The glass floor

It has become all but inevitable that I must leave New York where I have made my life for 40 years, about equally divided between Manhattan and Westchester County.  The latter is where I am beginning to dismantle the fragile structure of my remade life after the unraveling of my marriage and family.  I have fought the concept as I went through unemployment benefits and my small retirement funds. I am now faced with responsibilities that I must meet — car payments and insurance, phone, internet and utilities — for which I have no resources.  I also must begin the official end of my marriage which has been on the books for nearly 35 years, in addition to finding homes for some plants that predate that event and for belongings that have accumulated among the five lives that were once under one roof and now are in other emotional and physical states.

It is a daunting set of tasks, perhaps having been made more so by my inevitable optimism.  Over the last year of being out of work, I have found many jobs that have interested me and I, in turn, have created interest.  These multiple applications and interviews have kept my innately bright view of the world in place.  The times that a particularly well-fit job did not pan out left me — in sequence — disappointed, bereft, then disappointed again.  I cut my emotional losses and in the end and  I would feel abysmal for an hour or so, and after a cup of tea, better.  This last is a good example of how wanting to feel good can work as a very effective coping mechanism.  The fact that I allowed myself to misread my situation through the myopia of optimism for the last year is evidence of its darker side.

It seems, however, that now that I have come to grips with the truth of my situation, it is echoing back to me everywhere. The jobs I turned down for being too low-paying revisit me, begging for second guessing. The most recent answers to requests for information or help, are decidedly stand-offish, “I’ll keep this in mind;” from a man with whom I have worked and even served on his Board at his request, “no interviews yet, Erin.  We’ll be in touch if/when we want to talk to you.”  Yes, no need to read these tea leaves.  Less reason to think that I can make my financial obligations with no income.

I have looked for part time work, explored “gigs” on Craigslist, signed up for consumer field work, borrowed money from friends and family, applied for and received food stamps and applied for and rejected for “emergency assistance” [welfare as we know it post-Clinton] because my rent was “too high”.  I enrolled in Obama care, and am pending a review for renewal because I cannot provide pay stubs.  I fear another trip to Social Services is in my future in order to get Medicaid.

My financial mess has had a painful effect on my children, who have already suffered through so much.  My youngest, and only dependent, cannot depend upon me financially.  I have had the excruciating experience of borrowing and accepting gifts of money from my daughters.

Most of my life I have said that I am free of embarrassment, and that remains true. Standing in line at the supermarket and having one of my purchases rejected on my “food stamps” card (EBT) had no personal affect on me.  Spending fruitless hours at Social Services made me only more empathetic towards the millions who are faced with the same circumstances every day.  Not being able to take care of my family has left me riven.

Let us all understand that to “take care of” means, almost primarily, taking financial care. There is so much that flows from that: roof overhead, food on the table, emotional stability.  Without a sound fiscal floor, the house of cards begins to teeter and fall. Because of my confidence in a good outcome in most things, I continued to say that I would take care of things and assure myself and others that my station was temporary.  As weeks and months wore on, I  can’t imagine what those assurances felt like to my kids. The idea that I dealt them empty promises haunts me. Worse case, the fact that my youngest’s return for winter break brought him face to face with my perilous situation and made him anxious, the feeling I refused to make my own.  It is much worse reflected to you from your child.