was going to do brave things, and be honest about who I am, and make more of an effort to be myself. My friend Steve, the Godzilla of Love, often says that it shouldn’t have to be so hard to be who you are. He’s right.
Tonight, it feels very hard to be me. I am stuck between the incessant need to write and the paralyzing fear of writing it. The problem with being brave is that it makes you that much readier to be brave again. So with the warning that my thoughts tonight are not cheerful, it is, if nothing else, an honest piece, and one that doesn’t come easily:
I am writing this from a closet. Literally. The reason I am in a closet tonight is because I moved again. My goal was to be in my own apartment again by June, and instead, it is 11:23 p.m. on May 31, and I have moved with my parents instead of away from them. The old apartment wasn’t very good, and it wasn’t safe for my dad, and so with his retirement official tomorrow, they needed to move.
The new apartment puts me an hour and a half from work, meaning my gas expense will multiply seven-fold. I’m back in a small town, within sight of cornfields, and of all things, small towns like this are anything but good for me. And as for the closet: I don’t really have a room. I have a space at the end of a hall, but there is no door for any semblance of privacy. If I want privacy, my only option is to sit in the closet, tucked in the dark behind the folding doors. This is the place I sleep, but it is not my home. Not my space. I am the recipient of a favor, and I need to remember that… Or so I’m told.
I hate it, but I’m not allowed to say so. Saying so means that I’m selfish, uncaring, and ungrateful. I’m told I should just be happy that I’m not living in my car. As if I don’t know that already. As if I am unaware of my own poverty. I know that this move is what they needed. I wish I could say that it’s NOT what I needed without being made the villain for having said so.
Today, I was told I am unstable. Sigh. I didn’t really answer, because there isn’t any use. I am stable. Remarkably stable. My ability to remain stable in times of crisis is, according to my former therapist, “outstanding.” But this is my fourth address in a year, in the fourth town in a year. I went from being solidly middle class to having to apply for public health insurance and trying to live on sublevel wages. I went from living alone in a four bedroom house to having to sit in a closet for privacy. I am stable. My circumstances have not been. Reacting to those circumstances has been a sometimes bumpy road, but I have handled it pretty well. Who on earth would NOT have been rattled by the year I’ve had? I’m told that my problems are less than the problems of others, so I need to keep my mouth shut.
I didn’t speak up because I am tired of rehashing everything and trying to convince others that I’m not broken and not a loser. I spend enough energy trying to believe those things myself, and I have none left to try to convince you, too.
I received fourteen rejection emails those week. I think I probably sent 75 resumes out and I don’t know how many online applications I have filled out just this week. My followup phone calls were ignored 100% of the time. “Thank you for your interest, but at this time, we are pursuing applicants who better fit our criteria.” I barely read them anymore. I can usually tell by the email address, or by the subject heading. I am a little more immune to them than I used to be, but how can it not hurt at least a little?
I don’t tell people when I apply somewhere anymore. I am worn out by explaining to them how many companies are not interested in me. I don’t talk about how much I would like this job or that job. It’s almost all I think about, though… About how nice it would be to work in a place where I am not told to expect a “mild” level of sexual harassment at work, where I am not openly mocked for doing the menial tasks my job requires, or -of all things- how much of a relief it would be to earn a liveable wage. When I talk about those things, I’m told that I need to stop whining and “get over it.” So I try to not talk about it anymore.
I can’t really blame them. They don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say to me.
People talk about poor people all the time. Politicians, teachers, journalists, and everyone else wants to talk about poor people, about how we can fix our own situations, or how a program will or won’t help us, or how much we drain society. Very few want to listen to poor people. They may be pushed to listen to people speak about poor people, or to read a small, poignant message on a HONY post, but listening to poor people is something else. Listening to poor people becomes uncomfortable very quickly because if you are listening correctly, you’ll soon see that there is no quick and easy answer, and you become aware of how easily you can join their ranks. Even those who try become weary of hearing about the same struggles for long periods of time (so try living with them). So middle class people don’t listen to poor people, generally.
I try to not talk about it too much. I try… But sometimes, it’s like I can’t take it any more. The silence becomes so oppressive that I just start talking, and out comes all the word vomit, all the emotions, all the things I haven’t said. It never ends well. I get reminded that things could be worse, and that I should be more thankful, and that it’s my attitude that is the problem.
So I go back to the silence again. I go back to the place where I don’t talk about the reality that I live every day or about the reality I don’t live every day.
My dog just came and laid next to the closet, next to me. For four years, she has been the most steady thing I’ve had. For now, that will have to do.