Today is the fourth anniversary of the day I left my house for the last time. The link goes to a post I wrote on 1/1/2014 about that point in my life. I’m not going to rehash it — I’m not sure I have the strength to, honestly. If you’re interested, feel free to check it out, and if not, no worries. 😉
I’d like to concentrate in this post on what I think I learned from an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
For one thing — and it was a HUGE thing — I learned I can ask for help. It’s possible no one will actually be able to help me, but even so, not asking guarantees not getting a yes. Whereas, by asking, you give people the chance to help, whether it takes the form of material assistance (like one friend who came over to help me pack up the china cabinet, the group who packed most of my kitchen for me (and oh, how horrified I was to have them see the disaster area the place had become without my really realizing it) or the one who put me in touch with the person who adopted two of cats, or the one who introduced me to the person who let me rent a room from them when I first lost the house) or simply the assurance you haven’t been forgotten, that having made mistakes or going through a patch of really fucking bad luck doesn’t make you somehow less than human.
Oh, damn, this is still hard.
Anyway, I spent most of my life buying into my mom’s idea that you had to rely on yourself because you couldn’t rely on anyone else. And in her life, her experience, that was very much the case.
But that was her life, not mine, and I learned I do not have to hold on to her beliefs as if they’re my own. Honestly, it isn’t as if they helped her, so there was never a good reason to believe they’d help me.
I learned that being reactive was a strategy that had worked more than once in my life, so attempting to rely on that same strategy wasn’t a character flaw. A mistake, maybe, but not a character flaw.
I learned that being proactive is a more useful strategy, but it’s hard to develop the necessary skills when you feel like the entire world is falling on your head.
I learned it’s possible to lose friends when you’re under stress because you may say or do something that is terribly wrong to them, but that you may not remember it because stress hormones wreak havoc on short-term memory.
I learned it’s also possible that people won’t give you a chance to make amends, or even tell you what it is you did, because they were under their own kinds of stress.
I learned the well of tears can feel bottomless, but it isn’t. Or at least, that laughter is still to be found and can help keep you from dropping to the bottom of the well.
I learned it’s possible to follow the advice of a highly recommended professional and still get screwed.
I learned that revenge fantasies are entertaining in the short term, but they don’t actually contribute much to rebuilding your life.
I learned that people you only “know” because you post on the same website can save your life, or at least your sanity.
I learned to be grateful for the small things that made my life feel normal. I mean, really, when’s the last time you appreciated having your own bathroom, or even having a place where you could keep yourself clean? Do your laundry on your own schedule? Hell, do your own laundry instead of handing over a bag with the allotted three pieces a day to the person on laundry duty? (And no, I don’t mean situations like remote vacations where you give up certain conveniences voluntarily so you can have the experience. 🙂 )
I learned I am worthy of respect even if I’m living in a homeless shelter.
I learned I never ever EVER want to live in a homeless shelter again, not even a nice shelter in a nice part of town with a relatively small percentage of resident assholes (not that this was a hard lesson).
I learned that taking even a single step forward is still progress.
I learned I can’t force anyone to hire me despite being highly qualified.
I learned applying for jobs on the fringes of my experience can result in an offer and (to date) three years of stability.
I learned I have friends who will stand by me, whatever I’m going through.
I learned I am stronger than I ever believed.
I will never be grateful for losing my house. I will never be grateful I had to surrender some of my cats to the humane society, and I will never be grateful that three of those cats were killed because they didn’t acclimate to their little cages soon enough to suit someone. (My poor Patch, my poor Blaze, my poor Runyon!)
But I am grateful for all I’ve learned, and I am eternally grateful to my friends. I hope y’all never get tired of my saying I love you, because I have no intention of stopping.