Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fitted together.

A few days ago I had lunch with several people. During the lunch someone asked me a question and I answered it the way I always try to answer questions...with honesty.

It was a question about the early years of the Boy and Girl's lives. About how I felt when they were born. No post-birth sadness or depression for me. Giving birth was an awakening, a renewal. I was horribly, terribly afraid and depressed for six or seven months (I don't remember, maybe have never really known with accuracy, how long I was pregnant) and then I had a different sense of purpose. I had something, two somethings actually, to live for. I knew that once they were okay, I would be okay. I said something about the Ronald McDonald house, which was right across from the hospital, in the same little parking lot.

I was twenty-two years old. I had to survive. I did what needed to be done.

I'm thirty-four now. I wasn't aware I needed to be ashamed.

Their faces? Told a different story.

I'm still trying to figure out exactly what it was. Pity? Contempt? Disgust? I don't know. All I know is I was answering the question, with honesty, and I looked up to see the faces of people I thought were my friends all convoluted. Uncomfortable. Unkind.

I shut up. Quickly.

These are people who give hundreds of dollars to various charities. These are people who give their time and energy and a whole lot of attention to people who are less fortunate than them. These are people I would have never, ever guessed would feel uncomfortable around someone like me.

Someone like me.

But I'm not poor now. I'm smarter too and sometimes I make better decisions than I did then. I have a college degree and a responsible job. I've taken leadership roles whenever possible. I wrote a freaking book, it got published, and I go around talking about it, because PEOPLE ASK ME TO, for Christ's sake. I'm not like I used to be. Not anything like I used to be.

Right?

But I am, I guess. Because I didn't realize that I have anything to be ashamed of.

It's difficult, I guess, for some people, to see other people succeed. It's easier to write a check or serve a meal to someone, to feel sorry for them. It's not easy to see them sitting at your table and realize that they were once just like that person you helped last week. That they are better now. They aren't that person anymore.

I'm on the fringes. I was never homeless. Things were never that bad for me. Maybe a time or two they were, but I don't admit that to anyone, not ever. That only comes to me in the darkest parts of the night, and only every now and then. It goes away as quickly as it comes usually. It's like it was never me at all. That things weren't that dark and scary.

I'm not the same girl as I was at twenty-two, but I still don't fit in. I thought I did, for just a moment, but really? I don't.

It's probably okay though. I can't imagine wanting to hang with people who don't understand that everything that has happened, good and bad, has made me who I am right now. Who can't seem to comprehend that I have a long way to go to get to where I need to be, but who I am right now today is really pretty cool. And most of all, I really don't think I could ever be okay with people who talk and talk about what's right, but don't live it in their hearts.

I'm not who I used to be. They'll never understand, but I do. I'm never going to forget how it feels to be poor. Or scared. Or lonely. I'm never going to forget how hard I had to work to get where I am now, and I'm never going to forget how thankful I am to be here. I'm not ever going to be like them. I'm not ever going to be like I used to be either. They don't know. They'll never know.

But I will.


That's enough.

17 comments:

M said...

I love you. And all you went through to become you? Makes me love you even more. Because not everyone would could and has made such amazing choices. There are so many 'easier' choices you made. But you never did. You made the right choices.

Pity you? NEVER. Good heavens. Be in awe that at so young you were already so wise? Absolutely.

All I know is that I'm thankful you have had the life you had because it gave me this incredible friend of mine.

So they? Can suck it.

lucidkim said...

I have been there and in some ways am still there. I quit going to church for this reason - and at the time the disdain wasn't even directed at me (as it would be now). I went to the First Baptist Church in a fairly large town with a singles group full of young professionals - who would easily toss a $20 into the hat for a far-off charity in Africa - but who refused point blank to give money to help a girl in our class who turned up pregnant - she was shunned and the class refused to help her. A real person they all knew who needed help - it was appalling then (15 years ago) and it still is to me today.

Anyway - congrats to you and all your success. :)

kim

Hockey Mom said...

I don't believe for a minute that you are a better or more worthy person now than you were then. You are stronger, probably wiser, but you were that good, worthwhile person then. People who don't get that have had everything in life handed to them and have never had to claw their way back out of a hole that they didn't dig. They have yet to find out that homelessness and things like it can happen to any of us, and could still happen to them. They like to pretend that bad things only happen to bad people. It must feel safe to believe that. If only that were true.

Jenski said...

It is wonderful that as soon as those kids were born you had a purpose; it is amazing what you have accomplished. Sorry the lunch group didn't immediately see it this way. Heck, they should be so amazed with all you have been able to accomplish (if they hadn't stopped to think about it before), that they go out and help people EVEN MORE.

Carolyn said...

I think what you saw was fear. If it happened o you, it could happen to them. No one likes to think they are vulnerable. It's always fascinating when you see a persons true colors.

Lisa said...

Hi Steph,

Reading this post brought a painful, but poignant memory back to me.

I'll share it with you, because someone in the group - maybe only just one who sat there quietly, might surprise you...


16 years ago, I was going through a divorce. We had just moved to a new city. I only had one friend. A new friend. She was so kind to me. She kinda took me under her wing. Invited me to her church (yet she wasn't 'churchy' or a hypocrite), invited me and my toddler over for lunch with her and her toddler, etc. We got to know each other little by little and she always made me feel accepted and included in her life.

One day, she invited me to a luncheon with some church women --- it was the week of Thanksgiving. They all ran the cresh (childcare) together - and organised church/youth activities, etc. So they decided to have a Thanksgiving lunch. I didn't really know any of these women - maybe had met them briefly at church....so that sets the background a little for you.

