Hang On

Catharsis: ca-THAR-sis, noun.

1 : purgation

a : purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art
b : a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension
3 : elimination of a complex by bringing it to consciousness and affording it expression

I know I’ve been quiet for a very long time, and I’m sorry about that. I intended to keep up with this because, hey, I still have things to say about the experience of being homeless, feeling hopeless, getting stuck, getting out, getting back… I still think it’s book material: how one middle-aged woman survived the middle-class meltdown. But the impetus to write hasn’t been there for a while, mostly because by the time I get home from work, all I want to do is change clothes and feed the cats and feed myself and then turn on the computer and immerse myself in the wide world of the Internet.

So from this you know (1) I’m still working and (2) still have cats and (3) have a place to live. All of which is, trust me, half a millions kinds of wonderful.
I’m at the same job I wrote about last October, just had my six-month anniversary, in fact. I spent the first three months in one of the sales departments working on requests for quotes, contacting vendors and doing research online, learning the nuts and bolts of the business at a very basic level, learning about, coincidentally enough, nuts and bolts and screws and adhesives and airplane coffee makers and paint and a very tiny bit about composite materials and metals from plate steel to extruded aluminum tubing. Fascinating.

I would head downstairs every day to check in with the Director of Business Development (DBD), see if he had anything he wanted me to proof, read over to see if it made sense, if we signed it would we be giving away the farm — not that I’m any kind of contract expert, of course, but I did pitch myself as having done a bit of contract-related work and DBD thinks I have enough sense to tell a good deal from a bad one. And then I’d go back upstairs to work on more quotes, or label shipping boxes, or learn to do invoicing and such.

The first of the year, I moved downstairs to my permanent position in accounting and administration. Currently I’m spending most of my time on accounts payable, which strangely enough helps to continue my education in the various bits and pieces and materials we sell, as well as engaging my puzzle-solving abilities as to why the invoice doesn’t match our purchase order and whether the discrepancy requires the sales team to intervene or can I handle it on my own. I still interact with the DBD, although he doesn’t have a huge amount of stuff for me to look at right now — other priorities — but I’ve been handed several things by the head honcho transcribe/proof, as well as going over letters by some of the staff for whom English isn’t their first language and make sure it’s clean enough to go out.

All in all, I like it a lot.  🙂

On the housing front, I’m now the proud renter of a non-mobile RV parked in a driveway behind a lockable gate. I was able to stay at the room I was renting until mid-January, but that was all the slack my landlady and her husband were willing to give me about the cats — and trust me, I’m incredibly grateful they were willing to rent to me in the first place, and that they let me stay long enough to get a little more stable at work. Plus being able to carpool to work? BIG help. When push came to shove, I went trolling through Craigslist, sent out four emails about likely looking places that advertised themselves as pet-friendly, and wound up not having to send out another: I got one reply that led me to this RV, and yeah, it’s vintage 1970s faux-wood paneling and brown curtains, but I have a little fridge and a propane stove and the bathroom is about the size of a postage stamp but I’m hooked up to the house electricity and sewer line, and I have a reliable Internet connection, and yes, I had to pay an additional-pet deposit, but the new landlady is okay with the cats. Also, if I give her some notice, I can do my laundry in the house instead of hauling it to a laundromat.

It has the additional advantage of being two blocks from a bus stop, and the bus I take gets me to work in about half an hour without transfers, and there’s a grocery store on my route and I have one of those little wheelie things to cart the groceries home, so it works out. Although if I miss my planning and need cat food, cat litter and milk in the same week, it’s quite the workout lugging said wheelie thing onto and off of the bus.

And the cats are getting along well, finally used to the place, and clawing only on approved surfaces. We’re good.

And yet.

Last December, I went to a place in Venice called WitZend (links at the end, I promise) to see my friends the Novelists. Without a car it took me four buses and about three hours, but I’ve done crazier things for good music — a turnaround to NYC to see another friend play a show has to qualify! But anyway, this particular show, not the band’s first at this venue, had the added goodness of several of my friends from the job I’d worked in the marina planning to attend, most of whom I hadn’t seen since the company closed down in August 2011. Plus I was hoping one of my local musician friends and his wife would also be there, and they were!

