I’m too tired to stand anymore. Normally, I don’t even notice the weight of the armor; I’ve worn it all my life, it’s just a part of me, but today, it’s heavy and painful and I have to take it off. And sit.
I want to sit with Colin Kaepernick in silent protest because black lives do matter. I want to sit with a mother who was just told her black son was shot and killed for no good reason so I can offer her a shoulder to cry on because I surely can’t offer her a reason or an explanation. I want to sit with police officers who risk their lives every day, every second they’re on the job so that people like Colin can sit down. I want them to know I believe in them, what they do and that the power-crazed officers that shoot to kill for no reason are not the sum of their whole. I want to sit down with the rapist Brock Turner until I can make him understand that what he did, raping an unconscious girl was a horrific thing to do. I want him to understand she’s forever broken now. I want to break him, make him feel the weight of what he’s done, make him feel the weight of the armor she’ll now be forced to wear forever. I want to sit with the rape victim and stroke her hair while she’s violated once again enduring a rape kit collection and a trial that will shame her and blame her for what happened. I want to sit and hold the hand of the young girl having an abortion and tell her it’s ok and that her God, if she believes in one, will understand and she shouldn’t listen to those calling her a murderer. I want to sit with the homeless man and eat some pizza with him, it’s all I can do for him right now; I can listen and probably make him laugh a little. I want to sit with the veteran who believes no one will love him with only one leg. I want him to know he’s a fucking warrior too and will find someone proud to be with him. I want to sit with the mother whose lost her baby to cancer and just hold her til she can breathe again. I want to sit with the little girl until she’s strong enough to share her secret that she’s sure she is a boy inside and let her know I believe her and there are others out there just like her and that she will be able to live her true life without judgment. I want to sit with the animals who are tortured because some humans can’t contain their own pain and anger. I want to sit there until they trust me enough to curl up in my lap and lick the hand no longer raised to strike them but is instead offered to heal, soothe and comfort them.
Like so many, I’ve fought all my life. I’m tired of the sweeter-tasting politically correct terminology now used so violence and injustice are more tasteful for juries, friends and family who can’t stomach the visuals our stories conjure in their minds and the rancid taste it leaves on their palettes. Those of us who live the nightmares again and again, who live with the taste of blood in our mouths, have to watch as others get to swallow down a more palatable smoothie so they might be able to experience just a tiny little taste of what we’ve endured. Yet still justice is hard to come by.
Aside from the rapes by my father I had to physically and emotionally survive, I’ve also attempted suicide thrice, endured an illegal and terrifying back alley abortion at 13, a rape, two kidney transplants, a very close brush with death after losing the first kidney and I have a “it’s probably benign” tumor that’s slowly growing inside my brain.
I’m 61. I have no retirement, no home and little money. I live in a basement and am getting ready to move yet again. The woman I live with chain smokes and I remain in my cave of a room unable to enjoy the rest of the house due to the thick layer of smoke and nicotine that coats everything. With the help of my son, I’m moving my things back into my storage unit. I have 30 days to get out. Truth be told, I’d rather live in my storage unit than breathe in what must be several packs of cigarettes a day. I have a kidney to protect and although I knew she smoked when I moved in, I had no idea how much. So, I’m moving on. Again. I never thought I’d be a nomad in the later years of my life. But things always work out and I’ll find a place in time.
Looking back, my husband and I did all the right things. We had life insurance, built equity in our home, went to work, raised our kids, planned to grow old together. He was diagnosed with Hepatitis C back when insurance didn’t cover it yet. I went into renal failure. We broke; we couldn’t withstand the financial burden of two catastrophic illnesses. Our love broke, too, so we divorced. We lost everything.
In 2009, the kids and I helped him for several months as he died a slow death from cirrhosis. He was a hateful, bitter man at the end. Thankfully, he left some money to our sons but the lion’s share went to his daughter, his favorite. He left nothing to me. I thought at this age, I’d be happily retired bouncing grandchildren on me knee. Not yet.
I live on Social Security and Disability. A meager monthly stipend which is not nearly enough for me to afford an apartment, even a shitty one. I can’t work or I lose my Disability and Social Security. I am fortunate in that renal failure is the one chronic illness in which you are granted Social Security no matter what your age and Disability is usually granted before you’ve had your third dialysis treatment. If I work, I lose both and cannot afford the incredibly expensive medicine I need so I don’t reject my kidney. I can earn a pittance each year without being taken off my Disability so that helps.
My children can’t help me financially in this fucked up world where 1 percent of the population controls the world’s wealth while the rest of us, like my kids, struggle to make ends meet in their own lives. They hate seeing their mom with nothing. They want me to rest. They know all my stories and want to make my world a happy one. That’s not their job. That’s what I want them to know. But they grieve for me and that makes me sad. It’s seeing our children happy that makes us content as parents, no matter what hardships our lives may entail. That’s what I am teaching them, not to pity me but to help fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
I’m fucking exhausted. I. will. sit.
I fight my battles with words. I can write. Hell, I can have you on your knees sobbing in less than 800 words but the pay sucks. A good story might earn me 200 bucks if it’s accepted from sometimes thousands of submissions. But I don’t care much about material things or money. That helps.
Most of what I write are personal essays about my life and lessons learned but since my life is not a happy, fairy-tale story, lots of people scroll on by. That’s ok, I get it. It’s depressing reading my life. I wrote a humor piece for a huge mommy blog that was shared tens of thousands of times. I write about my hard-fought battles and I might get a few shares and usually only by my virtual tribe of warrior women (and some fantastic men) who have suffered as I have, some much more. But we don’t write for the shares, we write for ourselves and we write to give voice to those who have been silenced by fear.
I won’t shut up about any of it and I won’t be politically correct so it tastes better going down because every once in a while, someone reaches out to tell me my story saved them in some way, gave them strength to carry on and as long as I can reach that one person, I’m not shutting up.
Other than my one real life friend, my deepest connections are with my virtual tribe. I had a handful of real life friends but recently had to cut them from my life. I’d known them 45 years. They decided I wasn’t worthy. One spearheaded a campaign against me and the others joined in without a second thought. I wasn’t interested in defending myself. I’m tired of trying to make the doubters understand. I didn’t do a fucking thing wrong and finally realized after 60 years I had nothing to defend.
I’m a solitary creature. I have been all my life so friendships are hard to maintain anyway. There’s so much pretending to be like other people to fit in. My life story isn’t fun, it has an ugly taste that’s easier for them to spit out. When they began spitting ON me, that was it. I am fucking worthy. I don’t tolerate anything less than fierce loyalty and respect because that’s what I give and what I deserve in return. In their world that translates into: she’s crazy, she’s got anger issues, she’s always been difficult to deal with.
I went out alone last night as I usually do, walking in the town I live near. It was a beautiful evening and I went to hear some music. The streets were bustling with young kids, older couples strolling hand in hand, lovers sitting outside at little tables soaking in the night air and each other while sipping wine from stemmed glasses. It’s like watching a movie that I’m not in. That’s how my life is. It’s a movie I was never cast in. But I’ve become a damn good director.
I’m going to sit the fuck down.
Mostly, I want to sit with who I believe my God to be so I can understand why, why all this happens in a world full of people whose hearts beat inside their bodies so they can love instead of hate, help instead of harm and show compassion instead of judgment.
I know when I’m ready, my tribe, my virtual family who fight the same battles I do, will stand vigil until I’m restored. It is they who will lift me up again, help me gather strength, adjust my armor, hand me my sword and welcome me back onto the battlefield to continue the fight. That’s what we do.
Until that time, I will sit.