Anyway, we all (about 16 or 18 of us) sat down to lunch. One lady suggested we go round the table and each one of us speak about what we were thankful for.

When it came my turn - I shared that I had moved to the city a few months before, and that I was particularly thankful that God had given me a loving friend. I shared a little about how she'd genuinely illustrated true friendship to me as I was going through a divorce.

It wasn't lengthy, or overly emotional, despite being a bit teary (and I only mean my brimmed with tears a little).

It was hard for me to share what I was TRULY thankful for, in front of all those women I didn't know --- except my one friend.

Well, as I was tearing up (involuntarily and totally uncontrollably damnit) and my lip was going all quivery, I looked up as I was finishing (I just couldn't look up before) to see looks of utter disgust, unkindness, meanness, and sheer nastiness on those women's faces.

I remember feeling stunned at their reaction. To this day, when I think back on it - I cannot for the life of me fathom how utterly heartless, selfish and cold people are to others. But they are.

I carried on. I realised that these church women were sitting there, expecting everyone to 'speak from their hearts' - but *only* from inside the box they'd constructed.

Since then? I've discovered this is a sad truth about MOST people. It's sad, Steph. But when most people are confronted with a home truth in front of their face, they generally reveal what's in their hearts. And let's face it - our hearts are not always nice.


My friend was the only one who had kindness in her eyes. She didn't say anything when I finished. She just reached over and squeezed my hand to reassure me.

Anyway, maybe one of the people you had lunch with was touched by your honesty (and your answer). Maybe they sat there stunned by everyone else's selfish response. And just maybe that person will somehow, with some kind of gesture, let you know you were an inspiration to them. Then again, maybe not. And whatever the case may be?

You can THANK GOD you got a peek into those people's heart, Steph. You got to see what was really lurking inside them. Thank Him for that, because now ya know:).

with love,
Lisa (formerly tlg...I still read you every time you post and keep you in my prayers from time to time)

MadameQueen said...

Wow. I kind of want to kick those people in the teeth. They must have four leaf clovers stuck up their butt to keep bad things from happening to them. We've gone through some tough times in the past four years and the biggest thing I've learned through all of it is compassion.

DO NOT let those people get to you or make you feel bad about who you are or what you've done in your life. You? Are awesome. :)

Catch the Kids said...

Wow! What fabulous writing. I love how you go from something simple and funny in your last post to profound here today. As for your changes: -Someone once said to me that we don't change as we get older, we simply see more of ourselves. I think you should be pretty happy with your view...

Tamar said...

I think Carolyn's right.

People like to believe that if you work hard (and just BELIEVE) that you will be prosperous and happy. The thought that you could work hard AND 'have a dream' and still wind up falling through the cracks is terrifying - it's more comfortable to believe that I am well-off because I deserve it, and those people, those people over there, they must be fundamentally different from me. They must have done something wrong.

Sarah said...

I know that look of disgust, pity, the uncomfortable looks. It's a horrible feeling because you shouldn't feel ashamed that you made it through the bad and are on top. I've never let myself forget what it felt like or feels like to be poor, to not know where my next meal is etc. I've never been ashamed of where I came from and to look at myself now and where I am is awesome. If people are making you feel ashamed of something those aren't the type of people you want to hang out with. It's hard but you have to do it. I've had to do it..

I'm on your side. Love you lady!

diane rene said...

I see nothing for you to be ashamed of, Stephanie. nothing at all.

the way I look at it, any adult who has not had to face some struggle in life, had to make some life altering decisions, has not lived. I do not base the success of my life by the house I live in, the charities I help or by the material possessions around me ... it is based on the person I started off as, the struggles I succeeded in facing, and the person I am today.

you are right, all of those things made you the amazing woman you are today. take any one of them away and a vital piece of YOU is missing. good for you for being honest! sadly there are many out there that sugar coat their past or refuse to acknowledge the bad things that did happen. I know moms that will not admit that their children are from men other than their husbands and who instantly have excuses for everything. it must be hard to live that way, and I don't envy the energy they must burn trying to keep up appearances.

Jamie said...

The only problem I see here is the group of people you were having lunch with. You are way better than any of those asshats.

YOU hold your head up..and never, EVER be ashamed of where you have been or who you are. NEVER.

Hugs. Always.

Dawn said...

You should never feel ashamed. I admire you so much - some people quit when they encounter the slightest hurdle - life throws the Great Wall of China in front of you several times and you just keep going and you succeed. That's awesome.

insomniac ellen said...

Hey Chica--it's their problem...NOT YOURS!!!

You did whst you had to do. You kept you and your wonderful babies together.

LOVE YA!!!!

Bethany said...

Since I'm late to this party everyone has said pretty much everything. So I'll just say the first thing that came into my mind when I read that.

Some people are assholes.

lucidkim said...

I like what Carolyn said - it likely is a bit of fear and they want to believe nothing bad could happen to them. The other thing from what hockey mom said - is that sometimes we are where we are because we dug the hole - I know for me some of my situations are of my own doing - all the same, I appreciate compassion anyway - I still need help to get back on my feet even if I did screw up.

Mitch Herndon said...

I have a saying recently, I'm sure I read it somewhere or took it from something else so my apologies to whoever that was. But I say it to people who act like this toward me:

"Your anger at me about for not agreeing with your opinion is your problem, not mine."

I'm sure it can apply here. Those people have the issue. If they were some of the "Christian" types. Then they have the bigger problem because they aren't living what they say they are.