So, seeing many of my friends, on stage and off, at a cool venue — yippee!

Now, one of the folks in the band, Joel, is a friend I’ve known the best part of ten years, who’s stayed at my house while on tour and played house concerts there and, on one memorable occasion, played a song of his I’d never heard while sitting on a cooler in my kitchen as I did dishes. And he and one of his bandmates had written a new song, and I don’t know if it made its actual debut at this show in December or just its “debut” to me, but…

Well. It’s called “Hang On,” and it’s talking to someone having a really hard time, acknowledging that “right now, you wanna lie down, you wanna give up, give in and get it over […] find the breath that you needed to scream…” and telling that person to hang on, despite whatever messages they’re getting from the outside world to let him/herself be broken by what life’s handing them.

I was fighting not to cry.

Now, I am in no way, shape or form so vain as to think this song is about me (heh), but it hit pretty much every emotional kick in the gut I’ve felt in the two-plus years my life was actively falling apart. But it ended, and they sang another song, and we all got to visit a little bit after the show, and my local musician friend and his wife offered me a lift into downtown so I could catch a train to cut about an hour off my commute home, so overall, a terrific evening. And I went back to work on Monday and didn’t think overmuch about the song that almost made me cry.

Fast-forward to the end of January, and the Novelists have started what they call a book club, except it’s a $20 annual subscription that gets you a boatload of new music — two fully produced new songs a month for 12 months, as a starter — and a bunch of other goodies. So as a celebratory treat to myself for having passed my three-month probation with flying colors, I subscribed. Fast-forward to the February “chapter”, and one of the two songs is “Hang On,” so I open my music player to listen. And it’s good, and I get a little misty, and I go on with my week. When the March chapter came out a week ago, I copied all the audio tracks into one folder so I could let them play.

“Hang On” came up third. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe, and there were tears spilling down my face. And I realized that, all through this, I hadn’t just let myself cry. Oh, I’d cried, trust me, I felt like I’d cried buckets and rivers and lakes, if not actual oceans, the day I moved out of my house, the day I found out the humane society had put down three of the cats I’d had to surrender, hell, the day my car was totaled I practically had hysterics right there in the middle of the intersection. But there was always, always a thought in the back of my mind that I had to keep it under control. I couldn’t let go, because I was afraid if I ever did let myself go, I’d start crying and never stop.

I’d never, ever stop.

So I made a promise to myself for this weekend. I’d open my music player, pull up “Hang On” and set it to repeat, and I’d cry until I didn’t need to cry anymore. And that’s exactly what I’ve done tonight.

I’ve wept for my home of nearly 40 years, gone, even though the joy and peace and laughter and music and love of happier times will always live in my heart.

I’ve wept for the loss of a job that never even let me get my head too far above water, but it beat the alternative.

I’ve wept for the humiliation of having to go on welfare and food stamps, knowing that there are people in the world who would judge me for it even if my alternative was starving to death. Fortunately, it wasn’t, but I also wept in fear that if things had been just a little different, I might have faced that, too.

I’ve wept for three dead cats, for the five who were adopted but that I’ll never see again.

I’ve wept for my totaled car, for how much harder it made a life that already wasn’t much of a picnic.

I’ve wept for the people I met at the shelter, the ones who had it worse than I ever did, and the ones who still do.

I’ve wept for gratitude, too, gratitude for the people and organizations who helped me survive day to day, who gave me a bed and food and a way to keep clean and do laundry and be ready in case my luck actually changed.

And I’ve wept in gratitude for my friends, for all the people who encouraged me not give up, not give in, not lie down and forget about it. Because it helped, even if I didn’t know it at the time, and even if I never said thank you.

Thank you all for helping me hang on.
As promised, links:
The Novelists (if you want to hear “Hang On” you’ll have to subscribe — just click on the Book Club tab. It’ll be worth it.)
David Peters (the local musician friend)
Seth Horan (the friend doing the NYC show I did the turnaround to see)


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